Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars

My favorite quote at Jimmy John's is, "Every driver believes they are an above average driver."

One time, when I was like...6/7/8, we were sitting at the dinner table.  Me and the fam (minus the little sister who was negative years old).  I am sure my other little sister was babbling on and on about something really random like ponies, tree trunks or overalls.  My brother...he was definitely picking his nose.  I was probably being perfect.  As usual.  My dad was staring out the window.  His eyes were glazed over and he was totally out of it.  I asked, "hey dad, what are you staring at?"  His answer was, "peace".

Another time, I was driving and this lady behind me was bumper huggin' me.  I made a right turn into a parking lot.  Parked.  Got out.  Then all of a sudden that same lady was all up in my face, straight up yelling at me for not using my blinker when I made my right hand turn.  I was making a right hand turn into a car repair shop to fix my blinker light bulb, which was burnt out.  I didn't tell her that.  She was really mad.  This was at least 6/7/8 years ago.    

I made these chocolate toffee shortbread bars for those cookie baskets I gave out around the Whole Foods video contest time. They are pretty simple to make, ship well and taste good for about a week after making them.  All requirements for successful cookie baskets.  Kinda like a candy bar.  

Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars

For the shortbread base:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
11/2 cups toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a 9 x 13″ baking dish with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. To make the shortbread, combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl; stir to blend and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Stir in the chopped chocolate until evenly distributed.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and press into an even layer covering the bottom of the pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the shortbread is bubbling. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.

Sprinkle the 6 ounces of chopped chocolate evenly over the top of the cookie base. Cover the pan with foil and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the foil and use an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the crust in a thin layer.  Immediately sprinkle the toffee bits over the melted chocolate and press down gently to adhere. Let the bars cool to room temperature. Once the pan has cooled, you may speed chilling by transferring to the refrigerator or freezer.  When the topping is set, remove from the pan, transfer to a cutting board and
slice into bars.

(Servings: 30 bars, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  7/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti

Biscotti is an overcooked biscuit.  But since it is Italian, we consider it a specialty rather than a mistake.  Now, I know it is technically "twice baked" not "overbaked", but in all other matters in life, this delicious treat would be considered a bad biscuit.  

How about some respect?  The technique for biscotti was likely developed in order to have nonperishable food for traveling and for the army.  So, that is a good idea.

Because I am high maintenance, I love to dip biscotti in coffee, but can't stand drinking the coffee that has been dipped in.  It is all crumby.  Also, in Italy, biscotti is often dipped in a sweet dessert wine.  

Cinnamon is my favorite and this is a classic biscotti recipe.  

Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
For Topping:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 beaten egg (for brushing biscotti before baking)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and arrange two baking racks in the upper portion of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Also whisk together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the down and beat in the egg followed by the egg yolk. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter all at once. With the mixer or just with a spatula, bring all of the ingredients together until a somewhat stiff dough is formed.

Divide the dough in two on the two making sheets. Shape each half of dough into a 9-inch long and 1 1/2-inch wide log. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle very generously with cinnamon sugar. Bake the two sheets on two different racks in the oven for 20 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets for even baking and bake for 20-25 more minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven but keep the oven on. Let biscotti cool until able to handle. Using a serrated knife, cut logs into 1/2-inch wide diagonal slices. Place biscotti cut side down on baking sheet and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Bake again until pale golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

(Servings: 20, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 45 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:  

Shanon (taste):  8/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Sunday, May 15, 2011

PW’s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever

I have hives.  And I thought this would be the best way to lure you into this cake.  I am not sure what is giving my hives.  Possible options:  grass, gluten, lettuce, graduation, sunlight, PIL.  Ha!  Jk!  I seriously have no idea what my problem is.  But it is very inconvenient.  I did get a mild sunburn.  Which isn't that rare for me at the beginning of the summer when I reveal my translucent skin to the world.  I barely peeled and only just a little on my shoulders.  Apparently you CAN get hives from too much sun.  Dumb.

I made this cake for a friend's birthday.  It was kind of a last minute decision.  I wanted to make something really easy and quick.  Which is exactly why I wanted to share this recipe and my experience with it.  It is SO simple to throw together.

Now, is it the BEST chocolate sheet cake ever?  Ummmm.  I actually haven't had many chocolate sheet cakes in my life.  Plus, I argue that this is borderline brownie.  But Scot and I really enjoyed eating this.  BTW, it is pretty big.  So we enjoyed it for about a week.  I love that this only uses one dish for mixing (for the cake and the frosting).  The frosting is made from powdered sugar, so it hardens similar to an icing.  And is delicious.  I also like how you don't have to wait for the cake to cool before pouring the frosting over the top.  It is just such a low maintenance and no fuss cake to throw together.  And considering how easy it is to make, I think it is way good and so worth it.  

PW’s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever

For the cake:
2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
1/4 teaspoons Salt
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
2 sticks Butter
1 cup Boiling Water
1/2 cups Buttermilk
2 whole Beaten Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

For the frosting:
1/2 cups Finely Chopped Pecans
1-3/4 stick Butter
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar

Note: I use an 18 by 13 inch sheet cake pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Cut into squares, eat, and totally wig out over the fact that you’ve just made the best chocolate sheet cake. Ever.

(Servings: 20, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time: 20 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:  

Shanon (taste):  7/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  1/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have told a few stories on here about my wonderful memories growing up with a job at the farmer's market.  These spanakopita (or spinach pies, as we called them) also bring me back to my Saturday mornings at the market.  There probably aren't spinach pies at every farmer's market, but they were (and still are) a staple at mine.  Next to the woman yelling "egg row, egg row".  Across from the ridiculously good fresh sliced bread (with the best butter ever).  On the diag from Frenchie, who for some reason only sold really small produce items, like herbs.  And had a fragrant body odor.  

So many wonderful things.  And these spinach pies always hit the spot.  I have learned since that spanakopita is often served as a snack in Greece too.  The farmer's market in Omaha, NE knows what's up.  They were also always served room temperature, which is actually quite tasty.  I probably prefer them served warm, but they are surprisingly good at room temperature.  I also added some dill to mine, because we have enough dill to last us until 2012.  Anyone need some dill?  Or any other herb?  Tarragon, sage, oregano, or thyme.  Our dill hits the roof, we cut it down, and in a week, it hits the roof again.  Anyways, I liked the addition of dill.  I also sometimes didn't.  Depended on the day and how many high fives I had given on that particular day.  Actually I think I was mostly indifferent to the dill.  


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
12 ounces (325g) fresh spinach, well-washed and towel dried
salt and freshly-ground pepper
8-10 ounces (230-250g) feta cheese
2 tablespoons finely-chopped flat leaf parsley
pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
1 large egg, at room temperature
lemon juice
16 sheets filo dough (about 12 ounces, 350g), thawed, if frozen
Melted butter (2-3 ounces, 60-90g)

Heat oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent.

Add the spinach and a bit of salt and pepper, cover, and cook until the spinach is completely wilted, stirring once or twice to hasten the process.

Scrape the spinach into a colander and let cool completely. Once cool, firmly squeeze out the excess liquid then chop the spinach with a chef’s knife into smallish pieces.

Mix the spinach in a small bowl with the feta and parsley until chunky. Taste, and add nutmeg and a squirt of lemon juice, plus more salt and pepper if desired. Stir in the egg.

Unwrap and unroll the filo and keep it covered at all times with a damp tea towel. Working quickly lay one sheet of filo on the counter and brush it lightly, but thoroughly, with butter. Lay another sheet on top of it and brush it with butter as well.

Set a scant 1/4 cup (50g) of the filling in the center, about 1-inch (3cm) from the edge of the sheets of filo, then roll the two edges of the dough over, lengthwise, to encase the filling. You should have a long rectangle with filling underneath the top far end.

Brush the exposed surface of the filo with butter and fold one corner diagonally over the filling, then continue folding keeping the triangle shape (as you’d fold a flag) and brushing the exposed surfaces of the filo with butter, until you have a neat triangle. Brush the top with butter and set on a baking sheet in the freezer.

Continue making more spanakopitas with the remaining filling. Once all the spanakopitas are frozen, store them in a freezer bag until ready to bake. If well wrapped, they’ll keep for a couple of months.

To bake the frozen spanakopita, preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and put the frozen triangles on a baking sheet, then brush each with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until deeply-golden brown. If you’re baking them without freezing them first, they’ll take less time to bake, so check them before the recommended baking time.

(Servings: 8, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Intermediate)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  4/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Peppers

As I've mentioned before, my mom loves all things stuffed.  I grew up eating stuffed squash, stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed artichokes, stuffed everything!  In honor of my mom on Mother's day, I thought this would be a very appropriate recipe to share.  This recipe comes from Cara's Cravings.  It is delicious, healthy and pretty easy to throw together, like so many of Cara's recipes are.  

I loved the flavors of the "stuffing", which includes ground turkey (I used ground turkey thighs, which I would recommend), artichoke hearts, cottage cheese, bulgar and some Romano cheese and fresh herbs.  The stuffing isn't the kind that will hold together once you slice open the pepper.  Scot had some issues with this.  He likes things that are easy to eat.  I didn't have a problem with this because it was so amazingly delicious.  And I like things that are difficult to eat.  I love this meal.  I strongly encourage you all to make it.  It is one of those meals that I can't imagine anyone wouldn't like.  

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Peppers

1/4 cup (40gm) bulgur
4 large red bell peppers
1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 15oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 oz grated pecorino romano cheese, divided
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce (preferrably all-natural, lowfat)

In a small saucepan, combine the bulgur with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Set aside. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully cut the stems from the peppers and remove the seeds and inner ribs. Cook the peppers in boiling water for about 5 minutes; drain and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cook the ground turkey, onion, and garlic in a skillet over medium heat, stirring to break up the ground turkey, until browned. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, combine the ground turkey mixture, cooked bulgur, cottage cheese, basil, parsley, and 3/4 of the pecorino romano cheese; mix well.

Spray an 8x8" baking dish or small casserole. Fill the peppers with the turkey mixture, packing the stuffing in well. Place the peppers in the baking dish and spoon the spaghetti sauce over. Sprinkle with remaining pecorino romano.

Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 30 min., Cook time: 25 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thin Crust Pizza

Bidding for the online bake sale, Bloggers Bake for Hope, starts now!  Proceeds go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  I am baking up a batch of my Lemon Poppyseed Cookies and I am really hoping the bidding ends at approximately $1 million.  Because that is what they are worth.  Anyways, go on over to the bake sale and see if you'd like anything.  Maybe you could buy a batch for your mom for mother's day?  It will be late, but she will still love you.  Bidding ends May 6th.  

I have lots of favorite pizza doughs.  There is the Baking Illustrated dough.  It is a traditional crust.  Thick and Chewy.  Great for your typical "take out" pizza recreations.  There is Pioneer Women's dough.  It has lots of oil, really thin, and is cooked on a baking sheet.  It is easy to make, easy to keep in the fridge until you need it, and easy to bake.  And it is delicious.  

Now, I have tried this new thin crust pizza dough from Cooking Illustrated.  I wanted more of a NYC style pizza crust.  Thin, crispy, great texture.  This was a great at home version.  I used fresh mozzarella and added some pepperonis.  This was seriously good.  I think it would make a great Margherita pizza too.  Definitely prefer it over PW's crust, but PW's crust is so easy, I don't really consider it the same type of crust.  Also, I love this pizza sauce.  This is the sauce I was making in our Foodie Fantasy video.  I have made two batches of it.  I just freeze it and it makes enough sauce for about three pizzas.  

Thin Crust Pizza
slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Jan./Feb. 2011 via Annie’s Eats

For the crust:
3 cups (161/2 oz.) bread flour
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
11/2 tsp. salt

For the sauce:
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. salt 1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

For topping:
Olive oil, for brushing
1/2 cup (1 oz.) finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade. Pulse just to combine. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until the dough is combined and all dry ingredients are incorporated, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Add the oil and salt to the dough. Process until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead briefly on a lightly oiled work surface, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. (After the period of refrigeration, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for later use.)

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

One hour before baking the pizza, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500° F. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. (If you plan to freeze a portion of the dough, this is the time to wrap in plastic, place in a freezer bag and freeze for later use.) Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray the dough balls lightly with cookies spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

To assemble the pizza, transfer a dough ball to a well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving a slightly thicker edge around the rim. Using your hands, gently stretch the dough to a 12-inch circle. (I needed to use the rolling pin a bit to get my crust thin enough.) Transfer the dough to a well floured pizza peel and stretch to a 13-inch circle. Lightly brush the thicker edge of the disk with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup of the pizza sauce over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and the shredded mozzarella. Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

*This dough can also be made in a stand mixer or by hand. Keep in mind, the idea is to avoid warming the dough, so a food processor or mixer is optimal.

(Servings: 2 13-inch pizzas, Prep time: 24 hrs+, Cook time: 15 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  4/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sesame Soba Noodles

Let's talk about soba noodles.  They are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour.  Buckwheat is wheat that is bucky.  I know a lot.  

This is a pretty typical soy/sesame oil/rice wine vinegar Asian dressing, which flavors the entire dish.  Delicious, as always.  

And then there are lots of raw, fresh veggies:  red peppers, carrots, red cabbage and edamame.  Edamame is my ideal type of bean.  It is a young soy bean, so it taste more like a fresh pea, rather than a bean.  And although beans are great, sometimes they are so...heavy.  Edamame are fresh and light.  All and all, Scot and I were huge fans of this cold noodle salad.  

Not to mention, it is so easy to make.  It is vegetarian.  It is healthy.  What more could you really want?  

As a side note, I did use less noodles and more edamame than what was in the original recipe.  I just used one package of each.  Didn't want some random odd amount leftover. But the amounts of all the different components aren't important.  

Sesame Soba Noodles

For the dressing:
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

For the salad:
1 lb. soba noodles (I used 12 ounces)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 cup shredded red cabbage
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
11/2 cups edamame, shelled and cooked (I used 16 ounces!)
Toasted sesame seeds, for serving

To make the dressing, combine the soy sauce, sesame and canola oils, vinegar, garlic, green onions and cilantro in a small bowl. Whisk well to blend.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Transfer the noodles to a large mixing bowl with the vegetables. Pour the dressing over the top and toss well so the noodles and vegetables are well coated with the dressing. Serve cold or at room temperature and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

(Servings: 4-6, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time: 10 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5