Monday, February 14, 2011

Brown Sugar Brownies

Gooey Goodness for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day fellow Foodies!  I still haven't decided what I am cooking for Valentine's Day dinner tonight.  I had originally thought that last night could serve as our big Valentine's Day dinner, but since it was sort of a bust, I feel the need to redeem myself tonight.  Last night I spent well over 3 hours in the kitchen, making the traditional Coq au Vin recipe from the Balthazar cookbook, which was... disappointing.  All that work and I guess I just wanted something that tasted a little less like chicken braised in bacon.  I'm sure if you liked braised meats, you would have loved the Coq au Vin.  It was rich, the meat falling off the bone, with great bacon flavor.  And it looked beautiful, but, no matter what meat I use or what I put in the pot, I just don't like braised meat.  Pancho wasn't a big fan of it either.  Neither of us like stews, or short ribs, or anything that requires slow cooking meat in liquid until it falls apart.  Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking trying Coq au Vin in the first place.  I guess I was lured  into thinking I would love it since it requires an entire bottle of Pinot Noir, one of my favorite wines.  Oh well, at least we gave it a try.  I think tonight I'll stick with something tried & true.  Maybe I'll whip up some pasta, or some Rack of Lamb.  I'll have to take a trip to the market at lunch and see what inspires me.

Most of the time I do try to cook fairly healthy.  I use lean proteins, I use whole grains, I substitute low fat or non-fat dairy for the really good stuff, I try to put veggies in almost everything I make.  But sometime, you just need something totally decadent and totally without nutritional value.  These Brown Sugar brownies fit that bill.  Plus, it's Valentines Day, and something super sweet is a necessary indulgence.  So instead of a savory Valentine's Day inspired main course, I'm sharing my brown sugar brownies recipe with you all.  Unlike my Coq au Vin from last night, these are always a hit!    

Brown Sugar Brownies
2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 bag reeses peanut butter chips
1 bag milk chocolate chips
Equipment Needed:
Stand Mixer (or large bowl & hand mixer)
9 x 13 glass baking dish, sprayed with baking spray

  1. Mix the Butter & Sugar.  Melt the butter and mix with the sugar on medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes, until smooth.
  2. Add in the eggs & vanilla.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, and continue blending until they are completely incorporated.  Add in the vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients.  With the mixer on low add in the salt, baking powder & baking soda.  Then add in the flour, one cup at a time.
  4. Mix in the chips.  Once the flour has been incorporated add in the chocolate chips & peanut butter chips.
  5. Bake.  Bake in a 350 deg oven for 50 minutes.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into 2" squares.  Makes 32 brownies.
  6. Serve!  Serve the brownies once they have cooled completely.  They go great with some vanilla ice cream or a big glass of cold milk.
Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kale Pesto

Giant bowl of green goodness

I know it's Taco Tuesday, and some sort of taco recipe would be appropriate, but since yesterday was Monday, which is, in some foodie circles now apparently called "Meatless Monday", I figured this vegetarian recipe from the weekend would also be good.  Plus, I had photos ready and could post it now, instead of later tonight, which could end up being much much later tonight, since I've got an abundance of errands & chores that need attention after work.

We love pesto in our house, and it's one of those things where once you make a batch of it there are tons of things you can do with it.  Basil is really best in summer, so in the winter time fresh kale makes delicious pesto.  It might sound strange, but it really does work, maybe even better than the basil variety, at least in my opinion.  It's made almost the same as basil pesto, just substitute kale for basil and instead of pine nuts I use walnuts.  Don't skip on toasting the walnuts, it really does help bring out their nutty flavor.  Since Meyer Lemons are in season here in California I use them instead of regular lemons too.  Lastly, I add a big spoonful of Greek yogurt at the end.  I know it seems like I put Greek yogurt in everything, but it does seem to be a magic ingredient.  It's incredibly healthy and can be substituted for all kinds of dairy items.  And don't think I am crazy for adding Greek Yogurt to this pesto.  I swear it's what puts it over the top.  It gives it this creaminess that is simply delicious.  Honestly, I would rather have this pesto than the traditional basil pesto any day.

Kale Pesto

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed (I like the curly variety)
3 cloves garlic
zest from 1 meyer lemon
juice from 1 meyer lemon
1/4 cup toasted walnuts + a handful to mix in at end
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese + 1/4 cup to mix in at the end
salt & pepper
Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup non-fat greek yogurt
Equipment needed:  Food Processor
  1. Blend the Dry Ingredients.  In a food processor pulse the kale, the garlic, the lemon zest, the toasted walnuts & the parmesan cheese until smooth.
  2. Add in the Liquids.  With the motor running, add in the lemon juice and then slowly add in the olive oil until it is well incorporated and you have a nice smooth pesto
  3. Fold in the remaining ingredients.  Transfer the pesto from the food processor to a bowl.  Toss in a handful of chopped toasted walnuts, the remaining Parmesan cheese & the Greek yogurt.  Season with salt & pepper and  stir well.
  4. Serve!  You can serve immediately, or, it will keep in the fridge for several days, you can even freeze it.  It goes great on anything you would normally put pesto on.  I tossed it with some fresh Meyer Lemon Fettuccine that I picked up at the produce stand, topped with some sautéed yellow, white & green zucchini, shallots & cherry tomatoes.  It was amazing.  It's great on eggs, and just plain slathered on a cracker or piece of bread.  Also try it on grilled or pan seared salmon- it's ridiculously delicious!
Meyer Lemon Fettuccine with sautéed veggies & kale pesto
My wine pairing for this dinner?  A 2008 Carmel Road Monterey Chardonnay.  A Bargain at only $12 (at our local Safeway, which has the cheapest wine prices around), I think it's only $18 from the winery itself.

Bon Apetit!