March 25, 2011

Soup for a Rainy Friday Night

It's almost spring, and I'm excited about the fresh NW vegetables that will soon be available at the local farmers markets. I can't wait to try out a few new recipes with tender-local ingredients. 

Even though you can sense a quiet change in the weather, evenings are still quite chilly, and call for a filling, hot, soul nourishing soup.  This particular recipe is full of vibrant flavor, is made with still easy to find, winter root vegetable ingredients.  My kids actually LOVE it and it's really inexpensive to make.   It's a fabulous little recipe that I invented after being inspired by a cookbook I found at the beach called, "Stop the Clock Cooking".  It's a twist on an African Stew, and it has coconut milk and peanut butter in it for added creaminess and a deep rich flavor that is actually good for you.

The only tricky part is cutting up all of the veggies...

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped medium red onion
1 finely chopped medium green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 minced garlic cloves
2 Tbs peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 Tbs curry powder
2 large peeled halved, seeded chopped tomatoes (or 1 cup tomato sauce)
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 can drained chick peas
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup (plus a little extra if you LOVE it like I do) creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro without stems (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, carrot and celery and saute until fragrant; do not brown garlic.   Add sweet potato and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute until fragrant; do not brown garlic.  Add tomatoes and bay leaf and cook, uncovered, until tomatoes are slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.

Add broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Add sweet potato and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in chick peas, peanut butter and coconut milk until combined.  Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Top with cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

* This recipe makes a generous size pot, and the leftovers are perfect for a chilly Saturday after picking up the kids from track, softball and baseball practices.  I sometimes serve it over a bowl of warm brown rice, serve a side salad for a hearty weekend lunch.

March 10, 2011

The Kate Winslet

 A completely glamorous concoction to wind down the day.

{image from Gourmet}

start with a mixture of London dry gin and red-currant jelly and top it off with dry sparkling wine. Bejewel each glass with a garnish of fresh red currants.2 Tbsp red-currant jelly
2 oz water (1/4 cup)
4 oz (1/2 cup) London dry gin
1 (750-ml) bottle well-chilled brut Champagne or Prosecco

GARNISH: fresh red currants

• Heat jelly and water in a small saucepan, whisking, until jelly has dissolved. Stir in gin and chill until cold.
• Divide gin mixture among 6 Champagne flutes, then top with Champagne.


March 7, 2011

Dark-Chocolate-Guinness-Stout Cake

You can seduce husbands with Beer. 

And chocolate.

And cake. 

So... it only makes sense that a dark chocolate, rich, stout beer cake = the Ultimate Enticement.

To be perfectly honest, for the past few months, I haven't been seductive or sultry.   Not even a little bit.

I have been in sort of a self imposed hibernation and a self-pitying funk... living in flannel pajama bottoms, reading trashy romance novels and watching movies like Beowulf and Doomsday while eating cheesy poofs on the couch.  I've not been charming or fun.  I haven't been pretty or light hearted to say the least.  I've even had cheesy poof powder stuck in my hair at times.   For a while, I felt like Jaba The Hut with a case of the Mean Reds.

But my quietly heroic, Subtly Amazing husband has remained steadfast and kind through even my worst days.  He's listened to me snuffle and whine about the injustices of the world this winter.   He took me to the movies and told me I was beautiful even when I wasn't.  He made me tea, told me bad jokes to help me remember how to smile, and covered me with a blanket when I went to bed at night. 

I'm telling you, I am married to Fantasy Husband.

And my Subtly Amazing Fantasy Husband deserves a medal.

Or at least a cake.

This one is absolutely sumptuous and sinful.  It is the King of Cakes.  The scent of it will make everyone in the household swoon and want to camp out in the kitchen and lick the bowl after you've whipped up the pillowy cream frosting.  It is unbelievably dense, and tastes heavenly when it's warm out of the oven (but you will catch yourself sneaking bites of cake deep into the night).

Don't worry, you don't actually taste the beer in the cake, it simply adds a depth of coffee/chocolaty flavor as well as making it extremely moist.

... and if you buy a big bottle of Guinness, you can sip the left-overs while you whisk and bake.

The Recipe: Chocolate Stout Cake

1 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Stout beer
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa, sifted
2 plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 medium eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup softened, whipped cream cheese
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:
1 plus 1/3 cup cream cheese, room temperature 
1 plus 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 10" spring form pan by liberally buttering it, placing parchment paper on the bottom, buttering again, and dusting with cocoa power to "flour" it.

Add butter, cocoa, and stout to a saucepan.  Warm over a medium heat and stir until melted.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool slightly.
Add flour, baking soda, and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together.  Pour in the Stout/cocoa powder/butter mixture, lightly combine.  Then add the vanilla, eggs and whipped cream cheese and beat everything together until well combined.  The batter should be thick.
Pour into prepared pan and bake in oven for roughly 1 hour.  Since all ovens bake differently, be sure to check your cake often.  I always start checking well before the recommended time, just to be safe.  When the cake feels firm and a toothpick comes out clean, it's done. There may be a few crumbs that stick to it.  Do not overbake.  This is a very moist cake, so use your best judgement with the toothpick test.
Let cool for 10-15 minutes, before removing from pan and placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
To frost the cake, place the cream cheese into bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cream cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining.
Gradually, add the sifted confectioners' sugar and beat gently to combine.  After 2-3 minutes, stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed until lump free.
Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream, mixing until fully combined.

Place cooled cake on a stand and spread the top with frosting.

March 4, 2011

Musical Books

I just LOVE LOVE LOVE stop-motion animation... especially when it involves dancing books.

Happy Weekend Darlings! And don't worry your pretty little heads. Gorgeous Bits has been severely neglected, I know. I've practically been in hibernation. But the fun is starting to re-infuse my veins, and this weekend I will be cooking up a celebrational storm for my lovely readers.

Please, stay tuned.

Air Kisses kittens~