Saturday, December 26, 2009

Banoffee Pie?

Juliet: Banoffee pie?
Mark: No, thanks.
Juliet: Thank God. You would've broken my heart if you'd said yes.
Mark: Oh, right. Well, lucky you.
 
This was the scene in the movie "Love Actually" that introduced me to Banoffee Pie.  What is Banoffee Pie?  Simply, it's a graham cracker crust (which the English lovingly refer to as digestive biscuits) filled with dulce de leche (toffee) topped with bananas and covered in whipped cream.  It sounds good because it is!  I made a few substitutions:  Nilla Wafer crust in place of grahams, and Cool Whip instead of real whipped cream.  It was Christmas morning when I made this and I was running out of time.  Let's get to it.


This is the main ingredient.  Sweetened Condensed Milk.  That is all there is to the toffee.  Really.  This is going to be so easy you'll slap yourself.







Take the labels off and wash the cans really well.  Then use a sharp knife and pop a small hole in the top.  (This is to avoid can explosion.)








Now place the cans in a slow cooker and fill it with water about 1/4" from the top of the cans.  (If you don't have a slow cooker, you can boil the unpierced cans on the stove 4 hours [I can't recommend this because they have a chance of exploding if the water level drops], or simmer the actual milk for 1 1/2 hours stirring constantly [I can't recommend this because it is too time consuming], or I even saw a microwaveable recipe [When I tried this it made an overflowing mess!]  Slow cooking is the way to go.


I cover the cans with small squares of parchment paper to avoid water dripping into the can.

Set the cooker on low and wait 8 hours.  Don't worry if it starts top ooze out the top.  You can scrape this off and eat it later.  That's why you washed your can, right?




8 hours later...









...sweet delicious toffee!  Now scrape off the tops and eat them before you open the cans.








It's perfect.  Now for the crust.









Nilla Wafers in a food processor, ready to be crushed into pie!   Pulse it to a sandy texture.









Then add some sugar and melted butter and mix well.  Dump it into a pie pan and push it down and around the sides.








A measuring scoop is really the best tool for this.  See how nicely it packs the crumbs into the side of the pan?







 Bake it at 350 degrees for about 7-9 minutes.  It should look dry when you take it out and the color should be a bit darker.








Now dump in the toffee.  Use an offset spatula to get it to the edges.








Don't worry if you get some crumbs on top...it's going to be covered up soon.







Slice a banana or two and cover the top. 








Some Cool Whip in a pastry bag gives it a nice finishing touch, but feel free to just spoon it on.


Remember, because there is a banana in the pie, you can say it's healthy and good for you.



Banoffee Pie



Ingredients

2 Cans Sweetened Condensed Milk
40 Nilla Wafers
¼ Cup Salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
2 bananas, sliced
Cool Whip (or whip your own heavy cream, vanilla and sugar)


Directions

1) Take the labels off the cans of Sweetened Condensed Milk. Wash the cans. Punch a small hole in the top.


2) Place cans in a slow cooker with water ¼ below the top of the cans. You can place parchment squares over the tops of the cans so water does not drip in. Cook on low for 8 hours.


3) Crush the Nillas in the food processor to a coarse sandy texture. Add melted butter and sugar. Stir well and press into a pie pan. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes. Let crust cool.

4) Spread toffee evenly in crust.

5) Top with sliced bananas and whipped cream.



Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's a New York Blizzard and I'm beat!

It's 10:30pm Saturday night.  I just got home from work.  There is currently a blizzard in New York so bad that it took me and hour and a half to get home.  Cars were sliding sideways on the parkway.  It was rough.  When I got home I was too tired to make anything, so I asked my wife for something simple, like microwave Ramen.

I ate microwave Chow Mein.  And it was great.  Nothing says exhausted like microwave dinners.
Nothing says SUPER exhausted like having someone make it for you.
My wonderful wife did make me fudge though.

Doesn't that look great!  You're jealous, admit it.
And now, I go to bed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alfredo Sauce (made with cream cheese)

     Stay with me on this one.  I know it sounds funky, but it works.  Two nights ago I had a craving for pasta with a cream sauce, only one problem...no cream.  I didn't even have half-and-half.  I remembered a Kraft recipe I had that used cream cheese instead.  The end result tastes very creamy and as a added bonus it is much lower in fat.  Don't get me wrong; I'm using the cream if I have it, but this is an acceptable substitute.  This recipe calls for a 1/2 stick of butter.  I actually changed it to 3 tablespoons (a bit better for you) and added a bit more milk,  (it helps with the consistency and I feel ends up creamier).  Trust me, this recipe works.  Try it, you'll see.


First start with cream cheese.  You're going to need 1/2 a package.  If you really want to go crazy healthy, you can use Neufch√Ętel Cheese, but let's not go super nuts.








Here is the cream cheese, butter, parmesan, salt and pepper.  All that is left is to add the milk, whisk and simmer until it bubbles.  Super easy!





I tossed it with angel hair pasta, untraditional for alfredo, but my wife enjoys it.  I also served it with "unfried" chicken nuggets, another of my wife's favorites.  Doesn't it look creamy and delicious!


Alfredo Sauce (made with cream cheese)
Prep Time: 5 min
Total Time: 20 min
Makes: 4 servings, about 1 cup each

Ingredients

4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, cubed
1/2 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. fettuccine, cooked, drained

Directions
MIX cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, milk, butter, white pepper and garlic powder in medium saucepan; cook on low heat until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended.

TOSS with hot pasta.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pizza Time!

    Yesterday I was craving pizza, so I got home and made a pizza. I have a really easy dough recipe and I take a few shortcuts. I had an 8oz bag of pre-grated mozzarella cheese and I used a jar sauce. To pump up the flavor of the sauce, I added one 6oz can of tomato paste. This makes the sauce more tomato-y, and also adds thickness so that the sauce doesn’t run off the pizza. The mozzarella I used was reduced fat – this reduces the grease and water run off on top of the pizza. (Also it makes it healthier, but I am more concerned about the taste.) I par-bake my crusts before I add toppings, and this keeps the crusts dry and crispy. Let’s get to it!!!



 The dough needs flour (bread or all purpose), salt, yeast, oil and water. 






The water should be around 110-120 degrees.  You do have a thermometer, right?






Let the yeast and water sit for ten minutes and then add the oil.

Stir with a wooden spoon until it's mostly mixed and then dive in with your clean, thoroughly washed hands.





Yum.  Ball of dough.  Knead it on a lightly floured board for 4-6 minutes.  Add some more flour if it's sticky...or some water if it's dry. 





After kneading it, return it to a oiled bowl. Spin it around in the oil a few time. This prevents it from forming a crust on the raw dough.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Cover it with plastic and keep it in a warm, draft free place for 20-30 minutes.  I put mine in the oven which I preheated for about a minute just to warm it up.
 
 
 
 
 
 

I feel like now is a good time to show off my fantastically small kitchen.  One day I'll move and then I'll have counter space.  Until then, I make do.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Check out what a half hour can do to dough! 
 
 
 

Divide this in half and spread each half out on a pizza pan. If you don't have a pizza pan, use a baking sheet sicilian style. If you don't have a pizza pan or baking sheet you can use a large cast iron pan. If you don't have any of these then you really need to go shopping.


 
 
 
 

Here are my toppings.  I will assume you can sauce a pizza and toss some cheese on top.  I did not take pictures of this.  I par-bake the crusts first and then add the toppings.  I also added some parmesan cheese to the top. 
 
 
 

When the pie is almost done, broil it until it browns and bubbles. Yum.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 


I forgot to mention:  You don't have to make two pies.  You can save half the the dough in the fridge wrapped up for a day or two.  Then you can put whatever leftovers you want on top.  A personal favorite of mine is BBQ pulled pork pizza.  Check back for recipes for both the pork and homemade BBQ sauce.

Here's the dough recipe for you to try.


My Pizza Dough
Makes 1 (14-inch) thick-crust pizza or 2 (12-inch) thin-crust pizzas.
Ingredients
2-1/2 to 3 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 envelope active rise yeast (or 1 tbsp if from the jar)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water (110 to 120F)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
Cornmeal (optional)


Directions


Mix warm water with yeast. Stir to dissolve and then wait 10 minutes. Foam may form on top. This is good. It means the yeast is alive! Add the 2 tbsp olive oil and the flour and salt. Mix with a wooden spoon until stiff and then dive in with your hands. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add more flour if too sticky or more water if too dry. Put it in a bowl and coat the outside with oil. Cover with plastic and put in a warm, draft free place for 20-30 minutes.

Lightly oil 1 (14-inch) or 2 (12-inch) round pizza pan(s). Use cast iron for crisper crust. Sprinkle with cornmeal if desired. Shape dough into smooth ball. Divide and roll dough to fit desired pan(s). Par-bake crust at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.


Top pizza as desired. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on topping amount and crust thickness. Broil for 1 minute if desired to brown cheese or other toppings. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving so that the toppings don’t spill off.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First!

The first post in a blog is always awkward. It sets the tone for the rest of the blog. It's like writing the first sentence in a thesis paper, except with a blog, you don't usually do rough drafts and rewrites. Whatever you type sticks...forever. It takes a lot not to sound like an idiot. So why blog at all? Well, my sister put me up to it.

My sister (http://applesnonions.blogspot.com/), has long been known as the cook of the family. She recently started blogging. I got married three years ago and now, with my very own kitchen, I started cooking. My sister and I have been trading recipes, and with each exchange she ends, "You should start a blog." So here I am. Blogging.

I don't really have much to blog about this morning, which further adds to the awkwardness of the very first blog. It's 9am on a Sunday. I'm drinking my coffee and watching my daughter discover her feet, (She's two months old). I haven't cooked anything today to blog about, but I don't want to leave off without any type of food being discussed or recipe posted, so I will post an old recipe I created a few years ago for (drumroll)...Microwaved Eggnog For One. It's not the best option for a first post, but it's not the worst either. And if you love eggnog, you'll like the ease of this recipe. It takes less than 5 minutes!

With regard to posts...I promise they'll get better.


Microwave Eggnog for One


Ingredients
1 large egg
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
8 ounces milk or half-and-half, combination of the two
1 dash nutmeg or cinnamon

Directions
1. Beat egg, sugar and vanilla with wire whisk. Pour into large mug.
2. Add milk and mix well.
3. Microwave for about 2 1/2 – 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. DO NOT BOIL. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve immediately for those who enjoy warm or cool otherwise.