Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lemon Tilapia with Cucumber and Feta Quinoa

I did it!  I finally made quinoa!  I've been reading about it for years and I've finally gone ahead and made it.  This adventure into quinoa came about during Passover, when all other starchy side dishes besides potatoes were off the table.  As you can probably tell by now, tilapia is a fan favorite of ours, so this recipe fit perfectly with what we had and what we wanted to make.

This recipe can be whipped up quickly, which makes it a perfect weeknight meal.  Get your quinoa rinsed and boiling, and by the time it's fluffy the rest of the dish is ready to serve!  Make sure you go lightly when you salt the quinoa (you might not even have to) since the feta cheese will bring salt to the table.  Feel free to garnish with dill and enjoy!

Lemon Tilapia with Cucumber and Feta Quinoa
Serves 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

-                ½ c quinoa, rinsed
-                dash of salt and pepper
-                1 lemon, halved
-                2 tilapia fillets, rinsed
-                2 ½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
-                ½ c cucumber, peeled and diced
-                ¼ c feta

In a small saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil.  After the water begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cover, allowing quinoa to absorb all water (10 – 15 minutes). 

Season the tilapia fillets with salt, pepper, and juice from half of the lemon.   Coat the bottom of a frying pan with 1 ½ tsp of the olive oil and sauté the tilapia over medium heat until the fish is opaque throughout and flakes easily (about 4 minutes on each side).

When the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, using a fork to fluff the quinoa and stir in 1 tsp of the olive oil, cucumber, feta, and juice from ½ of the lemon.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve quinoa  
immediately with the fish.

Adapted from: Martha Stewart

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Traditional New Orleans Bread Pudding

I have been lucky enough to experience two different types of authentic bread pudding - traditional New Orleans bread pudding and traditional English bread pudding.

During my sophomore year in college, I had the opportunity to travel to London over spring break to study Shakespeare.  The course I took that semester was called the London Shakespearience, and during the spring semester we studied plays and folios, and when we went to London we visited The Globe, Stratford-Upon-Avon, did some scene studies with Globe actors, and saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing.  And now you all know I am a Shakespeare nerd.  Besides seeing the sites, we also visited many pubs and I made sure to order a couple orders of bread pudding while there.

The following year, I went to New Orleans twice, once for an ultimate frisbee tournament (and Mardi Gras) and then went back a few weeks later for Alternative Spring Break, where we worked on building houses with Habitat for Humanity. Both experiences, while very different, were incredible. That was when I fell in love with the city and its food, and I made sure to stop at Cafe Du Monde for beignets and other restaurants in the French Quarter bread pudding.

The major difference between traditional English and New Orleans bread pudding is that with your English bread pudding, the milk and cream mixture are heated to create a custard, while the New Orleans bread pudding is usually served or infused with a whiskey sauce. Because I was making this bread pudding for a breakfast at school, I decided to forgo the whiskey sauce, but would certainly use Emeril's recipe for his whiskey sauce should I make this recipe again for a non-school function.

This recipe is beyond easy to make since most of your time is spent waiting for the bread to soak and then waiting again for the pudding to bake and set. You can use ANY type of bread for this recipe, from slices of white bread or a loaf of Italian or French bread. This is the perfect thing to make if you happen to buy loaves of bread at Costco, left them in the freezer for way too long, and then didn't know what to do with them. No bread is too stale for this recipe, just leave to soak until all cubes are completely saturated with this delicious cream.  The bread pudding was wonderful for breakfast warm, and I took some extras home to heat up with ice cream for dessert.  I love a recipe that can be used for breakfast or dessert :)

Bread Pudding
Serves 10
Prep Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 30 min

-                1 loaf white bread (Italian, French, or classic loaf bread), about 6 cups, cubed*
-                4 tbsp unsalted butter
-                1 c heavy cream
-                3 c milk
-                3 eggs
-                1 c brown sugar, packed
-                2 tsp vanilla extract
-                1 tsp ground cinnamon
-                ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
-                pinch of salt
-                ½ c raisins

Pour the bread crumbs in a large bowl and melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Pour the butter over the bread and toss to make sure they’re coated evenly.

In a separate bowl, mix together the heavy cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and raisins.  Thoroughly mix and pour the cream mixture over the bread, tossing evenly to coat.  Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the bread becomes very soft.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 in. pan.  Pour the bread mixture into the pan and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the bread is slightly browned and set.  Serve warm and store in the refrigerator.

*Note: use the whole loaf, even if it isn't 6 cups.  You can fill the pan up since the bread won't bake up.  

Adapted from: Emeril 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gooey Pecan Bars

Welcome back to me!  I'm not going to lie, being featured on Tasty Kitchen last week reignited my love for cooking, baking, and blogging.  One of the hardest things about teaching is that it absolutely consumes your life.  When you're catching up on grading and planning over the weekends, it leaves little time for your hobbies.  Granted, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but it's important to remember that teaching isn't the only thing I like to do...

So in order to spurn myself forward, I signed up to bring in two different baked goods to work this week; one for a baby shower (for a baby that was already born!) and one for our monthly breakfast.  I'm going to start with the pecan bars I made for the baby shower, which were a huge hit!!  I'm very excited to be back with this recipe.

Right after work, I usually have just enough energy to change into "comfy pants" and plop down on the couch to watch my after work cooking shows.  One afternoon, I saw Ina Garten making these pecan bars and dipping them in chocolate!!  I debated dipping mine in colored chocolate to go with the baby shower theme, but with Easter yesterday I sort of ran out of time.  This does make the pecan bars a very versatile dessert - perfect for any occasion!

The dough for the bars is very sticky - you're going to get your hands dirty for this one!  Make sure you use plenty of flour (I used between 2 1/4 and 2 1/2 cups) so that you can actually get the dough into the pan.  The crust will take a while to bake, so don't make the topping until the dough is out of the oven.  You want the crust to be cool and set before pouring the delicious topping all over it...

You really cannot go wrong with this recipe.  The combination of shortbread crust and pecan pie filling is such a indulgence.  That being said, this recipe is incredibly rich, so a 13 x 9 in. pan can go a long way.  I cut mine into 2 in. squares and that was PLENTY for each person.  The bars were well received by everyone and I'll be making copies of the recipe tomorrow at work :)  Stay tuned for another baked good later this week!

Gooey Pecan Bars
Yield: About 20 bars (13 x 9 in pan)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes

For the crust
-                ¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-                ½ c granulated sugar
-                2 eggs
-                ½ tsp vanilla extract
-                2 ¼ c flour
-                ¼ tsp baking powder
-                pinch of salt
For the topping
-                1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
-                ¼ c honey
-                1 c light brown sugar, packed
-                ¼ c heavy cream
-                1 pound pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 in pan. 

To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar until butter becomes fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the batter about 1 cup at a time until incorporated.  The dough will become sticky, so you may need to combine it with your hands (flour your hands first!).  

Flour your hands and press the dough evenly into the greased pan, making an edge around the outside.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes and allow to cool.

While the dough is cooling, make the topping.  Combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the better is melted, stirring often.  Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from heat.  Stir in the heavy cream and pecans.  Pour mixture over crust, starting in the middle and using a spatula to press to the edges.  Do not let the topping flow over the edges of the crust!  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the topping is set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Once pan has reached room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour to prevent the crust from crumbling while cutting.  After cutting, store in an air tight container in a cool, dry place. 

Adapted from Ina Garten

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Updates

Be sure to check out Tasty Kitchen today, I'm a featured member!

Sorry to be so absent lately.  I do have some fantastic news though - for the past 1 1/2 months, I have been working as a 6th grade science teacher in a school near my hometown.  The best thing about this position, though, is that it's a full-time, tenure track position!!  I am so lucky to have landed this position and have really loved it so far.  It's been a lot of hard work, and I still have my doubts and difficult days, but I think in the end it'll be all worth it.

As you can see, the blog has kind of fallen by the wayside.  I've still been cooking and baking and (of course) teaching, so I'm hoping that over breaks I will be able to add more posts, recipes, and teaching ideas.  Stay tuned and thank you for all of your support!