Friday, August 24, 2012

Skinny Cider "Donuts"

So I love fall... it's far and away my favorite season and although a part of me thinks August is too early for pumpkin ales and autumn flavors, the thought of the encroaching season puts a smile on my face.  One of my favorite things to do each fall is going apple picking followed by fresh made cider donuts.  The only issue, is that James and I are in training for a half marathon in January and a 600 calorie donut really doesn't fall into the training plan.  Henceforth, I set out to create a "skinny" version that wouldn't break the caloric bank.  Although not quite a true donut, these mini muffins are comparable to a munchkin and pack the same great flavors of the deep fried version and at 80 calories a pop, offer a much healthier option.

Skinny Apple Cider "Donuts" (makes 48 pieces)

2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp plus 2 tbsp cinnamon (divided) 
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground clove
1 egg
2/3 cup firmly packed Splenda brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup apple butter
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
cooking spray

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray, ensuring to coat each cup
- In a large mixing bowl, sift dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices)
- In a second bowl, blend together the egg, honey, apple butter, cider, brown sugar, yogurt and oil
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, blending on high speed for 1 minute
- Be sure not to over mix the batter as it will stiffen quickly (a few lumps are okay)
- Scoop approx. 2 tbsp of batter into each muffin cup, filling about half way
- Bake for 6-8 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into a muffin and comes out clean
- Allow "donuts" to cool for 10-15 minutes
- While they're still warm, remove from the tins gently with a fork
- In a small bowl combine granulated sugar with 2 tbsp cinnamon 
- Dip each "donut" into melted butter and lightly coat with the cinnamon/sugar mixture
- Serve warm with spiked hot apple cider for a great fall treat 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Most Amazing Steak Sandwich Known to Mankind

So about 2 weeks ago, I was at H Mart (which for those of you who aren't aware, is an incredible Asian Supermarket in Burlington, MA.  If you haven't checked it out before, their seafood and meat selections are amazing) and picked up some extremely thinly sliced Kobe beef ribeye.  When I say thinly sliced, I mean the meat is cooked within 10 seconds of hitting the pan.  It was a slightly extravagant purchase compared to standard beef, but at 4 2oz portions for under $10, it was far from unreasonable.  Henceforth, this discovery has spawned the most decadent, delicious steak subs that you can ever imagine.

We started by pan girdling a multi grain One Bun (think whole grain sandwich thin shaped like a taco shell) and smeared it with a truffle aioli (egg yolk and a touch of dijon mustard emulsified with truffle oil and sea salt).  Next, sear your strips of meat for about 10-12 seconds a piece and stack on the bread with a thin layer (about half and ounce) of truffle tremor cheese.  Put the sandwich back in the pan, to melt the cheese and crisp the outsides.  We served it with an arugula, raspberry and pomegranate seek salad tossed in a crisp lime vinaigrette and topped with a fried quail egg.  The whole meal took less than  20 minutes to prepare and was certainly better than any restaurant steak sandwich I've ever had.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Quick Midweek Breakfast

In a perfect world, I would love to be able to wake up and cook a fabulous breakfast every morning.  Unfortunately, we don't live in this perfect world and things like work, running and taking care of the puppies manage to get in the way most weekday mornings, therefore making homemade waffles becomes significantly more difficult.  After a good deal of trial and error, I've managed to work out a pretty solid breakfast muffin recipe for under 120 calories.  While I'm not typically an advocate of shortcuts and packaged foods, but there are certain instances where making everything from scratch isn't truly practical in everyday life.  These muffins take about 20 minutes to put together and bake and heat up in a toaster over in the morning in less than 5 minutes.

Breakfast Muffins (makes 18 servings)

1 package Grands Jr. Golden Buttermilk Biscuits (100 calories per biscuit)
6-7 eggs (depending on size)
1/2 cup low fat milk
6 slices of Canadian bacon (optional)
8 spears of asparagus (optional)
1 red bell pepper (optional)
Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 tbsp fresh thyme (optional)
2 tbsp minced chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray

- Preheat oven 375 degrees
- Tear each of the biscuits in half and gently press them in the base of each muffin tin
- Slice your Canadian bacon, pepper and/or asparagus into bite size pieces
- Arrange your meat and vegetables on top of your biscuits
- Place trays in the oven for 3 minutes to set the biscuit dough
- Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, Tabasco and thyme until well combined
- Remove trays from the oven and ladle egg mixture into each tin, filling them to the top
- Top each muffin with chives and bake for 15 minutes or until set and lightly golden brown
- Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to a week

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Tribute to a True Culinary Innovator

It's taken me a while to truly be able to write this entry.  I've tried a few times but wasn't able to find the words to truly honor someone I have so much respect for.

A few weeks ago, I lost a friend who may have been the most knowledgable individuals with regard to all things culinary that I've ever known.  Chef Ed Bilicki and I met during our training program at Not Your Average Joe's back in 2008.  Both having been former Disney Cast Members, we shared an understanding for the career track the other had been through to get where they were.  It was evident from the first time I had a conversation with Ed, he was incredibly passionate about food.  I think I had asked him a question about Arugula and in addition to answering my question, I was informed of the origins of the plant and how the green achieved it's flavor profile.  He was the type of person I enjoyed working with because he was always striving to be better, which in turn made everyone around him push harder.  He understood food like no one else I've ever met and wanted to share that with anyone willing to learn.

After we both completed training for the company, we worked together for another 6 months or so in the Randolph location where Ed took over the role of Development Chef for the company.  He's credited with a great deal of success with the Not Your Average Joe's menu.  He found a way to express his creativity while maintaining the culinary vision of Not Your Average Joe's and created some amazing dishes.  After I transferred locations, I used to giggle inside every time someone would complain about a labor intensive dish, thinking about the intricacy that Ed put into his work and realizing that not everyone shared his attention to detail.

Ed truly was a good friend, and a person I feel incredibly blessed to have had an opportunity to work with.  In his quest to consistently keep learning and improve himself, he really did make me a more knowledgable professional.  He's someone I'll always miss and the impact he made on me, as well as others will never be forgotten.