Monday, January 30, 2012

Easy Baked Brown Rice

Perhaps you've already read my post about Life-Changing Baked Rice, and if you have, you'll know that I have struggled to make good rice (with or without a rice maker, thank you very much).

That method is truly the best ever. Seriously, I've never had bad rice since. But it's only good for white rice. (We like jasmine rice, in particular.)

If you're looking to make the switch over to brown rice as part of your healthy goals this year, here's another simple, fool-proof method

Happy rice to you, my friends!

Baked Brown Rice
via Alton Brown

1 1/2 c. brown rice
2 1/2 c. water or stock
1 Tbsp. butter or oil
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375º. In a small saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Meanwhile, measure your rice into an 8"x8" glass baking dish. Pour in boiling liquid, stir a bit, and cover quickly with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for one hour. When done, fluff with a fork and serve! Easy peasy!

Makes about 4 c. cooked rice.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grandma Zina's Nutmeg Feather Cake

Since we recently moved away from family, I've been missing celebrating birthdays with our loved ones. It's not the same if you don't get some cake!

So I decided to bake a cake each month in honor of the birthdays we're missing. I've got some good ones coming, and I'm so excited to share some of my favorite cakes with you, as well as some new ones I'm dying to try out!

This recipe is my grandmother's, though I don't think she ever made it for me. I dug this recipe out of my mom's recipe box one day because I was fascinated by the name. It just sounds so dainty! And it kind of is, but it's dainty in a delightfully modern way, which I love. The crumb is tight, but feather light. Nutmeg is the star here, which is unexpected but so, so delicious. I think this is the perfect winter white cake, with just enough spice for January -- though it's great any time of year -- but not so much spice that it screams "holiday".

My newest love, though, is this whipped cream cream cheese frosting via Not So Humble Pie, which is so light and dreamy. Oh my. It's what I always dreamed cream cheese frosting could be. Plus, it's ridiculously easy.

So, Happy Birthday, my January peeps! I enjoyed every bite of the birthday cake I made for you. :)

Nutmeg Feather Cake

1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Sift together dry ingredients three times, and add vanilla to buttermilk. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk, starting and ending with the buttermilk.

Distribute batter evenly between two 9" cake pans and bake at 350º for 25 minutes, or until center of cake springs back when touched lightly.

Let cool completely before frosting with Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dark Chocolate Nutella

Nutella madness is everywhere, and I am by no means immune. I love Nutella and that's no joke! But I will also add that I think the original is a tad too sweet for even my sweet tooth. And since there is no shortage of homemade Nutella recipes to be found, I thought  I would try my hand at making some for myself, only darker and edgier... Or maybe just darker and less sweet. Happily, this recipe (which I found here) requires only a handful of ingredients -- literally 5, plus an optional pinch of salt -- and comes pretty darn close to the original. A couple of caveats, though: You will need a food processor. I cannot imagine attempting this without one. And if you can find hazelnuts that have already been skinned, get them. Skinning hazelnuts is a major pain in the derrier, and should be avoided if at all possible. If you need a good tutorial on skinning hazelnuts, head over here. I toasted my nuts on the stovetop and shook them around/rubbed them together in a paper bag until most (read: 50% or so because I didn't have the patience to concern myself with removing more) of the skins had fallen off. The more skin you can remove, the smoother your finished product will be. And while the addition of a pinch of salt is optional, I do recommend it. Particularly sea salt, which really brings out awesomeness in dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Nutella PRINTABLE RECIPE Ingredients: 7 oz. (about 1 2/3 c.) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned as well as possible 9 oz. dark chocolate (I used 72% cacao) 1, 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk a pinch of sea salt, optional evaporated milk (I used fat free) Directions: Once your hazelnuts have been toasted, skinned, and cooled, toss them in your food processor and process them until they turn into a paste that resembles peanut butter. This will take a while, and may require you to stop and scrape the sides of your bowl a time or two. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth and shiny. Add to that your sweetened condensed milk and sea salt, if desired, and mix thoroughly. Then mix in your hazelnut butter. At this point, the mixture will be quite thick. That's where the evaporated milk comes in. Stir in milk* a little at a time until you get the consistency you like, then add a bit more, because it will thicken more as it cools. I did this in my food processor to ensure that things were nice and smooth, but you certainly don't have to. I used about half of a 12 oz. can of evaporated milk. *Your milk should be room temp. or warmer. Cold milk will cause your chocolate mixture to seize up, and that's no good. While it's still warm, pour into airtight containers. Once cool, you should store it in the fridge and remove it a couple of minutes before you want to spread it so it has a chance to soften up. This made about 4 cups, so there's plenty to share with the lucky beneficiary of your choice!

That's the money shot right there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Copycat: Noodles & Co. Truffle Mac

Did you know that this post for Noodles & Co. Mac & Cheese is BY FAR the most popular thing I've put forth into the interwebs? It's true! Someday soon I hope to revise that recipe and take a decent photo for it, but until then, here's a similar post, with a similarly terrible photo. :) {done and done!}

Now that I'm a mom, I'm pretty much a total hermit. I don't go out to eat much, and if I do I look for places that have a drive-through so I don't have to get myself and the wee bairn (read: baby) out of the car. So my trips to Noodles have been much less frequent. I did try valiantly to get in there, though, when they introduced their "Grown-Up Mac & Cheese" a while back, with varieties like Bacon Cheeseburger, Chili Mac, and Truffle Mac.

One Saturday, while the hubs, baby, and I were out and about, we stopped by to try it. I was SO excited. But, alas, they said that the truffle sauce wasn't ready and wouldn't be ready for at least 20 minutes. Let me tell you how much that wasn't going to happen: a lot. It wasn't going to happen quite a bit, because we were coming up on nap time, and you do not mess with nap time.

So I missed the Truffle Mac.

My mom, however, did not miss it, and told me over and over how fantastic it was. She didn't know she was rubbing it in my face, so I forgive her. {stifled whimper} And she also gave me a bottle of white truffle oil for Christmas -- probably for the sole purpose of having me recreate it.

So recreate I did.

Using my original copycat recipe for Noodles Mac & Cheese as a base, I tweaked it by adding sauteed crimini mushrooms, toasted panko breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and, of course, truffle oil. It was delicious! And tasters who were lucky enough to taste the original from Noodles told me it was dead on. (Score!)

So, give it a try sometime. I bet you'll love it, too!

No elbow macaroni on hand? We used shells, but of course any short cut pasta will do.
Noodles & Co.-esque Truffle Mac


1 lb. elbow macaroni
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. butter, divided
1/4 c. flour
2 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. cream
1 c. shredded cheddar-jack cheese blend
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
3/4 tsp. - 1 tsp. white truffle oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. sliced crimini mushrooms
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
fresh parsley, finely chopped


Cook pasta according to package directions, drain well.

In a large saucepan, melt 1/4 c. butter over medium heat. Add flour and stir to combine well. Let cook and bubble 1 minute or so, or until mixture smells toasty. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. (A quick note about roux-making: I like to start with a wooden spoon, then switch to a whisk when I add liquid.) Whisk vigorously as you add the milk. Turn heat up to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until just thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. (I mean it. Don't let it thicken too much.) Add more milk if it gets too thick.

While this is happening, sautee mushrooms in 1 Tbsp. of butter (or oil, if you like), and likewise toast the breadcrumbs over low heat, in 1 Tbsp. of melted butter, until golden. Set aside.

Remove sauce mixture from heat and add cheeses, cream, and truffle oil. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

When ready to serve, ladle some sauce in the bottom of your bowl. Spoon in pasta, then top with more sauce, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, parsley, and more parmesan. Drizzle a little more truffle oil on each serving, if you're so inclined, to up the fancy-schmancy factor.


(A note, I started writing this post a long while ago, and I did hear that they brought "Grown-Up Mac" back recently, so I made my husband go out and get it for me, but it was all wrong: burned mushrooms, no breadcrumbs... I still maintain that I haven't had proper Noodles Truffle Mac. Or if that's it, then this is WAY better.)