Thursday, December 9, 2010

Basil Cream Cheese Bruschetta

I've decided it was time for me to make another attempt at cooking. Yesterday, I decided to do something more simple and healthier. I've always love eating bruschetta in Italian restaurants, and it always looked easy to make, so I decided why not attempt a homemade version of it.

Overall, my version of this recipe turned out really pretty well despite substituing a couple of ingredients, forgetting to measure the ingredients, and slightley overbaking the bread. Instead of using French bread, I used multi-grain wheat bread. I have no real explanation as to why I chose to use multi-grain bread other than it was smaller in size. The french bread was almost a foot long, and I didn't want to keep it an additional day. I didn't use "ripe" olives either. Instead, I bought canned black olives with jalapenos because this recipe sounded a bit bland, and I thought the jalapenos would give it a little kick. It turned out to be a good decision! 

As I mentioned earlier, I completely forgot about measuring the ingredients, so I basically estimated how much onions, olives, cream cheese, and basil should be added as the topping. I blame my absent-minded nature due to the bread. This recipe didn't tell me that you needed to add some olive oil and/or butter to the bread before you broil it. Evidently, this is "common sense" if you are kitchen savvy. In my first attempt at broiling the bread, I literally added one maybe two miniscule drops of olive oil to the bread. I ended up burning the edges of the bread, and the bread was hard as a rock. I realized that I needed to be a bit more generous with the olive oil if I wanted to soften the bread.

Despite my mishaps, I learned a couple of things from my latest attempt at cooking:

1) I need to transfer my organizational skills into the kitchen. Before I begin any recipe, I need to have all the ingredients set up and ready to go, so I won't be running around in a flustered state.
2) I've realized that I need to learn how to properly meausure ingredients simply because it's a useful thing to know. It's   okay to experiment though! You'll be happy to know that I finally bought some meauring cups and spoons. =)
3) I don't really feel comfortable using knives. Maybe it's because I'm clumsy, and I'm concerned about cutting myself (I have yet to do that though). In the future, I think I'm going to invest in a vegetable chopper like the ones I see on tv.  
4) I don't recommend making large portions of this unless you are making this for a group of people. I was full after eating 4 slices.

Here is the recipe for Basil Cream Cheese Bruschetta:
  • 12 slices French bread (1/2 inch thick)
  • 1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ripe olives
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
Place bread on an ungreased baking sheet. Broil 6-8 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tomato, onion and olives; set aside.
Combine cream cheese and basil; spread over the untoasted side Yield: 1 dozen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Treats

Over Thanksgiving break, I decided to experiment in baking some yummy treats for my family to enjoy. Initially, I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to bake…cookies, cake, brownies? To help make my decision I turned to the one source that never seems to fail me and always makes me slightly less indecisive, the internet. I started googling Thanksgiving recipes, and I found two recipes that were calling my name. One was maple oat cookies, the other being spiced pumpkin mousse. Sounds intriguing right? =)

I started with the mousse first. This was actually my second attempt at making mousse. My first attempt at making this classic dessert was not entirely successful. Instead of using measuring cups, I estimated the amount of gelatin that the recipe called for, and my little concoction ended up tasting my rubber. This time around I was determined to get it right.

Overall, my attempt at this dessert was a success. I still don’t own measuring cups, so I was estimating the ingredients again (yes, I know…shame on me), and I think I might have added to much cream because it initially looked too much like a liquid instead of a mousse. However, I let it chill for about 4 hours, and after removing it from the fridge, I noticed that it had become mousse.
Here is the recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Mousse (If you like pumpkin pie, then you will probably love this)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/4 teaspoons)1/4 cup cold water1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg1/4 teaspoon ground ginger1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups chilled heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
Garnish: ground cinnamon (optional)

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan and let it soften for 1 minute. Bring to a simmer, stirring until gelatin has dissolved. Whisk together gelatin mixture, pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl.
Beat 1 cup cream with vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then fold into pumpkin mixture

Spoon about 1/2 cup pumpkin mixture into bottom of each glass. Chill until set
Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream with remaining 1 tsp vanilla until it forms soft peaks.

While the mousse was chilling in the fridge, I started on the maple oat cookies. Instead of using maple syrup, I substituted it for honey. I think that affected not only the taste of the cookies, but it also hardened the cookies much faster. If you are not a big fan of sweets, then I suggest using honey in this recipe instead of maple syrup. Next time I make these cookies again, I intend to use maple syrup because I have a major sweet tooth! Despite the taste, the cookies were delicious. I also managed to take them out of the oven without burning them (Whenever I bake cookies, I either underbake them or overbake them).
Here is the recipe for maple oat cookies:
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup canola or high-heat sunflower oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place oats in a medium saucepan and toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until oats are slightly golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, maple syrup and vanilla until combined. Add maple mixture to oat mixture and stir to combine completely. The dough will be warm. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently flatten dough with wet fingers and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack, then store them in an airtight container.