Pasta alla Vodka

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This is my new favorite pasta dish.  The sauce is so creamy and delicious that it’s hard to stop eating.  It only takes about half and hour to make, too, so it’s great for a weekday dinner.

Original recipe

 

Pasta alla Vodka
Adapted from SimplyRecipes

Yield: 4 servings

  • 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, about 4 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 pound sausage
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 

  1. Bring large pot of salted water (1 tablespoon salt for every 2 quarts of water) to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Crumble sausage and brown it in a large, thick-bottomed pan over medium heat.  Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat, add the onion, and sauté 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Decrease heat to medium, add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute longer.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes to pan and stir in vodka, heavy cream, and lemon zest.
  6. Increase heat and bring mixture to a simmer.  Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
  7. Once sauce is simmering, add pasta to boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.
  8. After the sauce simmers for about 5 minutes, add browned sausage.  Cook until pasta is done.
  9. When pasta is done, strain and stir it into the pan with the sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper.
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Pepperoni Pizza

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If you don’t know what pepperoni pizza is, try it out!  It’s the quintessential pizza American kids grow up eating.

 

Pepperoni Pizza

Yield: 12-13″ pizza

  • 1 portion Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 (15-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 oz pepperoni
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 Roma tomato

 

  1. Wash, dry, and slice tomato.
  2. If you feel motivated, fry pepperoni briefly in a pan and pat off the grease with a paper towel.
  3. Prepare pizza dough (you can even do this the night before, and store the dough in a covered bowl overnight in the refrigerator), roll out into a crust, and place in pizza pan.
  4. In a bowl, stir together tomato paste and oregano.  You may need to add a little water to thin the paste to a spreadable consistency.
  5. Spread tomato paste over crust, leaving 1/4-1/2″ border around the edge.
  6. Scatter about half to two-thirds of the pepperoni over the crust.
  7. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly across the top.
  8. Scatter remaining pepperoni across the top.
  9. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.
  10. Let baked pizza cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Marbled Chocolate-Banana Bread

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I think marbled chocolate-banana bread is great for taking to dinner parties and such, because it’s tasty, pretty, and straightforward to make.

Original recipe

 

Marbled Chocolate-Banana Bread
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 9″ x 5″ loaf

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar OR 3/4 cup white sugar + dollop molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably dark, but any kind is fine)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

 

  1. Center rack in oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or coat it with a nonstick baking spray.
  2. Melt butter in the bottom of a large bowl in the microwave.
  3. Mash the bananas right into it until mostly smooth.
  4. Whisk in brown sugar, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add 1 cup of the flour, stirring just until it disappears.
  6. Pour half of batter into a second bowl. (You can eyeball it, it’s fine.)  Into one bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and ground cinnamon. Into the other bowl, stir in the cocoa powder and chocolate chips.
  7. Drop spoonfuls of the two batters randomly into the loaf pan.
  8. Plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag from one end of the pan to the other, making only 6-8 zigzags.  Even though it’s fun, you don’t want to mix the two batters too much.
  9. Bake 55-65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. (A melted chocolate chip smear is expected, however.)
  10. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature.  The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days, wrapped in foil, at room temperature.

     

Chocolate Chunkers

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Chocolate chunkers are cookies that are basically chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins held together by a brownie.  All the different flavors and textures make the cookies fun to bite into and chew, and I find that the raisins cut the sweetness of the white chocolate nicely.

 

Chocolate Chunkers
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 24 cookies

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped OR 1/2 cup semisweet + 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
  • 6 ounces premium-quality milk or white chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, preferably salted peanuts or toasted pecans
  • 1 cup moist, plump raisins

 

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.

  3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the butter, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted. The chocolate and butter should be smooth and shiny but not so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the counter to cool.

  4. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until they are pale and foamy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then scrape down the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted butter and chocolate, mixing only until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl, then, on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick, smooth and shiny. Scrape down the bowl and, using the rubber spatula, mix in the semisweet and milk (or white) chocolate chunks, nuts and raisins. You’ll have more crunchies than dough at this point.  (Dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

  5. Drop the dough by generously heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between the mounds of dough.

  6. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. The tops of the cookies will look a little dry but the interiors should still be soft. Remove the baking sheet and carefully, using a broad metal spatula, lift the cookies onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

  7. Repeat with the remaining dough, baking only one sheet of cookies at a time and making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.

  8. If, when the cookies are cooled, the chocolate is still gooey and you’d like it to be a bit firmer, just pop the cookies into the fridge for about 10 minutes.

 

Meyer Lemon Chiffon Cake

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The fragrance of Meyer lemons makes this chiffon cake really special.  You can substitute regular lemons, but I recommend finding Meyer ones.

Original recipe

 

Meyer Lemon Chiffon Cake
Adapted from Just One Cookbook

Yield: 10″ tube pan

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 170 grams granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 Tablespoons flavorless oil (such as vegetable or canola)
  • 3-4 Meyer lemons
  • 1 1/3 cup (150 g) cake flour (all-purpose also works)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting

 

  1. Preheat oven to 340°F and set aside a 10″ tube pan.  Do NOT grease it.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yolks and about a third of the sugar.
  3. Whisk in oil and  lemon zest until thoroughly combined.
  4. Juice all the lemons and, if necessary, add enough water to get 1/2 cup liquid.
  5. Whisk in baking powder and flour, making sure there are no lumps.
  6. In a separate large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.  Add the remaining sugar in 3 additions and beat until stiff and glossy.
  7. Add a large scoop of the whipped egg whites to the cake batter and mix gently but thoroughly to lighten the batter.
  8. Add the remaining egg whites in 3 additions.  Gently fold into the batter using a large wire whisk, making sure to scrape down the bottom of the bowl frequently.
  9. Pour batter into pan and gently smooth top with a rubber spatula.
  10. Bake at 340°F for 45 minutes without opening the oven door.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or when the surface springs back immediately after pressing on it with a finger.
  11. As soon as you remove cake from oven, cool cake completely upside down.  This step is important, because otherwise the cake will sink.
  12. When completely cool, run a thin knife around the side of the cake and around the tube in the middle to loosen it from the pan.
  13. Rapping pan, turn cake out onto a serving plate and dust with powdered sugar.

 

 

Peach Pie

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Since summer is peach season, it seemed like the perfect time to make a peach pie.  I paired my trusty Betty Crocker pie crust recipe from an old cookbook with a peach pie filling from the Betty Crocker website.  If you feel decadent, serve slices with a generous dollop of whipped cream.

Original recipe (which uses a storebought crust)

 

Peach Pie
Adapted from Betty Crocker

Yield: 9-inch pie

For the crust:

  • 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons shortening (you can add a couple extra tablespoons to make the crust even crispier)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 – 5 1/2 cups sliced peeled fresh, ripe peaches (5-6 medium, 4 large)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

 

To make the crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  2. Mix flour and salt in a bowl.  Cut shortening into the mixture until pieces are the size of small peas.
  3. Sprinkle in water 1 tablespoon at a time while tossing with fork to moisten the flour.
  4. When the pastry almost cleans the side of the bowl, divide it in half.  Gather each half into a ball.
  5. On a well-floured surface, flatten the first ball, flour a rolling pin, and roll out the pastry until it is 2 inches larger than the inverted pie plate.
  6. Fold pastry into quarters and move into the plate.  Unfold it and press it firmly against the sides and bottom.
  7. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of plate.

To make the filling and assemble the pie:

  1. In large bowl, mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir in peaches and lemon juice.
  3. Turn filling into the pastry-lined pie plate.
  4. Roll out the other ball of pastry.  Fold into quarters and unfold again over the filling, cutting slits so steam can escape. (Alternatively, if you’re in a fancy mood, you can cut the pastry into thin strips and make a lattice pattern.)
  5. Trim overhanging edges of the top crust 1 inch from the rim of plate.
  6. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal it.  For a pretty pattern, press the tines of a fork into the edge of the pastry all around the rim.
  7. Put pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any juice overflow.
  8. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust.

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake

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This is a soft, tender, sweet cake studded with chocolate chips that smells wonderfully of coffee.  One of my friends told me that of all the desserts I’ve made, this one is among his favorites.

Baking Notes:

  • The chocolate chips sank to bottom of the pan, but luckily it was not obvious in a layer cake.
  • The cake and frosting are both on the sweet side, so make sure your target audience has a serious sweet tooth!

Original recipe

 

Mocha Chocolate Chip Cake
From New York Times

Yield: Two-layer 8″ cake

For the cake:

  • 113 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) salted butter, softened, more for pans
  • 250 grams (2 1/4 cups) sifted unbleached all-purpose flour, more for pans
  • 300 grams (1 1/3 cups) turbinado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk (2 percent or whole)
  • ¾ 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped; or mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:

  • 360 grams (3 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 226 grams (1 cup) salted butter, softened
  • teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • ¾ – 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, for decorating

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper cut to fit.
  2. Using an electric mixer or by hand, in a bowl, mix the butter and turbinado sugar until evenly blended.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix again until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  5. Add half the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, mix well, then add half the milk and mix again.
  6. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk.
  7. Add the chocolate chips and mix well. The batter may look curdled.
  8. Pour the batter into the pans and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
  9. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing cakes from pans to a rack to cool completely. If the cakes are domed, use a long, serrated knife to level the tops.
  10. While cakes are cooling, make the frosting: Using an electric mixer or by hand, mix the confectioners’ sugar with the butter, salt and vanilla, until well blended.
  11. In a small bowl, mix the espresso powder with the boiling water to dissolve; add it to the frosting, blending well.
  12. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter and spread about one-third of the frosting over the top in an even layer.
  13. Top with the second cake layer and use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread frosting over top and, optionally, sides of the cake.
  14. Decorate with the chocolate chips, if desired.