The Daring Bakers make Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies!


I cannot believe how fast this month has flown by. Really. My Dad always teases me about how fast time seems to go, always saying its like the down-hill slope of a rollercoaster. One second you are at the top, looking out over the scenery, enjoying the peace. The next second you are hurtling down towards the ground screaming your head off. Well, I may not be screaming, but time definitely is going by really fast. Most time a whole day seems like an afternoon. It doesn't help that the only thing I want to do is sit on the floor and laugh and squeal and play. 
Hey, hold still while I climb over you, ok?

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Seriously, how have I never made panna cotta before now?!?! I've always heard about it, seen it on other blogs, but never thought much about it. I can't even begin to guess what was going on in my head, how I could have passed this by. This stuff is awesome!

Pure velvet in the mouth, its just soo smooth and creamy. I want to eat it every single day. This is the kind of dessert where you take tiny little hummingbird sized bites, to savor every single second of eating it.

I am dead tired of winter now, and in a pleading homage to spring, I chose to make lemon panna cotta with blueberry sauce, but apparently I completely lost my brain and forgot to strain the sauce, so it had a bit of a chunky texture to it. My parents said they rather liked it because it was such a textural difference from the panna cotta, but I think when I do it again I will strain it to make it at least a little smoother.  I cannot wait to make this again!

Lemon Panna Cotta with Berries
2 Lemons
2 meyer lemons or 2 small lemons
2 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 (1/4 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
2 tablespoons sugar

Directions:
Squeeze enough juice from lemons to equal 1/4 cup; reserve 1 lemon rind. (I apprently didn't read this step correctly and I zested my lemon rind. It turned out fine, so you can choose for yourself whether you want lemon zest or to remove the rind later for ultra smoothness!)
In medium saucepan combine 2 cups cream, the vanilla bean pod, the reserved lemon rind, and the 1/2 cup sugar.
Heat over medium-low heat until mixture comes to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place remaining 3/4 cup cream in small bowl; sprinkle with gelatin.
Let stand 5 minutes for gelatin to soften.
Stir softened gelatin into saucepan; return to medium heat and cook until gelatin is dissolved.
Stir in the 1/4 cup lemon juice.
Strain to remove vanilla bean pod and lemon rind.
Scrape the vanilla beans from pod.
Stir vanilla beans into gelatin mixture.
Divide among four 10-ounce or six 6-ounce custard cups.
Cover; chill at least 4 hours or until set.

In medium bowl combine the berries of your choice and 2 tablespoons sugar; let stand at least 5 minutes, stirring twice.
Serve in custard cups topped with strawberries or dip bottoms of custard cups into hot water for 10 seconds and loosen sides.
Unmold onto dessert plates; serve with strawberries.

The second part of our challenge, Nestle Florentine Cookies, I honestly completely fogot about until two days ago when I sat down to write this blog post. To the kitchen!!!

These cookies are great! They are kind of like a fancy chocolate chip cookie. Crunchy and chewy at the same time (not even sure how that is even possible!), lots of great chocolate, and a wonderful base flavor. They are fun little sandwich cookies to make, and were very easy to whip up.


Nestle Florentine Cookies

Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website.
Ingredients:
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate
Directions:
Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
     
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
  2.  
  3. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.
  4.  
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
  6.  
  7. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
  8.  
  9. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
  10.  
  11. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.
This recipe will make about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Baby Food: 6-8 Months



Now that baby is 6 months, you can introduce a few more foods, even though you are still considered to be “Stage One”. These are foods that can sometimes be a little harder for a 4 or 5 month old to digest, and that is why I waited to tell you about them until now.

Also, at this stage you can offer a few really soft finger foods, if you want. Good choices include chunks of avocado or banana. In fact, my little cupcake will ONLY eat banana if she can feed herself, she refuses to eat it pureed. Crazy girl... For this, you definitely want bibs. Maybe even fully sleeved bibs, haha. It is messy beyond belief. Like, crazy banana hair messy. 'How did a whole chunk of avocado get in the diaper?' messy. 

Fruits:

Apricot: You can use dried, un-sulphered apricot halves. For every one pound of apricots, use 2 cups of unsweetened pear or apple juice. Plain water is ok, but the puree may be a bit bitter. Bring liquid and fruit to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree smooth and strain. Apricots will not freeze solid, but be slightly soft.

Mango: Mangos do not need to be cooked. Simply peel, de-seed, and chunk the mangos. Puree smooth and strain.

Papaya: Peel, de-seed and puree. Some babies who have sensitive tummies find that papaya is easier to digest after it has been steamed for 5-10 minutes until soft. This helps to bread down the fibers and sugars for easier digestion.

Prunes: use dried, un-sulphered prunes!!! Soak in warm water until they plump up. You can also steam them. Puree and strain! I found that while these do freeze, they aren't completely solid. They are kind of gooey still. You can also use plums when in season. Prepare the same way as you would peaches or pears. These do freeze solid. 



Veggies:

Peas: Remove peas from pods (if using fresh). Steam until very tender. Puree and strain! Using a blender might be better than a food processor as pea skins can be difficult to completely puree.

Squash: We did winter squash before, but now its time for summer squash and zucchini! Use the smaller in diameter squash, as they are more tender and contain less seeds. Wash them thoroughly, and remove the skins. Steam until tender, puree, and strain.

Combinations:
Garden Vegetable: Green Beans, Peas, Summer Squash, Carrots
Don't forget about your grains! Mix apples and barley, peas and rice, pears and oatmeal! The combinations are endless!

Baked Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce


This, my friends, is delicious. Another winning recipe from Weight Watchers! I love the anti-breadcrumb coating - it is nice and crisp, and flavorful! It's  made with wheat germ!!! I never would have thought about using wheat germ in this way, but now I'm addicted to it! I want to add wheat germ to everything!
I also love the sauce here, its great! So much flavor is packed in here - sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and red wine vinegar! Delicious!

Baked Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

3/4 c wheat germ
1 tsp salt divided
1/8 tsp pepper
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 pound boneless skineless chicken breasts, 4 4-oz pieces
3/4 cup boiling water
12 medium sun dried tomatoes, without oil
7 oz jarred roasted red peppers
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix wheat germ, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
Place slightly beaten egg whites in another shallow bowl.
Dip each piece of chicken in the egg whites, then in the wheat germ mixture to coat.
Place chicken pieces on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
While baking, pour water over sun dried tomatoes and allow to soak for 10 minutes.
Put tomatoes and water, roasted red peppers (drained), vinegar and remaining salt in a blender and blend until smooth.
Head sauce in a microwave or in a saucepan and pour over baked chicken when done.

Servings: 4
Points Plus Value: 6

Spiced Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa


We've been having a ridiculous blizzard here lately. The newscasters have been calling it the "Blizzard of Oz", "Snow-mageddon", and "Snowpocalypse".  It's gross outside - cold, windy, snow, and ice.  We have been staying home from work, cuddled by the fire, and even the dogs are snuggled up with blankets (that actually isn't unusual for them, spoiled as they are).  But while everyone else is filling their kitchen with smells of chili, meatloaf, and pot pies, I took us on a tropical trip. 
Fruit salsas are all the rage right now, well, they were in the summer time. But why not in the winter, too. Yeah, its more expensive right now, but that just means that you will enjoy it all the more right now! This salsa was no exception - definitely fantastic!! Light, refreshing, just a hint of heat. Definitely a winner! I can imagine it would be awesome with some chips, too! 

Spiced Pork Chops with Pineapple Salsa
1 c Pineappple, chopped
8 halves dried apricot halves, chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 tsp lime zest
2tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
16 ounces lean boneless pork chop, trimmed (4 pieces)
cooking spray

Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
COmbine salt and next three ingredients. Sprinkle both sides of pork chops, let stand 10 minutes.
Prepare grill (or grill pan).
Grill pork 6-7 minutes per side, or until pork is no longer pink.
Serve with 1/3 cup salsa for each chop.


Servings: 4
PointsPlus Value: 5

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce


This dish might look kind of boring, but believe me, it is anything but. I've been very pleasantly surprised with Weight Watcher's recipes - on the whole, I have been very pleased with everything that I have eaten. In fact, my husband and brother have even liked everything we have eaten, and even said we should have it again! I don't think they were bluffing, either. 
There is a ton of flavor here - ginger, coconut milk, peanuts, limes, and a bit of kick from red pepper flakes. I really liked this dish. So much, in fact, that I am already planning on making it again next week. The original recipe here calls for placing the chicken on skewers and grilling, but since it is about 10 degrees outside, the wind is blowing huge snow drifts around, and the grill is currently covered in ice, you can safely bet that I cooked my chicken in a pan!! I just dumped the whole bag in, marinade and all, and let it cook that way. 

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce 

2.5 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp minced ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp + 2 tsp lime juice, divided
1.5 pounds chicken breast, cut into 2' strips
6 tbsp light coconut milk
3 tbsp reduced fat chunky peanut butter
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
4 tsp honey
1tsp lime zest
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine 1.5 tbsp fish sauce, ginger, garlic, and 2 tsp lime juice in a large zip-close plastic bag. Add the chicken, mix, and allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
Soak about 40 wooden skewers in cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Prepare peanut sauce: combine coconut milk, peanut butter, cilantro, honey, 1 tbsp fish suce, lime juice, zest, and red pepper in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth.
Preheat broiler or grill. Thread the chicken strips onto the skewers and grill 4 inches from heat, turning once, until cooked through - about 4 minutes per side.
Serve at once with peanut sauce.

Serving size: 5 skewers with about 2 tbsp peanut sauce (or 5 strips)
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4
Servings: 8

Hint: Not sure what to do with all that leftover coconut milk? Put it in a container and freeze it! It can last for up to two months!

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