Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine


Doesn't the name of this Cooking Light recipe just make you want to drool all over your keyboard? Like the mousse, I'd made this recipe last year--just for dinner with Greg. We pronounced it "Company Worthy," and stashed it away for future use in the recesses of our memories. And now we finally had occasion to share the wealth with others!

This recipe combines so many things that I love. Goat cheese (you can put it in just about anything and I'll die of happiness), roasted squash and red peppers, fresh herbs, and of course, the Almighty Noodle. The veggies roasting away with the rosemary gives off the best scent, next to baked bread...and the end result is creamy and sweet. When paired with the sharp goat cheese, it is an unforgettable combination.

Baked Goat Cheese and Roasted Winter Squash over Garlicky Fettuccine
6 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary (or 1/4 teaspoon dried), chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 (4 ounce) packages goat cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 lb. fettuccine
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Place squash and pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil; toss well. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, the rosemary and black pepper. Bake at 425 for 40 minutes, stirring once.
3. Place goat cheese in freezer for 10 minutes. Cut cheese crosswise into 8 rounds. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Dredge each round in breadcrumbs; place on baking sheet. Bake for 6 minutes at 425.
4. Cook pasta. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup water. Return pasta to the pan; add reserved water, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and garlic. Toss to coat.
5. Place pasta in bowls, top with squash mixture and goat cheese rounds. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

-Serves 8
-Calories: 423, Fat: 14.1g, Protein: 17.8g, Carbs: 54.7g

Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie


Look at that. Does that look like it could be a Cooking Light recipe? Could've fooled me. But, there you have it. Now, granted, it's not the healthiest thing you could eat, but there are much worse!

This was honestly the easiest appetizer I could ever imagine making. AND, easily the most delicious! I served it with Rosemary and Olive Oil-flavored triscuits, which were a perfect match for the sweet-savory flavor of this brie.

By the way...does it still count as a "light" recipe if 4 people eat the entire thing? :-/

Warm Cranberry-Walnut Brie
1 (8 ounce) round Brie
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped walnuts, toasted
40 low-sodium 100% whole-wheat crackers

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Using a serrated knife, remove topmost rind from cheese; discard. Place cheese, cut side up, in a small ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with cranberries and thyme. Top evenly with nuts.
3. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is soft and warm. Serve immediately with crackers.

-Serves 8
-Calories: 188, Fat: 11.6g, Protein: 7.9g, Carbs: 15g

Bitter Chocolate Mousse

It's not good to follow up my last post with another recipe that's bad for you, I know, I know. But, I will put up two Cooking Light recipes directly after this, I swear.

The skinny is that our friends were visiting from Madison and we wanted to make them a fancy meal. I wanted to make them a dessert I'd never attempted before, but Greg convinced me to make my fabulous chocolate mousse recipe. The last time I made this, he ate so much that he went into some sort of diabetic coma/trance-state--it's that good (and bad).

What I love about this recipe is that it's actually quite easy to make, and uses a lot of common and inexpensive ingredients, and is impressive for company and family alike. It turned out perfectly and was so, so rich and delicious.

Bitter Chocolate Mousse
(from "The Complete Book of Desserts," by Martha Day)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons orange liqueur or brandy (I used orange curacao)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar
Optional: Creme fraiche or sour cream and chocolate curls, to decorate

Before You Start:
Worried about whipping the cream and egg whites into peaks? Don't. The key to perfect peaks is simple. Before you do anything else, put a large and a medium glass or metal bowl in the freezer. Plastic bowls do not work as well, so you may end up tossing out egg whites if you use one. The medium bowl works well for the whipping cream, and the large bowl for the egg whites (which really multiply in size). Just keep them in the freezer until you're ready to use them--and you're sure to get perfect peakiness.

1. Place the chocolate and 4 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan. Melt over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the liqueur and butter.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks for 2-3 minutes, until thick and creamy, then slowly beat into the melted chocolate until well blended. Set aside.

NOTE: Be sure to clean your beaters between the mixing of each ingredient. You don't want to contaminate the touchy cream or egg whites.

3. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir a spoonful of the cream into the chocolate mix to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream.

Soft peaks in the whipping cream.

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until they form soft peaks.

Frothy egg whites with cream of tartar.

5. Gradually sprinkle on the sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.

Stiff peaks!

6. Using a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the remaining whites (do this by cutting down to the bottom, along the sides, and up to the top in a semi-circular motion) until just combined. Don't worry if there are a few white streaks. Gently spoon into an 8-cup dish, or into eight individual dishes. Chill for at least 2 hours, until set and chilled.

Chocolate-Filled Croissants


My favorite baking genius Livejournal friend, Annalise, posted this recipe for chocolate-filled croissants on her blog, Knead to be Loaved. When I first saw this post (months ago), I desperately wanted to try my hand at making them. However, since I have problems making layer cakes, I figured I was too inept to make croissants. Last weekend, curiosity got the best of me, and I resolved to make them this weekend. I figured, even if they look bad, they'll probably still taste good. So, follow me, friends! This is the tale of Heather's first attempt at making croissants.

Chocolate-Filled Croissants
For the dough:
-2 large eggs, and enough warm water to make 2c. liquid
-1/4 c. sugar
-5 1/2-6c. all-purpose flour (Annalise recommends using King Arthur, which I second)
-2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) yeast
-1/2 c. dry milk (not necessary, but Annalise never goes without it)
-1 scant tablespoon salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 tablespoons butter, melted
For the butter:
-1 3/4 c. chilled butter
-1/2 c. all-purpose flour

I love the magic of cooking. Somehow, these ingredients translate into a croissant. Awesome!

1. Start by making a sponge. Break eggs into a 2c-measuring cup. Add enough warm water (100-110 degrees) to make 2 cups. Using a fork, beat mixture until pale yellow and frothy.

2. Pour mixture into a large bowl; add 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 cups flour, and yeast. Mix until well-blended, and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the flour (2 1/2 cups), dry milk, and salt. **Note: I did not see in the recipe where to add the rest of the sugar, so I added it here. I don't think it adversely affected the recipe.** Set aside.

4. Cut 1 3/4 cups butter into 8 pieces per stick. Put into a food processor, and add 1/2 cup flour. Pulse until the butter is crumbly and thoroughly chopped. **Note: I ended up going one pulse beyond crumbly, and my butter was extremely melty and almost whipped. While I don't think this mattered *hugely* in the end, you should know that this happens very quickly.**

In case you didn't realize before now, this recipe is NOT good for you. Mmm..butter.

5. Lay plastic wrap out on the counter and sprinkle flour on it. Dump the butter mix onto the plastic wrap. Using your hands, create an 8x8 square of butter. Wrap it up and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

6. By now, the sponge you made earlier should have expanded with bubbles in the dough. It will have a thick, glue-like consistency. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour-milk-salt mixture, 1/4 at a time. Annalise recommends stirring by hand, so as not to over-stir and make the dough tough. **Note: This was *extremely* difficult, at least for me. The dough was so thick that 'stirring' it was more like sticking the wooden spoon in the middle of the dough and moving the dough around in circles. It got me nowhere. So, I ended up mushing the flour mixture into the dough with my hands. It may not be the right procedure, but it worked.**

What a sponge looks like. Mmm...yeasty.

7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 8 minutes, or until the dough feels elastic and springy. Wrap loosely and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Oh, my achin' arms! 8 minutes is a long time when you're kneadin' the crap outta dough.

8. Take the dough out of the fridge and put onto a lightly floured counter. Roll into a 12x12 square. Take the butter square and place it on top of the dough, so it creates a diamond shape. Take up the sides of the dough carefully--trying not to include a lot of air--and wrap the butter in the dough.
Ack! Too-big butter diamond!

9. Pinch the seams together--really seal them, using a little water if necessary. **Note: My butter square was much larger than 8x8, it turns out (since I did not measure it, but I did measure the dough). D'oh! So, I had to break off the edges of the butter square and smooth them onto the rest of it, so that the dough would fit over the butter. I think this only slightly affected the finished product, but it *definitely* made rolling the dough more difficult. Butter patches kept cropping up, making the dough weak and rippy and making it stick to the counter.**

See? Yucky looking envelope-thing.

10. Once it's been properly sealed, dust a rolling pin with flour, and roll out the dough. Start from the center of the dough, and roll out a 20x10 rectangle. Annalise has a great tip--a rolling pin (the roll part, not the handles) is usually 10 inches long, so you can use this to measure the dough, as opposed to breaking out the measuring tape.

11. Once the dough is turned out, make your first "
turn." To do this, you fold the dough sort of like you would fold a business letter. Bring 1/3 over to the center, then the other 1/3 over the top. If the dough is still fairly cold and not falling apart, do your second turn. You do this by rolling out the dough (from the 'letter' shape) and folding as you just did. Wrap loosely and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Do one more turn, and then refrigerate overnight for best results (the minimum is 2 hours, if you need them sooner).

It looks like a book made out of dough!

12. Roll the dough into a 12x18 rectangle. Using a pizza cutter, trim the edges. This both creates more of a crisp rectangle shape, and gets rid of edges that would roll during baking.

Pre-cutting-with-pizza-cutter. Pretty!

13. Divide the dough into 6 squares. Take each square and roll into a rectangle shape, then cut in half. **Note: I cut horizontally through the rectangle, since I wasn't sure the best way to do this. It seemed to work okay. However, the end products were perhaps it would be best to roll them even thinner than I did, and/or cut them into 3 horizontal strips.**

Putting in sweet, sweet chocolate. Or sweet, bittersweet chocolate, as it was.

14. Put chocolate chunks (I chopped up bittersweet Ghirardelli baking chocolate) in lower 1/3rd of each dough strip. Roll upwards, tightly. Give each finished croissant a good press to seal the seam. **Note: Though I did this, and even smushed the seam together with my fingers, they still unrolled a bit. Not sure why...possibly because they were so huge.** If you're making normal croissants without the chocolate, simply cut the rectangles from corner to corner to form two triangles, and roll into croissant shape. Pinch the ends together to seal. Make sure the tip rolls under.

Sorry for the blurry picture...darn it!

15. Once everything is shaped, place on baking sheet and allow to rise until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400. While the oven is preheating, brush the tops of the croissants with an egg wash (I beat an egg yolk and 2 teaspoons of water together, but do whatever you like best). Bake 18-25 minutes, or until golden-brown (I would say mine were done at 16-18 minutes, but my oven runs hot).

16. Enjoy the fruits of your hard labor, and eat two while they're hot! :)

They look scrumptious, because they are.