Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chicken with Lemon Feta Orzo

This is one of the yummiest, simplest dishes I've ever made. Took five minutes to throw together and about 45 minutes to cook. I was skeptical about everything in the beginning.. afraid the tangy feta and the tangy lemon would be too much, afraid that the dill would be front-and-center (I don't like dill). But it's surprisingly, perfectly fantastic.. company-quality fantastic. I actually can't wait to make it again.

Chicken with Lemon Feta Orzo
(adapted from Everyday Food)
serves 6-8, depending on appetites
1 lb. orzo pasta, uncooked
1 8 oz. block of feta, cubed in very small pieces
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest, and the juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. dried dill
8 chicken pieces (we used boneless skinless thighs, fat trimmed; I worry that chicken breasts would dry out from the longer cooking time)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400. In a 9x13 baking dish, stir together the orzo, feta, 1/2 cup of the parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and dill. Lay the chicken pieces on top; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat the broth and water to boiling; stir in the salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and orzo. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan over chicken pieces. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until the orzo is cooked and the liquid is creamy. Let stand 5 minutes before stirring.

Brownie cappuccino cheesecake cups


I made these after spending hours on my niece's birthday cake, then realizing that EVERY year, my sister-in-law's birthday is neglected because her birthday is four days after my niece's. They're super-quick to throw together, taking maybe 10-15 minutes to assemble. I made them in muffin liners and was a little afraid they'd overbake. They didn't, but they were kinda ugly, so you might have prettier results using an 8x8 pan and increasing the baking time a bit.
Brownie layer :
1 Ghirardelli brownie mix
1/4 cup cold coffee (or water)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
Cheesecake layer:
2 tbsp. cream, half and half, or milk
1 tbsp. instant coffee
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine all of the brownie ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand until moistened. Drop by scant quarter-cupfuls into paper liners.

In a separate bowl, combine the instant coffee and the cream and stir. If the granules don't dissolve, heat the mixture in the microwave in 10-second bursts, stirring until they dissolve. Add the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla, and beat thoroughly. Beat in the egg. Stir in the chocolate chips, if using. Drop cheesecake by heaping soup-spoon-fuls onto each brownie cup, then swirl lightly with a toothpick.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownie looks moist but feels mostly set when pressed lightly with a fingertip

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I've made lemon and coconut cakes before but I've never had one come out so moist and perfect as this one!

Lemon Layer Cake
adapted from :

1-2-3-4 Cake
This cake gets its name from its proportion of ingredients: 1 cup butter and milk, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs, and from cupcakes to layers cakes, as a basic, white cake, it does not fail. Yield: 3 9-inch layers (for the purpose of this cake) or 24 cupcakes (good to know, eh?)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs (at room temperature)
3 cups sifted self-rising flour (sift before AND after measuring. Use a spoon to scoop flour into measuring cup)
1 cup milk (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325°F (original recipe was 350). Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4-inches above counter, then dropping flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (start checking at 15 minutes if you are making cupcakes).

Lemon Curd
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
From the Joy of Cooking: This makes a sensation filling for sponge rolls or an Angel Food Cake. You can also marble it into a cheesecake.
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 lemons, zest grated and juiced
Place the ingredients in the double boiler over boiling water. Don’t let top pan touch the water. Cook and stir until mixture begins to gel or thicken ever-so-slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate it to thicken. This keeps, refrigerated, for about 1 week.

Cream Cheese Lemon Frosting (from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)
6 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup butter softened
4 1/2-3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

Beat cream cheese, lemon juice, and butter until light and fluffy, gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar. Add remaining between 2 1/2 and 2 3/4 cups of powdered sugar and beat until spreading consistency. Add lemon zest and mix.

Lemon Layer Cake Assembly: Add 1 tablespoon of filling to the cake pedestal. Run hands along the side of the cake to remove excess crumbs. Place the cake layers on the pedestal, spreading filling between the layers and on top. Spread the top of the cake with the remaining filling. Frost top and sides of cake with frosting.

Optional, but delicious: press sweetened coconut flakes into the frosting.