Thursday, September 22, 2016

French Apple Tart

Happy first day of fall - my favorite season! I am so looking forward to having a "real" fall in the northeast, where leaves actually change color.
We went to Lyman Orchards, and in addition to the massive squashes we picked there as mentioned in my Chocolate Zucchini Bread, we also picked a TON of apples ... which I baked into a tart because we ended up with too many apples. Whoops. But these apples were so gorgeous - look at these beauties.
There are many variants of the Tarte Normande (Normandy Tart) which has apples and almonds. The key to this tart is the sweet pastry crust (pate sucree) which is a little like a buttery shortbread.

French apple tarts tend to have beautiful displays of thinly sliced apples. I put B to work slicing the apples, then took the knife away from him since his apple slices were so fat and nonuniform (he slunk in the corner)... sometimes, I think I should be the surgeon in the family, hehe.
I made this pie for a friend's birthday initially, and we liked it so much I made it two more times in one week when visiting B's family in California in the first half of our lovely 2 week vacation. That's a lot of apple tarts.
B has French blood through his father's side, so this French dessert was a big hit with his dad (no better way for a daughter in law to win approval). His mom doesn't bake much, but I made extra dough so she could enjoy it in future baking.
This recipe was adapted from Joy of Baking. French apple tart is a perfect fall dessert as the weather turns cooler (we're expecting a chill next week) that's a little different and more elegant than a regular apple pie - everyone knows the French are all things classy and elegant. If you don't have a tart pan, you can use a brownie pan or pie pan as well.

French Apple Tart

2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2-3 Tbsp milk, (as need)

One 8-ounce cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
~4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds

CRUST: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Grease a 9 inch tart (or pie) pan.

In a food processor, place the flour, salt, sugar, and pieces of butter and pulse until dough just begins to come together. If you don't have a food processor, combine all ingredients in a bowl and using 2 knives, "cut" the butter into pieces until texture resembles coarse crumbles, then form dough. You can add milk if needed. Pat the dough onto the bottom and sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator while you make the filling.

FILLING: Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. Remove the crust from the fridge and pour in the filling.

APPLE TOPPING: Toss the sliced apples with the sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Arrange apples evenly over the cream cheese layer and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 400 degrees F and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and apples are tender. Let cool and serve. Enjoy!
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Roasted Chicken with Orange and Sage

B and I recently celebrated our six months since our wedding (yay!). Six months ago on our marriage day, we still had no clue what residencies we'd be training at yet or what part of the United States we'd be living in for the next 3+ years. Fast forward to now, and we're settling into being doctors/surgeons and into (semi long distance) married life.

Nothing is more domestic than a roast chicken, and seeing how I received the hilarious cookbook 50 Shades of Chicken from my aunt on my bridal shower, I thought it was time to celebrate with a recipe from the book.
For those who may feel that a book with the title "50 Shades of anything" is not for them, I do suggest you actually check this book out. While the recipes and the titles are seductive parodies, the recipes look delicious, with excellent pictures and instructions. It's also a great bridal shower gift for any future brides who love to cook or want to learn.

Thank you to my aunt, for her sense of humor and her appreciation of good cooking :) Definitely one of my favorite bridal shower gifts. This is the first recipe we tried from the book, and looking forward to trying more.
This recipe is adapted from Roasted Chicken with Tangerines and Sage, based on what ingredients we had. We had a very delicious and romantic meal pairing this chicken with my Balsamic Strawberry Spinach Salad.

Alas, B had to return back to New York for work the next day, but dinner together once a week (rather than a Skype dinner) is really special. Keeping it all in perspective!
PS. If you want the more raunchy descriptions on preparing your chicken, I recommend getting the actual book 50 Shades of Chicken as the writing style is quite entertaining.

Roasted Chicken with Orange and Sage

1 3-4 lb chicken, patted dry with paper towels
salt and pepper, to taste
1 orange, cut into slices
1 bunch fresh sage
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 F. Season chicken all over, including cavity, with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with orange slices and sage.

Place stuffed chicken, breast side up and take butcher's twine and truss the chicken (great quick video tutorial here, which is much better than I can explain in typing) for even cooking, maintaining shape, and keeping the flavor inside.

Place chicken breast side up on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and roast until juices run clear where pierced with a knife, and the skin is crisp and golden. Let rest for 10 min before cutting/carving it. Enjoy!
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Friday, September 9, 2016

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I organized a trip to the beautiful Lyman Orchards, an hour away, in excitement for blueberry picking at the recommendation of one of my residents. On Friday, I had called and confirmed it was blueberry season on their automated system. The next day, waking up early on Saturday, we found out Friday had been the last day of blueberry season, and blueberry picking was closed!
Although bummed, we didn't let that stop us. Blueberry picking turned into zucchini picking. Like 6 pound zucchini picking.  I had never seen zucchini plants, and never such monster squashes. Each squash was longer than my entire arm!
The concept of zucchini bread is pretty bizarre (as B says, no veggies in my bread/cake/muffins!), especially when you put the words "chocolate" and "zucchini" together. But B admitted this Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread, adapted from Joy of Baking, was pretty good. So good you couldn't even taste the vegetables. So good that B even upgraded it to calling it a brownie.

That's probably the highest honor one can bestow on a zucchini bread.
Grating this beast of a squash was a nightmare. It took me 1 hour to grate just half of the zucchini, and half was enough for a triple batch of chocolate zucchini bread! The rate limiting factor was the number (and size) of loaf pans. I had one loaf pan...but the zucchini alone was 3-4x bigger than the pan.

This was the last thing I baked before our lovely 2 week vacation (more about that later!) - one batch was eaten in Connecticut, one batch was brought to California for B's family, and one batch was brought to Texas for my family. Just sharing some Connecticut orchard (labor of) love with the rest of the US.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cups shredded raw zucchini
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (makes 1 loaf)

Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips, coating with the dry ingredients (prevents chips from sinking).

In another large bowl beat the eggs. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract and beat until well blended. Fold in the grated zucchini and flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes (do not overbake). Cool for about 10 minutes, run a knife around the edges, then remove the bread from the pan. It's best to cut when the bread has fully cooled. Enjoy!
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Peach and Blueberry Greek Yogurt Cake

Did you know the average American moves 12 times during his/her lifetime? This includes buying/renting, moving for jobs, attending college, and getting married. If I exclude moving each year for college, I'm at 7 moves already!
Sadly, UPS didn't treat our boxes very kindly when we shipped them to the Northeast. To our dismay when we opened our boxes, we found shattered cups and plates, and dented or broken kitchen appliances.
On the bright side, moving is a good excuse to go buy new household items. Upon discovering my residency match to Yale, I immediately googled Ikea, Michaels/Hobby Lobby, and Trader Joes/Costco. Luckily they're all near my apartment. The essentials for happiness, y'know.
I can spend all day in Ikea's maze, and in particular I love scouting the "as is" section, which has plenty of cheap kitchen items for food-blog backgrounds on a budget. I fell in love these plates which were around $1 each!
I love the combination of peaches and blueberries, so what better way than to combine them in this adorable yogurt cake. The colors happened to match perfectly with my new Ikea plates (and coincidentally my apartment furniture and decoration as well).
This Peach and Blueberry Greek Yogurt Cake recipe, adapted from Julia's Album, is a great dessert for celebrating the end of summer. I made mine into mini cakes using 3 inch springform pans, but it can easily be sized up to fit a crowd. Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

Peach and Blueberry Greek Yogurt Cake

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 peaches, sliced into wedges
6 oz blueberries
confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease your pans (I use 3 min springform pans) and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, together into a medium bowl. In a another bowl, beat butter, sugar, and 2 eggs until fluffy. Beat in your vanilla and Greek yogurt until very creamy and light.

Gently stir your flour mix in the egg/butter mix until combined, being careful not to overmix. Transfer the cake batter to your springform pans. Top batter with sliced peaches and blueberries evenly.

Bake until cake turns golden, and the tester comes out clean in the center, about 1 hour. Midway through baking, you can add extra peaches and blueberries on top, and return cake to baking. When the cake is done, let it cool (still in the baking pan) on a wire rack. Once cooled, release the cake from the springform pan. Dust with confectioners sugar for decoration, then serve hot or cold. Enjoy!
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Monday, August 29, 2016

Thai Green Chicken Curry

Do you know someone with an irrational fear? B has a phobia of bell peppers. Apparently, green ones are the most frightful.
Thai food is one of my favorite cuisines and I'm always trying to recreate the bold restaurant flavors. I had a lot of vegetables which I really needed to use up, so this green curry was a perfect option.
Red bell peppers are slightly more acceptable to B; he'll pass the red peppers to me, but he will eat the rest at least (if I cook with green peppers, he'll avoid the whole dish together).
I do like thinner curry than the typical restaurant curries, but finding the right texture is always tricky. I have listed here how I cooked it, after doing more research, apparently, it's better to cook the curry separate from vegetables to avoid extra water diluting the curry. Also, you can try use the thicker part of the coconut milk or even use coconut cream for richness. 
Loosely adapted from BBC. While curry paste from scratch is of course the most authentic, using premade curry paste from the store works when you're busy, craving thai food, and have a hangry husband with bell pepper phobia.

Thai Green Chicken Curry

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp Thai green curry paste
1/2 onion, sliced
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced
1 (400ml) can coconut milk
green beans, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 eggplant
1/2 jalapeno or thai chilis (optional)
1/2 lime, juice and zest
good handful of basil leaves and cilantro
rice, to serve

In a wok or large pan, heat the oil, and stir the garlic, curry paste, and onions for a few seconds to release all the flavors. Add the pieces of chicken, green beans, red bell pepper, eggplant and stir fry. Pour in the coconut milk and let it come to a bubble. Add the thai chili, lime juice and zest. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked. Once done, add basil and cilantro. Serve immediately with cooked rice, garnished with basil leaves and cilantro.
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Blueberries and Honey

As I've mentioned before, B loves cheesecake and I used to make a bunch of varieties years ago, (Turtle Cheesecake, Coffee Mocha Cheesecake, and Individual Cheescake), but it's been a long while since I made one for him.

I've been wanting to make a goat cheese cheesecake for a while (years!) since the tangy "goatiness" would be a nice contrast with sweet honey and fresh blueberries. Plus doesn't it sound so gourmet to use a different sort of cheese?
If you're curious what makes goat cheese taste the way it does - it depends on milk freshness. Goat's milk ages much more quickly, and the longer it ages, the stronger it gets. The diet also affects the flavor of the cheese - goats, sheep, and cows graze on different plants hence their differences.
Another curious reason affecting the taste is the buck (male goat). During breeding season, as the female goats go into heat, the bucks produce pheromones so strong it increases the female's hormones which permeates the milk flavor - so it's best to keep the males and females separate. (Lively Run and culturecheesemag)

Now imagine if people were like that! 
Goat's milk is strong with a signature tang, perfect for mixing with cream cheese. B thought it was an odd combo until he tried it. You can pair these cheesecake with any fruit, but I think blueberries match it best in my opinion. Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell at Food Network

Goat Cheese Cheesecake

1 cups graham cracker crumbs
4-6 tablespoons melted butter
1/8 cup sugar

1 8 ox packages cream cheese, room temperature
6 oz (1/2 a log) goat cheese
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
4-6 Tbs honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

honey, to drizzle
fresh blueberries

Special equipment: 3 mini springform pans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (I used a toaster oven)

Stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Spray your mini cheesecake springform pans (optional: cut a parchment paper circle and place at the bottom to really make it easy for removal). Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and sides.

Bake for about 5-7 min, then remove to cool

Beat the cream cheese and goat cheeses in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the Greek yogurt and the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each egg is added. Beat in the sugar, honey vanilla until just combined.

Pour the filling into the prepared crusts. Put on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway while baking. The cheesecake will be done when the edges are set (the center should still be wobbly - it will continue to cook and set afterwards). Remove the cheesecake from the oven.

Chill before serving (refrigerate overnight or freeze). Remove springform sides, drizzle with honey and top with blueberries and whipped cream. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Balsamic Strawberry Spinach Salad

If you're a long time reader of OCD, you know that B and I have been long distance for a very, very long time thanks to our medical training.

The first month was rather difficult, as not only was this our first time apart about marriage, we had schedules that prevented us from seeing each other (I didn't have a single Friday, Saturday, or Sunday off for a whole month, and B's schedule was even worse).
This month has been much freer on weekend for both of us, and it's been nice to have time together. We've been cooking a lot together for our "date nights." I've been on a salad kick after not being able to exercise the past month, and we've had a nice crop of beautiful strawberries from Costco which I had to use in a recipe. 
To celebrate our first date night this month, we made a nice roast chicken (recipe to follow!), and for the appetizer, I whipped up this super easy salad using whatever was in the fridge. I'm sure you have many of these ingredients lying around already. I recommend using a fancy oil and balsamic vinegar (ours was aged 25 years, a gift from Bryan's roommate after our wedding) to dress it up.
I brought out these Mr. and Mrs. forks that were bridal shower gifts from my siblings. If you're looking for a great wedding gift, these were from Milk and Honey, and they have a large variety of styles and texts to choose from. These fork cuties were used for our cake cutting during out wedding (as I mentioned, we are a very dessert-centric couple).

They've been packaged since the wedding, so I told Bryan let's eat with them! Appalled, he said they were "too pretty to use" and put them away, bringing out our dingy old forks instead. Now I need to find a way to display our vintage silverware if B won't use them! Recipe by me.

Balsamic Strawberry Spinach Salad

1-2 bunches fresh spinach
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 red onion sliced
balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
olive oil, to drizzles
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Combine the spinach, strawberries, cashews, and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil into the salad to coat. Serve on plate and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Top with ground pepper, cashews, and parmesan cheese. Serve with crostini or French bread. Enjoy!

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