Monthly Archives: December 2010

Tilapia with Pancetta Sage Breadcrumbs

I’ve been home for the past couple of days, which means a different kitchen (and way more supplies to work with). I’ve also been feeding my family instead of just myself. This change means that a) meals last a matter of minutes, rather than a matter of days and b) I pretty much have to involve meat in the meal for the carnivorous types who live here.

Today, we have another turkey antidote recipe. I love this breadcrumb topping on basically anything. My mom added it to cooked kale the other day, which made the kale surprisingly edible.

I served this recipe with sweet potato fries and roasted broccoli. So delicious, and really quite healthy.

Tilapia with Pancetta Sage Breadcrumbs:
2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from French bread with crust, ground in processor)
1 tablespoon sage
2 tablespoons butter
4 tilapia fillets

1) Cook pancetta in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to small bowl. Add breadcrumbs and sage to drippings in skillet. Stir over medium-high heat until breadcrumbs are almost crisp, 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with pancetta. Let cool. Don’t turn off the stove.
2) Sprinkle fish fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish fillets and cook until golden brown on outside and just opaque in center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place one fish fillet on each plate, top with breadcrumbs.

This December

has been filled with my mom’s adorable handmade ornaments.

And her never-ending Christmas cookies. (These are of the chocolate-covered cherry variety.)

This December has been brimming with good cheer and my favorite champagne.

Oh, and a beautiful buche de Noel.

We also had a party this December.

Where we documented every hour that passed, every friend who walked through our humble threshold–a pictorial representation of the festivities enjoyed and the drinks imbibed.

A new party tradition was born.

Oh, and this December, I realized that I have no clue what I’ll be doing next December.

I’ve never wondered that before, mostly because a) I’ve been in school for 17 years and b) I’m a headcase who has to plan everything at least three years in advance. Turns out that entering adulthood “in this economy” allows for a lot more surprises than I’d anticipated.

It’s part promising, part terrifying, entirely exhilarating.

Luckily, I have assembled the most superb collection of family and friends to see me through whatever is in store.

How have you been celebrating your December?

Peanut Butter Pie with Rosemary Graham Cracker Crust

Many of you are peanut butter partnership purists. There are those of you who love PB&J on white bread, no crust. Those of you who have been peanut butter and chocolate devotees since you first encountered the Reese’s peanut butter cup.

I know you. I hear you. But I’m also prepared to tell you that it’s time to accept peanut butter and rosemary pie into your life. Sure, it’s not as simple as spreading the combination on a slice of bread or unwrapping that iconic orange, yellow and brown wrapper. There’s more than a 5 minute time commitment involved.

Still, it’s simple. I’ve spent months dreaming up how this pairing could work without provoking a national uproar, and this recipe not only fits the bill, but also takes less than 30 minutes to make. (Exempting refrigerator time.)

The idea came from a UNC alumna I met in D.C., who loves peanut butter on rosemary crackers. She requested a dessert interpretation of her favorite afternoon snack, and I’ve been thinking about the recipe ever since.

With exams being over, I lack a sense of purpose. Until I enter the kitchen. My identity crisis is your peanut butter pie.

I adapted this filling and this crust for my recipe.

Also, you could, technically, not include the rosemary in this recipe. I’ll just tell you, however, that throwing herbs into a sweet pie is a fun party trick. You’ll see.

Rosemary graham cracker crust:
1 1/2 cups (about 12 crackers) graham crackers
1/3 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Peanut butter pie filling:
1 3/4 cups whipping cream, divided
1 cup peanut butter (I used one with no sugar added)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1) To prepare the graham cracker crust, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break up the graham crackers and place in a food processor. (In a pinch, use a gallon size plastic bag and take out your anger on it.) Process until finely ground. Add sprigs of rosemary and process, then pour in butter, sugar and salt. Stir to ensure that all ingredients are incorporated.
2) Press the graham cracker mixture evenly into a tart or pie pan (about 9 inches in diameter). Bake for 7 minutes, let cool briefly, then place in the freezer to finish cooling.
3) Once the crust is cooling in the freezer, whip 3/4 cup of the cream until it forms soft peaks. Set aside. Combine peanut butter, cream cheese and condensed milk until just combined. Fold in whipped cream.
4) Pour the peanut butter filling into the graham cracker crust. Whip up the remaining cup of cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until it forms stiff peaks. Spread on top of the pie.
5) Refrigerate the pie for as long as patience allows, preferably at least 2 hours. Garnish with leftover rosemary sprigs.

What’s your favorite unusual flavor combination?

Cranberry Orange Muffins

It’s finals week here, so our brains deserve a good breakfast. And a good afternoon snack. And a good dessert.

Fortunately, this recipe fulfills of all those needs. Not too much sugar, a nice bite of cranberry, and the smell of orange zest on your hands all day long.

Actually, let’s be honest. I only have one more final, and it’s not the kind to fret over. Thus, I plan on spending my days using up my stockpile of butter and flour. So, really, this recipe fulfills that need.

I juiced fresh oranges, which is way time consuming since I don’t have a citrus juicer. (Mom, dad, I know you’re already buying me a fruit-related Christmas gift, but if you need more ideas…)

I used a combination of walnuts and almonds. Also, the three oranges I juiced still didn’t render enough orange juice, so I added a bit of milk, as well.

I plan to individually wrap and freeze most of them before they all find a way into my stomach by tomorrow.

Cranberry Orange Muffins:
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1 cup sugar (set aside one tablespoon for topping)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees. (Lower to 400 right before placing the muffins in the oven.)
2) Combine orange rind, orange juice, canolia oil and egg in a bowl. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir until just combine.
3) Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
4) Coat muffin tin with oil and pour in batter. (I filled the cups to the very top to make 12 big muffins.) Sprinkle sugar on top. Lower oven heat to 400 degrees. Bake for about 17 minutes, or until the muffin top springs back when touched.
5) Run a knife around outer edge of each muffin cup. Carefully remove each muffin.

Oatmeal Jumble Cookies

For years now, I’ve maintained several beliefs to which I devote myself wholeheartedly:

1) My cat possesses healing qualities. His snuggles are therapeutic.
2) Completing craft projects is a reasonable and productive alternative to studying.
3) One should always have all the ingredients on hand to make simple, buttery cookies.

The last one is particularly important. It’s the reason I buy butter on basically every grocery shopping trip. What if I run out right before a cookie dough craving? What if Paula Deen buys all the butter on the Eastern Seaboard? What if cows go on strike?

Yesterday, my belief gained affirmation in the form of a snow storm. In early December. In North Carolina. Maybe “storm” is too generous, but once I saw that dismal fluffy stuff assaulting the lawn outside of our apartment, I knew I was having a snow day. As in a no-way-am-I-going-out-in-that-stuff day.

Fortunately, I had all the ingredients I needed to make jumble cookies–just what I wanted on a cold day. (I also had all the ingredients I needed to make veggie lasagna, but that’s for another day.)

Truly one of the best things you can do in winter is bake something with a lot of spices. The smell is more pervasive than a Yankee Candle, and the result definitely tastes better.

I used this recipe as my base, then found inspiration in my taste buds’ reminiscences of Whole Foods’ jumble cookie. They throw all kinds of fun edibles in those buttery delights.

Jumble Cookies, or Oatmeal Raisin/Cranberry/Cherry/Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (or pumpkin pie spice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar and white sugar for several minutes. Add the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and almond extracts.
2) Slowly stir in the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.
3) Pour in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts. You’ll want to taste-test the dough repeatedly to verify appropriate raisin/cranberry/cherry/chocolate chip/walnut dispersion.
4) Drop teaspoon-sized rounds of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Let set for another few minutes on the baking sheet before removing. Or eat them straight out of the oven. I won’t judge.