Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Cheesy Alfredo

My husband and I were making fettucine alfredo the other night for dinner and realized we didn't have alfredo sauce (pre-made). But I did have some cream, basil, garlic, and a few other ingredients, so I decided to try my hand and whip something up. It turned out delicious so I thought I would share. The ingredients list is simple, the prep work is easy (and can be manipulated for your own preferences), and the result is definitely pasta-worthy.

2 tbs butter
2 tsp minced garlic
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. chopped basil
1/2 c. parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook until garlic starts to brown (careful not to burn!). Add the cream and whisk together over high heat so the sauce starts to boil. Add basil and cook about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Note: you can increase the amount of garlic, basil, or parmesan depending on your tastes.

Pour the alfredo over your favorite pasta (I used some whole wheat and regular farfalle - it was all we had left!) and enjoy. You can add panchetta, peas, chicken - anything to make the dish yours.

I hope you decide to try this one out, maybe with a good Viognier. It's a winner in our house :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sugar Cookies & Royal Icing

I was waiting to post a good first entry and since Valentine's wasn't too long ago, I decided to share this AMAZING sugar cookie recipe (perfect for iced cookies) and an accompanying royal icing recipe. First thing's first though - sharing with you a fabulous find, which helped me immensely in this cookie-making process:

The BeaterBlade
An attachment for your stand mixer (most major brands) that scrapes the bowl as it mixes!

I love this fab find! My KitchenAid is used about 98% of the time for baking, and I always have to stop the mixing process to scrape the bowl. This little contraption totally eliminates that hassle, scraping the bowl for you! Love love love it :) I tried to find it at Williams Sonoma but they were out (with no hopes of getting more) so I found this one at Sur La Table for about $25. A little steep I suppose, but it will serioiusly come in handy!

Now for the cooking....I read the Bake at 350 blog pretty often to get great inspiration for my baked goods, and since she specializes in decorative cookies I thought it only appropriate to use her sugar cookie recipe. You can tell it has been tweaked and is absolutely perfect for cookies for decorating - sturdy, tasty, beautiful color.

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar (I use sugar that I've stored vanilla beans in)
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.

Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix.

Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom (unless you have the BeaterBlade! Look at that clean bowl!).

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes.

Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Now the royal icing, that was a bit of an internal conflict for me. See, my family makes homemade Christmas cookies and icing every year, and this year I did royal icing instead of the usual 'powdered sugar and water' mix. I LOVED it, and it worked very well. So when I came across a few other recipes requiring meringue powder instead of egg whites, I got nervous. I decided to try out the meringue powder recipe, just for comparison's sake, and it turned out just fine. My only issues - less flavor, and the meringue powder is probably not likely to be hanging out in your pantry. So here is the recipe I prefer, compliments of the Food Network:

2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
Food coloring, if desired

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice or extract until frothy. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, smooth, and shiny. Turn to high and beat approximately 5 minutes till stiff and glossy. Add food coloring, if desired, and transfer to a pasty bag to pipe onto cookies.

And here is the recipe that I used:

3 3/4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
4 TBSP meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water

With your trusty mixer, beat the meringue powder and water until frothy. 

I gradually added the sifted powdered sugar, beating on low.

Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, beat on high for five minutes until stiff peaks begin to form. A good rule of thumb - the icing should stand up on the edge of the beater. 

Put the icing into a bowl if you plan to use food coloring to change the color. If not, you can put it directly in an icing bag. If using food coloring, make sure that the icing is covered with a damp cloth as to prevent drying and solidifying.

Now you can decorate the cookies however you want! I did some piping (using an icing bag and some ziploc baggies with a hole cut in the corner....what? They both work!). I also attempted some 'flooding' - filling in the outline with icing that has been slightly watered down so that it spreads quicker. They were so much fun that I even made some butterflies for my sister's birthday.

I hope you store these recipes away in your recipe box, and maybe consider getting yourself a BeaterBlade; you could be whipping up some great looking (and tasting) cookies in no time!

Thanks for checking out the Sassy Southern Housewife! Enjoy!