Bradley Nierenberg’s Top 10 Cooking Websites

Bradley Nierenberg’s Top 10 Cooking Websites

Unlike many cooking bloggers, most of my home cooking adventures are the result of delicious looking recipes I’ve found online. But there are an overwhelming number of websites for cooking, (39,700,000+ Google results to be exact), so how does one choose which ones to use?

This is one of those personal preference lists which I hope you will contribute to by leaving a few comments with your favorites. Here are mine:

10. http://www.foodnetwork.com/ I like watching the Food Network and frequently search the site for recipes I’ve seen made on the show. The website has very good search options, plenty of videos, great photos, and recipe reviews. In fact I featured a couple of Emeril’s recipes in my previous blog post on Creole cooking.

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9. http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/ Believe it or not, the Williams-Sonoma site has a fantastic recipe collection. It’s a smart idea because I am always tempted to order another kitchen gadget while searching for recipes! I recently made their pomegranate salad and was not disappointed. And the Breakfast Skillet is a home run!

8. http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/ Looking for quick and easy? Look no further than Six Sisters Stuff. I first found them on Facebook and now drool over their photos and recipes.

7. http://ourbestbites.com/ I really like the recipes that come out of the kitchens of these Mormon Moms. I use their first cookbook regularly. It is nice the way they build upon recipes. For example, after you make their shredded pork, they offer a number of recipes that use it. Their caramelized green beans are truly amazing.

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6. http://www.finecooking.com/ I started using the Fine Cooking website and app after I received a gift subscription to the magazine. I must say, if this was a magazine list, it would be my top choice! Every recipe I’ve tried from this site is a keeper. If you are wondering how to cook your own chick peas and then how to use them up, go to Fine Cooking. I’ve made a pastry wrapped roast chicken, baked Alaska, and many other delicious meals because of this exceptional website.

5. http://www.tasteofhome.com/ When I’m looking for a recipe for something I ate as a kid, but don’t have it in my mish-mash handwritten collection of recipes, I go to Taste of Home. This site seems to have a great collection of recipes moms and grammas (dads and grandpas too) have been making for ages. Are you craving that baked oatmeal you loved in your childhood. Guess what? It’s in this website waiting for you!

4. http://joyofbaking.com/ This is really a website for baking, but belongs on my list because I use this site all the time. Stephanie Jaworski’s scone recipes are fantastic. I also like her quick breads. In fact, her zucchini bread with coconut is the best recipe out there. I like how Stephanie explains things as a preface to each recipe. There are also plenty of videos if you need visual help on a technique.

3. http://barefootcontessa.com/ I like to watch Ina Garten on the Food Network and then try the recipes she demonstrates. I have a couple of her cookbooks too. Ina’s recipes are always a hit for dinner parties. If you have not yet tried her coconut cake, you don’t know what you are missing! And yes, it calls for five sticks of butter!

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2. http://thepioneerwoman.com/ Ree Drummond is my go to gal for comfort food. You cannot beat her meatloaf, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, or sweet rolls. It’s not health food, but when you want to sink your teeth into something really delicious, check out The Pioneer Woman.

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1. http://www.epicurious.com/ It is the only cooking app I even use on my iPhone. It combines recipes from Bon Appetit, Self, and Gourmet magazines and features guest recipes from other chefs too. The photos, instructions, and reviews never let me down. I’ve used it for years.

Remember to add your favorites below!

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It Was a Creole Christmas

It Was a Creole Christmas

I select a different theme for my Christmas Eve dinner each year. This year’s pick was “Creole Christmas.” The food of Louisiana has a rich history. The flavors are layered and rich. I have yet to come across a Creole or Cajun dish I didn’t like! The menu included red snapper, shrimp etouffee, corn maque choux, and bread pudding with raisins and bourbon sauce. Yum!

One time-saving method I used this year was to prep all my vegetables in advance. Since most creole dishes include a mirepoix of onion, celery, and bell pepper, I chopped enough of each for all the recipes.

Red Snapper with Creole Sauce

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I used a recipe from the James Beard Foundation to make the fish. I was fortunate to find two lovely pieces of red snapper at a local Harris Teeter. They usually have a decent fish and seafood department. The recipe called for sliced black olives, crumbled bacon, and chopped hard-boiled egg on top for serving. I was skeptical at first, but the overall effect was amazing. Here is the full recipe: http://www.jamesbeard.org/recipes/baked-fish-creole

Shrimp Etouffee

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I had never tried shrimp etouffee before making it for this year’s dinner. It was a hit. I think this is one of those dishes that improves with time. Had there been any leftovers, I assume it would have been even more delish. I do think the shrimp, though cooked perfectly, would have tasted better if I had been able to find domestic shrimp. I don’t know whether anyone else agrees, but IMO nothing beats fresh shrimp from the waters near Savannah, Georgia. Unfortunately by the time I made it to the grocery store Christmas Eve day, all that remained was imported shrimp. I used Emeril’s recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/shrimp-etouffee-recipe.html

Maque Choux

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The maque choux was creamy with a slight kick. It is probably one of the best corn dishes I’ve ever eaten. I had to alter the recipe a tad because I was unable to find tasso ham. I substituted andouille sausage instead which was a perfect choice. I rendered the sausage then cooked the corn mixture in the same pan. I think it came out great! This was another Emeril recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/tasso-maque-choux-recipe.html#!

Bread Pudding

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I’ve never met a bread pudding I didn’t like! It’s a traditional Louisiana dessert. I kept it very simple and the bourbon sauce was a complete hit. I did not have whole milk, so instead I mixed half skim milk and half heavy cream. The result was pure heaven in a bowl! It was just as yummy the next morning when I rewarmed a small portion for breakfast! The recipe was from Mr. Food: http://www.mrfood.com/Puddings/New-Orleans-Bread-Pudding-with-Bourbon-Sauce-3289.

Hey baby! If you are in a New Orleans state of mind, give creole cooking a try.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies Are Too Good To Be True!

Cinnamon Roll Cookies Are Too Good To Be True!

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Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite breakfast items. This year I decided to find a new Christmas cookie to share with friends. I set my sights on a cinnamon roll cookie.

This one is delicious. I used the recipe from http://www.melskitchencafe.com, but made a few minor alterations. It still needs a bit of tweaking, but my taste testers agree this one is a keeper!

Bake 350 degrees           9-11 minutes

Ingredients

Cookie dough
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla (get the good stuff!)
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Filling
3-4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
ground cardamom
fresh ground nutmeg

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs milk

Sprinkles or toasted chopped nuts.

Directions

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  1. Using paddle attachment to mixer (or beaters) cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix only until incorporated. Dough should be smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour or longer. IMG_2769
  2. While dough is chilling, mix the filling. Should be crumbly like streusel topping. IMG_2770
  3. Remove dough and separate into two halves. Work each into a log and flatten with rolling pin to 15″ x 4″.  Tip: draw two 15″ x 4″ rectangles on a large piece of parchment and flip it over. Roll your cookie sections on the parchment using the lines as a guide. IMG_2771
  1. Spread thin later of butter over each section all the way to the edges. Sprinkle streusel filling over each section, end to end. Sprinkle cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg over each section. Press topping down lightly. IMG_2773
  2. Tightly roll into logs, leaving seams on the bottom. Re-chill dough for 15 minutes. This is a good time to preheat your oven. Slice logs into equal disks about 1/4″ wide. Place each disk on cookie sheet (using parchment) about 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes. Cool. IMG_2777
  3. While baking, beat the frosting until smooth. Spread onto cooled cookies. Top with sprinkles or nuts.

Enjoy!

10 Scone Recipes to Try

10 Scone Recipes to Try

Since before the Starbucks craze hit the nation, I’ve been baking scones for friends. Creating these finicky little treats seems to improve with a practiced hand. The basic rule of thumb is to handle the dough as little as possible once you incorporate the wet ingredients.

Scones come in sweet and savory varieties and use different wet substances. This post focuses only on sweet scones. Most of the recipes are not my own, but I use these recipes over and over, adjusting them to my tastes or what I happen to have in the pantry.

10. Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze – This is a Tyler Florence recipe and one of the best blueberry scone recipes out there. If you’ve been blueberry picking, try these instead of muffins for a change. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/blueberry-scones-with-lemon-glaze-recipe.html

Tip: Don’t skimp on the zest!

9. Fresh Raspberry Scones – You’ll find joyofbaking.com a few times in this list because it is my go-to site for scones. This scone uses yogurt as its wet ingredient. It is moist and delicious. I like white chocolate chips in this one as opposed to dark chocolate, but that is a personal choice! http://joyofbaking.com/RaspberryScones.html

Tip: Fresh raspberries are nearly impossible to work with. Be gentle and try not to mush them!

8. Maple Oat Scones – If you are hungry for scones but feeling guilty, these are your best bet. Using buttermilk instead of cream gives them a different texture. They are lower in fat and the oats make them seem healthier! Plus, maple syrup makes everything in life taste better! http://bakingbites.com/2011/09/maple-oat-scones/

Tip: No need to roll and flatten these out. Remember that the less you handle them, the more tender the result. Just drop them on your parchment paper and bake. I make them the size of golf balls.

7. Pumpkin Scones – It is difficult to find a pumpkin scone recipe that is not too dense or too moist. This recipe from Pinch My Salt was first published in 2007 and is the one I always go back to when fall rolls around. http://pinchmysalt.com/pumpkin-spice-scone-recipe/

Tip: I’ve tried both icings and prefer the molasses one myself.

6. Iced Gingerbread Scones – Like pumpkin scones, these are perfect over the holidays. I use this recipe for the base, but I like to mix confectioners sugar and maple syrup for the glaze. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2013/12/iced-gingerbread-scones-recipe-christmas-breakfast.html

Tip: You can rewarm scones in the microwave the next day.

5. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones – These are perhaps a bit too desserty for a scone, but you cannot go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter. They’re good, but the guilt factor is high when you’ve reached over to grab a second! http://www.browneyedbaker.com/oatmeal-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-scones/

4. Glazed Heart Scones – Guys, if you like to bake, these scones make a lasting impression on your Valentine. I suggest you put this recipe aside and try it in February! http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/glazed-raspberry-heart-scones-231579

Tip: Don’t be a cheapskate. Buy seedless jam.

3. Cranberry Orange Cream Scones – Ina Garten bakes up a very nice scone with this recipe. I am not a huge fan of dried cranberries, so I always substitute dried cherries instead. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/cranberry-orange-scones-recipe.html

Tip: Remember the rule about handling your dough. That would include rolling and cutting. I press into a round disk and cut into pie wedges using a pizza cutter.

2. Pecan and Chocolate Chip Scones – Using the coffee house scone recipe as a base, very few scone recipes are as delicious as this one. The texture is the best thing about these scones. Stephanie’s method of dusting the top with powdered sugar then sticking them under the broiler to form a sweet crust makes them absolutely perfect right out of the oven. http://www.joyofbaking.com/SconesPecanChocolate.html

Tip: Watch these under the broiler like a hawk. And eat them soon after. Buttermilk scones do not hold as well as cream scones.

1. Cream Scone with Currants – This is my recipe. The one I use most often. Though the recipe calls for currents, you can substitute whatever you are in the mood for.

400 degrees
15-20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 cups flour (unsifted)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
¼ cup your choice of add-ins (dried currents, chocolate chips, dried cherries, or whatever you prefer)
1 egg
½ cup heavy cream
jam

Directions:
In bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Cut in butter. (I use a pastry cutter and work with it until butter incorporated like small peas)

If you are adding any dried fruit or chocolate chips, do so now.

This is where a good scone is made or spoiled. You can work the flour and butter as much as you’d like before wet ingredients are added. Just as with biscuits, to keep them tender, you want to minimize messing with the dough once you add wet to dry.

In same measuring cup add egg to heavy cream and fork mix together. Gently fold into dry mixture.

Turn out onto baking sheet lined with parchment or baking mat. Using your hands, form into a ball and mush it down into a disk about 8 inches in diameter.

Brush top with a bit of heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut into 8 sections with a pizza cutter.

At this point I often use a small round measuring spoon or a melon baller and make a small indent in the center of each scone and spoon in a small dollop of strawberry jam.

Bake until firm. Serve warm with jam.

I’ve added another to my list of favorite scones. Check out my recipe for cinnamon chip scones!

Enjoy!

Top Ten Pasta Pet Peeves

Top Ten Pasta Pet Peeves

Warning: The opinions expressed here are not meant to offend anyone. Food is a very personal thing for people and our taste buds and preferences are all different. Thank goodness because life would be rather boring otherwise!

You’ve been warned, so here I go!

I learned to prepare pasta from native Italian friends. Once you’ve cut your teeth on an authentic dish or two, it is impossible to go back to the spaghetti I grew up on. Perhaps you remember…a clump of overcooked spaghetti noodles on a plate with a ladle or two of sauce plopped on top. Oh, and don’t forget a few shakes of powdered cheese from a shiny green can. I am now a pasta snob.

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10. Canned cheese. Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano is delicious. It’s nutty, slightly salty flavor is the perfect complement to most pasta dishes. Note that I said “most.”

9. Parmesan and seafood. A dear friend from the Puglia region was horrified when I attempted to add cheese to the top of his homemade Spaghetti Frutti di Mare. Where he came from, this was a serious faux pas. I was duly schooled and henceforth refrained from serving Parmesan as an accompaniment to any pasta and seafood dishes. He was not clear on why this was a grievous act, but this dish is certainly delicious on its own pure merits!

8. Crappy pasta. There are plenty of good choices in the grocery store. I will not disparage any particular brands out there, however I will tell you that I serve DeCecco. If you can’t find that in stores, you could substitute with Barilla. (Remember this is my opinion only and not based on scientific fact. Nor am I paid to talk about any particular brand.) I lump all gluten free and whole wheat pastas into this category. Again, only because I think the taste and texture cannot compare to the real thing.

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7. Jarred sauce. I’m sure there are plenty of good jarred sauces. But making pasta is so fast and simple, I don’t see the need for buying a prepared sauce. Olive oil, fresh garlic, and crushed red pepper tossed with hot pasta hits the spot just as nicely as a red sauce I simmered for hours.

6. Cold pasta. If you’ve spent the time preparing a beautiful pasta dish, it should be eaten while hot. So why would you transfer piping hot pasta into a cold bowl? (Sorry folks…I guess this should be its own peeve…pasta should be served from a pasta dish and not on a plate.) Heat your serving bowl or pasta dishes so that all the heat is not sucked out of your meal before your first forkful!

5. Unsalted water. My apologies to anyone who needs to limit their sodium intake. Pasta requires salt water if you really want it to taste good.

4. Colander to plate. Once your pasta is drained, it should be dumped immediately into your wide saute pan which already holds its accompaniment. This way the pasta soaks in all those flavors. Finish it off with any last minute seasoning. Add a bit of pasta water if its too dry. Then portion it out or transfer it to your serving dish.

3. Leftovers. All the Italians I know measure and cook only the amount of pasta per person required for the meal. Leftovers do not fit into their small refrigerators and why on earth would you reheat pasta? That leads beautifully into my number 2 pet peeve.

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2. Overcooked pasta. This is the main reason I rarely order pasta when I go out to dinner state side. Except for a very few small trattorias, I am usually disappointed by pasta cooked past al dente. When I cook pasta at home, I sample the noodles fairly often toward the end and remove them before quite ready. They will finish cooking before arriving at table, trust me!

And Bradley Nierenberg’s number 1 pasta pet peeve?

1. Drowning pasta. In Italia, pasta is the star; the topping is NOT! As stated in number 4, finish your pasta off in your saute pan to marry it to the topping an bring it to the perfect doneness. Then serve it! There is no need to heap a pile of sauce on top.