Wednesday, December 31, 2008
For some odd reason, I do not know how to make regular lasagna. I'm sure that I could go to any website out there and find a recipe for lasagna, but instead I always buy the box of Creamette and make their vegetarian lasagna that's featured on the back. One reason I make it? Because it's a no-boil recipe and I've discovered that I probably don't make regular lasagna because I'm intimidated as hell at the thought of boiling noodles and trying to assemble a "real" lasagna.
So here's my tricked out version of Creamette's finest - it's a good makeahead dish to throw in the bottom of your fridge, bake on a cold evening and eat the leftovers for the next couple days after that. (Move over Wheaties - I have a new source of breakfast goodness.)
adapted from Creamette
First, saute a clove or two of minced garlic in some olive oil. Add some sliced mushrooms and saute until tender. Then I usually take a can of Hunt's sauce (it's cheap, it makes several meals, I love it) and add it to make the sauce. Recently to please my honey, I added some ground beef to suit his palate.
1 15-16 oz. container of low-fat ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded cheese (I usually use a mix of Italian cheeses - provelone, Parmesan and mozzarella)
Mix these bad boys together.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 1/2 cup of sauce mix on the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Pick up your lasagna noodles and spread on some ricotta mixture. I've never thought about it, but I usually put the noodles cheese down in the pan. I don't think it really matters. You'll get about three or four lasagnas per layer of noodles. I then put down a layer of fresh spinach leaves and top it with some more sauce. Repeat with a layer of cheesy awesome noodles. More spinach and sauce. Finally top with another layer of cheesy noodles. At this point, you should be out of sauce and top this layer with some Parmesan cheese or whatever suits your fancy in the Italian cheese world.
Cover with tin foil and bake the lasagna for 45 to 50 minutes until hot and bubbly. Uncover and let stand for a couple more minutes.
This stuff also freezes well. If you're going to freeze, cover the lasagna with some plastic wrap and then some tin foil. Before baking, remove the plastic wrap and recover with foil. Thawed lasagna can be baked for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Frozen lasagna is going to take you about two hours.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Be easy on yourself - if you have a food processor, pull it out from its dusty perch and use it to chop your veg - a couple pulses should do - you don't want to puree your onions, peppers, celery and garlic. But you don't want to be eating whole garlic cloves either ...
Disclaimer! This stuff freezes well, but if you don't thaw the casserole before you cook it, it will take FOREVER to bake. So make it easy on yourself - thaw it.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Ever since a friend gave me a taste of rum cake she had brought back from Jamaica a few years back, I've had this odd craving for rum cake. But it's not something that I've made - mostly because I don't have rum in the house, I used to live alone and even now that I live with Ryan - why make an entire cake? Luckily, Ryan and I had a dinner invite a couple weeks back and I got to polish off this gem of a cake. And man - it's everything a cake should be - decadent, moist and most importantly? Easy. This one will show up at future gatherings.
The Pioneer Woman’s Mother-in-Law’s Christmas Rum Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small package INSTANT vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rum (dark or light is fine)
1 cup chopped pecans
Brown sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and flour Bundt cake pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. If desired, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar over the nuts. Mix all cake ingredients together. Pour batter over nuts. Smooth out ’til the top is even. Bake 1 hour, or a little less if the pan is black. Do not overbake!
While cake has ten minutes to go, make the glaze.
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup rum
Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off flame and pour in rum. Stir to combine and reheat for 30 seconds.
Remove cake from oven. Immediately drizzle 1/3 of the glaze on the bottom (top) of the cake. Allow to sit for five minutes.
Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Prick surface a hundred times with a fork (gently, please.) Slowly drizzle remaining rum glaze all over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Cool to room temperature before serving to ensure glaze has soaked in.
Note: You will want to transfer this to another platter before taking out in public. The rum glaze is SUPER STRONG and taking the cake away from the glaze ends up being a good thing, otherwise the edges of the cake taste like a distillery. Also - if you have pets who like to jump up on the counter, make sure you take away the offending cake platter away so they do not sample the rum glaze. I'm just sayin' ...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I got this recipe from the SingForYourSupper blog, but for some odd reason, I'm having problems with the link, which is here. She found the recipe at AllRecipes, which is here. There's really nothing Christmasy about monster cookies, but the recipe below makes a ton of cookies. Perfect to feed both Ryan's and my coworkers.
2 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter
2 2/3 cups peanut butter
9 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I omitted)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Cream butter and peanut butter together. Add the sugars and stir until well mixed.
Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
Mix oatmeal and baking soda separately, then stir into batter.
Add chocolate chips last. (Omitted!)
Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
My dentist told me about these bad boys when she was filling my latest cavity (irony? I think so) and they sounded so disgustingly good I decided to find them on the Internet. And found them I did at Recipezaar.com.
- 1 package regular size Oreo cookies, crushed
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 package white almond bark
- 1 package chocolate almond bark
- Using a blender or hand held mixer, mix Oreos and cream cheese together. (I used my food processor. Trust me. Dust it off. It works awesomely.)
- Roll into walnut size balls.
- Chill for an hour.
- Melt approximately 3/4 package of white almond bark.
- Stick a toothpick in an Oreo ball and dip it in the melted white almond bark. (Did not have toothpick so used skewer from my grill set that I bought last year after Christmas. It worked awesomely.)
- Allow to harden on wax paper. This takes about 15 min.
- While waiting, melt about 1/4 package of chocolate almond bark.
- When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, decorate with drizzles of chocolate and white almond bark.
- I just use a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner to drizzle the almond bark. (I accomplished this with a spoon.)
Shopping does not get me into the Christmas spirit. Neither do most television specials (although I weep if I ever watch the cartoon with Baby New Year in it ... crazy, I know.). And whereas Jesus is the reason for the season (I love that particular rhyme because it's cheesy, but true), for me it is Christmas when I start baking.
Since time is short (yeow! Four days until Christmas!), I'm going to flood you with a couple of recipes and posts so you can recreate them for your own eating/sharing pleasure if you wish. One disclaimer though - nothing I really made this year screams Christmas except for the Oreo balls. I was going more for taste than pizzazz, I guess.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I'll be honest - there's something missing in this recipe and I wasn't too fond of it. I brought it home for Thanksgiving though and supposedly my uncle Dave ate it, so ... but yeah. This isn't going to win any awards and it won't impress the hell out of your friends and families, so I will continue searching for greatness.
Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
3. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.
Monday, December 15, 2008
OK – so you know why I love cookbooks as much as I do. Let me know tell you how I “judge” a cookbook and can tell you whether or not it has merit.
Yeah, that last sentence just made me sound way cooler than I truly am. I couldn’t tell you if a cookbook is a good one or not, because they all bring something (literally) to the table. For instance, people go ga-ga over “The Joy of Cooking.” Well, Ryan has a copy and I really don’t like it. I can see where it’s valuable to people who aren’t very experienced with cooking, but if I’m going to make homemade mac and cheese, give me the recipe in its entirety, don’t direct me to a separate section so I can learn to make a roux. On the other hand, my beloved orange “Betty Crocker” book? Is it sad that I think I’d take my copy to the grave with me?
Needless to say, I love cookbooks. And when I get a new one, I go through the book in its entirety and either earmark pages or I use pieces of paper to mark particular recipes that I think will be a good bet. I’ve recently fell in love with using those Post-It flags or bookmarks. That way they actually stick to the page and don’t fall out of the book if you happen to throw it at your cat. (That only happened once and he was creeping toward a freshly baked chicken. And it was a wee paperback. What would you do?)
I will fully admit that between my cookbooks, my cooking magazines, the recipes that I’ve torn for newspapers over the years and my latest addiction to food blogs, I’m probably never going to make every single recipe that I’ve marked and saved.
But part of the fun is trying.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Sesame Candy - This one is Middle Eastern and I have a feeling that I'm really going to attempt this one. It is nothing like the ones my mama makes!
Coconut Bars - Technically, this does not count as candy, but it looks sooooooooo good.
Assorted Treats - The blogging world has been full of fleur de sel caramels and despite last year's utter failure at making homemade caramels, I really really want to try these. And who has heard of buckeyes? They sound good too.
This is just a start - if I find more, I'll share 'em. Otherwise, this year's holiday-treats-as-gifts are on the simple side - brown sugar shortbread, dipped pretzels and Oreo balls.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Cranberry Oatmeal Bread
1 cup oatmeal
1-1/4 cups hot water
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
2 Tbsp. grated orange peel
2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/4 cups chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x4" loaf pans and set aside. (FYI - I used muffin tins and one of those mini loaf pans. I put waaaay too much batter in the mini loaf pan - I probably could have made about 6 more muffins.)
In medium bowl, combine oats and hot water, stir, and let stand for 5 minutes. In large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add oat mixture, sour cream, orange peel, and egg and blend well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and mix gently. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared pans and smooth to level. In small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes until bread is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool 5 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the edges of the breads and remove to wire rack to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap to store.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
These are seriously good though.
Nutty Choco-Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. (two sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. old fashioned oats (I use rolled oats that I find at the natural foods store)
1 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, take your electric mixer to the butter and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. The recipe says to use your mixer for the next part, but I always make a godawful mess, so I use my wooden spoon and fold the flour mixture into the egg/sugar stuff. Mix until just combined. Then add the oats, chips and nuts.
Place these bad boys on your cookie sheet about two inches apart. Typically, my little dough balls are about 1 inch in diameter, etc. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes.
Eat. Love. Thank me later.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I’m not sure what it is about me and cookbooks, but I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. As I’ve patiently explained to Ryan, there is no real good reason that I have about fifty cookbooks, ranging in specialty from Indian food to 1970s Lutheran cooking madness, but I love each and every one of them.
Just like my mom does. Just like my Aunt Sue does. And just like both of my grandmas did. Some of my greatest treasures are cookbooks I got from my grandmas, their handwriting populating the corners of recipes that they tried and liked, recipes that they meant to someday make for their families and recipes that totally flopped when they tried to reproduce them in their kitchens. (A note from one of my grandma’s cookbooks: “BAD!” OK, grandma – I won’t make that one.)
When I would go to church festivals with my mom or if we were anywhere that sold an organization’s cookbooks, my mom would always buy three – one for her, one for my Aunt Sue and one for my Grandma Boots. I now have many of those cookbooks that once belonged to my grandma and there’s something right about that. And now if I see a unique cookbook, I’ll buy three copies – one for my mom, one for Suzie and one for me.
My Grandma Boots is currently in a nursing home and she’s gone to that place in Alzheimer’s where many people can’t reach her. But some of the best times that I had visiting her in the home when she was coherent were the times that I’d pick up a current copy of “Taste of Home” or Paula Deen’s cooking magazine and bring them in to page through with her. We would talk about the things that I would make for Ryan and how much recipes changed – how Chinese food used to be a rarity for American housewives to make and how now everyone has a go-to recipe for their own version of Sesame Chicken.
No matter how much my grandma’s mind has slipped over the past decade, there is one moment that cemented her reputation as one of the ultimate bakers in my mind. I was living in Wisconsin and tried to make a cranberry cake with a buttercream sauce. My mom always made it for me, it was one of my favorites and I wanted to try to recreate that dessert for some friends. The cake turned out fabulously, but the sauce never thickened properly.
So I came home and had coffee with my grandma and grandpa. When I told grandma what happened to the sauce, she immediately narrowed her eyes. “Which cookbook did you use?” I told her which one. “Whose recipe was it?” I told her the cook. “Hmpfh,” Grandma said. “Well, she can’t cook.” Grandma turned to where she had her handwritten recipe files. “Next time, use this one.”
And next time I make that cranberry cake, Grandma – I will.
Friday, December 5, 2008
2 teaspoons olive oil
**Another note - Ryan and I were starving the other night and had some of this soup in the fridge and some leftover rice from our jambalaya. So I combined 'em. And it tasted excellent. Keep this in mind for a second-day makeover or something like that.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This recipe (and pictures) comes from my friend Lindsey. A couple of comments about Lindsey - a) she knows good potato soup - her mom has a recipe that is to die for and is loved by many ex-DJs from KWLC and b) she knows good cooking in general and if you ever need a Tastefully Simple consultant, let me know and I'll hook you up with her.
This recipe comes from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook "Deceptively Delicious" where Ms. Seinfeld very sneakily hides all sorts of healthy schtuff in what would typically be viewed as comfort food. Lindsey made the potato soup and even added in some broccoli for an extra healthy factor.
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, cut in half
• 2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-fat low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 pounds potatoes, any kind, peeled and chopped
• ½ cup cauliflower puree
• 1 ½ cups butternut squash or carrot puree
• 1 cup lowfat (1%)buttermilk **
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (optional)
• store-bought croutons (optional)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
So ... I went to recipezaar.com and since I'm fancying myself these days as a novice foodie, I actually signed up for their free membership and posted my dilemma on their community board. Not 15 minutes later, I received reply from people who are far more knowledgeable than I am.
Recipezaar ... I think I love you.
Monday, December 1, 2008
First and foremost, my grandma was tiny - she came up to about my chest. That lady was chin-high, but damn could she cook and bake. I can close my eyes and remember exactly what she looked like - my grandpa Stan favored her in looks and oh, how my grandpa loved his mom. All of the Ewing kids adored her, so did her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. I would give anything for a loaf of her lemon poppyseed bread. My mom almost cried the day that she opened grandma's last jar of homemade pickles.
One of the things that is maddening about losing someone like my great-grandma is that many of her recipes came from the confines of her head - the lady rarely wrote anything down. So to find this one, with little to no explanation - is a sweet surprise. Even if its just a road map.
Fried Green Tomatoes
by Florence Ewing
Green tomato Seasoned flour
Stem and wash a green tomato. Slice it round. Roll in seasoned flour. Fry in bacon grease or oleo. Try these for supper. Very good.
Grandma didn't waste words, y'all.
When my buddy Erin suggested we have a meal where every recipe had alcohol in it, there was only one that I could think of turning to (instead of just trying to make my mom's vodka slush): Guinness cupcakes. I had run into a recipe for these lovely, stout-laced cakes on a food blog and decided to make them for my friends. And yes friends, it is very, very good.
by Dave Lieberman
12 ounces Guinness® stout
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I substituted applesauce for a "lighter" recipe.)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 c. powdered sugar (eyeball it and don't be afraid to try the frosting to make sure it tastes what you want it to be.)
cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness®, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sour cream. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness® mixture. Butter 24 muffin tins and divide the batter among the muffin tins.
Bake 25 minutes until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.
Make the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. Slowly mix in the confectioner's sugar. Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Well ... on Tuesday, I made macaroni and cheese. Wednesday I made macaroni and cheese. Today is Thanksgiving. :) My favorite chef Erin is cooking for me and member of his family. (I love you, man and I look forward to learning more of your craft.)
I have a few recipes up my sleeve though. In the meantime, I hope you all stuff yourselves silly and enjoy time with your families.
I'll be back. Maybe tomorrow - maybe the weekend. :)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
This recipe comes from Leslie Sansone's book "Eat Smart, Walk Strong." And considering what's in the ingredient list, it should suprise none of you that I made this dish this weekend while Ryan was gone. The man is patient and will eat damn near anything, but if I presented him a plate with dried cranberries on it ... I think he'd reach for a phone and order takeout.
The first time I made this dish a few years ago, I absolutely adored it. This time, not so much - I think because I've been seduced by the pumpkin cream penne that I made last week. Darn you Rachael Ray!
Ravioli in Pumpkin Cream Sauce with Cranberries and Walnuts
by Leslie Sansone "Eat Smart, Walk Strong"
1 lb. frozen or fresh ravioli (I used four cheese)
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped (didn't have 'em, used pecans instead)
1 T. butter
2 T. minced garlic
2 T. fresh sage leaves (didn't have 'em ... boy do I suck)
1 15 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. dried cranberries
Cook pasta according to directions. In the meantime, heat your oven to 400 degrees and place the walnuts on a baking sheet. If you so desire, go ahead and roast them (about three minutes). But you can omit this step if you so choose.
Heat butter in a large skillet over medium until bubbling. Add your garlic and saute for a minute. Add sage leaves (doh!) and saute an additional 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and milk and stir. Continue cooking until the sauce is hot and bubbly. If it seems too thick (and it probably will), just add a little bit more milk until you get it to the desired consistency.
Put the pasta in a large serving bowl, cover and toss (GENTLY!) with pumpkin sauce. Sprinkle with nuts and cranberries. Serve at once.
Verdict: Meh. Probably won't make it again.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Are you ready for me to be done with cooking with pumpkin? I think Ryan is too - but only a few more days left in this week and perhaps a turn to something more "traditional" in the future.
In the meantime, I made this for Monday night's dinner and wow. This is the first time that Ryan didn't take seconds on an entree that I made, but I didn't think it was that bad. (In fact, I'm eating it right now for breakfast - move over raisin bran - I got a new source of awesomeness.)
I got this recipe from my friend Lindsey who stole it from Martha Stewart. Both of us put our own twists on the original recipe and I think that if you're trying to eat healthy or sneak some healthy stuff into your family's food, this might be a way to go.
Pumpkin Chicken Enchiladas
8 corn tortillas
6 scallions, diced (LT uses cilantro, 2T fresh chopped - I used a 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped)
optional: roasted green chiles, chopped small (SK omitted)
6 oz. of white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can of pumpkin puree (15 oz)
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 jalapeno (remove seeds and membranes if you don’t need extra heat)**
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin (I added this too)
2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or water
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a blender, puree pumpkin, jalapeno, chicken stock, garlic, chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Place 1 cup of this sauce in the bottom of an 8 inch glass casserole dish. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken with green chiles, cilantro, and/or scallions and season with salt and pepper. Place some of the chicken mixture on each tortilla and then lay the tortilla seam side down in the casserole dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Top with cheese. However, if you are casein-free, this recipe is fine without cheese. Martha recommends placing your casserole dish on a baking sheet in the oven to prevent any spills. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.
Serves 4 alone or possibly 6 with sides.
**Variation: I've been craving chipolte peppers in adobo sauce since my buddy Paul S. made salsa using it. To my Midwestern tastebuds, these peppers are plenty spicy, but they had a heat and a depth that I haven't found in fresh peppers. (It's probably the MSG.) Anyway - in lieu of the jalapenos, cumin, chili pepper, etc., I just took one chipolte pepper and threw it in my food processor along with a spoonful of the sauce. One word: Heavenly.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
from Everyday with Rachael Ray
1 pound penne pasta
2 T olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated (use a zester if you have it. If you don't, chop the hell out of the cloves.)
salt & pepper
1 15-oz. can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 c. chicken broth
large dash of ground cinnamon
two dashes of nutmeg
1 T. hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for topping
7 fresh sage leaves (of course I didn't use this ... silly sage leaves!)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
What surprises me about pumpkin is that when I think of it, I automatically associate it with sweet stuff. Pumpkin isn't sweet at all and it really adds a depth of flavor that you wouldn't expect, IMHO.
Anyway - expect some pasta with pumpkin as a sauce (one recipe is really good, the other one - meh); a Mexican dish that features corn tortillas, pumpkin and chicken and an easy-schmeezy pumpkin cake.
I hope everyone has a good holiday week!
So the pork chops have been slated for another night - so to give my buddy an option that doesn't involve pasta, here's my cheesy potato recipe. You will love it. Just ignore the fact that it's drenched in butter and you'll be a happy camper.
During summer of 2008, this became my go-to recipe for any get togethers that my friends and had. What I like about this recipe is that you can make it the day before and that it travels well (considering it's a casserole).
I adapted this recipe from a cookbook I got from my future mother-in-law Gloria called "Best of Country Casseroles." It's published by the same folks who do the Taste of Home magazines, one of my yardsticks of culinary greatness.
from Best of Country Casseroles
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. melted butter, divided
3 T. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 (32 oz) pkg of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
2 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 1/2 c. crushed cornflakes (omit if needed)
In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream, 1/2 c. butter, onion and salt. Stir in potatoes and cheese. Transfer into a greased 9x13 pan. Toss cornflakes and remaining butter, sprinkle over the potatoes. Bake, uncovered at 350 degress for 50-60 minutes.
Variations: I haven't tried this, but I wouldn't be afraid to ... what if you used the frozen potatoes O'Brien (those are the ones with peppers and onions). I think that at some Monterey Jack would also be good switch-outs for this particular recipe.
Optional! Cornflakes are optional ... if you opt to not use them, cut back the butter to 1/2 c. for the casserole itself.
WARNING: The particular pan that's used to bake this dish is a pain in the ass to clean. Just giving you fair warning.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I got this recipe out of the October & November 2008 issue of Taste of Home. Ryan told me the other day that he was digging pasta with white sauce, so I earmarked this recipe to try on a night when I was relatively short on time, wanted something relatively decadent, yet wouldn't make me want to cry mercy when I was on the treadmill. So why did I choose an Alfredo sauce? Well ... this one isn't too bad ...
Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
from Taste of Home October/November 2008
6 oz. uncooked fettuccine (that's half of a small box, yo)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chiken breasts, cubed (I used 2 frozen ones)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt (eyeball it)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (again - use judgement - you don't need no measuring spoons!)
1 T. butter
1 T. (heaping) flour
1 1/2 c. fat-free half and half**
1 c. frozen peas, thawed (don't worry if they aren't totally thawed)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
**I didn't have this, so I basically used a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream and what I had for milk in the fridge, which ended up being the rest of my skim milk and some 2% from my honey's stash.
Cook fettuccine according to the directions on the package. While this is cooking, saute chicken, onion, garlic, salt and cayenne in butter until the chicken is fully cooked. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually (who am I kidding? I dumped it in) add the half-and-half, peas and cheese. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Drain fettuccine; toss with chicken mixture.
Drumroll ... here are the nutrition facts: 1 c. equals 425 calories, 8 grams of fat ... 49 grams of carbs. Let's focus on the calories and fat. Those are good numbers.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Erin McIntosh is a member of my "urban family" here in Rochester. You know the group of people - you spend the most time with them, their kids are like your kids, you end up spending some portion of a holiday weekend with them and you hope to hell that when old age hits, you are all entrapped in the same nursing home.
In all honesty, I would forego almost any meal in the city of Rochester in favor of just sitting at Erin and Paul's house with a big old plate of his Penne a la Vodka in front of me and a smaller plate of his Kenny Rogers corn bread to my right. Erin's cooking is just that genuine and good. And because he is one of my favorite cooks in this world, he's agreed to talk for Monday Madness:
What is your first cooking memory? Probably making Christmas cookies every year ... We would make sugar cookies and throw flour at each other.
What is your go-to dish if you're cooking for friends? Pasta is always there. (Ed. note: YES!) I always have a pasta dish of some kind ... (although) when people come over I like having different things.
What is your favorite thing to make? That's a toss up between bread and dessert. Although I really like making dessert, there are health consequences to making them all of the time.
OK - so if you were on Death Row, what would be your last meal? (Erin is one of the only people who doesn't think that this question is strange. Instead, he pulls toward him his little black box of recipes that he's tried and perfected over the years to find that perfect meal.) For appetizers, crab and lobster stuffed mushrooms. A pre-entree would be that Craisin and cashew salad. My main course would be pasta with a side of sweet potato casserole. He looks up and smiles. Basically carbs, carbs and more carbs. And then a piece of cheesecake at the end.
Words of wisdom for other cooks: Make a mess, I know I do. Everything tastes better that way ... I'm serious! (Ed. note: The other secret to our success as cooks is that we have significant others that clean up after us. It's a good thing. And we love you for it.)
Penne a la Vodka
by Erin McIntosh
1 lb. penne
1 12 oz. can of stewed tomatoes or 8 oz. fresh tomatoes, quartered
3 T minced garlic
1/4 c. fresh basil
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. vodka
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to top with
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Saute garlic and tomatoes for five minutes. Add 1/2 c. vodka and simmer 10 minutes until reduced and thickened. Add basil and cream, heat slowly. Toss mixture with cooked pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
For those of you familiar with Italian Wedding Soup (commonly consists of meatballs, pasta and spinach), here is a variation by delish.com called Italian Wedding Pasta. And friends - prepare to fall in love.
Here's the breakdown ... the biggest pain in the arse factor that you're going to find with this particular recipe is making the meatballs, but after trying one of these solo outside of the pasta, I have a feeling that I might steal the meatball portion of this recipe if I ever make spaghetti and meatballs. These meatballs would freeze really well, so if you were inclined to make a ton of them, you could stockpile them in your freezer for use in this casserole, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.
|I'm a pain in the arse to assemble, but you will love me!|
I also like this recipe because in addition to having two of my favorite ingredients: cheese and pasta - it also has spinach. This could be a sneaky way of incorporating veggies in my someday kids' diets - especially if they take after their father and not me.
Italian Wedding Pasta from delish.com
1 lb. ground meat (recipe suggests turkey, I used ground pork because it was on sale ...)
1 1/4 c. unseasoned breadcrumbs
3 cloves garlic (you're supposed to squeeze one of them through a garlic press - I do not have that implement, so I just minced the hell out of the garlic and am pleased to report that there will be no vampire attacks in my household for the forseeable future)
1 c. Romano cheese (I used an entire small tub of the grated stuff from Sargento)
1 box of bowtie pasta
1 T. cornstarch (didn't have ... used flour ... I'm bad)
1 1/2 c. 2% milk
1 can (14 oz) chicken broth
9 oz. fresh baby spinach
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cake pan with tin foil. Make your meatballs: Combine meat, garlic and 1/4 c. of the Romano cheese. Form into balls (1 inch - should make 36 ... I did not count), bake for 20 minutes.
While you're assembling meatballs, start boiling a large pot of water for your pasta. Once water is boiling, add a little salt and the pasta - cooking for two minutes less than the package dictates. (That's about 8 minutes - keep in mind that you're going to be throwing this in the oven - your pasta will continue to cook as it absorbs the chicken broth, etc.)
Whisk together your milk and the cornstarch (or flour if your pantry's a mess like mine and Argo goes missing). Once the pasta's done, drain and add the milk mixture and chicken broth back in with the cooked pasta. Heat to a boil and boil for one minute to thicken the sauce. Stir in spinach, 3/4 c. of Romano and your baked meatballs (again, they might be not entirely done - they will keep baking in the oven). Top the pasta with the rest of the Romano cheese and bake for 20 minutes.
Verdict: I'm in love with this dish. I have some in the freezer right now to check out its leftover quotient. If it freezes beautifully, I think I might weep with joy. (Update: 11/1/08 - It freezes beautifully. I love you pasta!)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
But as my luck would have it, it is a very foggy day in Minnesota this morning and I have responsibilities at my real job that I need to take care of. So Ina, my apologies for standing you up and please know that you should really travel to Minnesota in the fall or summer. If you do, you can help yourself to some of the bounty of produce that our local farmers harvest and enjoy balmy weather – not this icy shit that we are currently experiencing.
I watched the Steakhouse Classics Revisited last night and will make the filet mignon soon. I won’t even flinch if Ryan decides to put ketchup on it.
This isn't Erin, this is my buddy Anne, sporting her contribution to the cause. And ignore the crappy quality of the photo. I was experimenting with my new career of shooting pictures of food and I forgot to turn the flash back on.
This recipe served me well when I was living in Malta, partly because I didn't have a rolling pin and mostly because that even if I would have had one, I still wouldn't roll out pie crust. (I'm not good with rolling pins, just ask my mom.)
This one is from the "new" Rossville cookbook and was submitted by Clara Leas. I don't think I ever met Clara, but love this pie crust.
No-Roll Pie Crust
2 c. flour
2/3 c. cooking oil
3 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix all ingredients into a bowl, stir with a fork. Form into a large ball with hands; divide in half for 2 crusts. Pat into pie pan. If you need a double pie crust, pat half on waxed paper.
I used this one to make apple pie. I'd just slice up my apples, dot them with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Then I'd bake for about 20 minutes, or until the apples were tender and the crust was nicely browned. (Actually, I could never see the crust - it was under too many apples. Tender apples ... best bet to guess if pie is done.)
One of the best things to come out of my subscription to Bon Appetit magazine is this recipe for Eva Marie Saint's apple pie. If you don't want the hassle of rolling out a crust, like shortbread and just like pie in general - this is the pie for you. My buddy Zach can eat the whole pie.
Eva Marie Saint's Apple Pie
from Bon Appetit - 2005
1 1/2 lb. apples (that's about three apples - use tart ones like Granny Smith or Cortland), peeled and sliced very thinly
1 c. cold water
3 T. fresh lemon juice (I use the concentrate stuff)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. butter, softened (that's a stick y'all)
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (just eyeball it ...)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel and slice the apples, soaking them for about 30 minutes in cold water with lemon juice. (I've heard that people have skipped this step and it's fine ...) Combine the dry ingredients with the butter and use a pastry cutter or a fork to incorporate the "dough." Reserve 1/4 c. of the crumbs and pat the rest into a 9-inch pie pan. Arrange the apple slices around the pan, sprinkle with cinnamon, top with the rest of the dough and bake for 50-60 minutes.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Now that I've told you what a neurotic kid I was, I'm now appealing to you from the depths of cyberspace. I think I hate sweet potatoes, but I think I want to make sweet potato fries because if you bake them, they are better than regular potato fries that you bake (something about less carbs, more complicated carbs ... I'm not sure, I've just read the buzz - sweet potato fries are the way to go.)
Anyone got any sweet potato musings they'd like to share with me? How about squash recipes? That's another fall favorite that scares the crap out of me.
|Baking, baking, baking|
Ryan had company the other night, so I figured that I'd make something for him and his friend Derrick to snack on (because men cannot live on apple pie alone ...). I had found this recipe for homemade cheese crackers on About.com awhile ago and it was in my "to-make" pile.
Now I'm going to be honest - at first I thought these were a pain in the right ol' arse. Part of it was that I hadn't let the butter soften long enough and then there was the whole stirring aspect and then forming the crackers into little balls ... but after they had cooled down and I started eating these crackers in earnest, I realized that these were damn tasty - kind of like a poor man's Cheez It. And if I ever get into the organic thing and have a hankering for crackers, this would be worthwhile to make because you know exactly what is in the cracker that you're eating.
So without further ado - the poor man's Cheez It.
1/2 c. butter, softened (do NOT skip this step! The butter will know and will thwart you!)
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. dried chives
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cheese and butter. Mix together until well blended. Add flour, salt and chives to butter mixture and mix until well blended. (HINT: This is where I got out my mini food processor and blended the ingredients that way ... seriously - do yourself a favor - use your food processor if you have it.) Form dough into one-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls using the bottom of a drinking glass that has also been dusted with flour. (Again ... hint to be followed - otherwise the crackers will stick to your drinking glass and cause much annoyance.) Prick each cracker several times with a fork. Bake crackers for 12-15 minutes until very lightly browned around the edges (I left them in for about 20 ...). Remove to a wire rack to cool.
The recipe also claims that these freeze well - for some reason, I don't ever see these lasting to the freezing stage unless I make about 100 of them, which I probably will never do.
Variations: The recipe called for cheddar cheese - I had a chunk in the freezer and got sick of grating it, so I grabbed the pre-shredded bag of cheddar and Monterey Jack that was in my cheese drawer. Cheddar would have made it saltier overall, but I thought the cracker tasted pretty awesome. I'd also be curious to see what a Parmesan cracker would taste like.
I also did not have dried chives in my pantry, so I used dried thyme. Which I don't think really did anything ... maybe next time I would use rosemary? Also, I'd maybe do a dusting of sea salt on the top of the cracker prior to baking.
Let me preface this post by saying: This dessert is a pain in the arse. But man ... as much as I griped at the time I was making this, I was stunned when these babies came out of the oven.
I found this recipe on a blog and that particular domestic goddess adapted this recipe from the mother of domestic goddesses: Ina Garten a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa. Ms. Garten is not my favorite Food Network celebrity, but if I ever had the chance to meet her, I'm sure I'd make an embarrassment of myself because she is that awesome.
One of the particular things that I like about Garten's approach to cooking is that she's not afraid to use a shortcut. In this case, her shortcut is using puff pastry for the turnover. Another disclaimer: Puff pastry is kind of spendy, in my humble opinion. The stuff I got at the market was $4.50 for two sheets which translated into 8 turnovers. And while I was taken aback at first, I can say now that I'm probably going to use puff pastry in the future, even if it won't become a staple in my pantry.
From Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa” (Food Network)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the orange zest and orange juice in a bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and then cut them in 3/4-inch dice. Immediately toss the apples with the zest and juice to prevent them from turning brown. Add the cherries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 1/4 pounds tart apples, such as Empire or Granny Smith (3 apples)
- 3 tablespoons dried cherries (I made do with Craisins)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 package (17.3 ounces, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flour a board and lightly roll each sheet of puff pastry to a 12 by 12-inch square. Cut each sheet into 4 smaller squares and keep chilled until ready to use.
Brush the edges of each square with the egg wash and neatly place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on half of the square. Fold the pastry diagonally over the apple mixture and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Transfer to a sheet pan. Make 2 small slits, and bake for 20 minutes, until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes: I've been reading a lot of The Pioneer Woman lately and she's been using a lot of whiskey in her cooking lately ... the orange juice and the zest really add to this, but I'm curious what it would taste like if I used whiskey instead of OJ. Hmm ... Another thought - what about walnuts or pecans in this dish? I think that would also be delightful.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
|Oh, I am a cheesy, melty pan of goodness!|
This dish is one of my ma's recipes. I was in junior high or high school when she started making this and I remember that it became a staple. It's not my favorite spaghetti dish of mom's - my personal favorite is when she opens up the cans of Chef Boyardee, dumps them in with some browned hamburger and puts a ton of garlic powder in the concoction. Nothin' says lovin' like that particular recipe.
By Mama Sharon
1 lb. ground beef
1 3/4 c. milk
1 lg. jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce
3/4 c. shredded Velveeta (plus 1/2 c. more for topping)
12 oz. spaghetti
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
Brown hamburger, add spaghetti sauce. Heat, break spaghetti into thirds and cook according to pasta directions. Drain and rinse. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in flour and gradually add milk. Cook until boiling. Add 3/4 c. shredded cheese, cook until melted.
Layer in a 9x13 pan - 1/2 spaghetti; 1/2 meat sauce; 1/2 cheese sauce. Repeat with remainders. Top with the remaining Velveeta and Parm cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
Eat. Love. Enjoy.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Anyway - that was a weird rant ... back on topic! Now, as the proprietor of not one but THREE blogs, you can probably tell I'm something of a blog addict. And this cooking blog came from reading a lot of excellent ones that are out there on the blogosphere.
I thought I'd take today and share a handful of the really good ones that I like:
1) This one IS first because I wouldn't have half the recipes in my bookmarks without it: www.foodgawker.com I'm going to warn you right off - if you like cooking, you might become an addict after visiting what has to be classified as foodie porn. People from all over the world (I get aggravated by the metric system on a regular basis with this site ...) submit pictures and suggestions to the moderators of this site, who in turn post the creme de la creme of food recipes from the blogosphere on this site on a daily basis.
2) ThePioneerWoman.com is also an incredible web site that I access daily. I wouldn't go as far as saying the PW adheres to the "simple and lazy" mantra, but she has some of the most accessible recipes that I've found on the Net. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a writing style that I really admire.
3) Dragon's Kitchen. Again, not the "simple and lazy" category, but this person has some incredible recipes up her sleeve.
4) I include this one because I admire this person's tenacity: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
This woman has vowed to post one recipe per day for a year using nothing but her collection of crock pots. Not every recipe is a winner, but there are some good things to be found.
|This is a pan of perfection|
Saturday, November 1, 2008
But happy days are ahead. I took pictures of the baked spaghetti (I made that last weekend when the Swensons were over and before letting them dig in, I had to snap a couple of pics - I'm such a gracious host) and I even modified the awesome macaroni and cheese to make a decadent no-bake version. And yes, I took pictures of that - even before Ryan spooned his up he asked me if I had a chance to take pictures yet.
Thanks everyone for reading - it has been awesome to hear feedback and to even have my mom ask how one of her co-workers knew how this blog existed (thanks Facebook!). There's lots more coming ahead and I'm really excited.
Some things to look forward to:
- Interview with one of my favorite cooks in the whole, wide world! My buddy Erin is renowned for his corn bread, his olive flatbread, his homemade mac and cheese, his vodka penne pasta, his tres leche cake - hell, I don't think I've ate ANYTHING of his that I haven't adored. He's also great about handing out leftovers.
- An Italian dinner party with my friend Will. Hell, he hasn't scheduled it yet and I just volunteered to help if he needed (yeah - my Italian skills go as far as spaghetti and tiramisu - it will be the blind leading the blind.).
- More awesome recipes than you can shake a stick at.
Depending on how things go, I might increase the frequency of how often I post, because I have a lot of seasonal recipes up my sleeve and what's the point of giving you a pumpkin cheesecake recipe in April? So please stay tuned!
Ham & Bean Soup - crockpot method
1 lb. dried white beans (I use great northern, baby limas are also good)
1 ham hock (look near the chicken gizzards if you're having a hard time finding this rarity)
3 carrots, sliced (since this is overnight, kind of give 'em a medium density so they don't fall apart in your crock)
2 celery, sliced
**Mom has also been known to peel and slice a couple of potatoes into her crockpot ... it's good, but these days I'm trying to avoid carbohydrate overload. But I'm eating bean soup ... never mind.
Dump the lot together in a 6-quart crockpot, fill the rest of the space with water and start cooking overnight on the "low" setting. (No sense in rushing this awesomeness.) In the morning, the hock will be ready to strip the meat that's hunkering around the bone. It's kind of a disgusting process, but take a slotted spoon, take the hock out and use a fork to get the good stuff away from the fat and the bone and put it back into the soup. If you've cooked this for a good 8 or so hours, the beans will be tender enough to eat, but if you're from my family - why would you? Park your crockpot at the "keep warm" setting. This soup will be darn near perfect at around lunch time. It will be even better for dinner. (This is the point where Ryan is glaring at me to shut the crock pot off. So I will, my mom probably wouldn't.)
Bean soup freezes relatively well (if you have any leftovers ...), but I'm warning you - this needs a ton of salt. I usually let people add their own, but it definitely needs some sodium. You could probably toss a bay leaf in as well when this is cooking, but other than salt and pepper, I keep the spices to a minimum. This soup will stand on its own.