Friday, December 29, 2006

Bread Machine and Sugar Bread

For Christmas, one of my gifts from Gibby was a breadmaker.

I am excited. It can do everything. We will hopefully be making a lot more bread now, since the machine will do all of the kneading and whatnot for me. We have a good recipe picked out for our first foray into bread-machining when we get back to Maryland (we are currently in Connecticut for the holidays).

On another bread-related note, last night my mom and I baked some Suikerbroode - Dutch sugar bread. I don't have the recipe typed up on this computer so it will have to wait until we're back in Maryland, but it was good. It's wheaty and spicy with lots of sugar and cinnamon and cardamom swirled through it. I'll post the recipe with pictures and a more detailed review in a few days. :-)

I hope everyone (all 3 of you?) is having a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oreo Truffles

I made these tonight to take to my work Christmas party tomorrow. Holy crap, these are amazing. And they're pretty easy. I had some issues with dunking them in the white chocolate coating, but then I made an effort to decorate with some melted semi-sweet chocolate and they turned out looking kind of pretty. I put each one in a mini-cupcake wrapper so people can take one easily. I am so excited. I will definitely make these a billion times in the future.

Oreo Truffle Balls
Recipe from desertculinary

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
16 ounces oreos, broken into quarters
Enough best quality white chocolate chopped to measure about 2 cups

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese for a couple minutes to smooth out. Add in just over 1/2 of the broken oreos and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the rest of the oreos and mix just until combined - some bigger pieces are ok.

Cover bowl and chill for at least 2-3 hours. Scoop out dough with a heaping teaspoon and roll into 50-60 balls. Cover and place back in the refrigerator to firm up.

Slowly melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until most of the chunks are smooth. Remove and stir to melt the rest of the chocolate. Dip each truffle ball and set aside on a silpat or parchment paper. If the chocolate mixture starts to firm up, place back over the double boiler to slowly remelt, or gently rewarm in the microwave. Store in the refrigerator after all are dipped.

Yield: Mine made about 40, but the recipe yields 50 to 60 apparently.

Picture of my truffles!
truffles

Monday, December 18, 2006

Homemade Marshmallows

For dinner tonight we had Spaghetti Pie and it was tasty and I am set for lunch. However, this is not the point of this post.

Yesterday and today I made homemade marshmallows to give some of my friends as part of their Christmas gifts (along with a tin of hot chocolate and a mug). It was fun and made me feel all hardcore-chef, which was cool. They're actually surprisingly easy as long as you have a mixer and a candy thermometer. They ended up looking really nice. I cut them into one-inch cubes, so probably only one at a time would fit into a mug. I am also curious as to how these would hold up as s'mores. Hmm. Who knows! Anyway. I like these and think they are going to go over very well as gifts. I would make these again, absolutely.

The recipe was originally from The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. Her recipe also calls for toasted coconut to go on the top of the marshmallows, but I didn't want to do that so I just made the standard recipe. You could also do interesting variations like adding peppermint extract, topping it with chocolate chips or candy canes, etc.

Also, a note! When you're cutting the marshmallows, wet the knife before you start slicing so the knife doesn't stick. It's very helpful.

Homemade Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water, plus 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Pour the marshmallow batter into an 8 by 12-inch non-metal pan and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.

Remove the marshmallows from the pan and cut into squares. Roll the sides of each piece carefully in confectioners' sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature.

Yield: 20-40 marshmallows

Mine, resting before being packaged:
mallows

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Vegetable Cheese Melt

I meant to make this last week but couldn't, so instead I made it today. I got the recipe off the CLBB but it's apparently originally from the Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian cookbook.

It was simple and cheesy but kind of bland. Even with all my changes (double garlic, added some fontina and pecorino romano cheeses, some butter, etc)! If I made it again I'd have to tweak it a lot - maybe some different vegetables, different herbs, etc. It was okay but just not flavorful enough to be a make-again.

Vegetable Cheese Melt
4 cups chopped broccoli florets, steamed
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T chopped fresh basil, or 1 T dried
1 T chopped fresh thyme, or 1 t dried
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
1 8-oz loaf French bread

Preheat oven to 375 F. in a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cheeses, basil, thyme, garlic, pepper and salt. Split the bread lengthwise almost all the way through; spread open. Fill it with the broccoli mixture, then wrap in foil. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes. Cut the loaf crosswise into 4 portions.

Yield: 4 servings

Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos

I haven't posted since Tuesday because I have been sick and unable to eat. I got a flu shot on Tuesday that made me nauseous til Friday, and I have bronchitis on top of that. Ugh. But then Friday night I got better so we went out for sushi, and tonight I was finally able to cook again, hooray!

We made Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos from the October 2006 issue of Cooking Light. They were very easy and tasty but we had a few suggestions. First, it needs more chipotle. I don't know how much more, but more. The flavor is intermittent, and we wished it was more prominent. Second, as the recipe notes, the bean mixture probably would work better as a taco filling because it's hard to keep on the chips. If I made nachos with it again I'd use the Scoops chips so it would hold everything. And last, the soy crumbles kind of got lost with everything else going on. They add a nice nutritional benefit but could probably just be replaced with some more beans or something. Anyway. All that said, we might make this again in taco form.

Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos
The spicy bean mixture also makes a good filling for tacos and burritos. Look for meatless crumbles near the tofu and other soy products in the produce section.

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 (12-ounce) package meatless fat-free crumbles (such as Lightlife Smart Ground)
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 cups baked corn tortilla chips (6 ounces)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons fat-free sour cream

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add bell pepper, chopped onion, and crumbles; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove 1 chile and 1 tablespoon sauce from can; reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Chop chile; add chile, sauce, beans, and tomatoes to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro. Arrange 1 1/3 cups chips on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 1 cup bean mixture, 1/3 cup lettuce, about 2 1/2 tablespoons avocado, 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Latkes

Sunday night we had Black Bean Chilaquile because Giant had some lovely Bright Lights chard in stock again, hoorah. Gibby liked it but maybe wasn't the hugest fan of the chard. Oh well. It continues to pass the Lunchbox test and is especially tasty warmed up and scooped with tortilla chips.

Last night we had Baked Potato Soup, one of my favorite soups. Gibby liked this a lot and all was happy.

Tonight we had potato latkes from a box. Yummy as always. I make these every year around Hannukah even though I'm definitely not Jewish and don't celebrate Hannukah. I really just enjoy latkes, especially with sour cream and applesauce. Yum. The mix I use is Manischwitz or something like that and is found in the kosher aisle of the grocery store.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vegetable Biryani

Last night we had Vegetable Biryani again and it was tasty. I forgot to buy chickpeas for some reason so we omitted those, but it was still good. Although I missed the chickpeas. But that's ok.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers

Tonight I made Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers again. Gibby liked them and all was well. I was nervous he wouldn't like the chipotle mayo but he did and that is super since this is one of my favorite things to make.

We also discovered that Trader Joe's Garlic Fries are vastly inferior to their Chipotle-Ranch fries, which are amazing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mashed Potato Gratin

Someone on my cooking forum reviewed this recipe from the November 2006 issue of Cooking Light and said that it was excellent but more suited as a main dish than a side dish (as it was labeled). So I decided to have a little comfort-food meal with this recipe paired with some salad and fruit.

I liked it a lot but think it probably should have remained just a side dish. I didn't feel it was substantial enough to carry a meal as a main dish. But it was definitely tasty and just cheesy enough without being overpowering. I would definitely make this again, as a side dish.

Mashed Potato Gratin
Although Yukon gold potatoes give this cheesy gratin extra buttery flavor and color, russets also will work.

4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 cup (4 ounces) fontina cheese, shredded and divided
3/4 cup (3 ounces) Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup warm 1% low-fat milk (100° to 110°)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place potatoes in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to pan. Add 3/4 cup fontina cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, butter, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to pan; mash with a fork or potato masher until well combined. Add warm milk to pan; continue mashing potato mixture until desired consistency. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup fontina cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Gruyère cheese. Cover with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; remove and discard foil.

Preheat broiler.

Broil gratin 5 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.


Yield: 14 servings

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tofu Fried Rice

This is a simple recipe and is pretty quick to throw together. And it comes out looking a lot like restaurant tofu.

The concensus was that it was a good, solid fried rice recipe with the added benefit of being lower in fat than a traditional fried rice recipe. It was easy to make and was mostly tasty - however, I had an issue with it. Apparently my wok is oxidizing and left this subtle metallic taste that only I could detect, since I'm really sensitive to iron content since I don't eat meat (for example, I can't eat Total cereal because it tastes like aluminum foil to me). Anyway so this put a damper on my enjoyment of the recipe, and indicates that I either need to fix my wok or buy a new one, because that probably isn't too healthy.

I was originally going to file it away as a "worth keeping but probably won't make again" recipe, but now that I've pinpointed the wok as the culprit of the odd taste I'm rethinking my decision. I would probably try making this again in a different pan and see how it turns out.

Tofu Fried Rice
Cooking Light, September 2004
Using frozen peas and carrots plus bottled minced garlic and ginger speeds up preparation of this simple Chinese standby. Keep any leftover sake tightly capped in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or you can substitute a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar for the sake.

2 cups uncooked instant rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices green onions
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon bottled minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Thinly sliced green onions (optional)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

While rice cooks, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan. Add eggs to pan; cook 1 minute or until done, breaking egg into small pieces. Remove from pan. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to pan. Add 1 cup onions, peas and carrots, garlic, and ginger; sauté 2 minutes.

While vegetable mixture cooks, combine sake, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil. Add cooked rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tofu, egg, and soy sauce mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.


Yield: 4 servings

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cheese & Bean Enchiladas

Tonight I made Cheese & Bean Enchiladas. Boyfriend has avoided eating beans for a long time for some odd reason, and I largely rely on beans as a staple of my vegetarian diet, so it was time to introduce him to beans. He is a big fan of Mexican food and cheese and sour cream, so I made these enchiladas. It worked out well. He approved of the recipe and all was well, and hopefully he will enjoy beans in their myriad variations on our dinner table.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies

Today I went to a cookie swap, the first meeting of our local Cooking Light Supper Club. It was fun. We had some tasty cookies and it was nice to meet some more people in the area. The cookies I brought were Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies, found on the CLBB.

I liked them a lot. I like the cranberry-orange combination in general, but it was nice and kind of unexpected as a cookie. I was a little bit concerned while Boyfriend and I were making them this morning because the dough seemed extremely painfully dry and crumbly. But it actually came together and worked just fine. But if you decide to make them, keep this in mind and do not panic. Anyway. These cookies are tasty and I would make them again.

Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies
Originally from One Smart Cookie cookbook, posted on CLBB

1/4 cup butter -- softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 packed cup packed brown sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries -- coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips -- optional (1/2 to 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 deg.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add egg white, orange juice, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In a small bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add cranberries and white chocolate (if using) stir just until blended. Do not overmix.

Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2" apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed w/ nonstick spray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 1 1/2-2 dozen

A PICTURE OF MY COOKIES!
cookies

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Index of Recipes

I created indexes of all of my recipes so that it will be easier to locate specific dishes. I divided them into two sections: sweet and savory. Then within those categories there are smaller sub-categories. Please let me know if any of the links are broken so I can fix them. :)

You can click the links on the left (under "Recipe Index") or click here:
Savory Dishes
Sweet Dishes

Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup

Tonight we decided to make this potato-cheese soup recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant website. I am generally a fan of their stuff so I was excited for this soup.

It is very straightforward and simple, and is indeed quite creamy. I liked it. It would probably be even creamier with full-fat ingredients (I used reduced-fat cheeses and milk). If I make this again I probably wouldn't puree it, I'd probably just mush it with a potato masher to leave it chunky. When I pureed it, it became completely liquefied, which was good but didn't feel quite substantial. I would make this recipe again.

Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup
This is one of our customers' all-time favorite soups and probably the richest soup we offer. Cream cheese is our secret for giving it a velvety texture. You may substitute Neufchatel cheese which is lower in fat, tastes very similar, and is also very creamy.

Reprinted from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, ©1987


3 to 4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 large potatoes, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups milk (or part cream)
4 ounces of cream cheese or Neufchatel
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley

In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Add the stock or water and dill and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Puree the vegetables with the cream cheese and milk in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the soup pot. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheddar cheese and reheat gently.

Serve each cup or bowl garnished with chopped fresh parsley. A simple green salad is the perfect complement because opposites attract.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ravioli, Calzones, and Broccoli

Wednesday night I made Toasted Ravioli again, which I always enjoy.

I made it with roasted broccoli, from a recipe I tried like 4-5 years ago and never made again. After a bit of research I discovered it is from an old episode of Cooking Live with Sara Moulton on the Food Network. Anyway. It's very very yummy. I like it as a cooking method for broccoli. I will make this again.

Roasted Broccoli
1 lb broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 500°. Wash and drain broccoli. Pat dry. Cut into florets. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange florets in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 12 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer broccoli to a serving bowl. Toss with butter and season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Photo added on May 31, 2008:
broccoli


Last night I made Calzones from a quick recipe found on Baking Sheet. Pretty quick and simple, but the pizza dough I bought was kind of sub-par and I wasn't impressed. I don't think it's the recipe's fault but I still probably won't repeat it.

Calzones
1 recipe basic pizza dough, risen once
cheeses: mozarella, ricotta
veggies (pre-cooked) : broccoli, spinach; mushrooms
meats (pre-cooked): sausage, chicken
marinara sauce: optional

Preheat oven to 400F.

Divide the pizza dough into 6 equal pieces and let rest for a few minutes. Working with once piece at a time, roll out into a thin, flat circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Spread half of the circle with filling of your choice (a little bit of sauce topped with a pile of meat/cheese/veggies) and fold over the other half of the circle. Pinch tightly with the prongs of a fork to seal. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cut a small slit or two into each calzone with a sharp knife and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.
Makes 6.

Note: The calzones can be frozen when they are filled but unbaked. They will take longer to bake, but they can be placed directly into the oven from the freezer - on a baking sheet, of course.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shrimp Florentine with Caramelized Garlic

I thought I'd make a fancy "Hooray for boyfriend moving in" meal tonight, so I picked Shrimp Florentine wtih Caramelized Garlic from the March 2006 issue of Cooking Light. I had high hopes for it. I decided to serve it with Giada's Lemon Parsley Bruschetta, which I've made several times and always enjoy.

The pasta was disappointing. It wasn't bad, it was just kind of bland and not great. It was the first meal I've really made for him before so I am kind of pissed off that it turned out mediocre. The lemon bruschetta was - I thought - great as always, but he didn't particularly like it. I would still recommend it for people who like lemon though.

Shrimp Florentine with Caramelized Garlic
Make sure to buy frozen loose-leaf spinach for this recipe since you can measure just what you need. Purchase fresh, peeled garlic to save on prep time.

Garlic:
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
20 garlic cloves, peeled
Cooking spray

Shrimp:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon butter
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups frozen loose-leaf spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
4 cups hot cooked linguine (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare garlic, combine 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and garlic in a bowl. Place garlic mixture on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

To prepare shrimp, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 3 minutes or until done. Remove shrimp from pan.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Stir in half-and-half, broth, cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper, and black pepper. Cook 1 minute or until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp and spinach; cook 1 minute. Combine shrimp mixture, garlic mixture, and pasta in a large bowl; toss well. Serve immediately.


Yield: 4 servings

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was good. We had tasty food.

Then I ate leftovers while reading my brother's advance copy of Honey Badgers by Jamison Odone. Yo Jamie, what up.

The menu was as follows:
Cheeseball - my mom's recipe
Onion dip - my mom's recipe
Turkey - Mom
Stuffing - Mom
Mashed potatoes - Mom
Squash Casserole - Paula Deen
Green Bean Casserole - Campbell's
Apple, Walnut, and Mixed Greens Salad with Zinfandel-Cranberry Vinaigrette - Cooking Light
Chocolate Pecan Pie - Food & Wine, 11/05
Cranberry-Walnut Upside Down Cake - Gourmet, 11/05
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars - Bon Appetit, October 2006
Pumpkin Pie - Costco
Apple Pie - Costco

Here are the recipes.

Apple, Walnut, and Mixed Greens Salad with Zinfandel-Cranberry Vinaigrette
Cooking Light, November 2005

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup zinfandel or other fruity dry red wine
1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil
10 cup gourmet salad greens
3 cups cubed Gala apple (about 2 apples)
1 cup thinly sliced Walla Walla or other sweet onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

Combine cranberries and apple juice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain cranberries; discard apple juice. Set cranberries aside.

Bring wine and cranberry juice to a boil in pan, and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 8 minutes). Pour wine mixture into a medium bowl; add shallots, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Gradually add oil, stirring with a whisk.

Combine cranberries, greens, apple, and onion in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts.

Yield: 10 servings
Lauren's Notes: We were too lazy to make the dressing so we used a bottled cranberry vinaigrette. We used candied walnuts instead of normal walnuts, and threw in some pears. It was pretty good. Nothing fantastic or repeatable, but good.

Squash Casserole
Paula Deen & Friends Cookbook, 2005. page 48

6 medium yellow summer squash (approximately)
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
10 soda crackers, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp butter, melted
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.

2. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place the squash and onion in about 2 inches of salted water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 10 minutes to 12 minutes. Drain the squash. In the same pot, mash the squash and onion with a fork; you should have about 2 cups of cooked squash. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese, the mayonnaise, and the crumbled soda crackers. Stir in the egg and butter. Taste; season with salt and pepper as needed. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.

Yield: 8-10 servings
Lauren's Notes: This is wonderful and is the best squash casserole I have had. It even passed the Lunchbox Test. I will definitely make it again.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE SQUARES
Bon Appetit, October 2006

Crust
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 cup pecan halves (about 4 ounces)
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Topping
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Using on/off turns, blend first 4 ingredients in processor until coarse meal forms. Add pecans; using on/off turns, process until nuts are chopped. Add oats; process using on/off turns until mixture is moistened but not clumping. Press 3 1/2 cups crumbs onto bottom of prepared square pan (do not clean processor). Transfer remaining crumbs to lined baking sheet. Bake crumbs on sheet until golden, stirring once, about 12 minutes. Cool crumbs. Bake crust until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.

For filling:
Blend all ingredients in same processor until smooth. Spread filling over warm crust; bake until set, dry in center, and beginning to rise at edges, about 20 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

For topping:
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Spread evenly over hot filling. Bake until topping sets and bubbles at edges, about 5 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Sprinkle crumbs over topping; gently press into topping. Cover; chill until cold, about 2 hours. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Cut into squares.

Yield: 16 bars
Lauren's Notes: I thought these were fantastic. They were a little bit time consuming but worth it. I would definitely make these again.
pumpkin

CRANBERRY WALNUT UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
Gourmet, November 2005

For topping
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (7 oz; do not thaw if frozen)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (3 oz), toasted

For cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Special equipment: a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet
Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream

Make topping:
Melt butter in skillet over moderate heat, then swirl to coat bottom and side of skillet and stir in brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle cranberries and walnuts evenly over butter mixture and remove from heat.

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately in batches with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined. (Do not overmix.)

Bake cake:
Heat topping in skillet over moderately high heat until it starts to bubble, then gently spoon batter over topping and spread evenly. Quickly transfer to oven; bake until cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside edge of pan, then invert a serving plate over pan and invert cake onto plate. Cool completely on plate on rack, 1 hour. Serve cake at room temperature.

Cooks' note:
Cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings
Lauren's Notes: I LOVED this cake. It is even better chilled the next day. It was fun to make, very very pretty, and yummy. I would definitely make this again, especially at Christmastime.
cake

Chocolate Pecan Pie
Food & Wine magazine, November 2005

PIE DOUGH
* 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch dice
* 1/4 cup ice water

FILLING
* 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 3/4 cup light corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* Pinch of kosher salt
* Unsweetened whipped cream

1. MAKE THE DOUGH: In a food processor, combine the 2 cups of flour with the sugar and salt; process to mix. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and process until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. With the machine on, slowly pour in the ice water and process just until it's incorporated. Transfer the dough to a bowl and knead a few times. Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. Let the dough soften slightly. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to a round, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it over a 9-inch glass pie plate. Press the dough into the pie plate, being careful not to stretch it. Using scissors, trim the overhang to 1 1/2 inches. Fold the dough under itself and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate the pie shell until firm, at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Prick the chilled pie shell all over with the tines of a fork. Line the shell with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Fold the foil over the weights so the side of the pie shell is exposed. Bake the shell for 25 minutes, or until the side and rim are golden. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking the shell until the bottom is beginning to brown, about 15 minutes longer. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

4. MAKE THE FILLING: Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, stirring once. Transfer the pecans to a plate. In a small microwave-safe glass bowl, melt the butter with the chocolate in a microwave oven. Stir until blended and smooth. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and add the brown sugar. Stir in the eggs, corn syrup, vanilla and kosher salt, then stir in the pecans.

5. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set in the center. Let the pie cool completely. Serve with whipped cream.

Yield: 1 pie
Lauren's Notes: We skipped the dough and just used Pillsbury pie crust dough. But the filling was AMAZING. I will never make normal pecan pie again. It must always be chocolate from now on. Yum.
pie

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Minestrone Soup

Tonight I made minestrone soup, from the October 2006 issue of Real Simple. It's very much a "let's open this can and pour it into a pot" kind of recipe, so I was a little bit apprehensive. I must say though, I was very impressed. For the tremendous lack of effort required, it yielded fantastic results. It even looked pretty! How bizarre! I would definitely make this again.

My only change was that I added some cooked orzo pasta during the last step. I'm sorry, but minestrone is supposed to have pasta in it. I was surprised that this recipe didn't include pasta. Orzo was just what I had on hand, but you could also use pastas like macaroni, ditalini, and orecchiette.

Minestrone
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 32-ounce container vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini (or other white) beans
1 15-ounce can kidney beans (optional)
1 9- or 16-ounce package frozen green beans
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 5-ounce bag fresh spinach or one 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan
Crusty bread

In a large pot, over medium heat, bring the tomatoes and their liquid to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth, white beans, and kidney beans (if using) and bring to a simmer. Add the green beans and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and spinach and stir until wilted. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve with the bread.

Yield: 4 servings
(Note: It actually yielded more like 6-8 servings. You can freeze the leftovers)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fettuccine and Tofu with Peanut Sauce

I've avoided making this recipe for a long time because the name is just so stupid ("finger-licking?"). But lately I've been eyeing it more and more because it just sounded so tasty. I finally gave in and decided to make it. It's very good!!! Maybe not as awesome as Stir-Fried Tofu and Spring Greens with Peanut Sauce (one of my favorites), but it's still very delicious. It was a little soupy, so next time I'd cut back on the amount of vegetable broth. I would make this again, but I will continue to refer to it as simply "Fettuccine and Tofu with Peanut Sauce" because it sounds more appealing to me that way.


Fettuccine and Tofu with Finger-Licking Peanut Sauce
Cooking Light, April 2001

This dish has endless variations: Substitute chicken, pork, or shrimp for the tofu and almost any kind of pasta for the fettuccine. Or add vegetables of your choice.

1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (Note: I used veggie broth)
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chile paste with garlic
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 pound firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 cup (2-inch) sliced green onions
1 cup shredded carrot

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes, omitting salt and fat. Add tofu, onions, and carrot; drain. Place pasta mixture in a large bowl. Add peanut butter mixture; toss gently.

Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce

Tonight I made this recipe for Tortellini with Mushroom Sauce from Everyday Food magazine, except that I used gnocchi instead of tortellini. Gnocchi are little potato dumplings that are similar to pasta, but squishier. I didn't love them in this recipe, but I still love the mushroom sauce and will continue to make it - just with tortellini, next time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chicken-Fried Portobello Mushrooms

I haven't been feeling well and I've been super stressed out, so that means it is time for comfort food! And to me, that means this recipe for Chicken-Fried Portobello Mushrooms. It's from an old episode of The Best Of.. on the Food Network. It aired maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I've made this several times over the past few years. I don't think I've posted the recipe here though. This is probably one of the most unhealthy recipes I make (though I try to lighten it significantly), but it is also one of my favorites.

Anyway. I use half and half or light cream instead of cream in the gravy (though this makes the gravy less thick than full-fat cream does). I refuse to use 1/4 or 1/2 lb of butter so I just use a few tablespoons. Low-fat milk also is used in a sad attempt to make it less fattening.

Tonight I didn't make the mashed potatoes and instead served it with some boxed au gratin potatoes from Trader Joe's. Yum!

Chicken-Fried Portobello Mushrooms with Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

4 portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup coarsely ground bread crumbs
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 pound melted butter
Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows
Cream Gravy, recipe follows


Stem and brush off surface debris from mushrooms. Whisk milk and eggs until incorporated. Add salt and pepper. Mix flour, bread crumbs, thyme, and additional salt and pepper.

Heat butter in skillet. Dredge mushroom in egg wash, then in crumb mixture. Fry mushroom until golden brown on both sides. Serve with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.

Mashed Potatoes:
5 baking potatoes like russets, unpeeled
1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper


Boil potatoes until fork tender. Drain well. Add remaining ingredients and mash well.


Cream Gravy:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper


Make the roux by melting butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir until incorporated. Add heavy cream and stir well until simmering. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings


Photo added July 12, 2008:
mushroom

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Spaghetti Pie

Also, for dinner I repeated this recipe for Spaghetti Pie. It is going into my "favorites" folder. It's yummy and simple and will provide me with lunches all week at work.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

These cookies from Martha Stewart are the perfect fall/winter cookie. They are delicious!! I like gingerbread and I like chocolate, and they go very well together. I followed the recipe exactly except I just used chocolate chips instead of fancy chopped chocolate. I will definitely make these again, maybe even in a few days. Haha!

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
7 Ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 Teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

4. Heat oven to 325°. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 2 dozen (Note: I got 2 1/2 dozen)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Potato-Kale Soup with Gruyere

I had been planning to make some Potato-Leek Soup but could not find leeks anywhere! So instead I picked up some kale and made this recipe from the October 2002 issue of Cooking Light. I followed the recipe pretty closely but made these substitutions: vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and baby Swiss instead of Gruyere.

It was pretty good, though a little bit bland. Because of the bay leaf (of which I have tons, thanks to Penzeys), it smells a lot like Thanksgiving, which is nice and comforting. I didn't even notice the cheese, which was kind of disappointing. I enjoyed it for dinner but am not keeping any leftovers and probably won't make it again.

Potato-Kale Soup with Gruyère
Dark green, earthy kale contrasts with the mild yellow potatoes, but you can use fresh spinach in place of kale.

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
7 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
4 cups coarsely chopped peeled Yukon gold potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups chopped fresh kale (about 3/4 pound)
1 teaspoon dried basil
9 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, potato, salt, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender.

Stir in kale and basil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until kale is tender. Discard bay leaf. Partially mash potatoes with a potato masher until thick and chunky. Top with cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Greek-Style Picnic Salad

I think it is apparent that I like Greek food, because it's very vegetarian-friendly. I make a lot of things that involve spinach, feta, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives. Tonight's dinner was no exception: all the typical Greek ingredients, combined with rice. I followed the recipe exactly except that I substituted roasted red peppers for the sun-dried tomatoes (not a fan of those).

I liked it, but I am not sure if I will make it again. That will depend on how tasty the leftovers are tomorrow for lunch at work. I think I will call this the Lunchbox Test, because sometimes things are awesome for lunch the next day and that makes the recipe like 10000 times better. Anyway, this was good. I especially liked how quick it was- from start to finish it only took 20 minutes. Nice.

Greek-Style Picnic Salad
Cooking Light, June 2005

2 cups uncooked white rice
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 cups bagged prewashed spinach (about 8 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups (8 ounces) reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
10 lemon wedges (optional)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Cool to room temperature; set aside.

Combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine rice, tomatoes, spinach mixture, cheese, and next 5 ingredients (through chickpeas). Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with nuts; serve with lemon wedges, if desired.


Yield: 10 servings

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Portobello Cheeseburgers & Chipotle Fries

These burgers, from the October 2006 issue of Cooking Light, sounded promising. They aren't traditional "cheeseburgers" since the cheese is mixed into a spread that goes on the bun. And the cheese the recipe calls for is blue cheese. I don't really like blue cheese, so I replaced it with some feta I had on hand. I also replaced the arugula with some fresh spinach. I also followed some reviewer suggestions on the website and added a tidbit of garlic to the mayonnaise. Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special. Maybe it would have been more special if I had used the gorgonzola? I don't know. I did happily eat two, and enjoyed them. I just won't make these again.

The real winner of my meal was the chipotle fries I got from Trader Joe's. Oh my. They're just frozen french fries, but after they're done baking you toss them in a chipotle-sauce. They are fantastic. They went very well with my burgers. I will definitely be buying these again because I loved them!

Portobello Cheeseburgers

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (4-inch) portobello caps
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
4 (2-ounce) sandwich rolls
2 cups trimmed arugula
1/2 cup sliced bottled roasted red bell peppers

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender, turning once. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Combine cheese and mayonnaise, stirring well. Spread about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise mixture over bottom half of each roll; top each serving with 1/2 cup arugula and 2 tablespoons peppers. Place 1 mushroom on each serving, and top with top halves of rolls.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, November 03, 2006

Praline Pumpkin Date Bread

Today I taught cooking to my class, and it was scary because all the kids were having a difficult day staying focused and stuff, but we eventually got everything mixed and baked. We made Praline Pumpkin Date Bread, from Betty Crocker. It is a simple recipe. It easily made two huge 9" loaves. We omitted the dates because the kids wouldn't have liked them (or raisins). Don't skimp on the praline topping because it is sooooo good.

I liked the bread but I liked the topping more. The kids all liked the bread even though they were put off a bit by the idea of eating pumpkin that wasn't in pie form, and the teachers seemed to enjoy it as well. I would make this again in a classroom setting, but I doubt I'd make it again on my own since there are better (albeit more complex) pumpkin bread recipes out there.

Praline Pumpkin Date Bread
Praline Topping
1/3cup packed brown sugar
1/3cup chopped pecans
1tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
Date Bread
1 2/3cups granulated sugar
2/3cup vegetable oil
2teaspoons vanilla
4eggs
1can (15 ounces) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2teaspoons baking soda
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon ground cloves
1cup chopped dates

1. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2x4 1/2x2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9x5x3 inches, with shortening. Note: I used cooking spray.

2. Mix all Praline Topping ingredients until crumbly; set aside.

3. In large bowl, mix granulated sugar, oil, vanilla, eggs and pumpkin. Stir in remaining Date Bread ingredients except dates until well blended. Stir in dates. Pour batter into pans. Sprinkle with topping.

4. Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes, 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour, before slicing.

Yield: 2 loaves

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Squares

I've made these for the past couple of years in the fall, ever since I first got the recipe out of Everyday Food's November 2004 issue. Everyone always really likes them. They taste like pumpkin pie with chocolate chips mixed in, but in bar form like brownies. I like them a lot.

No changes were made to the recipe, but I did bake them for an extra 15 minutes. Pumpkin is very wet, so sometimes it takes longer for these to cook all the way through. Make sure that when you stick a toothpick in it doesn't come out gooey. If that happens, put some foil over the outer edges of the squares and bake for 10-15 more minutes.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin purée (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

4. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.

Notes:
-If you can’t find pumpkin-pie spice, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon each allspice and cloves (all ground).
-In addition to keeping the cake from sticking to the pan, lining the pan with foil makes it easy to lift it out after baking.

Yield: 2 dozen

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rice & Bean Burritos

Of note is that the curry from Monday night is not awesome as a leftover.

Tonight I made Rice & Bean Burritos, with very few tomatoes because my refrigerator decided to destroy a lot of my produce. I love these burritos. I make them at least once a month.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Curred Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew

Tonight I made Curried Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew with Garbanzo Beans from the Dec. 2005 issue of Bon Appetit. It was reviewed highly on the CLBB so I thought I'd give it a shot.

For some bizarre reason I could not find Swiss Chard :( So I substituted kale. Other than that, I followed the recipe as written.

My lentils and beans sucked up all the liquid so this ended up being less of a stew and more of a dry curry. It was almost too dry. Next time I would increase the amount of broth used. I really liked the addition of plain yogurt and kind of wished there was more of that creamy texture in the stew. So don't skip the yogurt. I did like this dish, and I'm taking it to work for lunch tomorrow, but I was not super impressed. It's a nice curry, extremely easy, and quite a healthy dish. I'll save the recipe but I doubt I will make it again.

CURRIED RED LENTIL AND SWISS CHARD STEW WITH GARBANZO BEANS

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 14-ounce cans vegetable broth
1 large bunch or 2 small bunches Swiss chard, tough stalks removed, coarsely chopped (about 12 cups)
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/4 cups)
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
Plain yogurt

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 13 minutes. Mix in curry and cayenne. Add broth and chard. Increase heat; bring to boil. Add lentils and garbanzos; reduce heat to medium.

Cover; simmer until lentils are tender, stirring twice, about 10 minutes. Divide stew among bowls. Top with yogurt.

Yield: 6 servings

Picture from Bon Appetit:
stew

Sunday, October 22, 2006

African Sweet Potato Stew

Tonight for dinner I made African Sweet Potato Stew. I'd made it last winter and liked it. So now that it's sweet potato season again, I decided to make it again. I still like it. Not a super-ultimate favorite, but good and comforting and nice for a cold day when you don't feel like cooking much.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Coconut, Shrimp, and Corn Chowder

This is an extremely easy, simple recipe from Real Simple. Unfortunately, it is not the most exciting recipe and did not impress me. That makes me sad because I usually trust Real Simple recipes to be delicious and wonderful. Maybe if I had used fresh shrimp instead of frozen? I don't know. It was ok for dinner, but I would not make it again.

Coconut, Shrimp, and Corn Chowder
Real Simple, April 2006

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (peeled, if desired), cut into a 1/2-inch dice
3 cups corn (from 6 ears fresh or 16 ounces frozen)
1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, potatoes, and corn and stir to coat. Add the coconut milk, broth, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into individual bowls.

Tip: For a creamier chowder, puree half the recipe before adding the shrimp, then return it to the pot and heat until warmed through.

Yield: 4 servings

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Grilled Camembert and Pumpkin Butter Sandwiches

I have this jar of pumpkin butter from Trader Joe's so I've been looking for more ways to use it up. I was looking at recipes on the Panera website, and came across this recipe for a pumpkin butter and Camembert sandwich. I couldn't afford the Camembert so I went with Brie instead.

Well, turns out that no matter how much I wish I liked Brie, I just can't seem to. I did not enjoy this sandwich, but I think if you like the cheese you would love the sandwich. I wish I liked Brie :( I don't know if I would have liked the Camembert better because I've never had it before. Oh well :(

Grilled Camembert and Pumpkin Butter Sandwiches

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for skillet
8 slices Panera Stone-Milled Rye about 1/2" thick
1/2 cup pumpkin butter
1/2 pound Camembert cheese, thickly sliced
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, washed

Spread 1/2 tablespoon of butter on a slice of bread, then spoon 1 tablespoon of pumpkin butter on top and spread to edges. Lay 2 to 3 thick slices of Camembert over pumpkin butter. Place 2 to 3 basil leaves on top of cheese. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of butter on another slice of rye bread. Lay on top of the basil and press, buttered-side down, into the sandwich. Repeat with remaining sandwich ingredients to create 4 whole sandwiches.

Heat a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and let it melt to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Put the sandwiches in the pan and toast for 2 to 3 minutes until the bread becomes golden and cheese begins to melt. Turn the sandwiches over and toast until golden and cheese is bubbly. Cut the sandwiches in half before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spaghetti Pie

My dinner tonight was tasty. It was not anything particularly special or groundbreaking, there was nothing gourmet or complex about the ingredients or flavors. But it worked very well as a comforting weeknight throw-together meal, and, as a result, I would definitely make it again.

My changes: instead of basic "tomato sauce with garlic," I used TJ's tomato and basil marinara sauce; I substituted soy crumbles for the ground round; and I didn't bother simmering the sauce, I just heated it up with the soy crumbles.

Spaghetti Pie
From Cooking Light, May 2000

1 pound ground round
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans tomato sauce with garlic -- (8-ounce)
1 1/2 cups low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup (2 oz.) 1/3 less-fat cream cheese -- softened
4 cups hot cooked spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
Cooking spray
1 1/3 cups shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese -- (about 5 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook meat in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well, and return meat to pan. Stir in salt, pepper, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Combine the sour cream, green onions, and cream cheese in a small bowl, and set aside.

Place the spaghetti noodles in a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Spread the sour cream mixture over spaghetti noodles. Top with meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Yield: 6 servings

Photo added retroactively on February 1, 2008:
pie

Monday, October 16, 2006

Broccoli Chowder

I am in a soupy mood this week so I will be making a couple of different soups. Tonight's was Broccoli Chowder, from Eating Well magazine, but was posted by someone on the CLBB. All the ladies on the CL boards suggested replacing the broccoli with cauliflower. I opted to use half broccoli, half cauliflower. My other changes included using veggie bouillon instead of canned broth, and omitting the dry mustard because I did not have any.

It was good but nothing special. I had hoped for more of a creamy chowder, as the name implied, but it was more of just a basic broccoli-cheese soup. I enjoyed it, but probably would not make it again.

Broccoli Chowder
Broccoli-Cheddar soup is a classic winter warmer; this hearty version may not win prizes for its beauty but will get a blue ribbon for taste every time. The broccoli stems are added before the florets so every bite is tender.

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion -- chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot -- diced (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery -- diced (1/2 cup)
1 large potato -- peeled and diced (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth (two 14-ounce cans)
1/2 pound broccoli crowns -- cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated
1 cup grated reduced fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt -- or to taste

Heat oil in a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until onion and celery soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add broth and broccoli stems, bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan. Stir in cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through. Season with salt.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Deep-Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil

We have been watching a lot of TLC's new show, Take Home Chef. It's funny and entertaining because the host always picks women with large boobs who may be willing to sleep with him once the cameras are off. Anyway. We enjoy it, and the food he makes often looks tasty. So tonight I tried one of his recipes, from Episode 146, for Deep-Fried Eggplant with Mozzarella and Basil.

I couldn't bring myself to deep fry so I decided to lightly pan-fry.... forgetting that eggplant is exceptionally absorbent so they ended up oily despite my change. I didn't double-bread the eggplant (didn't feel it was necessary), and I used Trader Joe's marinara sauce instead of making my own.

I doubt I would make this again because it's sort of just a fancy take on eggplant parm, but if I did I would reduce the heat on the oil so that the eggplant would have more time to cook through before browning. Some of the thicker slices didn't cook all the way through and I didn't enjoy that. I did like this dish and would not mind eating this again, I just don't think I will make it again.

Deep Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil
from Curtis Stone, Take Home Chef

For the tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons/30 ml olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red jalapeno chili, chopped
7 ripe plum tomatoes, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For eggplant sandwiches:
1 eggplant (cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices)
Salt
One 7-ounce ball fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese (cut crosswise into 8 slices)
8 fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup/95 g all purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups/210 g dried plain bread crumbs
Safflower oil, for deep frying

To make the tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and chili and sauté for another 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are very tender and mushy, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the eggplant sandwiches:
Arrange the eggplant slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow them to sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cold running water to remove the salt. Pat the eggplant slices dry with paper towels.

Place 1 slice of cheese and 1 basil leaf atop 1 eggplant slice. Top with a second eggplant slice. Repeat to make 8 sandwiches total. Place the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls or pie plates.

Working with 1 eggplant sandwich at a time, dredge the eggplant sandwiches in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip the sandwiches in the eggs, allowing the excess egg to drip back into the bowl of eggs, and dredge in the bread crumbs to coat completely.

Repeat the process to give the eggplant sandwich a second coating of the eggs and bread crumbs (not the flour). Add enough oil to a heavy large frying pan to reach the depth of 2 inches/5 cm. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F/180°C.

Working in batches, add the sandwiches to the hot oil and fry until they are golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the fried sandwiches to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Sprinkle the hot sandwiches with salt. Cut each sandwich into 4 wedges. Serve the sandwiches on a platter with the warm tomato sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice

I made this dish a couple years ago, and never repeated it until tonight. I remember making it in my first apartment during my junior year of college. I liked it a lot, I guess I just never got around to making it again. But I made it tonight and it was still very tasty. Hopefully I will remember to make it again sometime. :)

I didn't make any changes to the recipe. My advice though is to drain the tofu on paper towels before you put it in the pan or else the water content will seep out and it'll take longer for the pieces to brown. Also, follow the directions exactly regarding how long to cook the tofu once you add the chili sauce - it burns quickly!

Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice
From Cooking Light, October 2004

4 cups water
1 (3 1/2-ounce) bag boil-in-bag long-grain rice
2 1/4 cups chopped asparagus (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce with garlic (such as KA·ME)
[Note: I use Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce. The sauce is red and the bottle has a green top and a rooster on it]
1 pound extrafirm tofu, drained and cut lengthwise into 9 pieces
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup preshredded carrot
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add bag of rice, submerging bag completely in water. Boil 10 minutes. Carefully remove bag from pan, leaving boiling water in pan. Add asparagus to pan; cook 1 minute. Drain.

While rice cooks, heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and chili sauce in a small bowl. Sprinkle tofu with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add tofu to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Add soy sauce mixture; cook 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Combine rice, asparagus, 1/2 teaspoon salt, carrot, and sesame oil. Serve tofu over rice.

Yield: 3 servings

Photo Added November 20, 2010:
tofu

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Black Bean Chilaquile

Tonight I made Black Bean Chilaquile, originally from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites. Someone posted it on the CLBB. I have made different recipes for chilaquile before (it's essentially just a Mexican tortilla-and-vegetable casserole), but this one was appealing to me because it includes swiss chard. I'd never cooked with swiss chard before, but so many recipes include it so I figured it was time to get over my fear of cooking with greens other than spinach.

I found the most beautiful chard called Bright Lights swiss chard. The stalks are neon pink and orange and yellow and were just so pretty. It looks like this:
chard
It cooked down really quickly and tastes a lot like spinach. I enjoyed it and plan to cook with it again, definitely. And I will always try to find Bright Lights because it's so awesome-looking.

Anyway back to the recipe. So it was very tasty. The salsa I used was way too spicy though, which is odd because I like spicy things. Next time I will use a more mild salsa. I liked the chard, and I liked using tortilla chips better than tortillas (which my other recipes call for). I would recommend this to people trying to sneak greens into their diets. I would make this again.

Black Bean Chilaquile
1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans ( 15 ounce can, drained)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups rinsed, stemmed and chopped Swiss chard or spinach
2 cups crushed baked tortilla chips
8 ounces grated fat-free or reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups prepared salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute the onions in the oil for about 8 minutes, until translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, black beans, lime juice, salt and pepper and continue to saute for another 5 to 10 minutes, until heated through.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, blanch the greens in boiling water to cover for 1 to 3 minutes, until just wilted but still bright green. Drain immediately and set aside.

Prepare an 8 x 8-inch casserole dish or baking pan with a very light coating of oil or cooking spray. Spread half the crushed tortilla chips on the bottom. Spoon the sauteed vegetables over the chips and sprinkle with about two-thirds of the cheese. Arrange the greens evenly over the cheese and spoon on half the salsa. Finish with the rest of the chips and top with the remaining salsa and cheese. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Caramel Apple Bars

Tonight for dinner I made some Vegetable and Chickpea Curry and it was delicious and provided me with lots of leftovers for the week.

I also made some Caramel Apple Bars that Exa posted on her blog, that she found on DesertCulinary. It was time-consuming to make the caramel, but at least now I understand what "soft-ball stage" means and I know I am capable of making it again. I really like the bars, but they got stuck to the aluminum foil during baking and now they don't want to come off so I'm just scooping them out with a spoon. Next time I would not line the pan with foil. I usually don't, so I don't know why I followed that direction this time. Oh well! Anyway these are good. I would make these again.

Oh, and my changes! I used fat-free half and half instead of heavy cream. And I used pre-sliced fresh apples from Trader Joe's because I'm lazy.

Caramel Apple Bars
For the Crust:
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground pecans
2 cups rolled oats

For the Filling:
3 1/2 cups sliced apples (about 24 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Homemade Caramel* (recipe follows)

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9X13 pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.

2) In a medium bowl, beat the brown sugar and the next 4 ingredients (through baking soda) until thoroughly combined. Mix in the flour, ground pecans and oats until crumbly. Scoop out 1 cup and set aside.

3) Place the remaining crumbs into your prepared pan and press down firmly to coat the bottom. Toss the apples in a large bowl with the salt and cinnamon. Arrange them over the crust. Drizzle the warm homemade caramel over the top and then sprinkle with the remaining crumbs you set aside.

4) Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until bubbly and the apples are just tender. Remove and let cool until they are just warm to the touch. Cut into squares. Try and let the bars rest until the caramel has set before serving.

Homemade Caramel:
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Mix all of the above ingredients into a 2 quart saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until it reaches soft-ball stage (230-234 degrees). Remove and gently pour your 1 cup over the apple mixture.This recipes makes more than you will use so pour the rest into a 8X8 pan lined with foil and let cool. Cut into squares and you have your own homemade caramel squares!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Potato Soup and Grilled Peaches

Tonight for dinner I made myself some Baked Potato Soup. It's been cold outside so it seemed like a good day for that. I love this soup. It's so thick and creamy and potato-y. Yum yum. I put extra scallions in it because they are my favorite part.

I also found some late-season peaches at the grocery store so I decided to buy a couple. I also had some honey and mascarpone cheese so I decided to try out a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for grilled peaches. I made them on my grill pan. They were very yummy. Not too sweet, almost a little savory since the only sugar comes from the fruit and the honey. I think they would be awesome at the end of like a summer picnic or something. I would make these again.

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone and Honey
6 large ripe peaches, halved and pits removed
6 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving if desired
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

Place the peaches cut-side down onto the grill and cook until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the grill. Transfer the peaches, cut sides up, to a grill-proof baking dish or baking sheet and drizzle evenly with the 6 tablespoons of honey. Place the dish on the grill and cover the grill. Continue to cook until the peaches are soft, about 5 minutes, again depending on the grill. Remove the baking dish from the grill and divide the peach halves between 6 dessert plates. Divide the mascarpone evenly among the plates and drizzle with additional honey, if desired. Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Broccoli and Bow Ties

I have not been grocery shopping in a couple of weeks, so my supplies are dwindling. I've mostly been eating peanut butter & jelly or frozen entrees. But now I've eaten all of those, so tonight required some creativity. To make things more difficult, I am feeling sick so I didn't want to order pizza or anything too greasy. So I looked through my recipe collection and found a simple recipe from the Barefoot Contessa for Broccoli and Bow Ties.

By the time I had finished making it, it was kind of completely different. First of all, I used penne rigate instead of bow-ties. Then, I made the lemon-garlic-butter mixture and was getting ready to cook my frozen broccoli when I realized that I did not have broccoli at all - it was a bag of frozen peas. So I used those. And then I decided that peas were not substantial enough so I threw in some frozen shrimp. For some reason I had a fresh lemon, pine nuts, and a block of parmesan so I was able to follow the rest of the recipe as written.

It was very good and flavorful, and does not seem to be hurting my stomach. I enjoyed it the way I made it but I do think it would be much better in its original form - with broccoli. I would definitely try this recipe again.

Broccoli and Bow-Ties
Kosher salt
8 cups broccoli florets (4 heads)
1/2 pound farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pignoli (pine) nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan, optional

Cook the broccoli for 3 minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water with a slotted spoon or sieve. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

In the same water, cook the bow-tie pasta according to the package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain well and add to the broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Off the heat, add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Season to taste, sprinkle with the pignolis and cheese, if using, and serve.

To toast pignolis, place them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat and cook, tossing often, for about 5 minutes, until light brown.

Yield: 6-8 minutes

Photo Added June 1, 2009:
bowties

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Apple Pie Ice Cream

I haven't been cooking this past week, but I have been eating a lot of ice cream! Specifically, I have been eating Edy's Apple Pie Ice Cream. It's a limited-edition flavor so you should go get some of it now. Seriously, it's so good. Not quite as good as the Girl Scout Cookie flavors (mm...Samoas...) but close! It has cinnamon, apples, and big chunks of pie crust. I love it. It's like pie a la mode, except all mixed together. Yum yum.

Hopefully next week I'll be cooking more!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mushroom Parmesan

I guess I've been in an Italian mood lately, so tonight I made yet another recipe from Giada. This was a very simple recipe for Mushroom Parmesan. As a huge fan of eggplant parm, I decided to try this one with mushrooms.

It was pretty OK. I loved the grilled portobellos - I need to throw them on my grill pan more often because it gives them a stronger, meatier flavor. They were pretty good with the tomato sauce and cheeses, but it just kind of seemed like something was missing. Maybe if the mushrooms had been breaded/fried like eggplant parm? Though then that wouldn't have been very healthy at all. I liked it, but I probably won't make it again.

Mushroom Parmesan
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the grill pan
4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on the grill to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. Grill until the mushrooms are heated through and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the grilled mushrooms on top of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the cheeses and top with the butter pieces. Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Monday, September 25, 2006

Autumn Apple, Pear and Cheddar Salad with Pecans

In theory, this salad was going to be a nice little meal to welcome in the fall season. It has so many components I enjoy (fruit = good! nuts = good! cheese = good!) with a simple dressing. It got very good reviews, as well.

Sadly, I was very disappointed by it. It didn't tie together as nicely as I'd hoped, I didn't really like the dressing that much, and I ended up just eating the fruit pieces out of the bowl and leaving the rest of the salad. I have some other fruity autumny salads I will probably try soon, but I will not make this one again.

Autumn Apple, Pear, and Cheddar Salad with Pecans
from Cooking Light, July 2005

1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 cup gourmet salad greens (about 10 ounces)
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 medium McIntosh apple, cored and cut into 18 wedges
1 medium Bartlett pear, cored and cut into 18 wedges
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

Place apple juice in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to about 3 tablespoons (about 10 minutes). Combine reduced apple juice, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk.

Combine greens, grapes, apple, and pear in a large bowl. Drizzle with apple juice mixture; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

Yeah, I don't know if you've noticed but I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today.

My dinner tonight was Cheesy Baked Tortellini, a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis ( <3 ). It was very good and surprisingly filling. The mascarpone makes the sauce soooooo creamy and it binds to the pasta so beautifully. I suppose you could substitute ricotta, but you'd be missing out. I've never cooked with mascarpone (except for making tiramisu) so that was fun and exciting. I would make this again. My changes: I halved the recipe (obviously) so it took less time to cook (about 25 min). I also didn't use fresh herbs - when do I ever? - and omitted the thyme completely because I don't like it. Instead of smoked mozzarella, I used a combination of shredded mozzarella and sliced provolone. Cheesy Baked Tortellini
Olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 pound purchased cheese tortellini
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish.

Whisk the sauce, mascarpone cheese, parsley and thyme in a large bowl to blend. Cook the tortellini in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add the tortellini to the sauce and toss to coat. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top the mixture with the smoked mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheeses on top melt, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Photo added 4/23/09:
tortellini

Greek Pasta Salad

The sample-lady at Trader Joe's was handing out little plates of this pasta salad a couple months ago, and it was very yummy so I kept the recipe. I decided to make a big batch of it to take to work this week for lunches. It is very, very easy and quick and very tasty. I will make this again.

Greek Pasta Salad
Recipe from Trader Joe's

1 pkg Trader Joe's Fusilli - cook and rinse to chill
1 jar TJ's Roasted Red Peppers - cut in 1 1/2 x 1/4 slices
20-25 TJ's pitted kalamata olives - quartered lengthwise (should equal 1/2 a cup)
1 1/4 cup TJ's crumbled feta cheese (tub)
1/2 tsp TJ's garlic powder
2 tsp TJ's dry oregano - crush with fingers
1/3 cup TJ's Olive Oil of your choice
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh is better)

Combine the above ingredients.

Outdoor safe and keeps well in fridge for days!

Chocolate and Peanut-Butter Filled Blondies

I found this recipe on the Hershey's website. In theory, I'm going to take them with me to work tomorrow for people to eat. However, I might just keep them all for myself because they are very, very tasty. I would definitely make these again.

My changes: I couldn't find the mini-baking-Reese's called for in the recipe so I just used a combo of milk chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. I doubled the recipe, but I still used the same amount of butter (accidentally) and it turned out just fine. If you double the recipe, cook the bars for about 30 minutes rather than 25. Oh and I mixed the chips into the dough before putting it in the pan, rather than doing the layering thing in the recipe.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Filled Peanut Butter Blondies
3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margaine, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups (8-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Milk Chocolate Baking Pieces Filled with Peanut Butter Creme

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 8- or 9-inch baking pan.

2. Beat peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to peanut butter mixture, beating until well blended.

3. Spread one half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle baking pieces over batter. Drop remaining batter by 1/2 teaspoonfuls over mixture, covering baking pieces.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 16 bars.

Picture added March 28, 2009:
blondies

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mushroom and Cheddar Fritatta

Tonight I made a fritatta from an episode of Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. It was excellent. I didn't make the arugula salad, but I did still have a salad with it. I would definitely make this again.

Mushroom and Cheddar Fritatta and Arugula Side Salad
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (10-ounce) package mushrooms, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
8 eggs
4 egg whites
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
Arugula Salad, recipe follows

Preheat the broiler and set the rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heat source.

Heat oil in large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until browned, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add onion and saute until tender.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour over vegetables in skillet and mix gently. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and cook until eggs are set around edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and then place skillet under broiler and cook until cheese is melted and just browned, about 2 minutes. Let frittata stand 1 minute before cutting into 8 wedges. Serve with salad on the side.

Arugula Salad:
1 large bunch arugula leaves, washed and dried
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
10 grinds black pepper
Couple pinches salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to coat leaves with dressing and serve with the frittata.

Yield: 8 servings