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