Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

I am in Connecticut until Tuesday afternoon, when I will post an update about the blackberry brandy and other things.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Orange-Ricotta Pancakes

I got this recipe from DesertCulinary, but while I was making it, I realized there was a whole step missing! It said nothing about combining the orange/egg mixture with the flour mixture. So I've added that in to the following recipe. These are fantastic. They are very light and not overpowering with the orange flavor. They turned out much better than a lot of pancakes we've made recently. We would definitely make these again!

pancake

Orange-Ricotta Pancakes

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, milk, zest, juice and egg yolks.

Add the egg whites into a medium bowl and beat at high speed with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-fourth of egg whites into cheese mixture; gently fold in remaining whites.

Make a well in the flour mixture, then pour the egg mixture in. Gently mix together until combined.

Scoop about 1/4 cup batter per pancakes onto a hot griddle. Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked - let cook just until the other side is golden.

Yield: 15 pancakes (we got more like 9)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Golden Potato-Leek Soup with Cheddar Toasts

Tonight we had our favorite Golden Potato-Leek Soup. We were in the mood for some good cheddar toasts! Yum yum.

Gibby realized we hadn't taken a photo of it before so here is a picture. Instead of shredded cheese on our toasts, I am lazy and usually just put a slice of deli cheddar (NOT Kraft singles).

soup

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Updates

First of all, the Almond Cheesecake Bars received excellent reviews from my boss, so that is good and anyone adhering to a low-carb diet should eat them.

Second, I never want to eat cookies again (this will probably only last a week or less).

And last, I received a lovely casserole dish from Gibby's aunt Carrie which hopefully I will not be afraid to bake tasty casseroles in because it's so beautiful and I don't want to break it. I also got a new vegetarian cookbook from Gibby, and a very old copy of Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School cookbook from my coworker, Michelle. That's it for my cooking-related gifts so that's all I will post about.

I hope everyone had a good holiday!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweet Potato Ravioli w/ Lemon-Sage Brown Butter Sauce

OK so I think I've been making a lot of recipes that have the following components: ravioli made with wonton wrappers, brown butter sauces, and sweet potatoes. So it is no surprise that tonight's dinner involves all three. In fact, it's ridiculously similar to something I made in October: Sweet Potato Ravioli with Brown Butter. However, that one was "pretty disappointing" according to our review in the post. Tonight's was not disappointing. It was quite delicious! I loved the sage and lemon and brown butter sauce, and the ravioli is good and light. I would make this again.

ravioli

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Lemon-Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Cooking Light, October 2007

1 (1-pound) sweet potato
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
24 wonton wrappers
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
6 quarts water
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sage sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Pierce potato several times with a fork; place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 40 minutes or until tender. Cool. Peel potato; mash. Combine potato, cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to keep them from drying), spoon 1 tablespoon potato mixture into center of each wrapper. Brush edges of dough with egg white; bring 2 opposite corners to center. Press edges together to seal, forming a triangle. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers, potato filling, and egg white.

Bring 6 quarts water to a boil. Add 8 ravioli; cook 2 minutes or until done. Remove ravioli from pan with a slotted spoon. Lightly coat cooked wontons with cooking spray; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.

Melt butter in a small skillet over high heat. Add chopped sage to pan; cook 1 minute or until butter is lightly browned. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice, and pepper. Drizzle butter mixture over ravioli. Garnish with sage sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Almond Cheesecake Bars

What do you buy the person who has everything? You don't buy anything, you bake something. I decided to make some sort of sweet baked good for my boss, because he avoids carbs like the plague but misses sweets. Thanks to Splenda for Baking, I attempted to make some delicious cheesecake bars for him. I found the recipe on the Splenda website. However, the recipe calls for graham cracker crumbs, and those have carbs. What to do, what to do? I subbed almond flour (very finely ground almonds) instead. It worked very well. I haven't eaten it (since it's going in a little gift-pan to my boss in the morning) but it smells wonderful. I hope it tastes as good. I will give an update tomorrow when I find out if it's good or not!

no carbs

Almond Cheesecake Bars
By Splenda

1/4 cup SPLENDA(R) No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
1 1/4 cups graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs
1/3 cup light butter, melted
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds, finely ground

12 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup SPLENDA(R) No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
2 large eggs
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix crust ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Press into prepared 8x8 pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until firm.

3. Mix cream cheese and SPLENDA(R) Granulated Sweetener together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl, and mixing well after each addition. Add sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts; mix well. Pour over prepared crust.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 47 minutes, or until firm.

5. Top with toasted almonds.

Yield: 20 servings

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Kale & Rice

I thought it would be nice to have some stuffed peppers this weekend, so I pulled out this recipe from the CLBB. It has a lot of small steps but it doesn't take very long. It took maybe 45 minutes from start to finish. It's pretty simple, too.

The end result was delicious and I liked it better than some of the other non-spicy stuffed peppers we've made (the various stuffed poblano pepper recipes are in a league of their own). Don't skimp on the pine nuts because it is what really makes the dish. Don't skimp on the kale either - 6 cups of kale turns into more like 3/4 cup when it's cooked. We made ours with kale but a recipe note suggests you could also use mustard greens, spinach, chard, or collard greens. I liked the kale though. We would make this again.

stuffed peppers

Roasted Red Peppers Stuffed with Kale & Rice

3 medium red bell peppers
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper -- to taste
Filling
1/2 lb kale -- trimmed and washed (6 cups lightly packed)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic -- minced
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese -- freshly grated
1/4 cup pine nuts -- toasted, divided
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt -- or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

To prepare peppers: Preheat oven to 400. Halve peppers lengthwise through the stems, leaving them attached. Remove the seeds. Lightly brush the peppers outside and inside with oil; sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Place, cut-side down, in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake until peppers are just tender, 10-15 minutes. Let cool slightly. Turn cut-side up.


To prepare filling: Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil in a large wide pan. Stir in kale, cover and cook until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water; squeeze dry. Finely chop.


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and chopped bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until onion is golden, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the kale. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in rice, cheese, 2 tbsp pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the filling among the pepper halves. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts.

Add 2 tbsp water to the baking dish. Cover the peppers with foil and bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more. Serve hot.

Yield: 3 servings

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chipotle Shrimp Wontons

The beautiful presentation belies the horrid taste of these appetizers.

Absolutely awful. Into the trash, Chinese food on the way.

ew

Chipotle Shrimp Wontons
From Colorado Collage cookbook

Olive oil
1 16 oz package wonton skins
1/2 lb shrimp, cooked, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, and chopped
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, drained and finely chopped
8 oz fontina cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush mini-muffin cups with olive oil. Press 1 wonton skin into each cup. Bake about 10 minutes until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combin eshrimp, roasted bell peppers, cilantro, chipotle pepper, and cheese. Remove cooled skins from muffin pan and place on baking sheet. Fill each skin with reserved shrimp mixture and bake 7-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 30 servings

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Red Lentil Dal with Charred Onions

I've had some red lentils in the pantry for forever, so I decided it was time to use them up. We made this red lentil dal, a pretty standard Indian dish. It tastes like pretty much everything I've ever eaten at an Indian restaurant - which is a good thing. I like the combination of garam masala and garlic and whatever else is in the food. We had it over rice with some garlic naan from Trader Joe's and it was very good. We agreed it could possibly be a make-again, but it's not likely since it's so basic.

Instead of using all the spices and then grinding them, I just used my bottle of garam masala, a spice mixture made of all of the ones called for in the recipe. I recommend that completely because it saves a lot of time and effort. But make sure to add in the red pepper (we used crushed red pepper) because that isn't in the garam masala!

dal

Red Lentil Dal with Charred Onions
From Cooking Light, October 2007

Quick-cooking red lentils don't need to be pureed since they break down as they cook. Lentils are a great source of protein, as well as fiber. This recipe gives 20 percent of your daily fiber goal. Serve over brown rice with a side of broccoli for a vegetarian meal.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole clove
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 dried hot red chile
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
1 cup dried small red lentils
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cook 2 minutes or until charred. Carefully turn over onion, and cook an additional 4 minutes or until blackened and charred. Remove from heat. Coarsely chop; set aside.

Combine mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and clove in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 1/2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Combine mustard mixture, cinnamon, cardamom, and chile in spice or coffee grinder. Pulse until ground.

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a small Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in spices; sauté 1 minute. Add broth, lentils, and tomato to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; add onion, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro and juice.

Yield: 7 servings

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses

Last weekend we were plopped on our new couch watching Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger because it's one of the only Food Network shows available on Food Network HD. On one episode, she made this macaroni and cheese recipe and it was decreed that we must make it. So I planned it in for this week.

We had some frozen butternut squash chunks in the freezer so I microwaved those and then mashed them with a potato masher, instead of using the pureed butternut squash called for. I think this was a dumb idea, but whatever. Use the pureed squash. The recipe was simple and I loved the broiled topping, and we both ate a lot. But it's not the greatest and you have to really like squash to enjoy it. Not a make-again for us.

mccheesy

Macaroni and 4 Cheeses
From Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger

Cooking spray
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is defrosted. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the Cheddar, jack cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oreo Truffles

Oh and on top of everything else I baked today, I also made Oreo Truffles. Goodness gracious these are still amazingly wonderful. This year I used Trader Joe's Joe-Joe cookies (their version of Oreos) because they are made with natural ingredients, including real vanilla beans, and have 0 grams of trans fat. They taste way better, too. I also used low-fat cream cheese.

We ran out of white chocolate towards the end so some of them are covered in semisweet chocolate. I think those look dumb so those are the ones we'll keep here at home. Everything else is going to class or work!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Denise, my good friend, emailed me this recipe about a week ago. Her coworker had brought it in to work and she loved them (she is not normally a cookie person) so she got the recipe and started making it. And then she loved it so much she shared it with me. It makes a gargantuan amount of cookies (I would recommend halving the recipe - I did not and I hated life for about 3 hours as I baked batch after batch...) which served my purposes entirely. I wanted some cookies that I could make for work, but that I could also freeze. I am going to give some of them to our friends in CT when we go up for New Year's, and I can also eat them when I feel like it. They should keep for about 3 months in the freezer.

These cookies are very cake-like, fluffy, and delicious. They are similar to the Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Squares I used to make in the fall. They're slightly different from the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread I made a month or two ago. As you can see, pumpkin and chocolate is a combination I enjoy. So of course we liked these cookies. I would make them again, but I would not make the full recipe (I ended up with something like 60 cookies). I also need to find a way to make it lighter. It uses an awful lot of oil, even for the amount of cookies it produces. Anyway. We would definitely make these again.

pumpkin

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Denise

3 cups canned pumpkin (1 large can)
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon milk
6 cups flour
3 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 bags chocolate chips

Combine pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large (4 quart) bowl. In a small bowl, combine milk and baking soda; mix well and add to pumpkin mixture. Combine all dry ingredients well in another bowl; add to pumpkin mixture and mix well (this works best if dry ingredients are added to pumpkin mixture little by little). Stir in chocolate chips. Use ice cream scoop to drop batter onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 12-15 minutes. Makes a large batch. Cookies freeze well.

Yield: a huge amount of cookies.

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

I am taking a bunch of cookies to work with me on Wednesday, so I was looking for a variety of cookies so everyone will find something they like. I had some leftover dried cherries, so I figured I'd whip up some of these cookies from Cooking Light. They are easy to make and turned out nicely. The cherry flavor is not at all overpowering and fits in well with the chocolate. I didn't think I would enjoy them very much but I actually liked them a lot. They have a crispier texture than I had anticipated, but that's OK. I hope people at work enjoy them!

cookies

Chewy Chocolate-Cherry Cookies
CL, 12/05

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
3 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture. Beat just until combined. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven; cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Yield: 30 cookies

Cranberry Pistachio Refrigerator Cookies

Last weekend I made the dough for these cookies. I was able to make three big logs of it and rolled them up with wax paper and plastic wrap. One log is in the freezer for some other time this winter, and two were placed in the refrigerator. Today I sliced and baked one of the logs so I can take it with me to class tomorrow. It was such an extremely simple recipe and was easy to slice and bake. I love that aspect. I love that I have dough on hand for cookies whenever I want them. Plus, these cookies are absolutely delicious and we liked them a lot! I would definitely make these again. I hope my class likes them!

cookies

Cranberry Pistachio Refrigerator Cookies
From www.robinhood.ca

2 1/2 cups ROBIN HOOD® All Purpose Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
3/4 cup cranberries, dried

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC)

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together thoroughly. Add dry ingredinets gradually, mixing until smooth. Stir in nuts and cranberries

4. Shape dough into 2 rolls about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill overnight.

5. Cut roll into 1/2 inch (5 mm) slices. Place on cookie sheet.

6. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until light golden. Cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer to rack and cool completely.

TIPS:

Plastic wrap boxes work well for shaping square cookies. Line box with plastic wrap and pack dough firmly inside. Wash and dry frozen juice containers and fill with dough for perfectly round cookies. Simply remove bottom of containers and push out the chilled dough. Also, as a substitute for the cranberries and the pistachios, use any combination of your favorite dried fruit and nuts.

Yield: it says 8 dozen but I got about 6 dozen.

Broccoli, Mushroom, and Cheese Breakfast Strata

I knew I would be spending the entire day baking, so I thought I'd get dinner overwith early on in the day so it could just be popped in the oven come dinnertime. This dish is prepared 8 hours beforehand (it's meant for a brunch so typically it would sit overnight) so it can soak up the egg mixture and blend flavors. It was very easy to make and was much-appreciated by dinner time, since I'd spent 7 hours making cookies and treats.

The flavor is pretty bland, but it isn't a terrible dish. It was good. I'd make it again with some changes; for example, I'd use a stronger cheese (cheddar maybe?) and add some other spices. I did throw in some cayenne pepper today but we didn't even notice it. It's probably not a make-again though.

strata

Broccoli, Mushroom, and Cheese Breakfast Strata
From Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger

4 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
Cooking spray
1 whole wheat baguette, crusts removed, cubed (about 5 cups)
8 eggs and 8 egg whites
2 cups lowfat milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
10 ounces broccoli, steamed, cooled and chopped (or frozen, thawed)
1-ounce (1/3 cup) grated Parmesan
4-ounce (1 cup) part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a medium bowl and allow to cool. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the skillet and saute the mushrooms until they release all of their water, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Spray an oval baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange the bread cubes in the dish. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, milk and mustard until incorporated. Add mushrooms, onion-garlic mixture, broccoli, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme, and salt and pepper and stir to incorporate. Pour mixture over bread, making sure liquid saturates bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap from strata and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until top forms a light brown crust.

Yield: 8 servings

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bean Chili and Rice

On first glance, this recipe (from either Woman's Day or Family Circle magazine - I lost the origin of it) seems to be a quick soccer-mom weeknight dinner. And that is exactly what it is. The bean chili is very basic and not anything special. But when you put it over rice and add the toppings (cheese, sour cream, and we added green onions, which I would highly recommend), it becomes something very, very tasty. It took much less time than was listed, but that was probably because I only made 1/4 of the recipe. We actually would make this again, especially on a weeknight!

chili rice

Bean Chili & Rice
Unknown magazine clipping

2 medium-size onions, chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
4 cans (15 oz each) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 box (10 oz) frozen corn, thawed
2 cups long-grain white rice
3/4 tsp salt
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
8 Tbsp sour cream

In a large, heavy pot, saute onion in oil over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes longer, or until onion is tender. Add chili powder and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water.

Gently stir in beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Add corn; simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rice following package directions, adding salt.

To serve, divide rice among 8 plates. Top each with chili, shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream.

Yield: 8 servings

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baked Potato Soup

It's cold, rainy, and icky outside, I've had the most stressful week I've had in a very long time, and Gibby is stressed from school. What better cure than our favorite Baked Potato Soup? This soup never fails to make us happy. It's amazing. We've made this tons and tons of times, which is interesting since I don't repeat a lot of recipes!

I've learned a lot since the first time I made it. For example, zapping the potatoes in the microwave for 10 minutes is just as effective as baking them for an hour. Also, it is important to stir it regularly because milk doesn't like to be heated. Bacos and Bac'n Bits and other soy-based fake-bacon thingies are delicious. And certain kinds of white potatoes dissolve into the soup (though I haven't figured out which kinds yet...). This will certainly continue to be one of our favorite meals.

We took a picture of it, so I'm going to post it here and then back-post it on the original January 2006 post.

soup

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Quick Red Curry Salmon

My friend Annie recommended this recipe to me, prefacing it by saying that it was extremely spicy. Well of course that made me want to eat it! So I scheduled it into our meal plan for this week and made it tonight. Now, I still don't like fish very much (except swordfish. I had swordfish at my office Christmas party on Saturday and loved it!) but I still try to make myself eat it on a semi-regular basis. And I've had good luck with spicy fish recipes because the spiciness overpowers the fishiness.

This recipe was spicy, easy, and tasty. I still didn't love the salmon in it, but it was a respectable and decent fish dish that I would voluntarily eat again. We both agreed it's very similar to the Hot Red Curry Shrimp we made awhile ago. If I made this recipe again, I'd probably try it with shrimp or tofu. Or maybe a combination of tofu and salmon, to try to sneak in some salmon for me.

Thanks, Annie!

salmon

Quick Red Curry Salmon
From Foodmigration.com

1 T. olive oil
2 T. Thai Kitchen red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
4 T. fish sauce (nam pla)
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. lime juice
Chopped vegetables (red or green peppers, spinach, bamboo shoots, pea pods or broccoli)
1 or 2 salmon fillets, cut into large chunks (you can also use chicken tenders, tofu or shrimp)
Handful of Thai basil
Lime wedges
Additional 2 T. basil, thinly sliced
Jasmine rice, prepared according to package

Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat until smoking. Add curry paste and mix into oil until sizzling. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice, stirring until all are incorporated and sauce is a pale pink. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings to your preference. Sauce should be bubbling slightly. Add vegetables and cook for about 4 minutes. Add salmon pieces and cook another 4 minutes until salmon is opaque. Add Thai basil and continue cooking for another 2 minutes or so, until basil is wilted. Spoon salmon curry sauce over prepared jasmine rice, and serve garnished with lime wedges and sliced basil.

Yield: 2 servings

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tri-Colore Orzo

Tonight was my last Group Counseling class for the semester, so I decided to celebrate by making a dish I've been wanting to try, but hesitant because I knew he would hate it. I was right! He hated it. I was surprised to find out that I was also pretty underwhelmed by it. It sounded so delicious and flavorful, and looked awesome when Giada made it on her show on the Food Network. I'm sad that it was disappointing. I ate it, and it was ok, but something was missing. And now we just ordered a pizza.

pasta

Tri-Colore Orzo
Giada de Laurentiis via DesertCulinary

16 ounces dry orzo pasta
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh arugula
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup dried cherries
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot of boiling salted water, add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and then scatter the pasta on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and toss well - spread the mixture out and set aside to cool.

Scoop the orzo into a large bowl once cool and add the arugula, feta, cherries, basil, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil - toss well to evenly coat.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Every year the Food Network does this thing called the 12 Days of Cookies, where they send out one new cookie recipe per day for 12 days. They're recipes that haven't previously been posted on the website or shown on any shows. This year's theme was cookies from around the world. So the other day when I received the email with Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, which originate in Canada, I decided I must make them.

I've never had regular nanaimo bars, but I quite love this peanut butter version. I'll have to try the regular kind sometime. These were very similar to the Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies I made awhile ago, but these aren't brownies and have a no-bake crust. In fact, the entire thing is no-bake. You make the cookie base on the stovetop, and I microwaved the topping.

I made two batches - one for us, and one for work. It's not healthy (so much butter!) so I made sure to cut the squares small to reduce the portion size. In the future, I would suggest reducing the amount of butter in the cookie base, because it's extremely buttery even after freezing. Maybe reduce it by 3 or 4 Tbsp.

I liked these a LOT. I probably won't make these for us again, but I am looking forward to taking them into work in a couple weeks (I will keep them in the freezer until then).

nanaimo

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars
Food Network 12 Days of Cookies

There are a number of stories as to where this cookie came from. It's thought to be native to Nanaimo, British Columbia (hence the name), and it gained widespread popularity in the 1950s. Whatever its origins, we loved it. We added the twist of peanut butter to make a simple, delicious, no-bake bar cookie that's super kid-friendly and freezes well.

Cookie:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

Peanut Butter Filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Glaze:
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.

For the cookie: Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. (Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)

For the filling: Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

For the glaze: Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.). When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes.

To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Busy baker's tips: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.

Yield: It says 5 dozen but there's no way it makes 5 dozen. I made two batches and unless you're eating like a centimeter worth, there's no way. I'd say it makes about 16-20 squares per batch depending on how you cut it.

Hash Brown Quiche

For dinner tonight, we had Paula Deen's Hashbrown Quiche, which is a basic quiche that happens to be in a crust made of hash browns. It was so simple and extremely delicious. So delicious, in fact, that we ate all of it. ALL of it. We're going to be fat.

I skipped the butter in the crust and instead coated the potatoes with a tiny bit of olive oil - just enough to create golden-brown-ness. We also used Bac'n Bits (the little fake-bacon soy things that people put on baked potatoes) instead of the ham.

Excellent and definitely a make-again!!!!

quiche

Hash Brown Quiche

3 cups, shredded frozen hash browns, thawed and drained
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 cup shredded Cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Gently press the drained hash browns between paper towels to dry them as best as possible. In a 9-inch pie plate, toss the hash browns with the melted butter into the plate. Press them into the bottom and up the sides to form a crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and starting to crisp.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. When the hash brown crust is ready pour the egg mixture over it and return to the oven.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for about 30 minutes until the quiche is light golden brown on top and puffed.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls

We are fans of South Park. Big fans. It is one of our favorite shows. Awhile ago, I came across a recipe for Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls, featured in an episode of the show.

balls

In the episode, Chef sings a song that is more or less a recipe for his famous Chocolate Salty Balls. Someone on the internet deciphered the recipe and made it do-able, and figured out a good cooking time. I don't know who this person was because I didn't write down the source. So, we decided to make this recipe today because we have some brandy leftover from our Blackberry Brandy (which is still fermenting in the closet). But anyway, the balls were very easy to make.

However, they did not remain balls. Poor Chef's balls were flat and cookie-shaped by the time they were done baking. But they didn't taste like cookies, they tasted like horribleness. It was a lot of fun to make them, because now we can say that we did, and that we did indeed put 'em in our mouth and suck 'em (OK we didn't suck 'em because they were crumbly cookies. So we ate them).

balls

Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls
Lyrics to song from South Park, plus notes for how to actually make it

* Two tablespoons of cinnamon [or 1 tbsp]
* Two or three egg whites [or 2]
* Half a stick of butter, melted
* Stick it all in a bowl (baby)
* Stir it with a wooden spoon
* Mix in a cup of flour (you'll be in heaven soon) [1 1/2 c]
* A quarter of a cup of unsweetened chocolate
* Half a cup of brandy
* A bag or two of sugar [2-3 cups]
* Just a pinch of vanilla [1 tbsp]
* Grease up a cookie sheet (cause I hate when my balls stick)
* Preheat the oven to 350°F (and give that spoon a lick)

The length of time to bake the balls is not mentioned in the song; the oven should be checked after 10 minutes. It is notable that the recipe does not specifically include salt (although the butter may contain salt).

Suggestion:
Place rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto greased cookie sheet and place into pre-heated 350°F for 9 - 11 minutes

Yield: about 2 dozen

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Rainbow Pizza

I liked this recipe when I saw it in the September 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. It's simple, doesn't use tomato sauce (I like white pizzas), and is very colorful. I used ricotta cheese instead of goat cheese, because I hate goat cheese, and this change worked really nicely. I also didn't use a red onion because our red onion died.

It is worth noting that I cut myself very badly while slicing up the food. This is not anything special actually because I injure myself all the time. I finished making the pizza with one hand, which demonstrates that this is a very easy recipe to make. I am now bandaged and a-okay. :)

The pizza was good and it was very pretty with all the colors, and we loved the crushed red pepper on top. However, it wasn't anything super special so we probably won't make it again.

pizza

Rainbow Pizza

4 tsp plus 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 1-lb pkgs refrigerated pizza dough
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp)
1 4-oz log goat cheese
3 cups shredded fontina cheese
2 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch rounds (8 oz)
1 1/2 cups yellow and red cherry tomatoes, sliced (8 oz)
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/8-inch rounds (4 oz)
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 small orange bell pepper, diced (1/3 cup)
Red pepper flakes, optional

1. Preheat oven to 475. Coat 17-x-12-inch baking sheet with 2 tsp oil or line with parchment paper. Press doughs together to form a ball. Spread and press dough to 1/4-inch thickness on prepared baking sheet, leaving dough in free-form shape. Mix garlic and 2 tsp oil in bowl. Brush garlic mixture over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border.

2. Crumble goat cheese over dough, then sprinkle with fontina cheese. Arrange zucchini, tomatoes, and yellow squash over pizza. Brush with remaining 1 Tbsp oil.

3. Scatter onion and bell pepper over vegetables. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and season with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes, or until puffed and deep brown at edges. Cool 10 minutes, then cut into squares.

Yield: 10 servings

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Garlicky Spinach Dip with Hearts of Palm

I love our spinach-artichoke dip recipe and was craving something like it, but I felt adventurous and wanted to try something new. Turns out the recipe I picked is still very similar (especially since they're both from Cooking Light), but the major difference is that instead of artichoke hearts, tonight's recipe uses hearts of palm. I've enjoyed hearts of palm in other things I've eaten it in, so I knew we would like it in this dip. Plus hearts of palm taste similar to artichoke hearts. Anyway, the dip is very, very good, but it is so similar to our 'regular' recipe that it isn't worth making again for us. It was good for a change though!

Oh and damned if I'm about to make my own tortilla chips for dinner. I skipped that part of the recipe and bought a bag of chips.

hearts

Garlicky Spinach Dip with Hearts of Palm
Cooking Light, March 2005

Homemade corn chips are sturdier than store-bought ones and stand up to this thick dip. Assemble the dip a day ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before baking.

Chips:
22 (6-inch) corn tortillas, each cut into 8 wedges
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon salt

Dip:
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 (14-ounce) can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1 (6.5-ounce) tub light garlic-and-herbs spreadable cheese (such as Alouette Light)

Preheat oven to 375°.

To prepare chips, arrange tortilla wedges in a single layer on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat wedges with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with salt. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until wedges are crisp and lightly browned.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

To prepare dip, combine mozzarella, 1/4 cup Asiago, sour cream, and remaining ingredients, stirring until well blended. Spoon spinach mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Asiago. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve warm with chips.

Yield: it says 22 servings, but that has got to be a mistake. It makes maybe 6-8 large servings. It would serve 22 people if you served it at a party or something.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Canadian Cheese Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

It's a cold winter day, so that means it's time for a nice cheese soup. This one doesn't use beer, unlike most other cheese soup recipes, because he hates the taste of beer. More on that later. So this soup also involves pumpernickel croutons, which are delicious.

We had mixed reactions to this soup. He liked it a lot, while I was slightly disappointed. I think it's because I missed the addition of the beer to the soup (I like it in cheese soup, like the Sam Adams version). Since he doesn't like beer, he enjoyed it. It's a good recipe and is very tasty, but it is probably not a make-again.

Here's our soup, with an abundance of croutons (we kind of went overboard):
soup

Canadian Cheese Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons
From Cooking Light

3 (1-ounce) slices pumpernickel bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
1 teaspoon butter or stick margarine
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 (16-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, divided
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place bread cubes on a jelly-roll pan, and bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until toasted.

While the croutons bake, combine onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor, and pulse until chopped. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add vegetables; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually add 1 can of broth to flour in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pan. Stir in 1 can of broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 10 minutes or until thick. Stir in milk, salt, paprika, and pepper; cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add the cheese, and stir until cheese melts. Ladle soup into bowls, and top with croutons.

Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cocoa Brownies

I was originally going to make some chocolate pastries today but then I realized that the dough needed to be chilled overnight, and I would have had to start it yesterday. So I quickly found this recipe from Alton Brown, which uses everyday pantry items (no special ingredients) to make some very rich brownies.

It's generally known that there are two kinds of brownie lovers: those who like them fudgy, and those who like them cakey. I, personally, enjoy a happy medium but I will eat any kind of brownie without complaints. If you are someone who enjoys the cakey kinds of brownies, this is the recipe for you. It is very cake-like. It is also very rich.

We both like them a lot and plan to take them in lunches this week. I would make these again if I didn't have any baking chocolate on hand or if I wanted to make an easy dessert. One note is that it took about an hour to cook through, even though the recipe says 45 minutes.

Another tip: Instead of dusting the pan with flour, I dust it with cocoa powder. That way, the outside of the brownies isn't whitish if there is any residual flour after baking.

onbrown

Cocoa Brownies
Recipe by Alton Brown

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

Yield: 16 brownies

Green Curry for Idiots

Yes, that is really the title of the recipe. It is from an article about entertaining from Jane magazine, which has now gone out of print (*tear*). It's a very vague recipe, but that turns out to be OK because it's extremely simple so there isn't much room for error.

I knew I wasn't going to find green curry paste without scavenging through several different grocery stores in the area, so I replaced the green curry paste and coconut milk in the recipe with a jar of Trader Joe's Spicy Green Curry Simmer Sauce, which is pretty much the exact same thing. I think the original recipe makes a lot (it doesn't have a yield) so I reduced it by using 1 block of tofu, about 1/4 lb of butternut squash (which I cooked in the microwave), and 1 small zucchini. That made enough for 2-3 people. We had it with some brown rice and mandarin oranges.

Both of us agreed that it was good, but it wasn't the most fantastic thing I've ever eaten. It does taste very similar to something I'd order at a Thai restaurant. I liked that it is a sneaky way to get people to eat butternut squash, since it absorbs the curry flavor. We won't make it again, but I'd recommend it to other people.

curry

Green Curry for Idiots

4 tablespoons oil
5 squares of tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 tablespoons green curry paste
2 1/2 cups coconut milk (about 3 cans)
1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 butternut squash, boiled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
4 sprigs of basil
2 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half
6 cups rice, cooked

1. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add cubed tofu and fry on each side until golden brown, then set aside.
2. In the same pan, add remaining oil and green curry paste over medium heat. Cook until it smells good.
3. Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
4. Add the tofu, veggies, fish sauce and sugar, and simmer for five minutes.
5. When ready to serve, add basil leaves and half-and-half.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Baby Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans

My mom and I had planned to make this brussels sprouts recipe on Thanksgiving, but we completely forgot about it. So she sent me home to Maryland with the stalk of sprouts (yes, they grow on stalks). Then I forgot about them again! So just now, I was hungry and wanted a snack and remembered the brussels sprouts recipe. I pulled it out, made up a batch, and we shared it. He was afraid of the sprouts at first but it turned out he really liked the recipe. It was quick, simple, and very tasty - even for people who don't think they like brussels sprouts. If you use small ones, it takes away from the bitterness, and even if you use larger ones, the butter makes it super tasty. Oh and we used small pecan pieces vs. pecan halves, which turned out nicely because we could get some pecan in every bite.

There is not a picture because we ate them too fast.**

Baby Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans
Gourmet magazine

If you find it difficult to get excited about Brussels sprouts, then it's likely you've never sampled baby ones. The tiny sprouts—less than an inch across—lack the bitterness of their full-grown counterparts. Paired with buttered pecans, they may just become your new Thanksgiving favorite.

1/2 cup pecan halves, cut crosswise into thirds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 lb baby Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

ut oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread pecan pieces in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and bake until fragrant and a few shades darker, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt to nuts and toss until butter is melted and nuts are coated.

While nuts bake, cook Brussels sprouts in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain sprouts and pat dry.

Melt remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, then add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to moderately high, then add sprouts and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned in patches, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, then stir in pecans and serve.

Cooks' notes:
• If you can't find baby Brussels sprouts, you can use 2 lb regular Brussels sprouts, quartered.
• Pecans can be toasted and buttered 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature, covered.
• Brussels sprouts can be boiled 1 day ahead and kept chilled in a sealed plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Yield: 6-8 servings

**Photo added retroactively on February 20, 2008:
tiny cabbages

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

This recipe was printed in Cooking Light's November 2007 issue, but it is originally from The Great American Detox Diet by Alexandra Jamieson. Who is that, you ask? She is Morgan Spurlock's wife. The cookbook is to help people wean off the typical American fast food diet and cleanse themselves of all the ickiness that comes along with that. It is based on what she fed Morgan Spurlock after he did his experiment for Super Size Me. I thought that was cool so I decided to try it.

It was a yummy meal. We always like Moroccan-flavored things, and we love chickpeas and potatoes. It was really good. However, it wasn't particularly special, in that it didn't set itself apart from other Moroccan stew recipes we've made. We probably won't make it again, but it is a good, solid recipe.

stew

Moroccan Chickpea Stew
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over whole wheat couscous instead of brown rice, if you prefer. For milder heat, seed the jalapeño.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup diced carrot (about 1 large)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 1/2 cups cubed peeled Yukon gold potato, about 1 large
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
3 cups hot cooked brown rice
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and jalapeño to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in potato and next 7 ingredients (through broth). Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Serve over rice. Top with yogurt.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Broccoli and Three-Cheese Casserole

This recipe, from the November 2006 issue of Cooking Light, ended up being more frittata-like than I had anticipated. This is not a bad thing - it was very good. I just hadn't expected it to be such an eggy dish. We both really liked it, but I kind of wished I'd made my mom's broccoli-cheese-rice casserole instead. I guess you just can't top your mom's cooking, right?

Changes: Our fontina cheese expired so we used provolone; I made my own fines herbes (made from parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil or marjoram); real eggs instead of egg substitute; storebought breadcrumbs vs homemade; and it baked for like 10 minutes longer than the recipe said because it wouldn't set.

Edited to add: OH I just read the note that came along with the recipe and realized that this was meant to be a brunch recipe! I am so dumb. That explains why it is eggy. Hahahahahaha.

casserole

Broccoli and Three-Cheese Casserole

Broccoli remains crisp-tender in this recipe, though you can substitute any leftover cooked vegetables. Assemble the casserole the night before. Cover, refrigerate, and bake in the morning.

2 cups cooked white rice
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried fines herbes
3 egg whites
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
4 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets (about 1 bunch)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup (1 ounce) reduced-fat shredded extrasharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (1-ounce) slices firm white bread

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine the rice, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt, fines herbes, and egg whites. Press mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle fontina evenly over rice mixture. Set aside.

Cook broccoli in boiling water for 4 minutes or until tender; drain well.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli. Spoon broccoli mixture evenly over rice mixture. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Combine egg substitute, milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl; stir well with a whisk. Pour egg mixture over broccoli mixture.

Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 1/4 cups. Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over broccoli. Bake at 400° for 23 minutes or until set.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mexican Polenta

Neither of us have ever had polenta before so I thought it might be fun to try, especially since Trader Joe's has been stocking it lately (in the pasta section, for those of you who will try this recipe). This recipe uses a tube of polenta, which you slice up. I thought that was cool and it was nice because it came together so very fast. This was especially nice because my class tonight was horrendous. So getting dinner on the table quickly was much appreciated. We really, really liked this a LOT! It was very flavorful and tasty. We would definitely make this again.

Changes: Added cayenne pepper, subbed shredded cheddar for the queso fresco, and left out the cilantro.

polenta

Mexican Polenta
From Vegetarian Times, 9/07

This recipe is a spin on tacos - but much heartier and easier to serve. You can make your own Mexican seasoning by combining 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt. Prepare the mix in larger batches, and keep in an airtight container, ready to go.

1 18-oz tube polenta, cut into 12 1/2-inch slices
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp Mexican or Cajun spice seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 15.5 oz can low-sodium red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream, optional

1. Position broiling pan, or rack if using electric oven, 3 inches from heat, and turn broiler to high. Spray polenta slices with cooking spray, and place on broiling pan or baking sheet. Broil 5 minutes per side, or until browned.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook 4 minutes, or until softened. Stir in lime juice, spice seasoning, garlic, and lime zest. Cook 5 minutes, or until onion is lightly browned. Add kidney beans and tomatoes; simmer 5 minutes, or until heated through.

3. Place 3 polenta slices on each plate; ladle bean mixture over top and sprinkle with queso fresco and cilantro. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Pie

This pie was the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten. The crust is delicious, the pie is delicious, it is all delicious. We all agreed it is probably going to be our pumpkin-pie staple every Thanksgiving from now on. Oh my goodness, it is yummy. And I lightened it as best I could, but there's only so much you can do. MAKE IT, IT IS DELICIOUS.

pie

Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Pie
From Betty Crocker

Baked in a pecan-shortbread crust, this blend of cream cheese, pumpkin and spices is easy to put together and even easier to eat!

Pecan Shortbread Cookie Crust
1 1/2 cups lightly packed crushed shortbread cookies with pecans (16 cookies)
3 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Filling
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 tablespoon milk

1. Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, mix all crust ingredients until crumbly. Press firmly on bottom and side of ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate. Bake about 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

2. In large bowl, beat sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and both packages of cream cheese with electric mixer on low speed until smooth; reserve 1/2 cup. Add all remaining filling ingredients except milk to cream cheese mixture. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl constantly, until smooth. Pour into crust.

3. In small bowl, mix reserved 1/2 cup cream cheese mixture and the milk. Spoon over pumpkin mixture. Cut through cream cheese and pumpkin mixtures with knife in S-shaped curves in one continuous motion. Turn pie plate one-fourth turn and repeat. Cover edge of crust with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning.

4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Cool 30 minutes. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Yield: 8 servings

Pecan Tassies in Cream Cheese Pastry

OK, these would have been AWESOME if we hadn't forgotten the eggs. I don't know how we forgot the eggs, but we did. The eggs were what would have made the pecan filling be all gooey and pie-filling-y... instead, the filling oozed out and turned into solid caramel candy. The tassies still tasted delicious, but they were very very hard! I would recommend other people try this recipe, but DON'T FORGET THE EGGS!!!!!

tassies

Pecan Tassies in Cream Cheese Pastry
From Cooking Light

Pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Dash of salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
Cooking spray

Filling:
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare pastry, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and dash of salt in a small bowl. Combine cream cheese, butter, and milk in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until blended (mixture will be crumbly). Press flour mixture into a ball.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 3 to 4 times. Divide dough into 24 portions. Place 1 dough portion into each of 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Press dough into bottom and up sides of cups, using lightly floured fingers.

To prepare filling, divide pecans evenly among muffin cups. Combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients; spoon about 2 teaspoons filling over pecans in each muffin cup.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned and filling is puffy. Cool in cups for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around outside edge of each tassie; remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 2 dozen

Multigrain Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds

This was the star of Thanksgiving! It is SO YUMMY and I am going to make it even for regular dinners. It is absolutely delicious and healthy and looks lovely. The reason we made it is because he wanted a "festive rice," so I picked this one for the leeks and cranberries (we subbed cranberries for the currants). This is a definite make-again. Oh and also we used veggie stock instead of chicken.

rice

Multigrain Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds
From Cooking Light, 9/06

Sunflower seeds and brown rice pack a double nutrition punch, enhancing this side dish with both vitamin E and niacin. This recipe calls for long-cooking barley and brown rice, but if you're in a hurry, substitute instant brown rice and quick-cooking barley. Just be sure to adjust cooking times according to package directions.

4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1/3 cup sunflower seed kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup brown rice blend (such as Lundberg) or brown rice
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup uncooked bulgur
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil, sunflower seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; set aside.

Heat pan over medium heat; add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and butter. Add leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add 2 1/2 cups water and next 3 ingredients (through rice); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes. Stir in currants and bulgur; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until grains are tender. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, sunflower seeds, parsley, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings

Parker House Rolls

This recipe came from Bobby Flay and it seemed like it would be a simple homemade roll for dinner. It was, but the rolls were very doughy and yeasty. They were good with butter and dipped in Thanksgiving happiness, but they don't stand well on their own and we would not make them again.

Note: We made them in muffin tins to give them shape.

rolls

Parker House Rolls
Recipe from Bobby Flay

1 1/2 cups milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour in a mixer with the dough attachment and mix until smooth. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 70 minutes. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape into desired shapes. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter before serving.

Yield: 2 dozen

Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables

My mom makes her standard Thanksgiving stuffing every year (the recipe is too secret to be posted, so there), but we occasionally like to supplement it with a second stuffing just for variety. I thought this recipe would be awesome because it got good reviews, but it wasn't. The roasted vegetables were delicious and we really liked them, but the cornbread was SO DRY and not very good. This is not a make-again.

Changes: couldn't find rutabagas so we used turnips, forgot to add the pearl onions, vegetable broth instead of chicken.

dressing

Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables
From Bon Appetit, 11/07

1 10-ounce bag pearl onions
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled carrots (about 3/4 pound)
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled parsnips (about 3/4 pound)
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled rutabagas (about 3/4 pound)
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, stemmed, caps halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
6 cups 1/2-inch cubes Cornbread for Dressing
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Cook onions in small saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes; drain. Cool slightly; trim and peel. Place onions, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1/3 cup oil over and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place mushrooms and garlic on another rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast root vegetables until tender and brown around edges, stirring every 15 minutes, about 1 hour. Roast mushrooms and garlic until tender, stirring once, about 30 minutes. Place root vegetables and mushrooms in large bowl. Place garlic in small bowl; mash with fork until pureed. Add pureed garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage to vegetables; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool vegetables, cover, and chill. Bring mixture to room temperature before continuing.

Place cornbread cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Let bread cubes stand at room temperature to dry slightly, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2- inch oval baking dish. Add cornbread cubes to vegetables; toss to distribute evenly. Add eggs; toss to coat. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Add broth and stir to combine (mixture will be very moist). Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

Bake dressing uncovered until lightly browned and crisp around edges, about 45 minutes.

Yield: 10 servings

Boursin Creamed Spinach

OK so this wasn't healthy at all, but it just seemed like such a delicious addition to a Thanksgiving meal. And it was! We did try to reduce the fat a bit by using low-fat Boursin... but whatever. Just eat small portions of it and it will be ok. It was VERY good and we really liked it. I would make it again for other special occasions.

spinach

Boursin Creamed Spinach
From Cuisine At Home magazine

1 T. unsalted butter
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole or 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pkg. (5.2 oz.) Boursin cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry of excess moisture
2 T. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 t. lemon zest, minced
Salt, white pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg to taste
2/3 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (made from two slices firm white bread)
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 T. olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees; coat a shallow 2-cup baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Saute onion in butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Cook until onion is soft, 5 minutes.

Add flour and stir to coat onion. Cook about 1 minute.

Gradually whisk milk and cream into onion mixture, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer sauce for 1 minute.
Stir in Boursin a little at a time until melted and smooth.
Remove saucepan from heat.

Add spinach, Parmesan, lemon zest and seasonings. Transfer spinach to prepared baking dish.

Combine crumbs, butter, oil and seasonings. Top spinach with crumbs, packing them to adhere. (Dish may be covered and chilled at this point to be baked later). Place dish on a baking sheet and bake until crumbs are golden and sauce is bubbly, 20-25 minutes.

Yield: 2 cups

Salad with Cranberries and Almonds

We made this salad for Thanksgiving and it was perfect. I needed a good recipe that was festive yet fit the dietary needs of all of the guests, and this was perfect. It was so yummy! We skipped the dressing and used a storebought White Balsamic Vinaigrette, and didn't add the carrots - thought it would be excellent with carrots. We would make this again. My mom has already made it for her women's group and it went over very well!

salad

Salad with Cranberries and Almonds
From Everyday Food
You can prepare the salad ingredients and the dressing ahead of time; keep separately in covered containers (refrigerate salad). Follow step 2 just before serving.

1/2 lb (2 large) carrots, peeled and shaved with a vegetable peeler
12 oz mixed greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sweet & spicy almonds, or toasted unblanched almonds
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp white-wine vinegar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp olive oil
coarse salt & ground pepper

1. In a large bowl, toss carrots, greens, and half the cranberries and almonds. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard, and oil.

2. Drizzle salad with vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Garnish with remaining cranberries and almonds.

Yield: 8 servings

Lindrusso's Spinach Balls

My mom made these ahead of time for Thanksgiving and froze them...and then forgot about them. So technically we didn't eat them for Thanksgiving. We did eat them the day after, however, for a snack, and they were really good. I would make them again as an appetizer for a party. I preferred them without mustard but my mom liked them best with mustard. So I guess it's up to personal preference. But yes, make-again.

Lindrusso's Spinach Balls
From the CLBB

These are very easy and very tasty. There is no need to thaw before baking, but you may have to adjust the amount of baking time.

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups crushed herb stuffing mix
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 scallions, chopped
3 eggs
1 dash nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into 1-inch balls. Cover and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake. Arrange spinach balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350º until lightly browned. Serve with your favorite mustard for dipping.

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

In the spirit of the overindulgence of Thanksgiving, I am now going to post like 90000 posts to cover everything we made for our Thanksgiving dinner. We had a crazy, busy Thanksgiving as Gibby and I blended our families for the holiday but it turned out very well. Most of our food turned out great, and a few things are even going to go into the regular rotation. I will start out with our menu, and then I'll make separate posts for the dishes that I have recipes for.

Thanksgiving Menu
Appetizers
cheeseball
Cheeseball - my mom's recipe
Spinach Balls
Onion Dip - from a mix

Dinner
sweet p
Turkey - my mom's recipe
Mashed potatoes - my mom's recipe
Green Bean Casserole
Cornbread Stuffing with Roasted Fall Vegetables
Herb stuffing - my mom's recipe
Sweet potato casserole - Gibby's mom's recipe
Vegetable melee - Gibby's uncle's creation
Boursin Creamed Spinach
Salad with Cranberries and Almonds
Parker House Rolls
Multigrain Pilaf with Sunflower Seeds
stuffing
gb

Desserts
Pecan Tassies in Cream Cheese Pastry
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie
pie

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blueberry Pancakes

I will start out this post by saying that these pancakes did not taste very good. This may have been due to the lack of sugar, or due to a crappy batch of blueberries, or something. But they didn't taste very yummy at all.

However, they were absolutely lovely (as the pictures will show) and they were a lot of fun to make. The baking powder makes the batter turn foamy, which is awesome. It's kind of like a mousse. It made it much easier to work with than usual pancake batter.

But again, they just weren't very good. Maybe if they were made with small wild blueberries, or frozen berries? I don't know. Not at all a make-again.

pancakes

Blueberry Pancakes
From the Penzeys catalog

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp baking powder (seems like a lot, but blueberries are heavy)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups blueberries

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and the milk slightly and add to the dry ingredients. You may adjust the amount of milk depending on how thick or thin you prefer your pancakes. Mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the blueberries. Heat a greased pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Pour the batter by the 1/4 cup onto the griddle. Flip the pancakes when bubbly, after about 3-4 minutes. Cook the other side for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Yield: 20 pancakes

tastykakes

Holiday Pretzel Treats

Someone mentioned this recipe on the CLBB and said how simple and fun it is, so I decided to make up a batch. I used small waffle-cut pretzels, plain and peanut butter Hershey Kisses, and peanut butter M&Ms. The peanut butter Hershey Kisses melted into a horrible mess, so don't use those. I really liked the combo of regular-kisses and peanut butter M&Ms. They look cute and they were the easiest thing of all time, so I would definitely make them again. I may make them for our research organization at work closer to Christmas, in fact!

treats

Holiday Pretzel Treats
Originally from Family Fun Magazine

Pretzel Rings or Waffle-shaped pretzels
Hershey's Mint Chocolate Kisses and/or Hershey's Hugs and/or Rolos
Red and Green Holiday M&M's

Heat oven to 170 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set pretzels on the sheet in a single layer, and top each one with an unwrapped Kiss, a Hug, or a Rolo.

Bake in the oven 4-6 minutes until soft. (The Hugs get soft more quickly than the other candies.) Remove from oven and press an M&M into the center of each Kiss or Rolo. (If the chocolate is not soft enough, just return the pan to the oven for another minute or so.)

Let the pan cool for a few minutes, then set in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes to harden.

These can also be made with regular Chocolate Kisses, but those seemed less flavorful after trying all of these variations. The white chocolate in the Hugs brings out the saltiness of the pretzels, and the mint flavor or caramel in the rolos were wonderful. These freeze wonderfully.

This would be a great family activity as even the youngest can help with unwrapping candies and setting them on the pretzels!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Spinach Artichoke Bars

Sometimes I see recipes for appetizers and they sound really good, so I make them for dinner and we just eat them in bulk instead of an entree. So tonight I made these Spinach Artichoke Bars that were reviewed highly on the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards [CLBB]. They are a lot like my Spinach and Artichoke Dip, but on top of a crust of crescent roll dough. They were really good and I would make them again for company or a dinner party or something. But I would probably add about 1 tsp of minced garlic, since I love garlic.

Changes: I did not use the optional red peppers; I used reduced-fat, trans-fat-free crescent rolls, 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, and light sour cream.

Spinach Artichoke Bars
These can be made ahead & rewarmed with no effect on taste.

1 8 oz can refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
10 oz thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed until dry
14 oz artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
* Optional - 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Unroll the crescent dough and place on a 13 X 9 inch pan. Gently press though dough evenly into the pan and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan to form a crust, paying special attention to seal the roll perforations. Sprinkle the dough with 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven.

2. While the crust is baking, beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add the egg, sour cream, and remaining Parmesan cheese and mix until smooth. Fold in the spinach and artichoke hearts. Spread the mixture evenly over the prepared crust. Bake for an additional 13-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. Cut into squares and serve hot or cool to room temperature.

3. Can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. To reheat, bake at 375 degrees for 5-10 minutes, or until piping hot.

Yield: 30-48 small appetizer squares

They're kind of flat so they were hard to photograph.
bars

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts

On Thursdays I work until 6 but it takes me forever to get home, and since it's late in the week I don't want to do much for dinner. If we randomly order pizza and ignore whatever I was going to make for dinner, it's usually on a Thursday. So I like to have nice, quick meals on Thursdays.

Tonight's recipe came from Everyday Food magazine. It's supposed to be a lunch-box salad, and I'm sure it would be great as that. We had it warm though. It was very very yummy! We both liked it a lot. I would add extra red pepper next time because we couldn't even taste it. This is definitely something we would make again.

Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Peanuts

Coarse salt
1/2 pound whole-wheat fusilli
2 heads (2 pounds) broccoli
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced crosswise (1 cup)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain, and rinse under cold water; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, trim 1 inch from the stem end of broccoli stalks. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel outer layer of stalks; thinly slice crosswise. Separate florets into bite-size pieces.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium.Add pepper flakes, broccoli, and 3/4 cup water; cover and cook until broccoli is crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid has evaporated and broccoli is tender, 2 to 4 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, peanut butter, and soy sauce until smooth. Add cooled pasta, broccoli, scallions, and peanuts; toss to combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Yield: 4 servings

pasta

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Shrimp Etouffee

Shrimp Etouffee is kind of like gumbo, kind of. It's all Cajun and it's spicy and has similar ingredients (no okra though). I've had crawfish etouffee before, which was cool. You could probably use this same recipe with some crawfish, if for some reason you have access to them.

Anyway, this recipe is from my beloved Paula Deen. Obviously I reduced the amount of oil and butter (though the butter is very necessary, so make sure you still have a decent amount). I used the frozen shrimp that had been so poorly received on my Shrimp Caesar Salad and I tossed them in so they got nice and warm, and they turned out perfectly. I also used 4 times the amount of cayenne pepper, many drops of hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot Sauce), and extra green onions. The green onions are key - definitely put a lot on top as 'garnish' when it is done, because it's wonderful.

We really liked it a lot and would definitely make it again. I was kind of pessimistic about the recipe and fully expected to be eating grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream for dinner to make up for a cooking failure (seriously, clam juice? That's scary), so I was extremely surprised by the results. It was nicely spicy, delicious, and came together very well. Hooray!

Shrimp Etouffee

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra flour, optional
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if desired
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 cup minced green onions, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
2 to 3 dashes hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1 (8-ounce) can clam juice
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (recommended: Ro'tel)
Salt (Cajun seasoning has salt already)
2 pounds small or medium shrimp peeled and deveined (recommended: (31/35 size count)
1/2 stick butter
Rice, optional
Diced green onions, for garnish

Note: To make roux, use oil instead of butter, because butter burns

Make the roux, mix oil and flour in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk flour into the oil to form a paste. Continue cooking over low heat and whisk continuously, until the mixture turns a caramel color and gives off a nutty aroma, about 15 to 20 minutes. To the roux, add the onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic and cook over low heat about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are limp. Add the black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, green onions, parsley, and hot sauce to taste. Add 1 can clam juice and the tomatoes with their juice, stir to blend. Add the salt, starting with 1 teaspoon, then add more if needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add shrimp and stir. It will take about 3 minutes for shrimp to cook, don't overcook. Remove from heat. Add the butter and stir; the heat from the dish will melt the butter. Transfer the etouffee to a tureen, serving bowl, or if you prefer, over rice. Garnish with the green onions.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Our etouffee over rice:
shrimpies

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Eggplant Croques Monsieurs

Every Thursday at work I go through Dr.R's newspapers for articles to file and then I recycle the rest. Occasionally I see a Food Section and I swipe it to look at. A few weeks ago I was looking through the New York Times, from October 17, and saw this delicious-sounding recipe for an eggplant sandwich. I got it from the NYT website later and tonight I decided to make it.

We had some delicious bread from Panera and some delicious tapenade from Trader Joe's. Dinner came together quickly and we had it with tater tots. I didn't use fresh parsley, and I used baby swiss instead of Gruyere because Gruyere is always so expensive!

We both liked it but agreed that it wasn't amazing. My complaint was that the eggplant completely disappeared and it was like it wasn't even in the sandwich. Some complained that it was too "olive-y" for his tastes. We won't make it again but we did enjoy it, and I will enjoy eating the rest of the tapenade with some pita bread for lunches this week (yum yum!)

Eggplant Croques Monsieurs
1 eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds
Kosher or sea salt
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons black olive tapenade
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
6 ounces Gruyère cheese
1/2 round-loaf country bread in 12 thin slices or 6 flat oblong rolls split horizontally.

1. Trim bottom inch and top 2 inches off eggplant. Cut widest portion of eggplant into 6 slices, each about 1/2-inch thick. Set remainder of eggplant aside for another use. Salt eggplant slices on both sides and set aside for 30 minutes, then rinse and dry.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil to very hot in a large, heavy skillet. Fry eggplant slices until lightly browned. Turn slices, lower heat to medium and fry until eggplant is lightly browned on second side and cooked through. Place on paper towels. Season with pepper. Mix tapenade with parsley. Spread on one side of each eggplant slice. Cut cheese into thin slices.

3. Place an eggplant slice, tapenade-side down, on each of 6 slices of bread. Top with cheese, then second slice of bread.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Cook sandwiches, cheese side up, over medium heat, pressing down with a spatula until lightly browned. Turn and cook, adding oil if necessary. Alternatively, sandwiches can be grilled in a panini press. Cut in half and serve.

The fancy camera was unavailable so I took this crappy picture with my camera, so I apologize:
sammich

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Tonight we made Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup again. It was easy and good, but was a lot chunkier this time around. I don't know why - I used the same blender. We had it with grilled cheese and it was tasty.

At Jessica's request, Gibby and I will try to take more pictures of the food I make. However, although I am good at making things taste good, I am still working out making them look good. So if it doesn't look good, but it sounds good, give it a chance, ok?

soup