Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

Tonight Gibby cooked dinner again and did a very good job :) He made Paula Deen's recipe for Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches. We modified the recipe a bit (1/2 cup butter, are you kidding?!) and he 'fried' it in just a light coating of cooking spray instead of six pounds of butter, but they still turned out very well. I liked it a lot, but he did not. I'm not sure peanut butter and banana is a combination for everyone. I would make this again someday for like a lunch on the weekend while I'm doing homework and happen to have the ingredients, but wouldn't make it for dinner again.

Paula's Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
From the Food Network

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 to 3 ripe bananas
8 slices white bread

Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Make sure butter does not burn. In a small bowl mix together the peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon. Slice the bananas into 1/4-inch thick slices. Spread the peanut butter mixture on 4 slices of bread and cover with banana slices. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Spread the remaining butter on both sides of the sandwiches. Grill the sandwiches in the frying pan until each side is golden brown.

For topping, combine the sugar and cinnamon in shallow plate. Coat the grilled sandwiches with the mixture. Cut diagonally and serve hot.

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chana Masala

Last night I had class, so Gibby made us some Fish Tacos. They were delicious.

Tonight's meal satisfied several criteria for us:
1)Protein. We've started going to the gym, so this was good post-workout food.
2)Quick and easy. Throw it in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
3)Spicy! Indian food is always flavorful and tasty.

I got the recipe off of the CLBB (lmtadb). It was very good. Not too saucy, lots of tasty chickpeas, and a nice spiciness. My onion was a little bit pathetic, so the dish would have benefited from a larger onion. I also decreased the amount of margarine used. I also didn't like that the jalapeno was raw and crunchy, since it's added at the very end. Next time I would add it along with the chickpeas. We liked this dish a lot. We had it over basmati rice, which was an excellent decision. I would definitely make this again.

Chana Masala
1 large onion - diced
4 cloves garlic - crushed
3/4 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. margarine
1 Tbsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. ground cumin seed
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. paprika
14 oz. can plum tomatoes (I used diced)
3 c. cooked chickpeas (or 2 14 oz. cans ) - drained and rinsed
1 tsp. garam marsala
1/2 tsp. salt
1 fresh green chili pepper, finely chopped

Variation: Can used diced veggies such as potatoes, fresh tomato or cauliflower may be added.

Saute onion, garlic and ginger in margarine until soft. Add all spices and lemon juice. Fry over a low heat for 1-2 mins. stirring all the time. Add tomatoes with juice. Add chickpeas. Cook for 30 mins over a medium heat. Add the garam masala, salt and chili pepper. Stir well and serve with basmati rice.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vegetable Soup with Corn Dumplings

Tonight for dinner we had this soup from the October 2001 issue of Cooking Light. It's a simple vegetable soup with little dumplings cooked in it, a la chicken-and-dumplings. I'd never made anything like that before so it was fun and new. We liked the soup but didn't think it was anything special. The dumplings were neat though. I think it is a good comfort-food soup. We will probably explore other vegetable soup options in the future, but this was a delicious dinner tonight. Especially with our baguettes :)

Vegetable Soup with Corn Dumplngs
If you plan to serve only a portion of this soup, refrigerate part of the dumpling batter for up to 24 hours to make fresh dumplings for the reheated soup.

Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups finely chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
3 cups water
3 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups (1/4-inch) diced peeled sweet potato
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
2 cups sliced zucchini (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Dumplings:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed

To prepare soup, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, cloves, garlic, and bay leaves; cook 10 minutes. Add water, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and beans; cook for 10 minutes. Stir in corn, zucchini, parsley, and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

To prepare dumplings, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and corn; stir just until moist.

Bring soup to a boil. Drop dumpling dough by rounded tablespoonfuls into the vegetable mixture to form 8 dumplings.

Cover, reduce heat, and cook over medium-low heat 10 minutes or until dumplings are done (do not boil).

Yield: 8 servings

Picture added 10/12/08 when we mistakenly made it again:
soup

Baked Baguettes

This weekend's baking adventure involved making homemade baguettes. The recipe came from Tyler Florence on the Food Network. It sounds like a lot of work but it's actually extremely simple. We made it without the bread machine (just used the stand mixer instead) since it only needed to knead for 1 minute. It is easy and doesn't require a ton of attention. The bread is delicious, exactly like a baguette should be. We will definitely make this again.

Baked Baguettes
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
Cornmeal, for dusting
Milk, for brushing

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until most of the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms a ball. Continue to mix at the lowest speed until the dough has become a sticky ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; about 4 to 5 minutes.

Dust the counter lightly with flour. Knead the dough by hand for a minute and form into a ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm spot for 2 hours to rise.

To form the baguettes: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Press each piece of dough into a rectangle and fold the long sides up into the middle. Roll each into a log, taking care to close the seam. Taper the ends by gently rolling it back and forth. Lay the baguettes on a sheet pan that is dusted with cornmeal and cover with a towel. Let the baguettes rise for another 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With sharp knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Brush the tops of the loaves with milk. Bake for 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 4 baguettes
Note: Each baguette is about 6 inches long.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup

Tonight I made this tomato soup recipe from the October 2005 issue of Cooking Light. We ate it with grilled cheese sandwiches. It was very tasty. I used vegetable broth instead of beef broth (obviously) and didn't strain the soup (because I don't own a strainer). I really liked this a lot. Gibby liked it too. It was pretty simple, even though it cooks for a long time. I would definitely make this again whenever I am craving tomato soup and grilled cheese.

Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup
Cooking the vegetables at the high temperature of 500° caramelizes their natural sugars and deepens their flavor; the liquid poured over them ensures they won't burn. Prepare the soup up to two days ahead; reheat over medium heat before serving.

1 cup less-sodium beef broth, divided
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, drained
Cooking spray
3/4 cup half-and-half
Cracked black pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 500°.

Combine 1/2 cup of broth, sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Place onion, garlic, and tomatoes in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Pour broth mixture over tomato mixture. Bake at 500° for 50 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned.

Place tomato mixture in a blender. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and half-and-half, and process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Garnish with cracked black pepper, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, January 26, 2007

Broccoli Alfredo

I forgot to post about this on Wednesday because I was very tired when I got home from class, and then yesterday was a mess in and of itself so I didn't feel like posting then either.

Wednesday night, Gibby cooked again since I was getting home late. He made another recipe I have made before - very simple and tasty. I haven't posted the recipe here before though. It's for Broccoli Alfredo, from the April 2005 issue of Real Simple. To enjoy it, you have to forget that it's called an Alfredo (since it does not resemble alfredo sauce in any way), and just enjoy it for what it is. I like it, Gibby liked it, winner all around.

Broccoli Alfredo
1 tablespoon salt
½ 1-pound box dry fettuccine
4 cups (8 ounces) broccoli florets
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated good-quality Parmesan
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Place the salt in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to the package directions for al dente. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. Drain in a colander, reserving 1 cup of the water; set aside. Place the butter in the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir until melted. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, then stir in 1/3 cup of the Parmesan. Add the fettuccine and broccoli and the cayenne and nutmeg, if desired; toss. Remove from heat and sprinkle with another 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the pepper. Toss again, adding more pasta water if the fettuccine is too sticky. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Yield: 4 servings

Photo added March 26, 2009:
alfredo

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuscan Tuna and Bean Sandwiches

Tonight we were planning on going to the gym so I scheduled a healthy dinner with tuna and vegetables and stuff to eat afterwards. And then - unsurprisingly - we ended up not going to the gym (I had a very bad day at work). But it's ok. Anyway we made these tuna sandwiches from Gourmet magazine, and some green beans from Cooking Light. Both were disappointing. The sandwiches were bland, and it didn't help that our bread had gotten stale. I ended up squirting on some mayonnaise but I still didn't really like it. I just don't like fish, no matter how much I try. The green beans were disappointing too, but I have a feeling that it was because I used frozen green beans instead of fresh. We're fans of roasting vegetables, but this just didn't do it for us. Oh well!

Tuscan Tuna and Bean Sandwiches
Gourmet, April 2006
Tired of the same old tuna sandwich? Try this mayoless version — it just may be the best we've ever tasted.

For beans
1 (14- to 15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For tuna salad
2 (6-oz) cans Italian tuna in oil, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For sandwiches
8 (1/3-inch-thick) slices rustic Italian bread (from a round crusty loaf) or 4 (4-inch-long) oval panini rolls
1 cup loosely packed trimmed watercress sprigs

Prepare beans:
Coarsely mash beans with a fork in a bowl, then stir in garlic, lemon juice, oil, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Make tuna:
Flake tuna in a bowl with a fork, then stir in basil, olives, celery, onion, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until combined.

Assemble sandwiches:
Spoon one fourth of bean mixture on 1 slice of bread, then top with one fourth of tuna salad, some watercress, and a slice of bread. Make 3 more sandwiches in same manner.

Yield: 4 servings


Oven-Roasted Green Beans
Cooking Light, November 2005

2 pounds green beans, trimmed
4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Place a jelly-roll pan in oven for 10 minutes. Place beans in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Arrange green bean mixture in a single layer on preheated baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 8 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Yield: 12 servings

Photo of beans added on October 2, 2008 after we decided we liked them:
beans

Monday, January 22, 2007

Easy One-Skillet Stroganoff

I've made this recipe from the Boca Burger website many times. It's good and simple, but it's also hit-or-miss. Sometimes the noodles cook correctly, and sometimes they don't cook well at all.

Tonight Gibby cooked dinner because I was supposed to start graduate classes today (canceled due to snow, however. Gotta love the south). He's been buying the stroganoff flavor of Hamburger Helper recently so I suggested he try making this recipe. He did a really good job and I was very proud of him :) Unfortunately today is one of the days when some of the noodles didn't feel like cooking properly. He's very disheartened but I swear it's just the recipe. Because of the variability of its success, I am thinking we probably won't continue to repeat it. Or, if we do, I would cook the noodles before adding them to the onion mixture.

Easy One-Skillet Stroganoff

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 pouches (1 cup each) frozen BOCA Meatless Ground Burger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) vegetable broth
1 can (8 oz.) mushroom pieces and stems, drained
3 cups medium egg noodles, uncooked
1 container (8 oz.) light sour cream
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Cook onion in hot oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat until crisp-tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Add all remaining ingredients except sour cream and parsley; mix well. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Simmer 10 to 12 min. or until noodles are tender. Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream. Sprinkle with parsley.

Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Snickerdoodles

Last night we made Golden Leek-Potato Soup with Cheddar Toasts. It was tasty as usual. It's been awhile since I bothered to make the cheddar toasts, so I did and now I realize how wonderful they can be. I will make them regularly from now on.

Tonight we had Fettuccine and Tofu with Peanut Sauce, which was also tasty as usual. I added almost 1/4 cup of sriracha sauce (instead of the 2 tsp called for), added some extra green onions, and tossed in some mung bean sprouts, all of which were good changes.

Earlier today we discovered it was snowing, which obviously necessitates baking some cookies. We had no chocolate chips or baking chocolate, few nuts, and not a whole lot of flour, but we eventually found a recipe we had the ingredients for. I've made this recipe from Everyday Food before and loved them. They are the same cookies my mom used to make when I was little, except we called them snickerdoodles. The only difference is that my mom's recipe used shortening, which I abhor, and this recipe does not. We will continue to make these again and again.

Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies
Everyday Food, September 2004

These cookies will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature; include a few marshmallows to help the cookies stay moist.

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still slightly firm
1 2/3 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for topping
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter and 1 2/3 cups sugar until ligt, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture; beat, scraping bowl as needed, until dough comes together when squeezed (it will appear dry).

2. Make the topping: in a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

3. Shape dough: Scoop 48 level tablespoons. Squeeze each tightly with fist; roll into balls. Roll balls in topping to coat evenly. Place 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet; flatten with bottom of a glass. Sprinkle tops with remaining topping.

4. Bake, one sheet at a time, until tops are puffed and crackly, and bottoms are golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly on sheets; transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Yield: 4 dozen

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stuff

Wednesday night we made Pepperoni, Provolone and Pesto Stromboli, which turned out nicely as usual. Says Gibby, "I see why this is a make-again!"

Yesterday we made Vegetable and Chickpea Curry in the crockpot, so it was ready when we got home. Which was late. Because the Maryland DMV sucks at life and I am going to sell my car. But anyway we came home and despite a minor issue with the crockpot dinner was lovely. Gibby decided to toss some cashews into his bowl and really liked the results, so we might do that from now on. Awesome.

Also, the vegetarian chili from Tuesday is FANTASTIC warmed up and eaten with chips. I enjoyed it for lunch these past couple of days. :)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Quick Vegetarian Chili with Avocado Salsa

First I will make a note that we attempted to make homemade soft pretzels from a Food Network recipe, but due to several errors in judgment we ended up having to just throw out the dough and no pretzels were to be had. However, looking at the reviews on the website, it appears our troubles were not exclusive to us, which makes me feel a little bit better.

Our actual dinner, though, was successful. We made Quick Vegetarian Chili with Avocado Salsa, from the March 2002 issue of Cooking Light. We followed the recipe as directed, except I couldn't find barley anywhere, so I bought some Israeli couscous instead. It worked very well and was tasty. We also added some cayenne for heat. The recipe was pretty good. It reminded me of a soup my mom used to make. I wonder if she based hers on this recipe? Who knows. I particularly liked the avocado salsa, so don't skip that (unless you don't like avocados).

I thought this chili was tasty, but we agreed that it is somewhere between okay and good. We probably won't make it again, but I would definitely recommend it to other people. Especially vegetarians, because it is so nutritious.

Quick Vegetarian Chili with Avocado Salsa
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
2/3 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley
1/4 cup water
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
6 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
6 lime wedges
18 baked tortilla chips
Avocado Salsa (recipe follows)

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add chili powder and next 4 ingredients (chili powder through green chiles); cook 1 minute. Stir in barley and next 4 ingredients (barley through broth); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until barley is tender. Stir in cilantro. Serve with sour cream, lime wedges, chips, and Avocado Salsa.

Note: Store chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Avocado Salsa:
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled avocado
1/3 cup chopped seeded tomato
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients; toss mixture gently. Serve salsa immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, January 15, 2007

Mexican Black Bean Pizza

I was originally going to make curry in the crockpot today, but I spent all last night suffering from food poisoning so I didn't think super-spicy curry would be the best idea tonight. So I re-arranged our meal plan for the week and decided to make this Mexican Black Bean Pizza recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens website. It was fast and simple, which is what I needed tonight. It was pretty good. Not amazing though. I will take it to work for lunch tomorrow. But because it wasn't amazing, it's not going to be a make-again. It would probably be good for kids, though. Maybe I'll make it with my students sometime.

Mexican Black Bean Pizza
1 10-ounce package refrigerated pizza dough
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons salsa
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1-1/2 cups shredded Cojack or cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped red sweet pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
2 tablespoons salsa

1. Lightly grease an 11- to 13-inch pizza pan. Unroll pizza dough and transfer to greased pan, pressing dough out with your hands. Build up edges slightly. Prick generously with a fork. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

2. Meanwhile, in a blender container or food processor bowl combine black beans, cilantro or parsley, 2 tablespoons salsa, cumin, hot pepper sauce, and garlic. Cover and blend or process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides if necessary.

3. Spread bean mixture over hot crust. Sprinkle with Cojack or cheddar cheese, chopped red sweet pepper, and green onion. Bake about 10 minutes more or until cheese melts and pizza is heated through.

4. In a small bowl combine sour cream and 2 tablespoons salsa. Serve pizza with sour cream mixture. Makes 4 servings.

Picture from BH&G:
pizza

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts

I was originally going to make some pretzels with the bread maker but I discovered we were out of yeast, so that will have to wait. Instead, I decided to make some of Giada de Laurentiis's chocolate chip cookies. This recipe is from her new cookbook, Giada's Family Dinners, which I received from my secret santa at work. It is so super-easy to put together, bakes quickly, and makes some of the best-textured chocolate chip cookies ever. We both really liked the addition of the hazelnuts and Heath bars. I also substituted milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, which was an awesome decision on my part. I would definitely make these again.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts
Giada's Family Dinners, pg 220

If I do say so myself, this is the ultimate chocolate chip cookie. I made five hundred of them for my wedding. I always keep a batch in the freezer for a quick pick-me-up.

1/2 cup old-fashioned (not instant) oats
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces English toffee candy (recommended: Heath or Skor bar), finely chopped
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, and chopped
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Finely chop the oats in a food processor. Transfer the oats to a medium bowl. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the toffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips.

Drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets by rounded tablespoonsful, spacing 1-inch apart (do not flatten dough). Bake until the cookies are golden (cookies will flatten slightly), about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack and cool completely. (The cookies can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Yield: 4 dozen

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chili and Cheddar Bow Tie Casserole

If you haven't noticed, I've been on a big pasta kick. And a big casserole kick. So why not make another noodle casserole tonight, eh?

This recipe from Cooking Light was very easy to prepare and was absolutely delicious. My only changes were that I subbed fake-bacon for the bacon and omitted the fresh cilantro. We loved it! Gibby said that it was a nearly-perfect meal. I will definitely make this again.

Chili and Cheddar Bow Tie Casserole
If you don't have farfalle, substitute ziti, rigatoni, or even macaroni.

1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced Canadian bacon (about 2 ounces)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
8 cups hot cooked farfalle (bow tie pasta) or other short pasta
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Remove 1 teaspoon adobo sauce and 1 chile from canned chiles; mince the chile. Place remaining sauce and chiles in a zip-top plastic bag; freeze for another use.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and bacon; sauté 4 minutes. Add onions; sauté 1 minute. Stir in the adobo sauce, minced chile, flour, chili powder, salt, and cumin; cook 1 minute. Gradually add milk; cook until thick and bubbly (about 4 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups cheese and cilantro, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to pan; toss well.

Spoon the pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over pasta mixture. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until browned.

Yield: 6 servings

Photo added March 8, 2009:
casserole

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Frittata with Spinach, Potatoes, and Leeks

This recipe has many ingredients that I love: potatoes, leeks, spinach, and cheese. Therefore, I decided it would be a good thing to eat for dinner. I was correct. It was very tasty and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Next time I wouldn't use as much basil (I used dried, which is more pungent) and I would add more cheese. I would also use the prepared potatoes instead of cooking my own, because I'm lazy. But it was very good, and I would make this again.

Frittata with Spinach, Potatoes, and Leeks
from Cooking Light, April 2003

Make the leek mixture and cook the potatoes a day ahead. Or use store-bought diced cooked potatoes (such as Simply Potatoes), whisk the eggs, combine everything, and bake the morning of the brunch.

1 teaspoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
1/3 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 cups cooked, peeled red potato (about 3/4 pound)
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded provolone cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek; sauté 4 minutes. Add spinach; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Place mixture in a colander, pressing until barely moist.

Combine milk, basil, salt, pepper, eggs, and egg whites; stir well with a whisk. Add leek mixture and potato. Pour into a 10-inch round ceramic baking dish or pie plate coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and top with cheese. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until center is set.

Preheat broiler.

Broil frittata 4 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges.

Photo added August 2, 2009:
frittatta

Monday, January 08, 2007

Broccoli Parmesan Casserole

My mom used to make this recipe a lot when I was growing up. At the time, the recipe included chunks of cooked chicken, but once I went vegetarian she modified it for me to eat. I have always really enjoyed this dish a lot. Tonight was the first time I'd ever made it on my own, though! I'm proud to say it came out exactly how my mom makes it. We traditionally serve it over noodles, but it would also be good over rice (which you could also toss into the casserole itself). Don't be fooled - it is much more substantial than it sounds. It's very filling and heavy, not saucy. Oh, and if you feel the need to eat meat, you can easily chop up a cooked chicken breast and mix it in before baking the casserole.

Broccoli Parmesan Casserole
As written by my mom

3 8-oz blocks of cream cheese
2 C milk
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garlic salt
32 Oz package of frozen broccoli
1 Cup Grated Parmesan cheese

Put the cream cheese and milk into large pan, and "melt" cheese on low heat, stirring frequently. Once milk and cheese are creamy, add garlic powder and garlic salt and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low, stirring often, until sauce is thick and bubbly and parmesan cheese is all mixed in. (Depending on thickness of sauce, I sometimes a bit more Parmesan cheese...) While making the sauce, you can microwave the broccoli, right in the plastic bag. Just poke some holes in it, set it on a paper towel in the microwave, and cook for 5 minutes on High. May need to continue zapping it a bit until broccoli is defrosted; but does not need to be cooked through and through. Drain completely. Add broccoli to sauce stirring well to combine.

Place casserole in 375 degree oven (either in oven-proof pan or in a shallow greased pyrex casserole dish. Do not cover. Cook for about 30-45 minutes, until casserole is "set". (It also "sets up" after sitting for a few minutes before serving.)

Yield: about 6 servings

Photo Added January 11, 2009:
casserole

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blackened Salmon Sandwich

Tonight I thought we'd try some fish. This recipe from Eating Well sounded pretty good so I decided to make it. We had two minor obstacles while making it. First, the frozen wild salmon I'd purchased from Trader Joe's wasn't fully thawed when I started to prepare dinner. A soak in a bowl of hot water helped with that. Second, the avocado inexplicably decided it didn't want to come out of its shell, and didn't want to mash into the mayonnaise. I swear, it was ripe when I bought it! Despite these issues, the sandwich is pretty good. I'm not a big fan of fish but I try to eat it from time to time. I liked the blackening seasoning (which I usually use on shrimp). Gibby liked the sandwich; he said it reminded him of a Big Mac for some reason. It's a good dish and I'm sure people who love fish would love this recipe. I don't think we will make it again though.

Blackened Salmon Sandwich
Forget the Filet-O-Fish; this may be the perfect fish sandwich. Blackening seasoning and sliced red onion add a little kick and the creamy avocado spread melts in your mouth. Make it a Meal: Serve with steamed asparagus or sautéed zucchini, oven fries and a salad.

1 pound salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 4 portions
2 teaspoons blackening or Cajun seasoning (see Ingredient note)
1 small avocado, pitted
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
4 crusty whole-wheat rolls, split and toasted
1 cup arugula
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

Ingredient note: Cajun seasoning is a spice blend that usually includes cayenne and black pepper, salt, thyme, garlic and onion powder and paprika. Look for it in the spice section of the supermarket. To oil a grill rack: Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

1. Oil grill rack, preheat grill to high.

2. Rub blackening (or Cajun) seasoning on both sides of salmon. Grill until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

3. Mash together avocado and mayonnaise in a small bowl.

4. To assemble sandwiches, spread the avocado mixture on the bottom half of each roll. Top with the salmon, arugula, tomato and onion.

Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ciabatta

To break in my new bread machine, I - in typical Lauren fashion - chose a complex and time-consuming recipe to try: ciabatta. It takes a very long time! I started the biga last night at 1:00 AM when we got in from seeing a movie (Children of Men is excellent, by the way), started the dough cycle this morning at about noon, and baked it by 2:00. We had it for dinner tonight with some olive oil for dipping, and some fettuccine bolognese. Despite the time required, this bread is freaking phenomenal. It's exactly like you'd get at an Italian restaurant. The loves looked lovely as well. I am very impressed with my bread machine, and I am impressed with this recipe. I would absolutely make this bread again, especially for company.

Ciabatta
from Bread Machine Baking, posted on the CLBB

This popular flat loaf is irregularly shaped and typically has large air holes in the crumb. The dough for this bread is extremely wet. Do not be tempted to add more flour - it's meant to be that way.

For the Biga:
7/8 cup water
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp. rapid rise active dry yeast

For the Ciabatta Dough:
7/8 cup water
2 Tbs. milk
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
scant 3 cups unbleached bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp yeast

1. Pour the water for the biga into the bread pan.

2. Set the bread machine to the dough setting; use basic dough setting. Press Start. Mix for 5 minutes then switch off the machine.

3. Leave the biga in the bread machine, or place in a large mixing bowl covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap, overnight or for at least 12 hours, until the dough has risen and is just starting to collapse.

4. Return the biga to the pan, if necessary. Add the water, milk and oil for the ciabatta dough. Sprinkle the flour over. Add the salt and sugar in separate corners. Make a shallow indention in the center of the flour and add the yeast.

5. Set the bread machine to the dough setting; use the basing dough setting. Press start.

6. When the cycle has finished, transfer the dough to a bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise for about 1 hour, until the dough has tripled in size. Sprinkle two baking sheets with flour.

7. Using a spoon or a dough scraper, divide the dough into two portions. Carefully tip one portion of the dough onto one of the prepared baking sheets, trying to avoid knocking the air out of the dough. Using well floured hands shape the dough into a rectangular loaf about 1 inch thick, pulling and stretching as necessary. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

8. Sprinkle both loaves with flour. Leave them, uncovered, in a warm place for about 20-30 minutes. The dough will spread and rise. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

9. Bake the ciabatta for 25-30 minutes, or until both loaves have risen, are light golden in color and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool before serving with butter, or olive oil for dipping.

Yield: 2 loaves

My bread, sliced and ready to be consumed (which it was immediately following the photo):
yum

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

I was in the mood for stuffed shells, but not in the mood for lots of prep work, so I made this super-simple recipe from Kraft Foods. It's your basic stuffed shells recipe, with cheese and spinach and tomato sauce. Instead of Italian seasoning, I used Penzey's Pizza Seasoning, which worked nicely. I like this recipe because it doesn't use egg as a binder in the filling, which is common in a lot of recipes but annoys me for some reason. I probably won't make it again just because I'm Lauren, but it's a pretty good recipe.

Cheesy Stuffed Shells
To make ahead: Prepare as directed except for baking; cover. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake, covered, at 400°F for 35 min.

1 container (16 oz.) BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup KRAFT 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked, drained
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 large tomato, chopped

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Mix cottage cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning until well blended. Spoon 1 heaping Tbsp. of the cheese mixture evenly into each pasta shell.

COMBINE spaghetti sauce and tomatoes; spoon half of the sauce mixture into 13x9-inch baking dish. Place shells, filled sides up, in baking dish. Spoon remaining sauce mixture over shells. Cover with foil.

BAKE 25 min. or until heated through. Uncover; top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, an additional 2 min. or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 5 servings

Picture from Kraft:
shells

Suikerebrood

I was born in Holland, but I moved away when I was 2 years old. Obviously I remember nothing of Holland, which kind of sucks. There was a good article in the most recent issue of Penzey's One about someone doing a semester abroad in Holland, and included some excellent-sounding recipes. I decided my mom and I should bake a loaf of this Dutch sugar bread while I was in Connecticut for the holidays. So we did!

It was kind of fun to make, since I didn't have my bread maker and we had to knead it by hand. It was really tasty. It's not too sweet, despite all the sugar, since it's made with whole-wheat flour. It was good warm but even better when it was room temperature. It is nice for breakfast. And it looks really neat, because you roll it up before you bake it, so the sugary areas shrink and there are these neat pockets inside the bread. I may make it again now that I have a bread machine.

Henriette's Sugar Bread: Suikerebrood
Sugar Pearls are large pieces of sugar, available in grocery stores with large baking sections. If you can't find them, buy a box of sugar cubes and crush them into pieces with a rolling pin.

3 cups wheat flour
1 2/3 cups white flour
2 cups warm water
1 packet yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar pearls

Filling:
1 cup sugar pearls
1/2 cup vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 pinch each: cloves, cardadom, ginger, nutmeg
1/2 pinch white pepper
1Tbsp milk, for brushing top of loaves

In a small bowl, cover yeast with warm water, add granulated sugar, stir and let stand 5 minutes. If it's frothy it means the yeast is working. In a large bowl, combine wheat and white flour, butter, and salt. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until you can't tell where it is anymore. Make a well in the center of the flour, pour in the yeast water. Stir with a wooden spoon until reasonably combined. Add 1/3 cup sugar pearls, stir again, then turn out onto a floured table. Knead dough 5 minutes, adding white flour a bit at a time to keep it from sticking. Knead with a light hand;it should be a soft dough that almost sticks but doesn't. When it is springy and stays in a nice ball, divide in half, knead briefly into 2 nice balls, then roll each in a butter bowl, covered with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled - 45-60 minutes. Starting with one loaf, punch down (pop with your finger), turn out on the table, and knead briefly to form a ball again. Let rest 5 minutes before rolling. Roll out into a long rectangle. Flip and sprinkle flour a bit at a time on the table to keep dough from sticking. Combine the spices with the vanilla sugar and mix. Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar pearls and spiced sugar evenly over the dough, saving about 2 Tbsp of sugar pearls. Roll up from both ends so the rolls meet in the middle like a scroll. Tuck the ends of the roll up so it is the size of your loaf pan, then flip upside down into a buttered loaf pan. This is the tricky bit - don't be afraid! Just rearrange if it hits the pan goofy. Brush the loaf top with half the milk and sprinkle with half the remaining sugar pearls. Repeat for second loaf. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about an hour. Bake in preheated 375° oven for 30-35 minutes.

My bread:

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Corn and Potato Chowder

Tonight for dinner we had Corn and Potato Chowder from the January 2006 issue of Cooking Light. It was very good and tasty, and I would recommend it. However, it tasted extremely similar to my favorite Potato-Leek Soup, so I probably won't make it again. But I may sometime add some corn to the potato-leek soup, because I liked that in this soup.

My changes: I didn't have a bell pepper so I threw in some chopped onion, and I didn't have any Old Bay so I used some random poultry seasoning I got for free from Penzey's one time. It worked just fine.

Corn and Potato Chowder
If you prefer a hotter bite, add extra ground red pepper or some minced seeded jalapeño pepper to this thick and hearty, corn-studded soup.

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups prechopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped green onions, divided (about 1 bunch)
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound baking potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add bell pepper and 3/4 cup green onions, and sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned.

Increase heat to high; add corn, water, seafood seasoning, thyme, red pepper, and potatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, and stir in half-and-half, chopped parsley, and salt. Place about 1 1/2 cups soup in each of 4 bowls; sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons cheese and 1 tablespoon green onions.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006

In 2006, I tried 157 NEW recipes. I am proud of myself and hope to beat that number in 2007.

Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad

Today we drove home from Connecticut (where both of our families live). Luckily there was NO traffic, so we made it home in 4 1/2 hours! But we were still feeling pretty bleh after all the travel, so I wasn't in the mood to make something fancy for dinner. After a quick trip to the grocery store for food for the week, I whipped together this recipe from Cooking Light's January 2005 issue. It was extremely easy and pretty good. Not fantastic. I probably wouldn't make it again, but we enjoyed it for dinner tonight. It's definitely good for a quick weeknight meal.

I used marinated artichoke hearts instead of plain, which was a mistake on my part. Don't do that, it doesn't taste very good. Just buy the regular artichoke hearts. I also omitted the arugula (couldn't find any) and subbed dried basil for fresh, because I'm cheap.

Warm Tortellini and Cherry Tomato Salad
Extravirgin olive oil and two kinds of vinegar make an easy, classic dressing for this pasta-and-vegetable salad. You can also try this with chicken or mushroom tortellini or cheese ravioli.

2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese tortellini
1 1/2 cups (1 1/2-inch-long) slices fresh asparagus (about 1 pound)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups trimmed arugula
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup (3 ounces) pregrated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add asparagus to pasta during last 2 minutes of cook time. Drain.

While pasta cooks, combine vinegars, oil, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pasta mixture, arugula, and remaining ingredients; toss to coat.

Yield: 6 servings