Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kale Lasagna Rollups


So, the blogging has really fallen off in the last month. Here's the big news...WE'RE MOVING TO SEATTLE!! So, given that Seattle is two-thousand miles away from where we live now, and involves me quitting my job, finding a new place to live while getting our current home ready for sale and figuring out how the heck we actually get ourselves and the dogs across the country, I haven't been doing much cooking. Sadly, my CSA veggies were mostly eaten in super simple, non blog-worthy food (or even worse, not eaten at all) and our diet for the last several weeks has consisted of a lot of eating out (insert frowny face here).

But, as I realize I can't end the month of September without blogging SOMETHING, I thought I'd dig up a recipe I made a while back (before my life got turned upside down) and share it. This recipe is based off of one on Skinnytaste.com for Spinach Lasagna Rolls. Since I had Kale on hand from the CSA, I thought I'd use that here. The original recipe called for frozen spinach, thawed and drained. Since my kale was fresh I
just chopped the kale, wilted the in a saucepan with about an inch of water with a covered lid, and then drained off the excess liquid. Overall, this was fairly simple to make, however I still managed to forget the Parmesan cheese in the mixture and so my rolls were lacking in salt. If I made this again, I'd highly recommend using a lot of sauce. I skimped because I didn't have a ton of sauce on hand and because ricotta tends to be a drier cheese this just was a little dry for my taste.

This would make a great freezer meal!

Here's the recipe, modified to include Kale instructions
Ingredients:
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 1 bunch of kale (or use swiss chard, or spinach)
  • 15 oz fat free ricotta cheese (I like Polly-o)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 32 oz tomato sauce
  • 9 tbsp (about 3 oz) part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. 
  2. Chop the kale into small ribbons or pieces. In a large saute pan with a lid, fill bottom with a little water (about 1/3-1/2 cup or so) and add kale, heating through until kale is softened to your liking. Drain out any excess liquid.
  3. Combine kale, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish.
  4. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry. Take 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.
  5. Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tbsp mozzarella cheese. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts. Makes 9 rolls.
  6. To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala from Scratch



I know, I know, it's been a while since I posted. Frankly, life has been crazy and a crazy life means I'm making recipes that just aren't blog-worthy. But, I wanted to spend some time cooking this weekend and tried two recipes out. This one, from the blog Use Real Butter, is completely worth the wait you've endured since my last post. 

I love chicken tikka masala. Love, with a capital L. Most Indian recipes are a bit daunting to me, usually calling for a pinch of a spice (or several spices) that I don't have, or a laundry list of ingredients and a whole lot of time. This recipe I found for Chicken Tikka from scratch did have a bit of a lengthy list of ingredients, but as I looked closer all the ingredients were ones I had on hand, and by prepping the chicken in the marinade the night before there wasn't a ton of work to be done to actually make this dish. 

This is so yummy. And now it's ultra dangerous for me to have this recipe in my arsenal because Chris declared it better than Swagat (one of the best Indian restaurants in Madison). Now, I'm not going to say that this is better than the Chicken Tikka Masala from Swagat, but man, it's really really good. 

Here's a note - double up the sauce recipe. Trust me, you'll need a lot of it to sop up with your naan bread.

Recipe from Use Real Butter
Ingredients
  • 1/2 recipe chicken kebabs (see below)
  • 3 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsps minced garlic
  • 2 tsps peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 fully ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsps sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick (approx 1-inch or 2.5-cm)
  • 2 tbsps butter
  • 1/2 lime, juice of (about 1.5 tbsps)
  • 1/4 cup (65 ml) heavy cream
  • 3 tbsps water
Chicken Kebabs:
  • 1 lb. chicken breast or chicken thigh, boneless and skinless
  • 4 tbsps vegetable oil (or 3 tbsps if grilling the kebabs)
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsps plain yogurt
Directions:
  1. Make the chicken kebabs: Cut the chicken into 3/4-inch (2 cm) cubes. Mix 3 tablespoons of the oil and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl or ziploc bag. Add the chicken cubes and mix well to ensure even coating. If in a bowl, cover the chicken with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day (I let it marinate for 24 hours). When done marinating, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. If baking the chicken then preheat oven to 450°F and spread the remaining tablespoon of oil over a baking sheet. If grilling, clean and lightly oil the grill, then fire it up! Skewer the chicken with pre-soaked bamboo skewers or as I prefer to use, stainless steel skewers. Try not to squash them too closely or they won’t cook evenly. If baking, set the skewers on the baking sheet and bake 8 minutes, turn and bake another 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. If grilling, grill over high heat for 4 minutes, flip the skewers and grill another 3 minutes until done. Remove the chicken from the skewers. At this point you can refrigerate the chicken for a few days or freeze it for up to a month.
  2. Make the masala: In a medium saucepan (or a large one if you double or triple the recipe), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until the onions become golden brown, stirring frequently for about six minutes. [Mine never got to golden brown, they got to translucent yellowish slightly brown.] Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chopped tomato. Cover and simmer for a few minutes until the tomato softens, stirring occasionally. Mash it with the onions until it becomes a sort of mushy paste. Stir in the cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, red pepper, salt, black pepper and sugar. Let the masala simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the sauce into a blender (take care not to burn yourself as it will be hot) and purée until smooth.
  3. Put it all together: Return the masala to the saucepan and stir in the cinnamon stick, butter, lime juice, heavy cream and water. Set on high heat. Let it come to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add the chicken and let simmer 5 minutes. Stir it every minute or so. Serves 3 to 4.
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Garlic Scape Pesto Linguine

So, you just got garlic scapes from your farmer's market or CSA box, and you just made garlic scape pesto. What shall you eat it with? Pasta, of course!

This is a pretty versatile recipe in which you could use traditional basil pesto, and it is yet ANOTHER way to make a pesto sauce for pasta. Typically my pesto pasta recipes can be made with straight up pesto and pasta water to thin it out. However the sharpness of the garlic scape pesto warranted the pesto being cut with a little heavy cream and some cheese. What's wrong with a little heavy cream?

I garnished mine with some tomatoes and leftover pinenuts, which you can certainly omit. But, I like the color they add and the different flavor and texture they provided. This would be really good with Summer Zucchini Pasta with Pesto too.

The recipe written below will make enough sauce to coat 1/2 box of linguine.
Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces dried linguine, pasta water reserved
  • 1/4 cup garlic scape pesto
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup shredded provolone or parmesan cheese - whatever you've got. I had provolone so that's what I used
  • 1/4 Diced tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 Tbs Pine nuts (optional)
Directions:
  1. In pot of salted boiling water, cook linguine until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain. 
  2. In large skillet on medium, heat pesto and heavy cream until bubbling. Add cheese, pasta and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Quickly stir and saute the pasta until sauce thickens. If sauce thickens too much, thin it with another splash of cream or pasta water. 
  3. Serve immediately, top with diced tomatoes and pine nuts.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Garlic Scape Pesto


A couple weeks ago I got garlic scapes in my CSA box. Not having cooked with garlic scapes before led me on a search for 1) what they are 2) recipes (of course). Apparently garlic scapes are just the green curly tops of a growing bulb of garlic. They have a fresh, mellow garlic flavor and hands down the most popular recipe made with garlic scapes is a pesto. Perfect! I love pesto!

I didn't have too many scapes on hand, so I essentially halved the recipe as my starting point and added more of whatever I needed as I went. My guiding recipe was from Dorie Greenspan in which I subbed pine nuts instead of the almonds in the recipe. Despite the garlic scape's supposed "mellow" flavor, my pesto was quite pungent and required a little more oil, cheese, and nuts than the recipe called for. Pesto is one of those things you need to taste as you go and tweak to your liking. I ended up tossing in a couple basil leaves too, since I had them growing in the garden.

Ultimately this is a delicious way to use garlic scapes. It made about 1/2 of a cup and was delicious made into a pesto pasta, and would be equally yummy as a dip for veggies, topping on crackers, or stirred into a pot of italian tortellini soup (which is what I plan to do with it in a couple days).

Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan, halved below
Ingredients:

  • About 5-7 garlic scapes with the "bulbous" part cut off, discarded and remaining stems rough chopped
  • 1/8 - 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 cup of pinenuts
  • 2 basil leaves
  • About 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional. If added will preserve green color and punch up the freshness)

Directions: 

  1. In food processor combine garlic scapes, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and basil leaves. Pulse to chop up ingredients. With olive oil ready, turn food processor on and add olive oil and process until combined and smooth. Stop processor, taste and season with salt, lemon juice and any other ingredients you feel need increased...this is where you taste as you go, adding more as needed. 
  2. The pesto can be pretty pungent, but will mellow after a day or so in the fridge. Store in the fridge for a couple days tightly covered, or for a couple months in the freezer. 



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Homemade Pasta Dough

I recently purchased a pasta roller after one of my cooking classes at Orange Tree Imports. Making pasta seemed like something that should be easy enough to do. And, honestly it really was! I think the most difficult thing about making the pasta is just having enough hands to coordinate the rolling through the machine, especially when you're using a hand-crank version and not one that attaches to your Kitchen-Aid.

The recipe I used wasn't one that I spent tons of time looking for. So, are there better, more authentic pasta recipes out there that DON'T use all-purpose flour? Probably. But, I was looking for something I could make quickly with ingredients I had on hand.

Results were pretty good! I thought these noodles would be a little more delicate and light, and would therefore do well in a carbonara sauce. However, these turned out a bit thicker and stronger than I expected and could have held up to a much heartier sauce. Probably would make a great lasagna noodle!

I think this recipe,while not perfect or uber-traditional, is a great starting point for learning how to make pasta. Next time I'll roll the dough even thinner, make sure I don't over-knead, and continue to refine things!

Recipe from Cooking Channel, makes 4-6 servings.
Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil


Directions:


  1. Mound the flour on a clean work surface. Hollow out the center making a well in the middle of the flour with steep sides.
  2. Break the eggs into the well. Add the salt, and olive oil to the hollow center and gently mix together with a fork. Gradually start incorporating the flour by pulling in the flour from the sides of the well. As you incorporate more of the flour, the dough will start to take shape.
  3. With your hands or a bench scraper continue working the dough until it comes together. If the dough is too dry, add a little water; if too wet or sticky, add a little flour.
  4. Begin kneading the dough and keep kneading until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, set the dough aside, cover it with plastic, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. You can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, but allow it to return to room temperature before rolling it out.
  5. Divide the pasta dough into 4 even sections. Keep each section covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel while you work with each one. Flour the dough, the rollers of a pasta roller (or your rolling pin), your hands, and the work surface.
  6. If using a pasta machine: Flatten 1 of the of the dough pieces between your hands or with a floured rolling pin until it forms a thick oval disk. Dust the disk, the roller, and your hands with additional flour. Flour a baking sheet to hold the rolled out finished pasta.
  7. With the roller on the widest setting, pass the pasta through the machine's rollers a few times until it is smooth. Fold the dough over into 1/3, and continue to pass through a few more times until the pasta is smooth again. Begin adjusting the pasta machine settings to become thinner, passing the dough through a few times at each setting.
  8. If rolling the pasta by hand: Flatten a dough piece into a thick oval disk with your hands. Flour a baking sheet for the rolled out finished pasta. Place the oval dough disk on a floured work surface, and sprinkle with additional flour. Begin rolling out the dough with a floured rolling pin working from the center of the dough outwards, constantly moving the dough and lifting it to make sure it's not sticking.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale

Kale was the latest leafy green veggie I had to contend with in my CSA box. I've cooked with kale before, briefly steaming it and tossing it into the Mediterranean Israeli Couscous Salad. But, when I got the kale in my box last week, I was sort of perplexed since it was a different variety than what I'm familiar with...it wasn't the lacinto kale or curly kale that you typically see in the produce department. It was a variety that had dusty reddish, purple-colored leaves which I learned was called Russian Kale. It's a more tender variety and being that I didn't have a ton of it, I thought it would be perfect in a pasta dish.

My inspiration for this dish comes from two places. First, although the only thing that I have ordered at Lombardino's in Madison is the Spaghetti alla Bolognese, I have tasted (thanks to Chris) the Orecchiette with Fraboni's Sausage & Rapini and it is delicious! And, I don't even like sausage! Rapini (aka, broccoli rabe) is a green veggie that can be cooked very similarly to kale. So, I thought this might work. Apparently others like the combo of pasta, sausage, and kale as I found a few recipes as my starting point. Ultimately I used the recipe for Fettucine with Sausage and Kale from Gourmet as my primary recipe.

For how quickly this dish came together, the results were very good. To prep the kale, I removed the tough lower portions of the stems and really rough chopped into big pieces. The sausage I used was hot Italian sausage from the Italian grocery store, removed from the casing, crumbled and cooked. Super spicy! Ultimately I ended up using more chicken broth than what was called for in the recipe to make sure I had enough sauce. Be sure to finish your noodles in the saute pan reserving the pasta water.

Recipe from Gourmet, modified below for approximately 3 servings
Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 lb hot italian sausage, casing discarded and sausage crumbled (two big links)
  • 1/4 lb kale, tough stems discarded and rough chopped into big pieces
  • 1/2 lb orecchiette pasta
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • Fresh grated parmesan, pecorino ramano, or gran padano cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet and brown the crumbled sausage until cooked through, approximately 5-7 minutes
  2. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente and drain, reserving a cup of cooking water
  3. While pasta cooks, add kale and broth to sausage, scraping up any sausage bits from the pan. Cover and cook the kale until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add drained pasta to the sausage & kale mixture, using reserved cooking water to thin to desired consistency. Stir in cheese and thin with additional water if desired.
  4. Serve immediately

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Roasted Beet Hummus

CSA box week two consisted of baby beets, swiss chard, kale, onion, cilantro, dill, and garlic scapes. Oh yeah, and LOTS of mixed greens. I'm kind of amazed at how much they can pack into two plastic bags! We'll be eating salad alongside everything else I make this week, that's for sure.

Today, I scoured the web for a recipe that'd be good for baby beets...wasn't really having much luck. I haven't really eaten beets in any memorable way in the past, except this one time at a place called Coopers Tavern on the square in downtown Madison. I ordered their hummus, and what they brought to me was hot pink hummus! Apparently, made with roasted beets. So, I tossed aside the disappointing recipes for beets and figured I'd just roast the things and blitz them together with some garbanzos into a hummus of my own.

Since I've never cooked beets before I sort of learned as you go on prepping these. First of all, beets are really red, and will stain a wooden cutting board. Use a plastic board you don't really care about to do the trimming. Remove the tops and the long lanky root thing at the bottom. Don't bother peeling. Once roasted, the skins will come right off. Roasting is simple...just toss them in a foil packet and roast until softened, maybe forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on how big your beets are.

My baby beets were pretty small, so for this hummus I used about 6-7 beets. Making hummus is pretty easy. I've found that I like my hummus a little runnier, so to get the consistency I like I usually add water at the end. Just taste it as you go, adding more of whatever you need.

Here's my recipe for hummus. Makes approximately 2 cups:
Ingredients:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
  • 6-7 baby beets, roasted, skins removed and roughly diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 small clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Feta Cheese (optional) 

Directions:

  1. In food processor, combine garbanzos, beets, lemon juice, garlic, tahini. With processor running, slowly add olive oil into spout. Stop, scrape down sides and restart processor. With processor running, slowly add water and process to desired consistency. Add pinch of salt at the end and season to taste. Top with feta and serve with pita chips, veggies, or crackers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches


Despite the fact that I am happily married, I have a new love in my life...for ice cream. But, not just any ice cream. It's AMAZING ice cream by Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams based out of Columbus, OH. I had heard about this ice cream on some TV show on HGTV a few years ago and figured it was just one of those things that I'd have to try if I ever found my way to Columbus. But then, it showed up at Fromagination in Madison. And so I bought a pint of the Brown Butter Almond Brittle. And then it showed up at Metcalfe's (much closer to my house). And now, it's a problem for me. Well, mostly a problem for my waistline because once I take a spoonful I. cannot. stop.

So, when I found myself bored and staring at a gigantic jar of extra crunchy peanut butter I thought "yes, let's take this amazingly rich ice cream and plop it between two super rich homemade peanut butter cookies, and then eat it! Yes! Brilliant! I won't get a stomach ache from that at all!" So of course I did it.

I strongly suggest that sometime this summer you do two things; 1) Buy a pint of Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (and try really really hard not to eat it all as you stow it in your freezer. Save a couple scoops for step two...), and then 2) make some homemade cookies and turn them into an ice cream sandwich! Of course, you could go a step further and make your own ice cream. But trust me, the Brown Butter Almond Brittle is perfectly paired with salty-sweet peanut butter cookies in an ice cream sandwich...you won't be disappointed.

Here's the recipe for the Peanut Butter Cookies originally from JIF on Allrecipes.com. Instructions on how to build your ice cream sandwich follow.
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 3 Tbsp Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
  2. Combine brown sugar, JIF peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg. Beat until just blended. 
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix until just blended. 
  4. For uniformly-sized cookies, use a cookie scoop drop to drop cookies on to cookie sheet, 2 inches apart (or roll into a ball and place on the sheet). Flatten slightly with a fork. 
  5. Bake for 7-8 minutes or until just set and beginning to brown. Do not overbake. 
To form the ice cream sandwiches, make sure cookies are completely cool. Working quickly, take two cookies of similar diameter. Place one scoop of ice cream on the non-forked side. Match up the other cookie, and wrap in wax paper. Store in the freezer until firmed up. Then eat it! 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Lemon Rhubarb Snack Cake


In my CSA box from a couple of weeks ago I got a bunch of rhubarb. I'll be honest, I've eaten rhubarb maybe once or twice in my life. I have certainly never cooked with it. I saw some photos around the web for lemon rhubarb cake, muffins and bread, but when I saw that one of my favorite food bloggers, smitten kitchen, blogged a Rhubarb Snack Cake that used really simple, on-hand ingredients I bookmarked it to try with all the rhubarb I got.

This cake is very yummy. Tang, sweet and very much snackable. Plus you just bake it in a regular 9x13 pan instead of getting fancy with a loaf pan or bundt pan.

I added more lemon juice and lemon zest than the recipe called for since we're a lemon-loving household. That's really the only modification I made to the recipe. I'd certainly make this again, and think the lemon base is easily adaptable to any fruit that is available to you like blueberries, or raspberries.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen:
Ingredients:
Cake -

  • 1 1/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed and ct into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Coat bottom and sides of 9x13 inch baking pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Stir together rhubarb, lemon juice and 2/3 cup sugar and set aside
  3. Beat butter, remaining sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down sides after each addition. Add one third of this mixture to the batter, mixing until just combined. Continue, adding half the sour cream, the second third of the flour mixture, the remaining sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing between each addition until just combined. 
  4. Dollop batter over prepared pan then use a spatula to spread the cake into an even, thin layer. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the cake, spreading it into an even layer. 
  5. Stir together the crumb mixture, first whisking the flour, brown sugar, table salt and cinnamon together, then stirring the melted butter with a spoon or fork. Scatter evenly over the rhubab layer. 
  6. Bake cake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until cake batter is set (test with toothpick). It will be golden on top. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Green Garlic, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Frittata



Chris and I signed up for a CSA this year for the first time. For those of you who aren't familiar, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to get fresh veggies and fruit or even eggs, herbs, meat and flowers from local farms. Since we're a tiny house of just two people, and don't eat tons and tons of veggies to begin with we opted for an "every other week" share from Keewaydin Farms. Madison, being the local food scene that it is, has a plethora of CSAs from which to choose. Frankly the number of CSA programs available made it a little overwhelming for me to finally settle on one in years past! But, this year I stumbled upon a great resource to find this particular farm. The CSA Coalition website has a search function allows you to narrow down all the farms based on what they offer (Fruits, Veggies) or search by pickup location. My pickup location happens to be a cute little bakery in downtown Middleton called Bloom Bake Shop...you know, just in case I also need to buy brownies or cupcakes at the same time...obviously.

So, tonight marks my first CSA box ever and it was filled to the brim with radishes, asparagus, rhubarb, spinach, mixed salad greens, Jerusalem artichokes, and green garlic. So awesome! Just enough unfamiliar things to try new foods & recipes (Jerusalem artichokes and green garlic), balanced with familiar things that I already know how to cook with (spinach, asparagus). Stay tuned for recipes using these lovely ingredients.

Tonight I was a little short on time since I worked late, had to swing by the bakery to pick up my veggies, and head to the grocery to fill my bare pantry. So, a frittata with simple green salad was super quick to make. I love goat cheese so this was a great way to consume it, while eating a lot of healthy spinach, green garlic. This will be delicious reheated in the morning, sandwiched between two pieces of toast. Maybe with some more cheese on top!

Recipe inspiration comes from Simply Recipes. Enjoy!
Ingredients: 
  • 8 ounces of spinach, washed, drained
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces of goat cheese

Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. In large, oven-proof, non-stick saute pan, wilt spinach with 1/4 cup water until barely cooked, about a minute. Drain water and set aside till cool. Rough chop. 
  3. In mixing bowl whisk eggs, milk, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until combined. Set aside. 
  4. In the same large saute pan you used to cook the spinach, dry the pan and heat olive oil on medium heat. Cook green garlic until translucent and soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add spinach back to pan and spread out into an even layer in the pan.
  5. Add eggs to the pan and let set until the edges begin to set. Lift edges and tilt pan to let unset eggs underneath. 
  6. Transfer to the oven and cook until set, approximately 10 minutes. Serves 4
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Roasted Poblano Pepper Macaroni & Cheese

 
Poblano peppers are quickly becoming one of my favorite peppers to cook with. When roasted, they impart a not-to-sweet, not-to-spicy flavor to any dish. I had one left over from the night that I made Bistec con Rajas y Queso, so I thought, why not use it in my mac & cheese?  

My go-to recipe for mac and cheese is one I've been using for probably the last eight years. I originally found it on allrecipes.com, and it is so creamy and yummy. Usually all I add to it are red pepper flakes, but the poblanos were very tasty too. 

This recipe uses a traditional approach of a roux, and the cheeses can easily be changed to whatever you have on hand. The recipe below is the modified approach I took the other night. Enjoy!

Adapted from Down Home Macaroni and Cheese, from Allrecipes.com
Ingredients: 
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces of monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 ounces cheddar, shredded
  • 2 ounces queso quesadilla cheese, shredded
  • 1.5 cups of shells
Directions: 
  1. Under broiler set on high, roast poblano pepper until charred on all sides, roughly 10 minutes. Place in ziploc bag until cool enough to handle. Remove the skin and seeds, chop into large pieces and set aside.
  2. Cook shells in pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large skillet on low heat. Blend in flour and salt stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk, stirring constantly with a whisk until thickened. Add cheese and stir until incorporated and melted.
  4. Add shells to cheese mixture and stir to incorporate. Carefully add the chopped poblano peppers. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes or until you can no longer wait!

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Bistec con Rajas y Queso (Steak with Peppers & Cheese)

 
I recently went to a cooking demonstration at a great little gift shop and kitchen supply store in Madison called Orange Tree Imports. These demonstrations are typically led by a local Madison restaurant chef, and the "South of the Border" class I attended was no exception being led by Matt Myers, the chef at the restaurant Brocach (which is oddly, an Irish restaurant). 

He made three things - Chile Rellenos with Spicy Arbol Salsa, Fish Tacos with Southwestern Slaw and Chile Aioli, and this recipe, Bistec con Rajas y Queso. All three dishes were delicious, and I thought that the Bistec recipe was one that Chris would really like. 

This really is quite an easy recipe and a very yummy dish. You can use any cut of steak, but I chose a ribeye. Make sure not to over-cook it and it'll remain tender and delicious. The other great thing about this recipe is that it's almost like a steak version of queso fundido, if you have the right cheese...I wanted to make sure I had something really creamy and gooey so I chose a Monterrey Jack and something called "Queso Quesadilla" which I hadn't really heard of until I rifled through the cheese section at the Willy Street Co-Op. The Queso Quesadilla is very mild and melts wonderfully, so I'm glad I used it!

Here's the recipe for 2-3 people: 
Ingredients: 
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 ribeye steak, about 8-10 ounces, sliced into strips
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 3/4 cup of cheese (blend of Monterrey Jack & Queso Quesadilla)
  • Warmed Corn Tortillas for serving

Directions: 
  1. Roast the poblano peppers under a broiler or over a flame until skin is blackened, about 10-15 minutes. Place into a plastic bag until cool to the touch and then remove skin. Remove the stem and seed pod and slice into strips and set aside
  2. Saute onions in large skillet on high heat, add steak and saute until almost cooked through. Add salsa and poblanos and cook until warmed through. Add cheese and stir until melted.
  3. Serve with warm corn tortillas!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Southwestern Cobb Salad

I like making filling, no-cook dinners for during the week. I also like dinners that use up leftover ingredients and things I usually have on hand. This recipe - and I use that term VERY loosely - came together in probably 10 minutes and was just the dinner I needed tonight.

When I've made this salad in the past I've thrown a hard-boiled egg in, or leftover cooked, diced chicken breast to pump up the protein. You could just as easily add diced turkey or chicken deli meat to this too or even go meatless, as I did most recently using black beans and avocado.

I like spicing this up by topping with salsa, and finishing with ranch dressing and broken tortilla chips for a little crunch. If I had big flour tortillas on hand, this would have gotten tossed together, wrapped in a tortilla and grilled. But, just as good served in a bowl!

Ingredients, for one salad:
  • 1/4 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup low sodium black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn, defrosted at room temp
  • 1/2 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 avocado sliced
  • Salsa
  • Ranch
Directions:
Toss it all together and eat it. You're done!
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Mini Turkey Meatloaf Cups



I can't say that this recipe was necessarily inspired by anything in particular. I am always looking for new recipes, and I came across this one on Allrecipes.com and frankly, thought it sounded tasty. We're not big meatloaf eaters in this house, but this recipe is different enough from traditional meatloaf that I thought we could give it a try. Plus it's coated in BBQ sauce, which is probably one of my favorite condiments on earth.

The moisture from the veggies kept these little mini meatloaves nice and moist, and the couscous was a nice binder and "stretch" ingredient to make the recipe go a little further. These are made very quickly with the help of a food processor to shred the veggies. As something that's super low calorie (each one is just over 100 calories each) and very low cost, I can easily see adding these to the weeknight dinner roster alongside homemade mashed potatoes and steamed veggies.

Here's the recipe on allrecipes.com, which makes 10-12 mini meatloaves: Mini Turkey Meatloaf Cups

I've modified the recipe slightly, below. Ingredients: 
  • 1 medium coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 1 medium coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound extra lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard1/2 cup barbecue sauce, or as needed
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray 20 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place zucchini, onions, garlic and red bell pepper into a food processor, and pulse several times until finely chopped but not liquefied. Place the vegetables into a bowl, and mix in ground turkey, couscous, egg, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard until thoroughly combined. Fill each prepared muffin cup about 3/4 full. Top each cup with about 1 teaspoon of barbecue sauce.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until juices run clear, about 25 minutes. Internal temperature of a muffin measured by an instant-read meat thermometer should be at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart




I am a fan of Williams-Sonoma on Facebook, and they will frequently post recipes to their news feed. I saw this recipe for a rustic Breakfast Tart a while back and bookmarked it to try. Since I had a leftover puff pastry sheet from when I made a Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Tart, I thought that this Sunday would be a perfect day to try this recipe out.

You'll notice that I have about 2/3rds of this tart as scrambled eggs, and only a couple sunny side up...Chris is not a fan of runny eggs like I am so I modified this a bit so that he'd be able to enjoy this as much as I would. I added the scrambled eggs to the tart and cooked for about 2 minutes before adding the whole eggs. And, to get perfectly over medium eggs, cook for about 9 minutes after adding the whole eggs.

While this was very good, I'm not sure it warrants the work for just a regular weekend breakfast. This is certainly far more worthy of a brunch with friends. A showcase breakfast for sure!

Here's the original recipe on Williams-Sonoma, serves 4-6

Ingredients:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry dough
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
  • 3 oz. crème fraîche
  • 2 oz. shredded Gruyère cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 bacon slices, cooked until crisp
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 fresh chives, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch lengths

Directions:
  1. Thaw the puff pastry dough according to the package instructions.
  2. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  3. On lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness and cut into a 10-by-8-inch rectangle. Place the pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Using a paring knife, score a border 1/2 inch in from the edge of the pastry. Using a fork, prick the center of the pastry. Brush the border with the egg wash and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread the crème fraîche mixture on the pastry, keeping the border clean. Lay the bacon on top, slightly overlapping the slices. Bake the tart for 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.
  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a level heatproof surface. Using a fork, prick any large air pockets in the pastry. Crack the eggs onto the tart, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 7 to 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer the tart to a platter, garnish with the chives and serve immediately. Serves 4.


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Monday, April 2, 2012

Tilapia Fish Tacos



I've been looking for ways to incorporate more fish into our diets. Chris and I are not big fish eaters, so we're cautiously entering the waters with tilapia. So far I've tried a couple of recipes, and this recipe for fish tacos it totally blog worthy and something I could see us making again.

When I'm trying a food I'm not too familiar with, like fish, I'll often turn to sources where user ratings and notes are available. This recipe comes from allrecipes.com and is highly rated and frequently reviewed. Once I tasted this recipe, it's easy to see why!

The beer batter is super simple and adds a nice crunch (along with the cabbage), while the spicy sauce is delicious and something I could see drizzling on more than just fish tacos. I whipped up fresh tomato jalapeno salsa to add an additional layer of flavor, and used flour tortillas instead of corn (Chris' choice).

I think that the flavors of the sauce and tomato jalapeno salsa, and crunch of the cabbage could work really really well with grilled tilapia too.

Here's the recipe on allrecipes.com, and as written will serve 8 people.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 quart oil for frying
  • 1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions (I used tilapia, and you could use halibut as well)
  • 1 (12 ounce) package corn tortillas
  • 1/2 medium head cabbage, finely shredded

Directions:
  1. To make beer batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Blend egg and beer, then quickly stir into the flour mixture (don't worry about a few lumps).
  2. To make white sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt and mayonnaise. Gradually stir in fresh lime juice until consistency is slightly runny. Season with jalapeno, capers, oregano, cumin, dill, and cayenne.
  3. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Lightly fry tortillas; not too crisp. To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, and white sauce.
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Creamy Garlic Pasta



Like many others, I am addicted to Pinterest. A day is not complete without spending at least a few minutes browsing around for new pins to add to my boards. The recipe for Creamy Garlic Pasta has shown up in "popular" pins a couple times now, and I finally pinned it the other night and decided to try it today for lunch.

This recipe comes from the blog, The Cheese Pusher, a self-proclaimed cheese fanatic. In her recipe for Creamy Garlic pasta, she also confesses to loving garlic. I figure a recipe using carbs, cheese, and garlic cannot go wrong.

The original recipe as written is extremely indulgent. Olive oil, butter, lots of garlic (surprise!), lots of cheese (surprise surprise!), oh and heavy cream. This is one of those eat-in-moderation pastas.

Frankly when I made this I altered it fairly significantly, and I think I should still tweak it the next time I make it. The creaminess that you get from boiling the noodles in the chicken broth will allow you to cut back pretty significantly on the heavy cream and parmesan cheese without much sacrifice to flavor or texture.

 Here's the original recipe on The Cheese Pusher, with my altered recipe written below.

Serves 3-4 people
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil - Next time I am cutting to 1 Tbsp
  • 3 cloves of garlic - My garlic cloves were huge. Next time I'll probably only do 2 cloves3 cups of reduced sodium chicken stock/broth
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti or linguine noodles
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese - I think I could cut back to 1/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream - I think somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 cup is about right
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp parsley

Directions:
  1. In a medium-sized pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil.
  2. Once it is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reduce the stove to medium heat and mix in the parmesan and cream until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the pepper and parsley. Serve immediately.
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Friday, March 30, 2012

Mini Corn Dogs

Now that we're back from vacation, I'm trying to clean out my pantry and freezer so I can do a big grocery run and restock. I knew that I had some frozen hot dogs hanging around from the Omaha Steak gift my mom gave to us for Christmas. But, I had no hot dog buns. So, I went to my trusty source for recipes that use things like hot dogs in recipes - allrecipes.com - to see what recipes were out there. I couldn't pass up a recipe for homemade corn dogs when it has 4.5 stars and over 400 reviews.

I'll be honest, I didn't hold my breath on this recipe turning out well. But, I'm happy to say that the results were extremely delicious! The batter was not too sweet, not to salty, and as fluffy as you'd want a corn dog coating to be. The hot dogs that I used were BIG hot dogs. So, I cut them into thirds before coating with the batter. I aslo didn't have thicker wooden skewers to use, so I just used a couple toothpicks as my handles. The key to making these is making sure your hot dogs are close to room temp and perfectly dry. If they're moist then the batter will slip right off as you pull it out of your bowl. Also, make sure your oil is hot enough before cooking, otherwise your corndogs will just absorb oil and turn out greasy and heavy.

I ended up having a lot of leftover batter, so I used a cookie scoop and dropped in balls of the batter to make hush puppies (sort of). The plan is to freeze the leftover corn dogs and hush puppies and next time we want something quick to eat, heat them up in the oven just like you would the ones you buy at the grocery. I'm not sure this will work, but can't hurt to give it a try!

I would absolutely make these homemade mini corn dogs again when I'm looking for a fun indulgent treat, or maybe when I have younger houseguests. Oh, and Chris has requested I make these with the Oscar Mayer Jalapeno Cheddar Hot Dogs next time. I'm sure those will be AMAZING!


Here's the recipe, from Allrecipes.com, which makes 16 corn dogs:

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 (16 ounce) packages beef frankfurters
  • 16 wooden skewers
Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, sugar and baking powder. Stir in eggs and milk.
  2. Preheat oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Insert wooden skewers into frankfurters. Roll frankfurters in batter until well coated.
  3. Fry 2 or 3 corn dogs at a time until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guinness Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

 

One of my favorite bloggers, Brown Eyed Baker blogged a recipe for Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes last year and I immediately saved it to my favorites. The idea of using beer in a cake was interesting, and the addition of sour cream seemed like a nice alternative to making my ultra-moist buttermilk-based cake...I always seemed to buy a giant container of buttermilk  for that cake recipe and end up with a lot left over.

So, this St. Patty's Day, I decided to give the recipe a try. However Chris and I aren't ones to keep Irish Whiskey or Irish Cream in the house. And frankly, I'm too cheap to drop a bunch of money on alcohol we won't drink. So, I adapted the recipe to make "plain" Guinness Cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting. Trust me, these are rich little cakes of goodness too. 

The addition of Guinness to the cake has a similar effect as adding coffee or espresso. It just brings out the natural chocolate flavors that are already going on. Sour cream in the cake gives the cupcakes a really nice moistness.

As far as the frosting goes, a vanilla buttercream works really well here, but honestly, if you have some Bailey's around there's no reason NOT to whip some into the frosting instead of the vanilla! 

In all honesty, these cupcakes turned out marvelously well, and certainly shouldn't be limited to St. Patty's Day! 

Guinness Cupcakes
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes 
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
Directions:
  1. To Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners. Bake until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.


Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.
You can store any unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container; let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pioneer Woman's Mexican Rice

I made this Mexican rice a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for something to serve alongside some burritos. Knowing that all I had on hand were some Ro-tel tomatoes and rice, I looked for a rice recipe that'd work with my limited ingredients. 

Pioneer Woman's recipe worked like a charm! Her recipe makes a LOT of rice. But it's nice because not only does it use things I typically have on hand, it does make pretty tasty leftovers for the next day (or two, or three). 

The only thing to watch out for is cooking your rice long enough. The original recipe on the Pioneer Woman's site says you only need to cook for about 10-15 minutes after adding the chicken broth to the pan. Both times I've made this I have had to cook for about 10-15 ADDITIONAL minutes, with the addition of about another cup to cup and a half of liquid. So taste and add water as you go, and once you get the rice cooked to the done-ness you prefer, you're done.

Also, if you want to add more spice to this, use two cans of Ro-tel instead of 1 can of Ro-tel + 1 can tomatoes.

Here's the original recipe from Pioneer Woman. Makes at least 10 side dish servings, if not more.
Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 1/2 whole Large Onion, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 cups Long Grain Rice
  • 1 can Rotel (10 Ounce)
  • 1 can Whole Tomatoes (14.5 Ounce)
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (more If Needed)
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin (more To Taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Cilantro, Chopped (optional)
Directions:
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add rice and garlic. Stir constantly, making sure the rice doesn't burn. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add Ro-tel and tomatoes. Stir to combine and let cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add broth and bring to a boil. 
  3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 additional minutes or until rice is done. Add more liquid as needed; rice shouldn’t be sticky. (I had to cook my rice for another 10-15 minutes more, adding another cup of chicken broth)
  4. Just before serving, sprinkle lots of freshly chopped cilantro over the top. Serve immediately.


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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kung Pao Chicken

If you were to ask Chris what his favorite foods are, he may put Kung Pao Chicken somewhere near the top. That is probably the only thing I've ever seen him order at PF Changs. So while this recipe is not really a knock off PF Changs Kung Pao chicken, it's a good make-at-home substitute that gets him the spicy, salty, nutty stirfry he wants. I also like it a lot because it's pretty easy, and I can throw whatever vegetables I have laying around in to give it a little more interest.

This recipe can be found on allrecipes.com and has pretty high reviews there too. The recipe calls for white wine, which I omit because I rarely have it. It also calls for water chestnuts, which adds nice crunch. But, as I mentioned before, the veggies you throw in are totally up to you. My favorites are bell peppers and broccoli. The night I took this photo I also had some green beens that I tossed in. The sauce doesn't make very much, so I'd recommend doubling or tripling it if you want some extra sauce to pour over your rice.

Recipe from Allrecipes.com, makes 4 servings: Kung Pao Chicken
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 ounce hot chile paste
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts
  • 4 ounces chopped peanuts

Directions:

  1. To Make Marinade: Combine 1 tablespoon wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon cornstarch/water mixture and mix together. Place chicken pieces in a glass dish or bowl and add marinade. Toss to coat. Cover dish and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  2. To Make Sauce: In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon wine, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch/water mixture, chili paste, vinegar and sugar. Mix together and add green onion, garlic, water chestnuts and peanuts. In a medium skillet, heat sauce slowly until aromatic.
  3. Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade and saute in a large skillet until meat is white and juices run clear. When sauce is aromatic, add sauteed chicken to it and let simmer together until sauce thickens.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bacon Roasted Butternut Squash Soup



This recipe jumped off the pages of a cookbook that my mom gave me. The cookbook basically takes some of the best recipes out there from lots of different chefs, and compiles them into one. So, when I saw this one, which gave me yet ANOTHER way to work bacon into my food, I had to try it. 

This was very good. The bacon gave the squash just a little smokiness, and was a nice tasty thing to crumble over the top before eating. It had just a little bit of sweetness, and creamy richness. Make sure you give yourself enough time to thoroughly roast your squash...mine took about 50 minutes to get to a stage where I'd be able to easily scoop it out and actually want to eat it. 

After that part, the soup comes together very quickly. It makes awesome leftovers and can be stored in the freezer for about a month.

Here's the recipe, from the Cookbook "The 150 Best American Recipes" - recipe from Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals

Ingredients (serves 8): 
  • 6 pounds butternut squash
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 slices smoked bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into small dice
  • 3 thyme sprigs, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
  • Sugar, if needed
  • Cinnamon, if needed


Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, place the squash halves cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the butter among the hollowed-out seed cavities and generously season the squash with salt and pepper. Lay 1 or 2 slices of bacon lengthwise along the surface of each half. Roast, basting a few times by scoping the butter out of the cavity and spooning it over the bacon and squash until the squash is tender and easily pierced by a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes. 
  2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Once cool, mince or crumble into small bits and set aside. Once the squash halves have cooled slightly, scoop out the flesh. Discard the skins. 
  3. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and coo until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and then add the squash. Cook, stirring to integrate the flavors and keep the squash from scorching, for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the broth to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  5. Using tongs, fish out and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Transfer the soup to a food processor (you can also use a regular blender, working in batches.) Add the cream, if using, and process for several minutes until uniformly thick and creamy. Be careful not to overblend, which will turn the soup thin. If not serving immediately, let cool, cover and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for up to a month. Return the soup to the pot and gently reheat, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper sugar, and cinnamon, if necessary. 
  6. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and scatter some of the bacon bits over the surface. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve at once.
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pasta alla Carbonara



I am surprised that I haven't yet blogged pasta carbonara. Maybe because it's really easy. And usually I make it when I don't want to actually cook something. Or, I make it because I have some bacon and eggs I need to use up. But, despite how easy it comes together, it's delicious, and is the epitome of comfort food.

There are a couple of recipes I've tried over time. I've used one from Williams-Sonoma and one from Tyler Florence. Honestly, the only way they differ is in measurements of ingredients.
The basic premise is to cook your pasta to al dente, in a separate skillet brown some bacon, toss the pasta into the skillet and add your egg & parm and thin it with a little pasta water. Boom, you're done.

One tip I have - after you toss your pasta in, remove it from the heat before adding in your egg, otherwise you'll just end up with a spaghetti frittata.

The recipe below is the one I used most recently from Tyler Florence. Don't let the wordy directions deter you from making this...once you read through them you'll see that this is insanely simple and quick to make...you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes. It serves about 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente.") Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.
  4. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.

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