Saturday, December 29, 2007

Baked Brie

*photo courtesy of Simply Recipes

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! As a gift to my parents for the holidays, we made them a three course meal, which started off with this amazingly simple but remarkably delicious appetizer of baked brie from The only change I made was to top it with honey instead of syrup and add some sliced almonds. This was delicious!

Baked Brie
from (
Serves 6

1 round of brie cheese
1 can of crescent roll dough
2 TBS of raspberry jam (or jam of your choice)
1-2 TBS honey
1 TSP sliced almonds

1) Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2) On a non-stick cookie sheet, roll out crescent dough without separating into triangles (pinching gaps together). Place brie in center of dough.
3) Spread jam on top of brie. Fold up edges of dough to cover the cheese. Drizzle the honey on top and sprinkle on almonds.
4) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pastry dough is golden brown and the cheese has begun to ooze. Serve with slices of french bread, crackers, or apples.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peppermint Bark

After tasting some commercial peppermint bark, we decided to make our own! Last year's attempt was delicious but hardly as pretty. When we poured the hot white chocolate onto the warm dark chocolate, it all started melting together and came out more of a swirly milk chocolate color. This year, we theorized that if we let the dark chocolate totally set (with the help of our freezer) then quickly spread the white chocolate across the top before it could all melt together, we might create the beautiful layered effect one finds in the store-bought variety.

All would have gone smoothly, if we hadn't thought it was a good idea to add cream to the white chocolate. Apparently we don't deal with chocolate enough, but I immediately realized what was happening (thanks to Alton Brown's "Good Eats") that the chocolate was "seizing" and then promptly began "separating" (it looks pretty gross). In a panic, I turned to The Joy of Cooking which told me, if this happened, to add "1/2 teaspoon of vegetable shortening per oz of chocolate." So we lowered the temperature and began spooning in the shortening until it returned (sort of) to the proper texture. I don't think this was actually the right solution. According to Alton Brown, we probably should have added more liquid (which I also should have warmed first.) Needless to say, I will not include these instructions in the recipe because it just complicated things. Honest. In the end, it all tasted fine.

The process is really quite easy if you don't screw up like we did. And it is SO delicious and decadent. We put in a teaspoon of peppermint extract, but I am going to recommend less because it is quite potent. I can't wait to try this with other flavors... orange perhaps?

Happy Holidays!

Peppermint Bark

11 oz bag of dark, bittersweet chocolate chips (make sure cocoa butter is a main ingredient)
11 oz bag of white chocolate chips (make sure cocoa butter is a main ingredient)
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 candy canes, crushed into roughly sprinkle size bits

1) In a double boiler, melt the bittersweet chocolate until smooth. Stir in peppermint extract. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Pour out hot chocolate onto wax paper and spread out until about a 1/16 of an inch thickness. Immediately place in freezer for about 1 hr or until fully hard and set.
2) In a clean double boiler, melt the white chocolate until creamy (it will be thicker and harder to work with than the dark chocolate). Remove dark chocolate from freezer. Pour white chocolate onto dark and quickly spread until evenly coated. Sprinkle candy cane over the top. Return to freezer for at least 30 minutes or until set. Remove and break apart into 1 inch pieces. Store in airtight container (we store ours in the fridge).

Steak and Cheese Subs

A combination of good fortune: our grocery store sells shaved beef and I have vast amounts of experience making steak and cheese subs from my days as a short order cook. We eat these more often in the summer--sandwiches for dinner seem more appropriate then--but they are delicious anytime. Feel free to grill up other toppings of your choosing such as sweet peppers or mushrooms. Also, this time the deli man asked me if I wanted "the real stuff" when it came to provolone. Oh boy, it was delicious. I was so used to the some what bland generic provolone, but the real thing has a delicious bite to it. I don't think I can ever go back.

Steak and Cheese Subs
Serves 3 (or two very hungry people!)

3 sub 6" sub rolls (a crusty baguette or ciabatta rolls work well too)
1 lb shaved beef, shredded into smaller pieces
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 onion, cut into thin slices
3 large slices provolone cheese
salt, pepper, and other seasonings of your choice (there's a tasty cajun one we use)!

1) Slice the sub rolls in half three-quarters of the way through, angling down. It helps if the bottom half is slightly thicker than the top half. Toast in the toaster oven until lightly browned.
2) Heat olive oil on a large, flat grill pan until very hot, but not smoking. Place onions (and other toppings) on the pan, away from direct heat. Cook until browned and softened.
3) Spread beef over the pan. Using a pair of tongs and a firm spatula, move the meat around the pan, tearing large pieces into smaller pieces with the tongs, using the spatula to pull against, to speed the cooking process. If meat begins to stick, add a little more oil. Continue moving and tearing until the meat is no longer pink. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like. If all parties are having onions, mix them in and tear apart along with meat. Otherwise, continue to allow them to cook separately and add at the end. This whole process should maybe take 10-15 minutes.
4) Divide meat into three equal portions. Top with any individualized toppings. Place a slice of cheese over each portion of meat and allow to melt into meat, about 1 minute.
5) Using a spatula (you may need two) scoop up the filling and place on sub roll. Don't be afraid to stuff it all in there. It doesn't have to be pretty, it will still taste good. This is most easily done with a long, firm spatula. Repeat with remaining portions and serve to ravenous crowds!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Roasted Garlic Soup (with Pasta Veggie Toss)

Approach this soup softly, caring a large slab of toast. Delicious, but quite potent, this soup is best served in small portions as a first course or side dish, over buttered slices of toasted baguette. I also served this with egg noodles tossed with sautéed vegetables and butter.

Roasted Garlic Soup
from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Soup with mods
Serves 2, as a side

2 heads of garlic
2 TBS olive oil
6 slices of baguette or other crusty bread
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper

1) Preheat oven to 325ºF. Slice the top off the heads of garlic and arrange in a shallow baing dish, cut side up. Drizzle 1 TBS of olive oil over the garlic and cover loosely with foil. Roast until the cloves are very tender when pieced with a fork, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool, then squeeze the soft garlic pulp into a small bowl and set aside.
2) Warm remaining olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When hot, add the bread slices, reduce heat to medium, and fry bread on each side until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.
3) In a medium sauce pan over med-high heat, combine broth and garlic pulp and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a wand mixer (or food processor), purée the soup until smooth and frothy. If necessary, return pot to stove and reheat to serving temperature. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4) Place 2-3 slices of bread in each bowl. Ladle soup over top and serve!

Simple Pasta Veggie Toss
Serves 2

2 cups of egg noodles
1/2 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter or margarine (or our favorite... olive oil spread)
salt and pepper

1) Fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil.
2) Once boiling, add broccoli florets and blanch for 3 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon and set aside. Add egg noodles to boiling water and cook according to package directions.
3) Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. When hot, add peppers, onion, and broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until tender.
4) Drain egg noodles. Add egg noodles to skillet. Toss with butter until melted. Serve!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eight Nights of Lights, Three Nights of Brisket

Brisket Ragu?

Sorry for the delay in posting. I would make excuses but there really is no point, is there? I merely hope that I haven't discouraged any readers with the large gaps between my posts. Come back! So many tasty things!

Hannukah was this past week and in honor of such, I made brisket for maybe the second time, in my slow cooker. Delicious! I made twice as much because I knew we would be busy, so we'd have leftovers to play with. So, one night of traditional brisket, one night of bbq brisket sandwiches, and one night of, er, a brisket ragu?

So basically, I prepped the brisket the night before, fridged it, then plopped it in the slow cooker before work and came back to deliciousness. There was no burning down of the house, which made me especially happy.

This was good. Not quite the same as my Nana's, but good.


from William Sonoma Food Made Fast: Slow Cooker with mods.
(did anyone else note the irony in a food made fast cookbook... for the slow cooker?)
Serves 2 (for three nights!)

1 lb beef brisket, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (potent!)
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS tomato paste

1) On a large plate mix flour, salt and pepper, to taste. Coat brisket in flour misture, shaking off excess, reserving leftover flower. In large heavy bottomed pan, warm oil over high heat. Add brisket, fat side down and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 7 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to slow cooker basin (or a seperate dish).
2) Pour off all but 1 TBS of fat from pan and return to med-heat. Add onions, garlic, red pepper and sauté until onions begin to caramelize. Add reserved flour and stir until incorporated. Add broth and vinegar and raise to a boil to deglaze pan. Add sugar and tomato paste and stir until blended. Pour mixture over brisket. Cover with foil and refridgerate overnight.
3) In the morning, remove foil and return slow cooker basin to mechanism (or put brisket in slow cooker). Cook on high heat for 3 -4 hours or low heat for 6 -8 hours. Brisket should be very tender when pierced with fork. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain. Serve with natural gravy from the slow cooker.

BBQ Brisket Sandwiches
Serves 2

2 hamburger buns or sandwich rolls
4-6 slices of brisket (see recipe above)
1/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or blend of sauces (we used Dinosaur BBQ sauce and Original Hunts BBQ sauce)
any other toppings you like (coleslaw, onions, cheese, etc)

1) Toast hamburger buns to a lovely golden brown.
2) Place brisket in a microwave safe dish. Cover completely in BBQ sauce. Cook in microwave for 2 minutes on high. Remove and stir sauce, testing brisket for tenderness. Heat for an additional 2 minutes or until the brisket is tender and hot.
3) Place 2-3 slices of brisket on each bun and a generous amount of sauce and toppings as desired!

Brisket "Ragu"
Serves 2

Brisket leftovers, chopped (hopefully about 1/2 -1 cup
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp italian seasonings (or as much as you'd like)
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce (we're currently in love with Classico Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic)

1) Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and peppers and sauté until tender.
2) Add tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings, cooking until tomatoes soften.
3) Add tomato sauce and brisket. Continue to cook until heated through and the brisket is tender. Serve over pasta!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Not much to say here, except you can never go wrong with this one. If the chicken breasts are very thick, cut them in half length-wise or pound them to 1/2 - 1/4 inch thickness to speed up the cooking process. You can also use chicken tenderloins. I really recommend the cornflake crumbs here, but bread crumbs will work in a pinch. This takes, oh, about 20 minutes to make. Nothin' fancy, but boy it's good, quick, and easy.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
Serves 2

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup cornflake crumbs
1 egg
1/3 - 1/2 jar sweet and sour sauce (we use La Choy)
2 TBS olive oil

1) Beat the egg in a shallow dish. Spread out cornflake crumbs on a separate plate.
2) Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmery hot. Dip the chicken breasts first in the the egg, then coat with cornflake crumbs. Add chicken to pan. Cook for about 5 - 7 minutes per side until cooked through (the thinner the chicken, the faster this will cook, so keep your eye on it) and the breading is a crisp golden brown . Remove from pan and set aside.
3) Pour out any excess oil. Add sweet and sour sauce and maybe a TBS of water. Heat over low until bubbling. Add chicken back in and toss to coat. Serve with rice!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Beef Barley Soup

Let me just say up front, my favorite kinds of soups are more broth-y than creamy. To me there is no sadder soup than a chicken noodle that has the consistency of gravy.

So that would explain my love of a good Beef Barley soup. It's hearty and filling, but not too heavy, with a broth you can sip by itself. This soup was pretty good (I brought some to my sister when she had a cold and it cheered her right up) but could use some tasty additions.

I left out the 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms (perhaps unwisely) due to taste, but would recommend adding, perhaps, chunks of potato, peas, carrots, in addition to mushrooms (or whatever you like). I also think the beef could have benefited from searing first, to seal in the flavors--though I didn't use the recommended cut of beef, so that could have been the issue as well. Barley preparation was not nearly as daunting as I thought. Just give yourself the time. Oh, and if you have it, use real beef stock. I can only imagine how delicious it would taste (alas, I have no time for bone-boiling and used Emeril's beef broth).

Beef Barley Soup
from William-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Soup, with mods.
Serves 4

4 cups beef broth or stock
salt and pepper
1/4 cup pearl barley
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 lb eye of round beef cut into thin slices, then finely chopped (they recommend boneless beef sirloin, which may work better)

1) In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the barley. Return to boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook the barley until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.
2) While barley is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the stock and beef, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes.
3) Add barley to the soup and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pad Thai

One of my favorite cookbooks that I own (though I don't use it nearly as much as I'd like) is The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen. Not only does it run the gamut from salsa to pizza dough to soft-shell crab and cover basics, like fresh pasta, chicken stock, and chocolate chip cookies, it has a detailed explanation about the choice of ingredients, cooking times, substitutions, best brands to buy, etc. Each recipe is taken through a rigorous testing process, and it shows.

After making our Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, we had left over rice noodles, so I decided to try Pad Thai. Oh. Wow. This Pad Thai recipe is seriously amazing. I made a full batch thinking I would take some for lunch, but we ate it all. Even the husband ate it and he didn't think he liked Pad Thai or most Thai food in general. Little did he know. It's got the right balance of sweet and tang, a little heat, the noodles tender, but not too mushy, and of course, the delicious nuttiness from the ground peanuts.

I used chicken instead of shrimp. I also used oyster sauce instead of fish sauce (so sue me, it's what we had!) and it tasted just fine. The store was out of bean sprouts, so alas, none of that, and I used the books recommended substitute for "tamarind paste" which, er, I didn't even know where to begin to look for in my not-always-well-stocked-but-painfully-convenient Shaws market. And I forgot to get scallions. So actually, I made a lot of changes. But it was still delicious!

Please make this and savor it. You'll thank me.

Pad Thai
adapted from The New Best Recipe
Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people!)

1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
3 TBS fish (or oyster) sauce
1 TBS rice vinegar
3 TBS brown sugar
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 TBS vegetable or peanut oil
8 oz dried rice stick noodles
2 large eggs
1 large chicken breast, halved lengthwise and cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small onion, diced (or 1 med. shallot)
6 TBS chopped unsalted, roasted peanuts
3 cups bean sprouts
5 medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on diagonal
lime wedges for serving

1) Cover rice sticks with hot tap water in a large bowl. Soak until softened and pliable, but not fully tender, about 20 minutes. Drain noodles and set aside.
2) Whisk together lime juice, water, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, red pepper, and 2 TBS of oil. Set aside.
3) Beat eggs and 1/8 tsp of salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
4) Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the chicken with 1/8 tsp of salt. Sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
5) Lower heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add garlic and onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add beaten egg to the pan and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon and scramble until barely moist. Add the rice noodles. Toss with tongs (or two wooden spoons) to combine.
6) Pour oyster sauce mixture over noodles and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are evenly coated. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, chicken, and all but 1/4 cup scallions. Continue to cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are tender (about 2 1/2 minutes). If not yet tender, at 2 TBS water to the pan and continue to cook until tender (I found I had to do this).
7) Transfer noodles to serving plates. Top with scallions, peanuts, and lime wedges to garnish.

Potato-Cheddar Soup

Soup is generally fairly new to me (enough qualifiers there?). The sum total of soups I have made include: wonton soup, chili, chicken and orzo soup, a rather tasty mexican pork & rice soup, and a not-so-terrible-but-not-completely-satisfying Greek egg-lemon soup (Marylanders… ever been to Ambrosia in Rockville? Their egg-lemon soup is the stuff I dream about. Mine is not yet up to snuff). So when I started flipping through our newly acquired soup book, so many of them sounded tasty, we just had to make them all.

First off, Potato-Cheddar. I like potato and cheddar and hearty soups in general. Plus, it was to be topped with bacon. Can’t go wrong there. I had never wrestled with leeks before, but was willing to give it a try (and was embarrassed not to be able to pick them out of a line up in the grocery store).

This soup could have benefited from: 1) me actually using my wand mixer more liberally (or using a food processor as recommended) because the texture was more gritty than creamy 2) some cream, more cheddar cheese, less leek, potentially some hefty chunks of potato, and more bacon/seasoning. Maybe I just had a different idea of what this should taste like versus what it did taste like. It’s a basic enough recipe and maybe that’s the problem—a little too basic. There’s plenty of room for changes next time (which I fully intend to try). Play around with it, let me know if you come up with anything a little more sure-fire.

Potato-Cheddar Soup
From William-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Soup
Serves 4
4/10 (could be better with some changes)

4 slices of bacon
1 leek, white part only, rinsed and thinly sliced (go easy on this… very strong flavor)
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups milk (I would replace at least part of this with half-n-half or cream)
salt and pepper (use liberally)
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I would double this)

1) In a large sauce pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 5 min. Transfer bacon to paper towels and drain.
2) Discard all but 2 tbs of the bacon drippings from the pan and return to medium heat. Add the leek and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.
3) Add the potatoes and broth and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cook uncovered until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
4) Raise the heat to medium add the milk (or cream) and 1/2 tsp of pepper and bring just to a simmer. Ussing a food processor, blender or want mixer, process the soup to a smooth puree (really, this is very important otherwise the soup is unpleasantly gritty). If removed, return soup to sauce pan and reheat to serving temperature. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper
5) Ladle soup into bowls, crumble bacon on top and serve.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Soup Week!

So this past week was Soup Week in the Cuisine Heart household. We made five soups from the William Sonoma Food Made Fast Soup cookbook: Potato-Cheddar, Beef Barley, Vietnamese Beef Noodle, Garlic, and Chicken Tortilla.

The favorite? The Chicken Tortilla soup. Easy, well-balanced flavors, and delicious with whole-wheat cheese quesadillas, it was the definite favorite. Following closely, for completely different reasons, was the Garlic Soup. I wisely chose to treat this as an appetizer and the husband agreed: very potent, but delicious in small quantities over toasted sourdough bread. The Beef Barley soup was good, but could have benefited from some additional veggies, such as chunks of potato, carrots, or peas. The Vietnamese Noodle Soup was also good, especially the rice noodles (first time we’d made that at home), but alas, the Potato-Cheddar soup fell short (though with a few modifications, I’m sure it could much better).

Recipes and photos to follow!

(I've been catching up a bit, so scroll back for some new recipes and photos as well).

Spinach and Artichoke Risotto

I love Spinach and Artichoke Dip and I love risotto, so what better combination? Really, that's all I have to say.

Spinach and Artichoke Risotto
Serves 2

2 - 3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
2 oz cream cheese (you can buy single servings)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 TBS butter
1/4 tsp garlic salt (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper to taste

1) Heat stock in a small sauce pan until hot, but not boiling. Keep warm.
2) Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until shimmering. Add onions and sauté over med-high heat until translucent. Lower the heat to med-low. Add the arborio rice and stir until it is coated with oil.
3) Add white wine. Stir until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pot.
4) Add warm stock to the rice 1/2 – 1 cup at a time and continue to stir the risotto until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick before adding the next cup. The rice will being to absorb the liquid much slower.
5) After about 15 minutes, the rice will have puffed up, but still be a bit al dente (read: crunchy). Add artichokes, spinach, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper.
6) Cook for 5 - 10 more minutes, adding stock as it is absorbed. Th risotto should take on a creamy texture and will almost hardly be absorbing any liquid at all. The rice should be tender but slightly chewy. Remove from heat.
6) Add the butter, cream cheese, and parmesan, blending until creamy. Serve with chips or toasted pita bread.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rotini with Chicken, Broccoli and Tomatoes

I just recently subscribed to Cooking Light... what a treat! So many tasty dishes and beautiful food photos. This is from their November issue. I really hope to make the delicious looking pecan pie that is proudly displayed on it's cover for Thanksgiving dessert. We'll see if there's time!

This recipe originally called for asparagus (which I love) but we had broccoli that needed using and we used whole-wheat pasta. Other than that, I was pretty faithful to the original (though I halved it for two). Light, tangy, and tasty (the feta adds that extra punch). Pretty quick and easy too!

I also find it easy to blanch the broccoli in the pasta cooking water before sautéing, to speed up the cooking process. If you're concerned about mixing the flavors, steam the broccoli briefly in the microwave before adding to the pan.

Rotini with Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomatoes
from Cooking Light (with mods.) Serves 2 8/10

6 oz. uncooked (whole-wheat) rotini
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or diced fresh tomato)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 TBS fresh basil, chopped
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 TBS olive oil
1/2 cup feta or other tangy goat cheese

1) Cook pasta according to package directions. (Blanch broccoli florets in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then remove and drain, before adding pasta).
2) Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken and broccoli to pan. Sauté about 5 minutes.
3) Add tomatoes and garlic. Sauté 1 minutes.
4) Stir in pasta, basil, vinegar, and oil. Remove from heat. Serve with feta (and a nice crusty bread).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Homemade Fettuccini Alfredo

For my birthday my mother-in-law bought me the pasta attachment for our Kitchenaid mixer. If you've read any portion of this blog so far, you may notice that pasta is one of my favorite foods (so versatile and delicious!) so the prospect of being able to make my own was very exciting! She also passed along a recipe for homemade fettuccine from her copy of the October edition of Bon Appetite. With that as my guideline, I made my first forays into the fresh pasta cooking world.

This was actually a lot simpler than I had anticipated. It's really just a matter of giving yourself enough time to let the pasta dry, in it's various stages, and then be patient and delicate with the numerous times one must feed the dough through the rollers. Making the dough in the Cuisinart is super easy and the nice thing about the Kitchenaid attachment is everything, obviously, is mechanized--you just re-adjust the thickness of the rollers to press the dough into a thinner and thinner sheet, but all the rotating and pressing is done by the machine. And watching the full sheet of dough get cut into perfecting even strips so quickly and easily, honestly, filled me with glee. That's right, glee. I am very easily entertained.

I have yet to master the actual drying process however; we ate half of the pasta the same evening and the rest the next day. I am trying to find it within me to have the patience to spiral each delicious strand of fettuccine into a pinwheel for drying and saving, but honestly, I haven't yet. It seems like too much work. I hear they make drying racks for this sort of thing, however, unless making pasta becomes a regular activity (fun, delicious, but a bit time consuming) I may just have to suffer through eating it all very quickly. Darn.

And how better to do fresh pasta justice than with a very simple alfredo? Honestly, when I took a bite of this I blurted out "Wow, this tastes professional!" Not that everything I make isn't delicious and made with loving care, but it honestly tasted like something you would get in a restaurant.

Homemade Fettuccine
pasta recipe inspired from Bon Appetite
makes about 1 lb

2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling/shaping
1/2 tsp plus 1 TBS salt
2 large eggs
~6 TBS warm water, divided

1) Combine 2 cups of flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in food processor. Pulse to combine. Add eggs and 4 TBS warm water. Using pulses, blend until a moist dough forms and begins to gather into a large dough ball, adding more water by the tablespoon if dough is dry.
2) Gather the dough together and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and pliable, sprinkling with flour if sticky, about ten minutes. Sprinkle lightly with flour on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 45 minutes. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Cover with plastic.
3) Shape one piece of dough into a thin rectangle (the more rectangular, the more even your noodles). Set pasta maker at widest setting. Run through machine 4 times.
4) Adjust the machine to next narrower setting. Run dough through the machine 4 times. Continue through rollers until desired thinness, rolling the dough through 4 times each.
5) When dough strip is about 1/16 inch thick and about 20 – 24 inches long, place on floured service or large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough. Uncover strips and let dry for about 30 minutes, turning once.
6) Cut each dough strip in half crosswise. Fit machine with 1/4 – 3/8 inch cutter attachment. Run strips through machine, cutting dough into fettuccine and dusting with flour if dough sticks.
7) Spread fettuccine our on a large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Cover fettuccine loosely with kitchen towels. Let stand for up to four hours, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking

**You can actually cook this pasta immediately, though I would say it benefits from some drying time to just make it easier to work with. If you intend to use the pasta next day, allow it to continue drying, then cover with a non-terrycloth dish towel and store in the coldest part of your fridge. Use the next day—pasta that has not be completely dried can quickly become moldy. To dry properly, use a rack or twist fettuccine strands into spirals, leave out to dry completely, and freeze or store in an airtight container.

Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo
Serves 2

1/2 lb fresh fettuccine (see above recipe)
3/4 cup light cream
3 TBS unsalted butter
1/2 TBS salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of nutmeg
ground black pepper, to taste

1) Put up a large pot of water to boil (about 2 quarts).
2) Combine butter and 1/2 cup cream in a large saucepan. Heat over low until butter is melted and cream is barely simmering. Whisk to combine. Turn of heat and set aside.
3) When water has come to a boil add 1/2 TBS of salt to the water and the fresh pasta. Cook about 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain.
4) Add pasta to the hot cream. Add the remaining cream, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine. Cook over low heat for 1 – 2 minutes or until thickened slightly. Serve immediately (preferably with garlic bread and a small mixed green salad or broccoli!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pork Chili

So I selected this recipe because we had pork, but then it turned out we didn't have most of the other ingredients, so I improvised. It turned out rather tasty! I'm a fan of chili; though Maryland isn't much of a chili state, I grew up with my father taking us to The Hard Times Café, where they served five kinds of chili anyway you wanted, from chili dogs to a "five-way" with chili, cheese, spaghetti, beans, and onions. I was a fan of the red Cincinnati chili, while Dad liked the drier Texan style. Either way, I learned to like my chili "chili mac" style (as I have explained previously) over pasta and with lots of cheese. This is more the "red" style that I like, with a wet, tomato base. This comes together pretty quickly, for a chili, and is quite delicious.

Pork Chili
inspired by The Simply Healthy Lowfat Cookbook
Serves 2 8/10

1/2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 TBS chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 TBS olive oil
1 large bell pepper, diced (or frozen bell peppers, which is what I had handy, about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
dash of red pepper
1 TBS flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tomato, skinned and pureed in a food processor (you could also use canned crushed tomato, 1/2 cup)
1 tomato, diced (canned would be fine too, 1/2- 1 cup)

3 cups wide egg noodles
1 cup grated cheese of your preference (cheddar is my favorite, but we used left over gruyere and fontina from the Italian fondue)

1) Put 1/2 TBS chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and cubed pork into a ziplock bag and seal. Massage until coated.
2) In a Dutch oven, warm oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add pork and sauté until browned, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
3) Add bell peppers, onion, garlic, basl, salt, red pepper, and the rest of the chili powder and cumin. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add flour and stir, cooking about 1 minute.
4) Add chicken broth and tomato puree. Increase heat to hight and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors.
5) Return pork to the pot and simmer 2o minutes more, or until meat is tender and pulls apart easily.
6) While pork is cooking, prepare egg noodles according to pack directions.
6) Remove chili from heat and stir in diced tomatoes. Serve over noodles with grated cheese on top.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Italian Cheese Fondue

As promised, here is our favorite fondue recipe, inspired by a stint of Italian themed fondues at The Melting Pot a few months ago. We actually cooked the whole thing in the fondue pot itself this time (though you could do it over the stove top or in a double boiler). We also over came our past difficulties with the wine and it was the perfect consistency (we wound up adding half the wine half way through... I don't think that's traditional or how you're supposed to do it, but it worked if you have the kind of trouble that we did). Also, I used the grater attachment on our cuisinart. I am a genius. This is my new favorite tool; the possibilities are endless! Latkes anyone?

Italian Cheese Fondue
Serves 2

1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 heaping tsp of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup grated Gryuere
1 1/2 cup grated Fontina
1 TBS flour
1 TBS pesto sauce
1 TBS marinara sauce
1 TBS grated Parmensan cheese
salt & pepper to taste.

crusty italian bread, cubed
apples, cubed

1) Prepare fondue pot, according to assembly directions, to make cheese fondue (this usually requires filling the main basin with about an inch of water, fitting the ceramic dish over this, lighting the sterno, and placing the basin over it on the stand). Allow water to heat for about 5 - 10 minutes.
2) Add wine and garlic. Heat until steaming (really, you want this hot... heat it over the stove first if you have to).
3) Toss cheese with flour. Slowly add cheese by the handful, whisking with a fork, until melted and combined (this should be a smooth, pliable consistency, not too liquidy or too stiff. Too much liquid? Add more cheese. Too stiff? Add warmed wine.)
4) Add pesto, marinara, parmesan, and seasonings to taste. Stir to combine.
5) Serve with bread and apples (and any other tasty dipper... salami anyone?)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Wonton Soup and Asian-Inspired Risotto

With the leftover wontons from our Artichoke and Feta wontons, I decided to make wonton soup, and to go with it, an asian flavors inspired risotto. I went light on the soy sauce and ginger, but I wouldn’t be afraid to add more—the flavors were somewhat subtle. To fry up your own fried wonton garnish, I actually just sliced up some wonton wrappers, brushed them with olive oil and a little salt, and baked them in the toaster oven at around 350ºF for a couple of minutes. Keep and eye on them; they burn easy.

Wonton Soup
Serves 2 (plus extra for freezing)

wonton wrappers
1/3 – 1/2 lb ground chicken
1 TBS soy sauce
1/2 TBS dry sherry
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBS scallions, chopped and divided
2 – 3 cups chicken broth or stock

1) Combine chicken, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, sesame oil, and 1 TBS scallions in a medium bowl.
2) Lay out one wonton wrapper. Wet edges with a little bit of water (I usually just use my finger). Place a teaspoon of chicken mixture in center of wrapper. Bring two opposite corners together and press the edges together to seal. Place on a non-stick baking sheet. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.
3) Heat chicken broth in a medium sauce pan until just boiling. Lower heat and add scallions and six wontons. Cook for 4–5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.
4) Cover remaining wontons with plastic wrap and place in freezer until frozen, then remove and store in freezer in a large freezer bag or plastic container.

Asian-Inspired Risotto
Serves 2

1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
1 – 2 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
1 TBS sesame oil
1/2 cup of scallions, chopped
1/4 cup white wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 link cooked chicken or turkey sausage, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1 TBS butter
salt and pepper to taste
fried wontons for garnish

1) Heat stock in a small sauce pan until hot, but not boiling. Add soy sauce and ginger. Keep warm.
2) Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until shimmering. Add scallions and sauté until translucent. Lower the heat to med-low. Add the arborio rice and stir until it is coated with oil.
3) Add the wine or sherry to deglaze the pan. Stir until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pot.
4) Add warm stock to the rice 1/2 – 1 cup at a time and continue to stir the risotto until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick before adding the next cup. The rice will begin to absorb the liquid much slower.
5) After about 15 minutes, the rice will have puffed up and taken on a creamy texture and will almost hardly be absorbing any liquid at all, but still be a bit al dente. Add sausage and bell pepper and cook about 5 more minutes or until the rice is tender but slightly chewy. Remove from heat.
6) Add the butter and parmesan, blending until creamy. Season to taste. Top with fried wontons and serve.

Artichoke & Feta Wontons and Salad with Soy Sauce Dressing

For my birthday, the boy got me two Alton Brown cookbooks! They are absolutely wonderful. Tonight I tried his "Artichoke and Feta Wontons" from the sauté section of the book. Though they take a little while to assemble, they are utterly delish. The feta and artichokes give it a certain bite, a sort of sour, creamy taste, while the bacon adds salt and the scallions add zing. They came out a little bit oily, but otherwise they were very good. We also had some leftover salad fixings (and half of a raw egg leftover from the wontons) so I made a salad with a soy sauce dressing. They could be a great party starter.

Artichoke and Feta Wontons
from Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for the Food with mods.
Serves 2

olive oil
12 - 14 wonton wrappers
1/3 of a can of artichoke hearts (about two hearts), drained and chopped (I used my mini-food processor which worked great)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 slices of bacon, cooked til crisp and chopped
1 TBS scallions, finely chopped
1/2 an egg (save the other half for the salad!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup of water or chicken broth

1) Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Heat broth in a small sauce pan.
2) Combine artichokes, feta, bacon, scallions, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
3) Lay out a wonton wrapper on a dry surface. Brush the edges of the wrapper with a little bit of water (I just use my finger). Place a heaping teaspoon of filling into the center of the wonton and fold up, pinching the edges together to seal. Place on a half baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Continue until filling is used up.
4) Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Once hot, brush about a tablespoon (maybe a little less) of olive oil on the pan until the oil begins to smoke. Add wontons, about 8 - 10 in the pan. Sauté 2 minutes per side. Gently add 1/4 cup broth to the pan and cover, cooking an additional 2 minutes or until liquid has evaporated. Move wontons to an oven-proof dish and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining wontons.

Salad with Soy Sauce Dressing
Serves 2

spinach or whatever lettuce you so desire
8 - 10 grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup carrots cut into matchsticks
1 large scallion, chopped
1/2 an egg, fried and sliced thin (fry up the rest of the one from the wontons)

1 TBS soy sauce
1/2 TBS dry sherry
2 TBS light olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp garlic
pinch of black pepper

1) Toss together vegetables. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Top with egg.
*This would also be tasty with sesame seeds, orange slices, fried wontons, snow peas, red pepper, etc.


We went apple-picking a couple of weekends ago (among other crazy events!) and got sooo many delicious apples! I have great plans for these, including apple bread and apple crisp, however we have lots of birthday cake leftover so the last thing we needed was more desserts. So I started with applesauce. Super easy.

Homemade Applesauce
Makes 1 jar/ 4 -5 servings

5 -6 apples

1) Core, peel, and slice all apples. Place in a large pot and cover half with water (about two cups). Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.
2) Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 30 - 40 minutes or until apples have broken down and you can easily mash them with a spoon.
3) For smoother applesauce, use a mixing wand or food processor and pulse until desired smoothness.
4) Serve warm or cold with cinnamon and/or brown sugar. Mmmmm.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Welcome one and all! This is the new incarnation of my foodblog (formerly on livejournal, name cookyjar). I have just finished transferring over all my old entries, so feel free to peruse my meager compendium of recipes and posts thus far. I've been cooking up a lot of tasty things recently, including homemade fettucini, apple crisp, and artichoke and feta wontons! I can't wait to share it all with you!

I'm also hoping to include a bit more creative food writing (see Thoughts on Risotto for a sampler) and maybe some restaurant and book reviews as well! I will try to post as often as I can, but I will tell you up front that I tend to be bad about that sort of thing and may instead post in feverish, inconsistent bursts.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

Knowing that my parents and sister were straining in the heat to unload her things and unpack her dorm room, I knew I could only be a good daughter and sister if I brought them a picnic lunch. I lay in bed, trying to sleep in on a hot Saturday morning, but all I could think about was roasted vegetables and pasta salad, until I had to get up and get cooking.

I decided to forego the pasta salad (instead I brought leftover salad from the night before). But the roasted vegetables persisted. We still had a zucchini from my uncle's garden, tomatoes from my great aunt, an extra loaf of bread from the fondu, feta from salad making, and balsamic vinegrette from the boy's experiments with a medditerranean tortellini dish. With these powers combined, huzzah! Roasted summer vegetable sandwiches. Somehow I managed to divy the bread into six sandwiches, but I would say a safer bet would be four (the sandwiches were quite skinny a hard to eat, though tasty). Also, any summer veggies would do--eggplant, summer squash, onions--this is just what we had on hand. They could also be good with cheese, olives, and a variety of other toppings/condiments.

The rest of the picnic consisted of: salad, cheese (cheddar and fontina) and crackers, iced tea, and pound cake with cool whip.

Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches
Serves 4 - 6

olive oil
1 large zucchini, cut into thin, diagonal rounds
1 large tomato, cut into thin slices
3/4 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 jarred roasted red pepper, drained and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup balsamic vinegrette (2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 large loaf of crusty italian bread
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
2 - 3 TBS sour cream

1) Brush the zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2) On a grill or grill pan, grill the zucchini until seared, about 4 minutes each side, adding more oil as necessary. Remove and transfer to a large plate or platter, laying the slices in a single layer.
3) Grill tomato slices and artichoke hearts until just seared (only about 1- 2 minutes per side). Transfer to the plate and layer on top of the zucchini slices.
4) Add roasted red pepper strips to the vegetable platter. Pour balsamic vinegrette over the vegetables. Season with oregano, and salt&pepper to taste. Cover and refridgerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the vegetables to cool and the flavors to mingle.
5) Combine the feta and sour cream to form a spread. Cut the loaf of bread length wise. Spread the feta spread evenly across the top half.
6) Remove vegetables from the fridge and drain. Apply the vegetables in an even layer across the bottom half of the bread. Put the top half back on and cut into equal portions for sandwiches.
*If picnicking, wrap each sandwich individually in foil or wait until you arrive at your picnic destination and divy up the sandwich there.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fondue Party

My parents, sister, and uncle came over last night for dinner since my sister is moving back into school for the fall. So I wracked my brain for something fun and easy to serve to a crowd that I could mostly prep ahead of time. Inspired by the latest specials at The Melting Pot (one of our favorite fancy restaurants) I decided to try my hand at a cheddar fondue.

First, let me say, it came out fine. However, like last time when I made an Italian Cheeses fondue (the recipe of which I will include another time) I ran into the same problem: the fondue was too liquidy. I still attribute this to too much wine and/or not letting some of the wine cook off first. So be aware of this, if you try said recipes. I'm going to include half as much wine next time and see if that helps.

Anyway, cheddar/fontina fondue, a make-your-own-salad bar, and chocolate/marshmallow fondue was what was served up. Enjoy!

Cheddar Fontina Fondue
Serves 5

1/2 cup of dry white wine (could also use beer or hard cider)
2 - 2 1/2 cups of grated sharp cheddar
2 cups grated fontina
1 TBS flour
1 1/2 TBS spicy brown mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of red pepper flakes or hot sauce

30 mini smoked franks
3 granny smith apples, cut into cubes
1 loaf of crusty french bread, cut into cubes

1) Heat wine in heavy bottomed pot until simmering over med-high heat. Allow to simmer for 2 minutes.
2) Lower the heat to medium. Toss the grated cheeses together with the flour until coated. Add the cheese in handfuls to the wine, stirring constantly in a figure eight pattern until smooth and incorporated.
3) Add mustard, Worcestershire, and red pepper and stir until blended.
4) Transfer cheese to a warmed fondue pot (I would recommend allowing the water in the fondue pot to heat up to a simmer before transferring).
5) Serve with dippers!

Make Your Own Salad

Romaine lettuce
Red bell pepper, diced
Carrots, diced
Cucumbers, sliced
Red Onion, diced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Hard boiled eggs, sliced
Sun flower seeds
Salad dressings of your choice!

Chocolate Marshmallow Fondue
Serves 6 - 8

1 bag (~2 cups) Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup light cream
1 toasted marshmallow

Marshmallows dusted in graham cracker crumbs
Strawberries, halved
Pound cake, cubed
Bananas, sliced

1) Heat cream in a sauce pan over medium heat until simmering around the edges.
2) Add chocolate chips and allow to sit for 1 -2 minutes until softened. Whisk together until smooth and creamy!
3) Transfer chocolate to warm fondue pot.
3) Toast a marshmallow over your sterno or gas stove (or heat one in the microwave until gooey, about 20 seconds). Plop onto the chocolate fondue.
4) Serve with dippers and dig in to deliciousness!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Thoughts on Risotto

From the first time I attempted to make risotto, I fell in love with it's simplicity. Though the recipes appear somewhat challenging at first, there's a certain rhythm to mixing up a delicious, creamy batch of a risotto, which once you master it, you can do anything you want. It's a hearty dish that can be a main course on a cool fall night or a flavorful side dish to compliment any meat or vegetable entry. It can be sweet or savory, rich or spicy, delicate or robust. But most importantly, for me, it's one of the easiest dishes to improvise with. With a little patience, and some basic ingredients, you can go anywhere.

So what exactly is risotto? Essentially, it's a creamy rice dish of Italian origin. What makes it unique is the kind of rice that is traditionally used. Risotto rice comes in several varieties, Arborio being most commonly available (and the only kind I've used), with others such as Baldo, Cariso, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano. Each variety has it's own cooking characteristics (so read the packaging!) but the general gist is that it's a round/semi-round short grain rice with a high starch content. That's what gives it that dreamy creamy texture when cooked.

Now there's much debate about how to cook risotto, but the first steps are almost always the same. You should have a saucepan of simmering liquid on hand (water will do in a pinch, but stocks are more traditional and flavorful) and another pot ready for your risotto. Into this pot goes a drizzle of olive oil, to which, once heated to a nice shimmer, you should add diced onions, and cook until softened. You then add the risotto, stir until coated with oil and lightly toasted (this delays the absorption process and allows the starch to release more slowly, as well as giving the rice a slightly nutty taste). Then wine is usually added, the rice stirred until the liquid has absorbed and the alcohol cooked off.

Then comes the adding of the liquid. Some argue that you can simply dump all your liquid in at once, cover the pot, and wait for the rice to cook. In my experience, the rice would not cook or absorb evenly. Instead, we add the hot broth in increments, usually of about 1/2 -1 cup at a time, stir until the risotto has absorbed the liquid and begins to stick just a bit, then add more. As you go, you will find the rice is absorbing the liquid much slower, the grains are softening, the mixture is coming together. I find that for a cup of arborio rice it usually takes 2 1/2 -3 cups of liquid to reach the right consistency. The rice should be a little chewy, and the liquid should be thick, almost creamy. Don't worry if it's not as creamy as you thought it would be. Remove it from the heat and add butter and parmesan, maybe a little cream. Then your next bite will be warm, almost gooey, but with enough firmness to the rice to give it some consistency. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish. A bonafide comfort food.

This is risotto at it's simplest, but once you master the timing (about thirty minutes) and the proportions, the world is your oyster. A simple way to start is to add peas and ham right around the 20-25 minute mark, when the rice is still a little too al dente, but probably only needs one more dousing of liquid to bring it to the right consitency. Another good combination that we like is sausage (pre-cooked of course) and bell peppers. I've made risottos with sundried tomatoes, pesto, asparagus, three different kinds of cheese, roasted red peppers, vegetable stock, canadian bacon, even apples, all of which (though not all together!) have been successful and mighty tasty.

One risotto that I am particularly proud of, I actually dreamed up entirely on my own, without the guidance of cookbooks or recipes. One night, before falling asleep, I thought about two of our favorite dishes, grilled pork chops with apples and onions and cheese fondue. Somehow, in my sleepy state, this got me thinking about mixing the cheddar and hard cider used in fondue with the apples and onions of our pork recipe. What better union than in a risotto? The caramelized apples and onions would add sweetness and the cheddar would add a strong, sharp flavor. We tried it the next night, and it was good, though the cheddar we had bought was not strong enough (I was afraid of overpowering the risotto, but apparently it was underpowered).

Coincidentally, it was this recipe that jumped to mind when, on our honeymoon, the cruise sponored a recipe contest. It was the only recipe I knew by heart as I had come up with it myself and only just recently. I submittted it and lo and behold, along with a recipe for Estonian Kringel, it won the contest. I received a free cookbook and apron, and a chance to whip up my risotto in the galley, then share it with other cruisers. When I made it in the kitchen, using slightly different ingredients (chicken boullion, processed cheddar, a different kind of rice) it came out good but not great. When they prepared a batch for other passengers to try, it was not the risotto I had intended. Where was the sweetness? There was hardly any apple flavor at all and far too much parmesan. Still, people seemed to enjoy it, though I tried to press on them that the recipe we were handing out would render a different (and in my opinion tastier) result.

When we returned from the cruise, my new in-laws were just dying to try my “prize winning” risotto. So I made a batch to serve along side roasted pork tenderloin rubbed in mustard and rosemary. This time, it came out perfectly. Below is said recipe. It should be slightly sweet, with the creamy robust flavor of the cheddar to counter it.

Caramelized Apple and Onion Cheddar Risotto
Serves 2

1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth
1 TBS olive oil
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup of onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup hard cider, apple juice, or white wine
3/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1 TBS butter
a pinch of nutmeg
2 TBS cream (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

• Heat stock in a small sauce pan until hot, but not boiling. Keep warm.
• Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until shimmering. Add onions and apples and sauté over med-high heat until the onions begin to carmelize and the apples are falling apart. Lower the heat to med-low. Add the arborio rice and stir until it is coated with oil.
• Add the hard cider to deglaze the pan. Stir until the liquid has been mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pot.
• Add warm stock to the rice 1/2 – 1 cup at a time and continue to stir the risotto until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the rice begins to stick before adding the next cup. The rice will being to absorb the liquid much slower. After about 20 minutes, the rice will have puffed up and taken on a creamy texture and will almost hardly be absorbing any liquid at all. The rice should be tender but slightly chewy. Remove from heat.
• Add the butter, nutmeg, cheddar, and parmesan, blending until creamy. Add cream and stir until incorporated. Season to taste and serve.

Pork Tenderloin in Mustard/Rosemary Rub
Serves 4

1 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 cup coarse ground mustard
6 springs of rosemary
2 TBS olive oil

• Pre-heat oven to 400ºF. Rub the mustard into the pork tenderloin.
• Heat olive oil in a dutch oven. Once hot, add pork and brown on all sides.
• Add rosemary to the dutch oven and cover. Roast in the oven for approximately 20 min. or until the internal temperature reaches 155ºF.
• Remove from the oven and allot the pork to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A new turn of events...

I haven't posted in just about forever, but that's because I've been getting married and all that. Now that I'm a wedded woman, I've decided to take another crack at this (actually, being wedded has little to do with it except that I have more time, time which was recently consumed by plans).

I like to consider myself something of a writer and something of an amateur cook, as it were, so what better union than writing about food? I hope to post more recipes here, both my own and ones that I've gleaned from cookbooks and websites (and shall give credit where due). I'm not really sure what my plans are for this food blog, so I guess we'll figure it out together, eh, dear reader?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Totally Bodacious Chili!

So I made chili for the first time ever and my only complaint was that it came out a little too spicy. Otherwise, it looked and tasted exactly as it should! I love my chili served "chili mac" style over spaghetti with shredded cheese on top. You can add beans to this recipe (sadly, the boy does not like beans) and I would just toss them in when you put in the tomatoe-y ingredients. Give it a whirl! We also served this up with buttermilk biscuits (the recipe for which can be found on your local bisquick box) and TALL glasses of ice water :)

Totally Bodacious Chili (Mac)
inspired by The New Best Recipe and Alton Brown
Serves 4-5

1 TBS olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin or ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 green bell pepper cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 TBS chili powder (decrease to lessen heat)
1/2 TBS cumin
1 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cups crushed tomato (16 oz.)
2 TBS fresh salsa
2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, chopped (decrease to 1 to lessen heat)
1 TBS adobo sauce (from canned chipotles) (decrease to lessen heat)
1/2 tsp salt

1 lb linguini or spaghetti
grated cheddar or monteray jack
crumbled tortilla chips

1) Heat oil in a large dutch oven (or skillet if, like me, you don't yet have a dutch oven) until shimmery. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, ground red pepper, and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase heat to med-high and add half the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the beef and repeat until the beef is no longer pink (about another 5 min).
2) If you are using a skillet instead of a dutch oven, move contents of skillet into a deep pot (otherwise, continue adding to dutch oven). Add crushed tomatoes, 1/2 tsp salt, chipotles, adobo sauce, and salsa and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Remove cover and simmer for 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (add water if the chili sticks to the bottom/sides of pan).
3) While chili is cooking, set 2 qt of water on to boil. Add spaghetti/linguini and cook according to package directions. Try to time it so it is finished around the same time as the chili. Drain and transfer to four pasta bowls
4) Serve chili over spaghetti. Top with grated cheese and crumbled chips (other good toppings: chopped raw onion, sour cream, fresh salsa...)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Steak and Penne Stir-fry

So originally I was planning on doing a more Asian type stir-fry, but since we had rice last night, we decided to use pasta with tonight's dinner, and I felt inclined to shy away from typical Asian flavors. I still used all the same kinds of veggies, but the base of the very light sauce was beef broth rather than soy or teriakyi sauce (though I did use soy to marinate the beef... so sue me :) ). This is a nice, simple, light meal, and it's pretty quick (took me maybe 30 minutes) as long as you prep things in advance to cooking. Things go so much quicker if everything is already chopped to just toss in the pan when the time comes.

Steak and Penne Stir-Fry
Serves 2-3

1 lb. top-sirloin steak, sliced and cut into pieces about the size of a postage stamp
3 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 TBS scallions, chopped
hamburger seasonings

1/2 red pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup snap peas, trimmed
2 TBS beef broth
2 TBS beef broth plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed to a paste
2 1/2 cups dry penne
2 TBS olive oil

1) Set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Plan to put the pasta in at about the same time you start cooking.
2) Combine steak, soy sauce, oil, garlic, scallions, and seasonings in a bowl or plastic bag. Marinate for at least 15 minutes.
3) Add pasta to boiling water. Set the timer for 3 minutes less than the suggested cooking time.
4) Heat 1 TBS oil in frying pan or wok until hot. Add steak, but discard marinade. Cook over medium to high heat until no longer pink. Remove meat and any remaining liquid from pan. Set aside.
5) Add second TBS oil to pan and heat. Add onions and peppers and cook until tender and the onions begin to brown (turn down the heat if the vegetables are cooking too quickly)
6) When timer goes off, add broccoli florets to the pasta and water for the remaining 3 minutes. When finished, drain pasta and set aside. Add broccoli to pepper/onion mixture.
7) Add steak and snap peas to the pan and toss. Add broth and cornstarch/broth mixture and stir until thickened and heated through.
8) Add pasta to pan and toss to coat.
9) Serve immediately!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oven-Fried Almond Chicken and Shells in Lemon Butter Sauce

(pictured with Trader Joe's couscous, rather than original shells side dish)

Just tried this recipe for the first time... usually passed it over because I don't usually keep almonds in the pantry, so I bought some specifically to try this one out. It was really good! The nuttiness of the almonds really gave you something to dig into and this is relatively healthy since it's baked, rather than fried. Yet it still comes out nice and crispy.

I combined the almonds, cheese, garlic, and seasonings in my mini cuisinart to get the almonds nice and finely chopped, then mixed that with the bread crumbs. I also whipped up a quick side of pasta with a little lemon butter sauce, which I've put at the bottom here. Also served this with a light salad. This is definitely going to be a regular in my kitchen (not to mention there is going to be a very similar dish served at a certain large occasion in the spring...).

Oven-Fried Almond Chicken
I think this came from a South Beach Diet cookbook...
Serves 2

1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1 tablespoons chopped parsley (I didn't have this, so I put in maybe 1/2 T dried parsley)
1 clove garlic, crushed or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts

1) Preheat oven to 400ºF
2) In medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese, almonds, parsley, garlic, thyme, and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
3) Place oil in a shallow dish. Dip the chicken in the oil first then dredge in the crumb mixture. Place in a greased shallow baking pan.
4) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the meat reaches 170ºF and the juices turn clear. Do not turn during cooking.

Small shells in Lemon Butter Sauce

2 cups small shells
3 TBS butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 TBS chicken broth
splash of white wine
salt and pepper to taste

1) Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2) Melt butter in a small sauce pan. When frothy, add a little bit of flour and stir until slightly thickened. Add lemon juice, broth, wine, and s&p. Cook until slightly reduced and thickened. Toss with warm pasta.

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

My mom used to make a dish kind of like this, over a bed of rice, but the chops always came out kind of dry and didn't seem to absorb any of the other great flavors. This recipe, however, is SO easy and the flavors all mix together to create a delicious medley of sweet and savory. It really is just as simple as it looks. Goes great with a light couscous or over rice!

Pork Chops with Apples and Onions
from The Protein Exchange (I got the recipe from my MIL)
Serves 2

2 thick pork loin chops (6 oz each)
2 tsp. spicy brown mustard
2 tsp. butter or margarine
1 small apple, cored, pared, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon ground savory

1) Preheat broiler. Spread each side of the pork chops with mustard. Set chops on rack in broiling pan and broil, turning once, until browned and done to taste (about 6-8 minutes per side).
2) While chops are broiling, in a small nonstick skillet, heat butter or margarine over medium heat until bubbly and hot. Add apple and onion slices and sauté until onion is slightly brown. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle with savory. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft.
3) To serve, transfer pork chops to plate. Top with apple/onion mixture.