Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lightened-up Turkey Pot Pie



When I was growing up, having a pot pie was a special treat. I remember having to wheedle my mother into buying things like pot pies or Swanson's fried chicken TV dinner or, my favorite of all, Chef Boyardee ravioli in the can. Yes, I confess, these were foods I loved; sadly, I didn't get to eat them too often. I've made my own potpies from scratch before, but they aren't usually Weight Watcher friendly. Not until now.

I perused potpie recipes in my cookbook collection as well as online and putting together an idea from here and there, this is what I came up with.

Servings:  6 (6 PP per serving)
Ingredients
§                1 small onion, finely chopped
§                10 oz mushrooms, chopped
§                2 stalks celery, chopped
§                1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (I like the ones with green beans, corn, peas, carrots)
§                8 oz leftover turkey (or chicken), diced
§                2 tbsp  flour
§                1 tbsp light butter
§                1 cup fat free chicken broth
§                1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk
§                1 tsp salt
§                1/4 tsp black pepper
§                1 tsp dried thyme
§                1 can reduced fat crescent roll dough

Instructions

1.             Preheat oven to 375 and spray a 10” pie plate with cooking spray (butter flavored is best).
2.             In a medium sized pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add in onions and celery and cook     until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in broth, chicken, vegetables, thyme and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium for about 15 minutes.
3.             In a small bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk and flour. Pour into chicken and vegetable mixture and continue to cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.
4.             Pour mixture into prepared pie plate, and arrange crescent roll slices around the outside edge, leaving the pie open in the center. Do this by lining up the long side of each roll with the edge of the pie plate. Place the first 4 triangles down, then fill in the spaces with the other 4.
5.             Place into oven and bake until the crust is golden brown, and the center of the pot pie is bubbly, about 15 minutes.
6.             Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

******************************************************************
TASTE NOTES
It's hard to believe that something made with so little fat could taste so good. The ratio of turkey to veggie was balanced as was the ratio of sauce to crust. My only issue with this dish is it's very difficult dividing it into servings. I'm going to buy some individual mini aluminum pie plates next time and make them up that way. They'll be easier to serve and I can pop a few into the freezer for another night.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Holiday Ham Loaf



I've been a fan of Penny's Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen since I started blogging 6 years ago. I've tried other recipes she's blogged about and found them to be reliable, not to mention delicious. When I saw her post about her mother's holiday ham loaf, I knew I'd have to make it. My mother never made a ham loaf, but she and I both loved ham salad. In fact, her mother introduced it to me. There was a little luncheonette across the street from the children's store where my grandmother worked part time. I loved visiting her so we could go to Doughty's and split a ham salad sandwich. I got my own chocolate egg cream. In retrospect, the combination doesn't sound too harmonious, but to the 5 year old palate, it was heaven. Years later, my mother and I rediscovered ham salad in the Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. So you can understand why I had to make this ham loaf in honor of Penny's mom and my own.
1 pound ham steak, ground
1 pound ground round or lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
2 cups saltine crackers, crushed (about 1 sleeve)
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup brown sugar
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.   Form into a loaf and place in a 9″x 13″ baking dish.  Score the top diagonally in both directions with a knife (about 1/4-inch deep).   Bake the ham loaf in a 325 degree oven for one hour. 
Meanwhile, mix together the mustard, vinegar and brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  
Pour sauce over meat and bake an additional one hour, basting frequently, especially during the last 1/2 hour.  Place on platter, slice and serve.
*************************************************
TASTE NOTES
I loved the smell of the glaze during the second hour of cooking. I should have scored my ham loaf more deeply, then run it under the broiler for a little browning (next time). I really liked the taste of the ham loaf and wished there were even more glaze to pour over. I sliced the loaf, which is large, into 12 generous slices. Since there are just two of us, I froze half the loaf for another meal and will use the other slices for sandwiches tomorrow. With a large tossed salad and some baked yams, this meal was a hit. Thank you, Penny!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beef, Green Bean, Scallion, and Water Chestnut Stir Fry

A review of my index of recipes will reveal that I'm no stranger to the stir fry. It's a quick and easy meal once the mis en place is done. It's also generally a healthy choice--far more so than Chinese take-out. That said, I have to say this particular stir fry gets high marks for flavor and will probably replace my old standby beef with broccoli. I found the basic recipe in one of those America's Test Kitchen publications that I frequently purchase. This one, "30-Minute Suppers," has been put to good use in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. As is generally the case, I made a few changes to reflect my taste. The recipe yields 4 generous servings and is excellent served over plain white rice.

Ingredients
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 tbs rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs plus 2 tsp vegetable oil (divided)
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces (buy the bagged ones to save time)
1 lb flank steak, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
8 scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger (don't even think of using powdered!)
1 can chopped water chestnuts, drained

Whisk the oyster sauce, broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Heat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat; heat until just smoking. Add the beans and cook, stirring every 30-45 seconds, until spotty brown. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat an additional 1 tsp oil and cook the steak until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the green beans.

Heat the final 1 tsp oil and add the scallions to the skillet, cooking until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water chestnuts and cook about 30 seconds more. Return steak and beans with any accumulated juices to the pan. Add the oyster sauce mixture and cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Serve over white rice, if desired.
************************************************
TASTE NOTES
One of the reasons I buy the America's Test Kitchen publications is that they are teaching vehicles. I always learn something new about cooking or baking, despite the many ears I've been engaged in these pursuits. I've had an electric stove for many years (too many) and a ceramic topped one for at least 20+ years. These stove tops are not wok friendly. What I learned in this publication, however, is that using a large skillet is a better option anyway. A skillet's flat bottom design allows more of its surface to come in direct contact with the flat burner, delivering more heat over more of the skillet than a wok and enabling it to stay hot even after food is added. Also, while it's a temptation while stir-frying (as the name implies) to stir constantly, it's better to wait 30 - 45 seconds between each round of stirring so the pan can retain its heat. Something I normally do is to put the meat to be slice into the freezer for 15-30 minutes so it firms up and is easier to slice uniformly.

The flavor of this dish surprised me. There aren't a lot of ingredients; there is no thickener necessary. The key is having all the preparation done and the ingredients lined up in order. Adding oil a bit at a time and stir frying until a bit of brown appears brings out the most flavor in the ingredients used. This was a far better dish than any I've eaten from a Chinese take-out place.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chicken Enchilada Casserole Revisited


I love ooey, gooey chicken enchiladas. In fact, there aren't many cheese-covered dishes that I don't like, especially Mexican ones. I've made enchiladas at home, even making my own sauce. The truth is, I'd rather eat them out than stuff and roll at home when I could be working in my studio or reading. Enter the casserole. I recently saw this casserole on Skinny Kitchen and could tell, based on the ingredients, that it would be a winner. I pretty much made it as directed except for bumping up the seasoning a bit and cooking it longer.

Ingredients:
2 Tbs honey
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 - 1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
3/4 cup fat free cottage cheese (or ricotta); I used Axelrod whipped cottage cheese, a bit higher in calories
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
9 small corn tortillas
1 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1 (10-12 oz) can red enchilada sauce
3 scallions, sliced
OPTIONAL:  6 tbs light sour cream  for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the honey, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Add the chicken, cottage cheese (or ricotta), and corn and refrigerate for 15 minutes or more.

Spray a 9 X 9 inch baking dish or pan with nonstick spray. Cut corn tortillas in half and use 3 per layer. Cutting them helps you to fit them into the square dish.

Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the baking dish and cover with 3 cut up tortillas. Spread on half the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1/3 the shredded cheese. Add the second layer of cut up tortillas and spread with another 1/4 cup enchilada sauce before topping with the other half of chicken mixture and sprinkling with another 1/3 shredded cheese. Add the last layer of cut up tortillas. Spread on 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and top with chopped scallions and the remaining 1/3 cup shredded cheese.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit, tented with foil,  for about 5 minutes to make it easier to slice.

Cut into 6 servings and top each with 1 tbs sour cream.
7 WW points per serving
*****************************************
TASTE NOTES
I had only one complaint about this dish; the serving wasn't big enough. That was my "bad" because I inadvertently cut the casserole into 9 pieces instead of 6. Once I'd rectified that by having a bit more, I was sold.

I knew when I saw the cottage cheese in the recipe that this casserole would not be dry. I used whipped cottage cheese which made it indiscernible. If you use regular curd, you may want to put it through a sieve. The flavors were just wonderful and the extra time in the oven ensured that it was hot enough. I will be making this again and again because I really enjoyed it. Served with some black beans and a salad, it was definitely comfort food on a raw and rainy night.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cincinnati Turkey Chili


Being new to this chili thing, I had never heard of Cincinnati-style chili. I looked it up and learned that it's a regional style of chili characterized by the use of such spices as cinnamon, allspice, or cloves as well as chocolate and is typically served over spaghetti. It can also be made with a thin, sauce-like consistency to be used as a topping on hot dogs (sounds like the Michigan dogs I made, recipe here). Apparently, great quantities of it is consumed in Cincinnati--some 2,000,000 pounds topped by some 850,000 pounds of  shredded cheddar cheese. I decided to give it a try.

Serves 4 - 1/2 cup pasta; 1 1/2 cups chili; 3 tbs cheese; 2 tbs onion
(N.I.  fat 13.8 g; prot 24.5g; carb47.4 g; fiber 7.9g)



4 oz uncooked spaghetti
cooking spray (olive oil)
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 1/2 cups of chopped onion, divided
1 cup chopped green pepper (1 small pepper)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs chili powder
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
3/4 cup lower sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese

Cook pasta according to package instructions; Drain.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat and coat pan with cooking spray. Add turkey and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add 1 cup onion, green pepper, and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Add chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and allspice and cook 1 minute. Add broth, beans, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt and stir well. Serve over pasta; top with onion and cheese.
*************************************
TASTE NOTES
I have become a convert. I enjoy chili, at least the chili I make at home. This one had a good balance of heat and sweetness. I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it over spaghetti, but I did. One of the advantages of using lean ground turkey is there's no oily residue floating on top of your chili. Given the short cooking time, the flavors had really melded together. Along with a kale Caesar salad--my latest craze--this was a substantial dinner, yet there are leftovers, a win-win.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Turkey Sausage, Escarole, and White Bean Stew

Want something on the table in under 30 minutes that's heathy, delicious, and tastes like it simmered for hours? I've got just the thing.

Serves 4
1 lb sweet (or hot) Italian turkey sausage
1 bunch escarole (about 1 lb), washed and cut into 1-inch thick pieces
1 (14 1/2 oz) can seasoned chicken broth with roasted vegetables and herbs
1 (15 1/2 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Optional:  freshly grated cheese (I used Asiago)

Spray a large Dutch oven with nonstick olive oil spray and set over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through (about 12 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board; slice when cool enough to handle.

Return sausage to the same Dutch oven; add the escarole, broth, beans, and water. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until escarole is tender. Stir in the basil and pepper. Serve at once with grated cheese, if desired. Looking forward to leftovers!

Per serving (1 1/2 cups):  234 cal; 10 g fat; 3 g sat fat; 16 g carb; 6 g fiber; 19 g prot (6 PP)
*******************************************************
TASTE NOTES
While "stew" may be a misnomer, the heartiness of this dish made it particularly welcome on a blustery day. If I hadn't had to sample some cookies I'd baked that morning, I'd have served it with some garlic bread. It was, however, a points-friendly dinner with great flavor.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rugelach



Taking an ecumenical approach to the holidays, I've often included rugelach in my Christmas baking. I thought I needed some balance to this year's Christmas dessert tray, so I made some apricot rugelach and some raspberry.

Yield:  4 dozen

Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 9 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tsp Saigon cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup apricot preserves, at room temperature
1/4 cup raspberry preserves, at room temperature
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs milk, for egg wash

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour, mixing just until combined. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and pat it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.


FILLING:
Combine 6 tbs of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, the raisins, and the hazelnuts.

To make the rugelach:

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9 inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tbs of preserves, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling, pressing the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges (first cut into quarters, then divide each quarter into 3 equal parts).Starting at the wide end, carefully roll up each wedge.

Place the rugelach, points tucked under, on baking sheets lined with silicone mats. CHILL FOR 30 MINUTES. Do not omit this step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tbs granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned (they'll firm up more as they cool). Remove to a wire rack to cool.
******************************************************
TASTE NOTES
The hardest part of making the rugelach is waiting for the dough to chill before assembling and again before baking. Well, maybe that's the second hardest part--the first is not eating them in one sitting. These are the perfect bite. The pastry dough nicely balances the sweetness of the filling and the cinnamon adds just a touch of spice. I think the rugelach, the espresso bites, the cannoli "chip and dip," and the peanut butter-oatmeal cookies will be just enough dessert to counteract Christmas dinner.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Peanut Butter Kisses




For the past several years, I've been baking cookies at Christmas to deliver to seniors who participate in a program for which I volunteer. This year I was surprised to discover that our numbers were up significantly (don't know why I was surprised since I'm the volunteer who does the intakes on the neighbors we help). I needed to find a cookies that would be delicious, but would not require too many hours in the kitchen. This recipe on the Skippy peanut butter website was perfect. I made 4 batches, which yielded 26 dozen cookies.

Yield:  6 dozen

2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Skippy creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
72 Hershey's kisses, unwrapped (soooo tedious, I know; why doesn't Hershey's make unwrapped ones for baking?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well.

In a stand mixer, beat together peanut butter and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix until blended. By hand, beat in flour mixture until completely blended.

On ungreased baking sheets, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart. Bake 13 minutes (until golden). Immediately press a Kiss firmly in center of each cookie. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
************************************
TASTE NOTES
These are so much better than the cookies made from the recipe on the bag of Kisses. Those have shortening in them and no taste. These are like a combination of a peanut butter and oatmeal cookie with a hit of chocolate. They are yummy and the only way to keep them safe was to wrap them tightly and put them in the downstairs fridge until I delivered them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butternut Tortilla Soup with Ground Turkey



Nothing beats a hearty bowl of soup when the weather outside is "frightful." I have a lot of favorites (wedding soup, pasta e fagiola, split pea, to name a few), but I'm always on the lookout for something new and delicious. There are countless recipes for tortilla soup, but most of them are thin broths. I had bookmarked this squash and corn tortilla soup a while back and decided to give it a try. As usual, I made a few changes to suit the pantry and my own tastes. There's a bit of prep involved, but the recipe yields a good quantity of soup (12 cups; recommended serving for 8 being 1 1/2 cups per serving).

SERVES 8
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbs seeded, chopped jalapenos 
2 tbs canola oil
3 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
2 cups seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs ground cumin
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb ground turkey
1 bag (about 6 oz) fresh baby spinach
1 can white hominy, drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and seed butternut squash; cut into 1 inch cubes. Spread on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Mince the corn, onion, garlic cloves, and jalapeno in a food processor.

Heat canola oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add tortillas and saute until slightly crisp. Stir in corn mixture, tomatoes, tomato paste, and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in broth and half the squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Blend soup with an immersion blender (or in small batches in the food processor) until smooth.

Brown turkey in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.

Add remaining butternut squash, turkey mixture, and hominy to soup. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with pepper, if desired.

N.I. per serving:  258 cal.; 6 g fat; 33 g carb; 6g fiber; 24g protein
**********************************************
TASTE NOTES
Squash and corn have always been a good match. They used to be planted in the same fields, so eating them together is only natural. With 3 kinds of corn in the soup--pureed kernels provide sweetness, corn tortillas help thicken the soup, and whole hominy gives it texture--the soup is delicious and healthy. The addition of chunks of squash and ground turkey make it more like a stew. The jalapenos provided just a small amount of heat and the spinach added color and more texture. I loved this soup! Served with a kale Caesar salad, it was the perfect antidote to a day when the mercury never got above freezing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs



A few years ago I read Alex Witchel's All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments. It was a poignant love letter to her mother who suffered from this heart-breaking disease. Included along with the story of her mother's descent into this lonely world were a number of recipes, one of which was for sweet and sour potted meatballs. It was noted that the recipe was adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking:  Yiddish Recipes Revisited.  I remember making the meatballs and loving them, but for some reason they never made it onto my blog or onto our dinner rotation. It was only during a recent "purge" of the stacks and folders of clippings that I collect, meaning to try out new recipes, that I rediscovered this recipe and set about correcting that omission. I've made some small changes to the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 (or 2 with lots of leftovers for another night or two)

For the sweet and sour sauce:

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, minced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbs)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the meatballs:

2 lbs ground beef chuck (85% lean)
2 eggs, beaten
1//3 cup long-grain white rice, parboiled for 3 minutes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 medium Vidalia onion, grated on the coarse side of a box grater
2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Prepare the sauce:  In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil, then saute the minced onion over medium heat until tender and golden, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce then rinse out the can with another 1/2 cup of water and add to pot. Stir in the lemon juice and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2.  Make the meatballs:  Put the ground meat in a large bowl and push it to one side. Add the eggs, rice, bread crumbs, onion, salt, and pepper to the other side of the bowl and combine with a large fork. Work in the meat, handful by handful, until everything is thoroughly blended. Return the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to shape the meatballs. You should have 12 - 14. Drop them gently into the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, gently rotating and pushing the meatballs around halfway through the cooking so that they are thoroughly coated in sauce after about 15 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve very hot.
************************************
TASTE NOTES
I was very happy to find this recipe because these meatballs are something special. They remind me a bit of the filling for stuffed cabbage. In fact, I like this sauce better than the one I usually use for my stuffed cabbage and will substitute it next time I make that dish. I served the meatballs with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and roasted brussels sprouts. Two of the meatballs makes a very generous serving. I'm looking forward to leftovers tomorrow night and will probably freeze any that we don't eat then. I can also envision using these for an appetizer (smaller versions, of course) in the future. Aside from the copious weeping when I grated the onion (I forgot to leave my contact lenses in for the job), these go together quickly and require just 30 minutes to cook, making them a good week-night meal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death by Chocolate




With the impending shortage of chocolate recently making the news, I thought I'd better share one of my favorite ways to indulge in that food of the gods. This recipe was given to me by a parent whose children attended my school. Celie had brought this decadent treat to a PTA function and I knew I had to make it again (and again).

What you'll need:


7 Hershey Skor bars
1 (9X13) pan of brownies (go ahead and use a mix if you want to)
1/2 cup Kaluha
3 boxes of chocolate mousse
2 pints whipping cream

Method:


Bake the brownies. Cool, then poke holes in the brownies with a fork and pour Kaluha over them and set aside. Cut into 1 inch squares before assembling.

Prepare mousse according to package instructions.

Hammer the Skor bars while they're still in the wrapper. Set aside 1 for the topping. Empty the rest of the packages into a bowl.

To assemble:


Use a trifle bowl or a large glass bowl (5 quart works best) to layer 1/3 brownies, 1/3 mousse, 1/3 Skor pieces, 1/3 whipped cream. Repeat. Top with the last Skor bar. Refrigerate for several hours before serving for best results.
******************************
TASTE NOTES
In addition to looking beautiful, this simple-to-prepare dessert is truly decadent. The little bit of Kaluha accentuates the chocolatey goodness. In a pinch, I've made this with the kind of chocolate pudding cakes they sell in supermarkets. I even made it with chocolate pudding instead of the mousse one time. It's a great dessert to bring to a potluck or a celebration. In the shot above, I used a 5 quart plastic bowl I bought in a party store so I didn't have to worry the hostess about returning my glass bowl. Another advantage is it serves a lot of people. Thank you, Celie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Time to Make the Stollen



I thought I didn't like stollen until I tasted it at a CIA class I took a few years ago. Since then, I've been a convert. Nothing is better with a cup of hot tea than a slice of homemade stollen dusted with confectioners' sugar. I posted the recipe quite a while back, so I thought it was time for a reminder to those of you who are gearing up for your holiday baking. My only problem with making stollen is my intentions are always good--I MEAN to let it sit long enough for the rum to develop the flavors and I MEAN to give most of it away. But it's so darned good. Make some, and judge for yourself!

Here's the link to my original post; you'll find the recipe there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup



Nothing says fall better than delicious root vegetables. Butternut squash soup shows up frequently on the rotation this time of year and, much as I love it, I was looking for something different. This creamy carrot and sweet potato soup fit the bill.

Serves 6-8

3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmet
5 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes (about 3 very large ones)
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups peeled, chopped carrots (about 4 very large ones)
1/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs chopped fresh thyme

Melt 1 tbs butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5-7 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg and cook 1 minute more, stirring.

Move onion mixture to side of pan and add remaining 2 tbs butter to open space in Dutch oven. Increase heat to medium-high and cook about 1 minute, until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, water, broth, and carrots and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer 35-40 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth (or do in batches in a food processor or blender, being careful to vent steam and avoid splatters).

Add the half and half and salt and pepper; stir well. Top each serving with a touch of chopped thyme.
****************************************************
TASTE NOTES
This was a very thick and creamy soup with just the right notes of sweetness and spice. The intense orange color is beautiful. In retrospect, I'd have liked to top it with toasted pignoli nuts. This soup would make a great starter for your Thanksgiving meal, but is easy enough to make any night of the week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pierogi and Kielbasa Bake


I've been using Hillshire Farms turkey kielbasa for many years and find the taste and texture to be far better than other brands that I've tried. While I enjoy regular kielbasa on occasion, it is too high in fat to be eaten on a regular basis. I generally steam it and serve it with sweet and sour red cabbage and pierogies, but this one dish bake sounded like it would be more flavorful, so I tweaked it to lower the fat and calories. It went together very quickly and offered generous servings plus leftovers.

Serves 6
2 tsp olive oil
13 oz Hillshire Farms turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 packages Mrs. T's mini pierogies (any flavor)
12 oz red cabbage (about 1/4 small cabbage), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup hard or regular apple cider
1 cup drained sauerkraut
2 tbs whole grain mustard
6 oz extra sharp, reduced fat cheddar (I prefer Sargento's)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown on one side (3-5 minutes). Stir in the onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender (6-7 minutes).

While the onions are cooking, cook the mini pierogi according to package instructions; drain.

Add the cabbage and cider to the onions and kielbasa and cook uncovered, tossing occasionally until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the sauerkraut and mustard.

Spray an 8X8 inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange one-third of the pierogi on the bottom of the dish and top with a third of the cabbage mixture and top with a third of the cheese. Repeat twice.

Bake until the cheese melts, about 8 - 10 minutes.

(WW - 12 PP per serving)
***********************************************
TASTE NOTES
What a wonderful one-dish meal to serve on a chilly night! The sweet and sour flavors melded well with the pierogi and the sauteed kielbasa slices with the melted cheese between each layer gave a variety of textures and tastes. The only thing missing was an iced cold beer. I'll have to remember that next time. This dish comes together very quickly and can be held for a while before cooking.