Friday, December 30, 2011

Crabbies


In my salad days, barely a weekend went by when I wasn't entertaining friends or family. A limited space and a limited budget just required a little creativity to produce food that was fun and filling. I've never been a "chip and dip" kind of person, but I have always loved finger food. When I was putting together our Thanksgiving menu this year, I was looking for a few nibbles to serve before dinner that wouldn't send us to the table already stuffed. For some reason, crabbies popped into my head. I haven't seen or heard of a crabby since the seventies, but once the thought was there, I knew I had to make them. Let me warn you that these are not haute cuisine. When you read the list of ingredients, I hope you won't turn up your nose, because the fact is, crabbies are delicious. That they are so very simple to make is another plus.

2 pkgs English muffins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2( 5 oz) jars of Olde English cheese
2 cans crabmeat, drained and picked over
1 tsp garlic powder

Split the English muffins and toast each lightly.

Mix butter, mayonnaise, cheese, crabmeat, and garlic powder thoroughly. Spread evenly on muffin halves. Carefully cut each muffin half into 4 pieces. 

TO USE AT A LATER TIME:
Place on cookie sheets and freeze. Remove from cookie sheets and place in freezer bags. Defrost in refrigerator before baking.

TO BAKE AT ONCE:
Preheat oven on broiler setting. Place quarters on cookie sheets, without crowding. Broil until the cheese is bubbly, watching carefully so they don't burn.



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TASTE NOTES
These were every bit as good as I remembered them and my guests who'd never tasted them before seemed to enjoy them as well. I still have a freezer bag full to enjoy the next time we have company because the recipe makes quite a few. The trick is to get the cheese bubbly and just a tiny bit browned.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sauerbraten (German-style Beef Potroast)

DSO is a hunter; I know, HOW did that happen? While our property is filled with deer and wild turkey, these are totally off limits. If he wants to hunt, he has to go to his hunting club. I tasted venison twice and both times it tasted like old meat to me. It is a disgusting color, has almost no fat, and is not allowed in our upstairs freezer. That said, I have made venison sauerbraten for DSO in years past (I use rubber gloves so I don't have to touch that grey meat).  To his dismay, DSO has not gotten a deer for the past two years, so I haven't had to contend with cooking something I detest. That said, I did feel kind of sorry for him, so I decided to make him a "real" sauerbraten, something that's a bit labor intensive (just because you need to plan the days for the marinating), but very, very delicious.

Makes 8 - 10 servings
1 1/2 c vinegar
1/2 c red wine
1 c water
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp whole black peppers
4 bay leaves
4 onions, sliced
18 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
3 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 lb boned rump roast
2 tbs flour
freshly ground pepper
1/4 c fat
1/3 c gingersnaps, crushed finely
1/2 c sour cream

Two to four days before serving:
In large bowl, make the marinade: combine vinegar, wine, water, sugar, 1/2 tsp whole black peppers, bay leaves, 3 onions, 12 cloves, 1 tsp ground mustard, and 2 tsp salt. Place meat in large ziplock bag and place bag back in a large bowl and pour in marinade. Refrigerate 2-4 days, turning bag each day.

On the day you plan to eat sauerbraten:
Remove meat. Strain marinade and set aside. Dry meat well with paper towels. Combine flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper. In hot fat in Dutch oven, brown meat well on all sides, about 15-20 minutes. This is a VERY important step, so don't rush it. Add 3/4 c reserved marinade (refrigerate the rest), 1 sliced onion, 1/2 tsp ground mustard, 6 cloves, 1/2 tsp whole black peppers. Simmer, covered, about 3-3 1/2 hours, until meat is fork tender, adding 1/4 cup marinade, if needed.



Remove meat to hot platter, slicing it first; keep warm. Strain drippings from Dutch oven into glass measuring cup. Let stand a few minutes to settle. Pour off all except the bottom 1/3. Return these drippings to the Dutch oven. Stir in crushed gingersnaps and rest of the marinade, stirring until thickened. Stir in sour cream, then add back the sliced meat (do not boil or sour cream will curdle). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles.
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TASTE NOTES
I'd forgotten just how wonderful a sauerbraten tastes. The few times I've ordered it out, it's been dry and stringy. Not so this with this one. The sweet-sour flavor of the marinade marries so well with the spiciness of the gingersnaps and the creaminess of the sour cream gravy. The meat was juicy and tasted even better the next day. Leftovers make wonderful hot sandwiches, too. This is just the meal for a cold night or for when you have company for dinner.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Rainbow Cookies


I  could never name my favorite cookie, but rainbow cookies would definitely be in the top 10 of my favorites. In fact, one item on my foodie bucket list (more about that later) is to celebrate an upcoming birthday with a rainbow cake like the ones I've seen in my favorite bakeries in Little Italy. When DSO asked me to bake cookies for his annual Christmas "eat-a-thon" at work, I decided to bake rainbow cookies. With a little bit of luck--and some new hiding places--I figured we'd have some left over to bring to my cousin's on Christmas Day.


MERRY CHRISTMAS from my kitchen to yours!

I've made rainbow cookies before, but decided to try a new recipe that calls for almond pastry filling in place of almond paste.

From Executive Editor Dana Bowen of Saveur magazine
Makes about 10 dozen

1 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
2 c flour, plus more for pans
1 c sugar
1 (12.5 oz) can almond pastry filling (such as Solo brand)
4 eggs
12 drops each red and green food coloring
1 (12 oz) seedless raspberry jam
12 oz semisweet chocolate, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Green and flour three 9 X 13" baking pans and line with parchment paper; set aside.

Using a hand mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add pastry filling; beat until smooth.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour; beat just until combined.

Evenly divide batter into 3 bowls. Add green food coloring to one bowl, red food coloring to another bowl, and leave the third bowl plain. Stir colorings into batters.

Using an offset spatula, spread each batter into a prepared pan. Bake each pan until just beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks to cool.

Heat jam in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly.

Place green cake on a cutting board or foil-lined baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to spread half the jam over the green cake. Top with plain cake. Spread remaining jam over plain cake and top with red cake. Press down lightly. Chill cakes to set jam, 1 hour.

Using a slicing knife, trim cake edges to form an even block. Slice block lengthwise into 1 1/2" wide logs (5-6 of them). Separate. Use an offset spatula to spread melted chocolate over top, sides, and ends of each log until completely covered. Chill to set chocolate, then slice into 1/2" thick cookies to serve.
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TASTE NOTES
If you're lucky, there will be some end pieces that look a little gnarly--eat them, quickly! Don't let the length of the directions scare you off. Yes, these are a bit labor intensive, but they are so worth it. First, you get a large quantity. Second, and more important, these are mind-blowingly good.

I mentioned my "foodie bucket list" and was wondering what might be on the foodie bucket list of my favorite bloggers. What foods are you planning to try? What restaurants are on your someday list? What culinary masterpiece do you envision producing? Inquiring minds want to know....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Fill Your Cookie Tins in under Two Hours




For many years, the day after Thanksgiving signaled the beginning of holiday baking. It wasn't unusual to find me forming loaves of stollen and baking dozens and dozens of all kinds of cookies. These cookies would be frozen until I'd amassed a few gross and could make up platters of cookies to give to family and friends. I get tired just thinking of how many times I'd have to wash those bowls and cookie sheets! I've long ago given up this marathon baking. For one thing, if you've never tasted frozen cookies, you don't know what you're missing. Those treats would call my name. Nowadays, I choose one or two favorites each year and bake them as close to Christmas as possible so I know there will be other people "responsible" for eating them.

However, for the past several years I've been volunteering in my local community, assisting seniors and adults with disabilities with transportation to doctor's appointments, friendly visits, minor repairs, and clerical chores. At Christmas, our group delivers a pointsettia and a goody bag of cookies to each of those neighbors, so it was time to grease those cookie sheets and get my cookie on.

I had just a few hours to accomplish this task, so I chose 3 drop cookies--sugar cookies, Snickerdoodles, and mint chip cookies--to produce the 10 dozen cookies I needed. With the help of my Kitchen Aid, Silpat mats, and 3 basic recipes, the cookies were baked, cooled, and wrapped in under 3 hours. Recipes are from the Good Housekeeping Cookies cookbook.

MINT CHIP COOKIES
Makes: 36 cooikies

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz mint chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt.
In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just blended. Stir in chips with a wooden spoon.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets (I use Silpat mats). Bake until golden around the edges, 10-12 minutes, rotating cookies sheets halfway through baking. Repeat with remaining dough.
Use a wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

DROP SUGAR COOKIES
Makes: 42 cookies

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until blended. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture just until combined, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoons, 2 inches apart, on two ungreased cookie sheets. Bake until edges are browned, about 10-12 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking.  Repeat as necessary.
Use wide metal spatula to transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

SNICKERDOODLES
Makes: 54 cookies

3 c all purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, cream of tartar and baking soda.
In separate large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and 1 1/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, beat in flour mixture until well blended.
In small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. With hands, shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture, and place on ungreased large cookie sheets, 1 inch apart.
Bake until set and lightly golden and crinkly on top, 12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet on wire rack 1 minute. With wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cook completely.
Repeat with remaining dough.
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TASTE NOTES
When you have a limited amount of time, a drop cookie is your best bet. The ingredients for these 3 cookies are staples in most kitchens and the recipes don't require any wait time in the refrigerator. The sugar cookies had a delicate crunch; the Snickerdoodles perfumed our house with the smells of Christmas; and, the mint chip cookies added a festive look to my goody bag. You really don't need a lot of time to bake homemade treats.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tiramisu


Today was my guild holiday party, a pot-luck luncheon that mixes good food, good friends, and lots of wonderful quilting. This year I was on dessert duty and I spent a few days mulling over what I would bring. Our guild is large and we're asked to bring a dish that will feed 8-10. Since I'll be baking cookies later in the week, I dismissed them immediately. Buche de Noel seemed a bit fussy (and it's always a pain to cut). I was planning on making Death by Chocolate when I realized there was a wonderful Italian dessert I hadn't made in quite a while--tiramisu. An 80's dessert, tiramisu, which means "pick me up," is a variation of zuppa Inglese, another layered dessert. It consists of coffee-and-liqueur soaked Saviorde (Italian lady-finger biscuits) layered with a mascarpone zabione and whipped cream. 

This recipe, which I happened upon many years back, simplifies the zabione, a welcome respite from standing over a double boiler and whisking for what seems like hours. I was lucky that there was one piece left over (DSO was very happy) and so was able to get a photo.


Ingredients (serves 12)

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup strong espresso, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (or rum)
  • 20-24 Itallian ladyfinger cookies, carefully cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine espresso and coffee liqueur. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise. 
  4. Arrange half of split ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish, cut side up and sprinkle with half the espresso-liqueur mixture.  Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.
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TASTE NOTES
Although this tiramisu does not require the whole double-boiler, zabaione-like process, it tastes every bit as good as if you had taken the long way round. I hadn't made it in years and had forgotten just how heavenly this Italian-style trifle is. I won't let so much time pass again before I make this. It is light in texture, but rich and satisfying with a wonderful, full mouth feel. While not overly sweet, you DO know you've had dessert when you're finished.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slow-cooker Pork Lo Mein

Tis the season to be busy, so with appointments to keep I happily turned to a slow-cooker recipe for pork lo mein. There was a bit of prep and some finishing touches, but mostly this one bubbled away on its own while I was out and about.

Serves 4
1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
3 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tbs oyster sauce
3 tbs oyster sauce (I substituted hoisin sauce, which I prefer)
3 tbs sherry
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 large carrot, cut into 2 inch matchsticks
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup fat free chicken stock
2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tbs cold water
1/2 small head Napa cabbage (I substituted one bunch of bok choy), cut into 1 inch pieces
5 oz dried soba noodles
2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Combine the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sherry, and ginger in a large zip lock bag; add the pork loin and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Remove the pork from the bag, saving the marinade in the refrigerator. Place the pork tenderloin in the slow cooker, then add the carrot, mushrooms, and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Remove the pork and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 2 inch long strips. Whisk the cornstarch in the water and add to the slow cooker along with the reserved marinade, the bok choy, and the slice pork. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken and cabbage wilts slightly.

Cook soba noodles according to package instructions; drain and toss with sesame oil. Add noodles to pork mixture, toss, and serve.
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TASTE NOTES
At 324 calories per serving (31 g protein, 34 g carb, 2 g fiber, 6 g fat, 482 mg sodium), this was a hearty serving of a tasty, simple meal. I must be completely honest, however, and say that it was a good dish, not a great dish. I much prefer the simple lo mein recipe I've used in the past (click here). But if you are looking for a slow cooker version and easy weeknight meal, you might want to give this a try.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slow-cooker Lasagna


Christmas decorating can't be rushed. I find it's best to spread it over several days and to have the house completely decorated before we cut and put up the tree. After spending the day in New York City viewing the tree at Rockefeller Plaza, the creche at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the wonderful Christmas decorations throughout mid-town, I felt ready to begin. That meant I needed something quick and easy for Sunday dinner.

I've come across quite a number of recipes for slow-cooker lasagna and decided that now was the time to give one a try. I made an exception to my general rule for using the slow cooker in that it was necessary to brown several ingredients in a skillet. While I didn't use any one recipe, I did take some suggestions for the cooking method and time. This recipe serves 8-12.

no boil lasagna noodles (use Barilla; they're the best)
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
10 oz sliced white mushrooms
1 (28 oz) jar tomato sauce (I used Barilla's 5 cheese sauce)
1 (15 oz) container part skim ricotta
2 cups part skim mozzarella
grated pecorino romano cheese

Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray. In a large skillet, place the ground beef, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Fit 3 no boil lasagna noodles in the bottom of the slow cooker (I broke some apart so as to cover the bottom). Use a slotted spoon to spread 1/3 of the beef mixture over the noodles (there will be lots of extra liquid extruded from the mushrooms and you don't want this in your dish). Add 1/3 of the ricotta, spreading as evenly as possible, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the layering 2 more times, finishing with the mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated cheese over this top layer, place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 5-5 1/2 hours.


Eileen, this one's for you!
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TASTE NOTES
I'll admit I wasn't expecting much more than a home made version of one of those boxes of pasta casseroles. I was wrong! While this will never take the place of real lasagna, particularly one made with handmade pasta, it was very tasty and had even set up when I was packing up the leftovers. DSO absolutely loved the taste and is even looking forward to eating the leftovers. This would be a great dish to round out a holiday buffet, to take as a contribution to a covered dish, or to put on the table for a special weeknight meal. It could be put together the night before and set to cook while you get your holiday shopping done. Whenever or however you make it, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Old-fashioned Apple Crisp


One of DSO's favorite desserts is apple crisp. I've made it many times, trying a number of different versions. Generally the ingredients for the crumble remain the same; it's the variety of apples and the amount and type of sugar used to enhance them that changes. Frequent fliers to The Food of Love kitchen know that I worship at the shrine of the Barefoot Contessa, so it comes as no surprise that I decided to see what the goddess of good eats had to say about apple crisp. Her first ingredient made me smack myself on the forehead and cry, "Eurkea!" DSO does not like to waste chewing time with his apple crisp and balks at any "bite" to the apple component. When I read Ina's first ingredient--McIntosh apples--I knew I had hit paydirt.

5 lbs McIntosh (or Macoun) apples
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 lb cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9X13 inch baking dish.

Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the prepared dish.

To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle --OR-- do what I did and crumble between your fingers until the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.

Place in the oven on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.
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TASTE NOTES
Even if I hadn't tasted the crisp myself, I'd have known from DSO's glazed eyes that Ina had scored again. The McIntosh apples with their higher water content broke down beautifully and resulted in a filling that was perfectly soft and sweet and yielding to the bite. To save time I had assembled the entire crisp the night before and popped it into the oven cold an hour before we were ready to eat dessert. It was perfect with some freshly whipped cream and I'm sure would have been even more decadent with a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream. Ina reigns supreme.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Gems


The holiday season is officially launched and the pile of  leftovers is dwindling each day. While cleaning up after Thanksgiving--which seemed to take as long as the cooking did--I decided to do a little organizing as well. I'm proud to say that my junk drawer is no longer a place you have to put on a glove to fish around. In fact, I'm so pleased with the results, I'm going back to the store to get some more organizers to do that bottomless bottom drawer that holds all the extras for my Robot Coupe, Kitchenaid, Pampered Chef paraphernalia, mixers, assorted foodie gadgets, and who knows what else.

Meanwhile, these little bites were a hit and at just 98 calories each, a treat I'm sure to make again.

Makes 24
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbs confectioners sugar

Heat oven to 375 degrees and coat 2 gem pans (12-cup mini muffin pans) with cooking spray.

Combine chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler, stir until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Whisk in eggs until well combined. Sift cocoa powder over top and whisk until smooth.


Divide batter among prepared pans (an ice cream scoop insures even sized gems). Bake until cakes have risen, 8-12 minutes. Cool in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove gems from tins and cool on rack. Dust with confectioners sugar.
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TASTE NOTES
Gems is the perfect description of these chocolaty bites. They are rich and melt on the tongue and two truly satisfy. I don't know how they freeze, but will definitely try that out next batch. These are worth having around for the perfect bite to go with your evening cup of tea.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Perfect Make-ahead Turkey Gravy


 Have you been blogging too long when you start to duplicate your posts? Or, is that just a sign that what you're posting about is really, really good. I prefer to believe the latter. My "faithful readers" may have noticed that my posts at the beginning of this month were sporadic. That was because my significant other's daughter was married at the beginning of the month. Following that joyous occasion, I headed to my refuge on Longboat Key, Florida for a little R & R, which, unfortunately, never happened. Instead I sat in my recliner staring longingly at the beautiful Gulf of Mexico while I fought a terrible cold and sore throat. On a positive note, I got lots of stitching on my latest crazy quilting project done. When I got home, I realized with a start that Thanksgiving was almost upon us.


When I came here to post about it, something made me look in my index and sure enough, there is was! I thought, however, that the photos I snapped today were better looking, and so I used them and will just give you a link to the recipe HERE.

The advantages to making your turkey gravy ahead of time are two-fold. First, it is far less stressful than trying to manage carving the turkey, getting all the side dishes to the table, as you stand and tend the gravy, which does take your full attention. Second, the turkey parts you use in this recipe can be used for salads, soups, sandwiches, or casseroles, a nice bonus.

Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roast Chicken Redux



In my book, Ina Garten is the Queen of roast chicken. No one can disabuse me of this fact. I've tried several of her recipes and every one of them has been a winner. This particular roast chicken is made even more drool-worthy because of the incredible sauce that accompanies it. From her newest cookbook, How Easy Is That?, Jeffrey's chicken is a definite keeper. I did add carrots, shallots, and some turnips, roasting them alongside the chicken, which I know made the sauce even yummier.

1 4-to-5 lb roasting chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in half crosswise
olive oil
2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced
2 shallots, peeled and diced
6 carrots, peeled and quartered
3 turnips, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbs all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Remove and discard the chicken giblets. Pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters and place 2 quarters in the cavity along with the garlic. Brush the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a roasting pan.

Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the mixture around the chicken. Spread the carrots, shallots, and turnips around the chicken as well.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, leaving the lemons and vegetables in the pan. Cover the chicken with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce.

Place the pan on top of the stove over medium-high heat. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect on the platter under the chicken and taste for seasoning. Remove the lemons, carrots, and turnips. Serve the chicken with the sauce on the side.
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TASTE NOTES
Of Ina's many preparations for roast chicken, this one is, by far, the best. I'm sure there are many reasons why Ina and Jeffrey have been married happily for many years, but I'm just as certain that this chicken must be counted among them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley



If you are a regular reader of The Food of Love, you'll know that my rule of thumb for using a slow-cooker is that I mustn't have to dirty any other pots and pans. When I spied this recipe in the November issue of Food Network magazine, I was delighted to note that it met that criteria. This is one you can easily put together before you go to bed or before you leave for work in the morning. With an 8-hour cook on low, it's definitely a keeper.

Serves 4
1 1/4 lb boneless beef chuck (in one piece)
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
4 stalks celery, quartered
6 medium carrots, quartered
2 medium leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only; be sure to clean well!!!!)
1 sprig thyme
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tbs low-sodium soy sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: horseradish for serving (Yes! just do it!)

Combine beef, barley, mushrooms, celery, carrots, leeks, thyme, beef broth, and soy sauce in a slow cooker. Add 1 cup water, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cover and cook on low UNDISTURBED for 8 hours. (Yes, I'm talking to you, the one who takes off the lid!)

Uncover, skim off any excess fat, and transfer the beef to a cutting board to cool slightly. Slice or shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Thin the vegetable-barley mixture with some water, if desired. Divide among shallow bowls, top with the beef, and pass the horseradish.
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TASTE NOTES
O!M!G! this is one tasty bowl of fiber-laden goodness. While it comes in at 647 calories per serving, it has a whopping 12g of fiber and 40g of protein (29 g fat, 57g carb) and needs absolutely nothing else to make it a meal. While a loaf of wonderful bread could only make it better, fitting into my clothes is important to me, so I skipped that luxury. Try this one ASAP.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rarebit



Rarebit--also known as Welsh rarebit--is a popular British dish. It generally consists of a mix of Cheddar cheese, ale, and seasonings like Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and is served over toast. I recently encountered a recipe for turkey rarebit, a suggestion for an easy open-faced, post-Thanksgiving sandwich. With a lot of leftovers from an oven-stuffer I had roasted, I decided to give this comfort food a try. What follows is my version.

Serves 4
2 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for the baking sheet
8 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted
2 tbs Dijon mustard
16 thin slices skinless roast chicken breast (or turkey)
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbs all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup brown or dark amber ale
8 oz  aged English cheddar, finely grated
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high.

Lightly butter a large, rimmed baking sheet. Smear one side of each slice of bread with the mustard. Set the bread slices mustard side up on the baking sheet and top with the chicken slices.

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat and add the scallions. Cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute more, whisking frequently. Add the milk and bear and whisk until thick and bubbling, about 3 minutes. Add all but 1/4 cup of the cheese and 1/2 tsp pepper, and the Worcestershire and whisk until bubbling, just a few seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon 1/4 cup of the cheese sauce over each sandwich. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Broil until bubbling and browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
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TASTE NOTES
This isn't something my mother made, but I do remember making it as a young bride (I'm sure a variation of it is in my first big Good Housekeeping cookbook). We ate it twice during the week, once with a big tossed salad and the other night with tomato soup. It was a big hit with both DSO and me, both of us liking it even better the second time around when the ale flavor was more pronounced. My biggest issue right now is I have more wonderful ways to serve Thanksgiving leftovers than I'll have leftovers. I may need to return to making a second bird.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sausage Patties

It seems I can't turn the pages of a food magazine without running into a recipe for sausage and biscuits or sausage and gravy. I finally decided it was something I needed to explore. Eschewing recipes that called for ground pork, I decided to grind my own favorite cut of pork, the butt.


Sausage Patties - 8 small patties
1 1/4 lb Boston butt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped into a paste
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs dried sage
1/2 tbs dried thyme
2 tbs canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pork butt into 2 inch chunks. Place pork, garlic, sage, thyme, oil, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until  ground (consistency of ground beef). Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours to let the flavors meld.

Shape the mixture into 8 patties, each 1/2 inch thick. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook the patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Cream Gravy
1 cup whole milk
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs all purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground  pepper

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until just simmering.

In another small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Raise the heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens and the raw taste of the flour cooks out, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over the biscuits and sausage patties.

Baking Powder Biscuits
Here's one of my favorite biscuit recipes,simply and simply delicious.
http://arlene-thefoodoflove.blogspot.com/2009/04/baking-powder-biscuits-redux.html
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TASTE NOTES
DSO and I enjoy the occasional breakfast for dinner, so sausage and biscuits with gravy and a side of over easy eggs was a perfect Friday night meal. The sausage was very tasty and, though I'm not usually a gravy hound, I did enjoy spooning some of the "gravy" (white sauce, really) over my sausage and biscuit. These patties freeze well, cooked or uncooked, and taste just as delicious on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Tart

You all know the research:  dark chocolate is good for you. In fact, I recently read an article that cited research regarding a reduced risk of stroke in women who indulged in a small amount of dark chocolate each day. For those who want to save up that daily 1 ounce of chocolate, this tart is for you.






From Real Simple, November 2011

1 3/4 cup pecan halves
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus pinch for the filling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli 70%)
3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing once, until fragrant, 6-8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until creamy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture; mix until combined, but still crumbly.

Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 4X14 rectangular or 9 inch round tart pan. Line with a large piece of parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet  and bake until the edges of the crust are dry, 20-22 minutes. Remove the parchment and the beans and bake until dry and set, 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the chocolate and bring the cream to a bare simmer. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the pecans. Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shell and sprinkle with the remaining pecans. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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TASTE NOTES
Cut the slices of this rich tart small (12-16 servings) or it will make you swoon, for sure. I absolutely adored the chocolate crust and the ganache filling. Pecans are the perfect nut for this taste treat. I have noticed, however, that most men have a decided preference for milk chocolate, so you may end up having to eat more of this tart than is typically the case. Well, we all do what we have to do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cream-braised Brussels Sprouts


I love Cook the Books, my online foodie book group, but life has been getting in the way of my participating lately. That doesn't mean I don't read the books, just that I haven't always cooked and posted a recipe from those books. Sadly, I missed joining in when the group posted recipes from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life. Some of you may already be familiar with Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. I had certainly come across it before, but confess I wasn't a regular reader. But I will also declare that I absolutely loved Wizenberg's story of how the kitchen came to take center stage in her life. I could identify with how her memories of food were always inextricably bound to her memories of family. Ironically, I began The Food of Love just one month before my mom passed away. While she was ill, her death came as a shock. Writing this blog proved to be therapeutic for me as well since my memories of food always lead back to my mother. Molly's story touched me and while I'm no vegetarian, I did bookmark several of her recipes. One is for cream-braised cabbage. As soon as I saw it, I knew I was going to try it with one of my favorite veggies, brussels sprouts.

Serves 2
1 pint brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tbs unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Trim and halve the brussels sprouts. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the brussels sprouts in a single layer with one of the cut sides down. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to gently turn them over and brown the other side in like fashion. When the second side has browned, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the cream, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, until the sprouts are tender. Add the lemon juice, shaking the pan to distribute it evenly.
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TASTE NOTES
Move over roasted brussels sprouts, there's a new kid in town and she's going to be front and center on our Thanksgiving table. This is such an incredibly simple preparation, but the taste is nothing short of fantastic. I'm not breaking up with pancetta-studded sprouts or roasted sprouts or bread-crumb topped sprouts, but right here and right now, these cream-braised sprouts reign supreme. I'll probably have to make 3 pounds of these for Thanksgiving because there's so delish. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beer-braised Country-style Pork Ribs


Nothing says fall like a slow-braise filling the house with wonderful smells that make you glance at the clock to see if dinnertime is close. I clipped this recipe and instead of adding it to "the folder" (the folder that I have to edit judiciously every month or so when the clippings start fighting each other for space), I put it into this month's rotation. I'm fairly certain it came from Food Network Magazine, based on the print and format.

Because it requires browning the ribs, I passed on using the slow cooker. My rule of thumb is to dirty as few pots and pans as possible. This is not a weeknight meal since it takes a bit over 2 hours from start to finish. Don't let that dissuade you since much of the time the pork is happily braising away in the oven.

I'm fortunate to still have some thyme, sage, parsley, and rosemary growing in the boxes on my back porch. I think the end is near and I have to get cracking on putting together a small window garden. It pains me to pay $1-3 for an herb that I use for one meal and then find browned and wilted the next time I need it.

I served the ribs with some whipped potatoes and new brussels sprouts dish that I'll be posting later in the week.


Serves 6
4 lbs bone-in country-style pork ribs
Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp hot paprika
3 tbs EVOO
3 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1- 12 oz bottle amber ale
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbs honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat the ribs dry, season with salt, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp paprika. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ribs in batches and cook until browned (5-8 minutes per side). Remove to a plate. Add onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tsp paprika and season with salt.

Add the beer; bring to a boil and cook until the kiquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes, scraping up the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and thyme. When the liquid begins to simmer, return the ribs to the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook, uncovered, turning the ribs once or twice, until the meat is almost tender, about 1 hour.

Mix the vinegar and honey in a measuring cup. Remove the pot from the oven and place on the stovetop; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the vinegar mixture and bring to a boil, then return the pot to the oven. Continue to braise, uncovered, until the ribs are tender, another 10-15 minutes. Return the pot to the stovetop and transfer the ribs to a plate. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Skim off the fat and cook until thickened, another 10-15 minutes. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven to heat through. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs before serving.
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TASTE NOTES
It wouldn't have mattered if I didn't like the ribs because the cider gravy was finger-lickin good. Happily, though, the ribs were fall-off-the-bone wonderful. There are lots of leftovers which I'm guessing will taste even better after sitting in the aforementioned ambrosial gravy. I'm also thinking that this same gravy would be fabulous on a braised pork roast. The bottom line was this was time well spent.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perciatelli all'Amatriciana


On my second trip to Italy, I spent a week on the Isle of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. It was a destination that I had planned to visit for 2 days and was reluctant to leave after a mere 7. One of the highlights of that trip was going down to Porto each evening for a meal beside the sea. At a small seaside cafe I had my first taste of pasta all-Amatriciana and the taste is forever associated with that beautiful island. It's difficult to find bucatini, an extra-long pasta tube that looks like a drinking straw on steroids, but I happened upon a box of perciatelli and decided it would do. While neither as long nor as thick as bucatini, the perciatelli reminded me of long-ago Sunday dinners and my father. We would typically eat the Sunday meal at 2:00--good thing since it took most of the afternoon to work off the extra calories and that stuperous feeling that comes from too many carbs (did I really say that? can there be too many carbs? ever?).

This dish requires a minimum of ingredients and time, so don't wait until Sunday to try it. If you absolutely can't find bucatini or perciatelli, you could use linguine, but don't use anything other than pancetta or the sauce simply won't be the same.

Serves 4
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6-8 oz of 1/4 inch thick slices pancetta cut into 1-inch long strips
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
2 small cans diced tomatoes with juice
salt and pepper
1 lb perciatelli
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Bring 6 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 2 tbs fat from skillet and add the onion. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook just to release the flavor, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and season to taste. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and return pasta to the empty pot. Add pancetta to the sauce, then add the sauce to the pasta and toss over low heat to combine, about 30 seconds. Add the cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.


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TASTE NOTES
Food that is associated with happy memories is the best and this dish was a winner on all counts. Calling to mind childhood meals with my parents, both of whom are gone, is comforting and poignant at the same time. Reminiscing about my wonderful week in Ischia makes me long to return there soon. This is a simple dish, but a lusty one. Try it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

More from the Homesick Texan



I practically sat by the side of the mailbox waiting for my copy of The Homesick Texan to arrive, so it pains me to report that my first 2 outings with this cookbook that has been all over the blogosphere were dismal failures. The first recipe I made was arroz con leche. I know the difference between this and rice pudding, but this recipe produced rice soup. It went over the bank behind the house and I hope some of our woodland creatures derived some nourishment from it. Relatively undeterred, I decided to make the tres leches cake. If you've ever eaten a piece of this, you know how decadent it is. I followed Fain's recipe to the letter. I've made genoise/sponge cake many times. The cake that I produced from this recipe did not look good, but I proceeded to poke holes in it and pour over some of the milk mixture. The next day we tossed that over the bank as well. DSO's suggestion was that I toss the cookbook over the bank, but I figured three's a charm and so I went on to make cheese enchiladas with chile con carne and Austin-style black beans. Finally, success!


After my lack of success with the first 2 recipes, I decided to use Fain's recipes as guidelines and made a few small changes. I used flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas; chipotle chilis in adobo instead of ancho chilies, and I put the chile con carne inside the enchilada along with the cheese. I also doubled the amount of ground beef called for.

Cheese and Chile con Carne Enchiladas (4-6 servings)
For the chile con carne:
1-2 chipotles chilies in adobo, finely chopped
1 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 cups beef broth
salt,  pepper to taste

For the enchiladas:
10-12 small flour tortillas
4 cups grated cheddar cheese (16 oz)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Place cooked onions and garlic into the blender along with the cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon, and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth. Set aside sauce.

In the same pot on medium heat, brown the ground beef, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the chilies and the beef broth on high until boiling, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, adjust the seasonings.

To make the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large baking dish. One at a time, dip the tortillas into the sauce, shaking off excess. Lay the tortilla on a plate and add 1/12 of the chile con carne and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese down the center. Roll the tortilla tightly and add to the prepared baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining grated cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Serve with additional chopped onion, if desired.

Austin-style Black Beans (8-10 servings)
1 lb dried black beans
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup lime juice
salt, to taste

Rinse and sort through the beans, removing any stones or shriveled beans. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil, then cook for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander.

Return the empty pot to the stove and on medium-low heat, warm the vegetable oil. Add the onions and carrots to the pot and while occasionally stirring, cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are lighter, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and cook for 30 more seconds.

Return the beans to the pot, along with the chipotle chiles and 1/4 cup of cilantro. Cover with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer UNCOVERED for 1 1/2 hours.

After 1 1/2 hours, add the remaining cilantro, cumin, tomato paste, and lime juice. Taste and add salt. Cook uncovered for 30 more minutes or until beans are tender. When done, smash a few beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the broth. Stir the pot and serve.
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TASTE NOTES
I almost didn't post the pictures because, as you can see, these dishes aren't too "purty." That said, I'll be quick to add that they were absolutely delicious--as good as or better than what we get at our local "cantina." I'm so pleased that I didn't let DSO convince me to toss the cookbook along with the failed desserts. My decision to place the chile con carne INside the enchiladas was simply to assist with portion control. I could easily anticipate having just cheese enchiladas left over if I'd put the sauce on top. I'm glad I gave Fain a third shot and look forward to more delicious recipes (though I'm swearing off the desserts!).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Almost-famous Swedish Meatballs




I remember the first time I discovered a Top Secret Recipe cookbook and found the recipe for Twinkies in it.Fast forward at least 20 yearswhen I rediscovered that same euphoria with Food Network Magazine's monthly "Copy That!" column. I haven't gotten around to making Macaroni Grill's rosemary focaccia yet, but the minute I saw the recipe for Ikea's Swedish meatballs, that iconic appetizer of the 50's and 60's, I knew I had to make them. While there's a recipe for meatballs in Ikea's Real Swedish Food Book, the article notes that reps confirmed that it is not the recipe for the meatballs served at their restaurants. I've only been to Ikea once and I did not eat there, but after making this recipe you can be sure I will try the meatballs next time for comparison purposes.

Servings:  45 meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used unseasoned panko)
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/3 cup minced white onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb lean ground pork
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
vegetable oil for brushing

For the gravy:
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used light; it works great)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Make the meatballs:  put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp white pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the bread crumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool. Add the beef, pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.

Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Make the gravy:  melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire a little at a time and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and the meatballs. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
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TASTE NOTES:
I made these for dinner with egg noodles and roasted butternut squash. It was a party in my mouth! These are like no Swedish meatballs I've ever made or eaten. There was no sour cream and the meatballs were light as air. DSO practically swooned while he was eating them and happily carried some leftovers for lunch the next day. I can't say enough good things about the gravy. It was creamy, but not heavy; plentiful, but in just the right proportion to the amount of meat; and flavorful, but not so that it overpowered the delicate meatballs. Run, don't walk, to the store to buy the ingredients and whether you serve them with some lingonberry jam as an appetizer or with noodles for an entree, close the windows unless you want the neighbors to come knocking.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Peanut Sesame Noodles

As much as I love Asian flavors, particularly Chinese, I am reluctant to order this cuisine in a restaurant. Even when the menu boasts "NO MSG," I find after eating a typical Chinese meal out, I am sluggish and bloated for days. Rather than give up these favorite foods, I look for ways to lighten them up and reduce the sodium. I also pay attention to portion size, often making the food in question a side dish rather than the main event. I can't think of anything better than combining the wonderful flavor of peanut butter with pasta and sesame seeds. It's like a triple-header for a baseball fan. As a side dish for Asian-inspired skinless chicken legs, these peanut sesame noodles were a delicious treat. The bonus was I didn't feel like the Pillsbury doughboy the next day.


Serves 4-6
Dressing:
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 c warm water
2 T fresh chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 T red wine vinegar
1 1/2 T sesame oil
2 tsp honey
red pepper flakes

Place all dressing ingredients in a blender and puree for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. T

Prepare 3/4 lb angel hair pasta according to package instructions, drain, and add to dressing. Toss to coat. Toss with:


4 scallions, sliced thin
3 T toasted sesame seeds


For best flavor, serve at room temperature.
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TASTE NOTES
I loved the flavors of this easy side dish, but did not care for how the pasta stuck together. It got better as it cooled off, but adding a tiny bit of sesame oil and retossing is advised. I served this with sauteed bok choy and oven Chinese-style BBQ skinless chicken legs. There were plenty of leftovers which are just as tasty straight from the fridge (so be forewarned).



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cream-filled Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

A little treat boxed and ready to go...
my new toy

ready to be filled

chocolate ganache frosting

better than Hostess's filling
love that shiny frosting


I've been wanting to buy one of these cupcake makers for a while, but just kept forgetting to order one. I know you can just cut a cone-shape out of the top and fill or you can use a pastry bag to put a smidge of filling inside your cupcakes, but I wanted to be able to put more than a smidge. The little silicone plug-like things are surrounded by batter and create a perfect pocket to be filled when the cakes cool. I baked one batch in my new toy and the other in my stoneware cupcake pan. For that second batch I did just use a pastry bag to put a bit of filling in each.

Ingredients 
1 package (18-1/4 ounces) devil's food cake mix (or your favorite recipe)

Cream Filling
2 teaspoons hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache Frosting
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions 
Prepare and bake cupcakes according to package directions for cupcakes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

For filling, in a small bowl, combine water and salt until salt is dissolved. Cool. In a small bowl, beat the marshmallow creme, shortening, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy; add the salt mixture. Cut a small hole in the corner of pastry or plastic bag; insert round pastry tip. Fill the bag with cream filling. Push the tip through the bottom of paper liner to fill each cupcake.

For ganache frosting, place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature or until ganache reaches a spreading consistency. Top cupcake with frosting; chill for 20 minutes or until set. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 2 dozen.
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TASTE NOTES
The best thing about these cupcakes is the ganache frosting. I could have eaten the whole bowful. I did use a mix (Duncan Hines) this time, but the cakes were still moist and yummy. The filling tasted a lot like the one in Hostess cupcakes, but better. I can't wait to try a peanut butter filling with chocolate cake and a cannoli filling with white cake. I love my new toy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Gnocchi with Butternut Squash and Kale



Food Network Magazine deserves kudos for being responsive to its readership. They have begun providing nutritional information for a number of the recipes they print each month. While this isn't my sole criterion, because I prepare meals for a diabetic, I am always interested in keeping a balance between grams of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber. I also pay attention to the sodium since both of us tend to salt our food. In the October issue in the "Weeknight Cooking" section, I found this recipe for a favorite pasta that was relatively low in calories, high in fiber, and sure to be tasty. If you try to prepare meatless meals once or twice a week, this one's for you.

Serves 4
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbs roughly chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups low-sodium, fat free chicken broth
1 bunch kale, cleaned, stemmed, and roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
1- 17.5 oz package gnocchi (I ussed spinach gnocchi, which increased the fiber slightly)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Melt 1 tbs butter in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring, until slightly soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, sage, red pepper flakes, and 1 tsp salt and cook until the garlic is soft, about 2 minutes more. Add the chicken broth to the skillet. When it starts to simmer, stir in the kale and cook until it wilts slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the frozen gnocchi, stirring to coat. Cover and cook until the gnocchi are just tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese and the remaining 1 tbs butter. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and transfer to the broiler. Cook until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.
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TASTE NOTES
Another great 1- pan meal with the bonus of leftovers that tasted even better reheated. I was afraid the kale would overwhelm the dish, but when it cooked down, it was perfect. I used a whole, small butternut squash because I adore this winter vegetable. I strongly recommend that you not omit the red pepper flakes. I was tempted to, but was happy I did not. The dish needs this little bit of heat. I'm not one who eats fiery food, but I very much enjoyed the addition of the red pepper. DSO asked where the meat was the first night, but happily gobbled down his portion. This is a terrific weeknight meal that you can feel a bit virtuous eating--so virtuous that you may want to pour a lovely glass of pinot noir to enjoy with it.