Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CHICKEN AND ORZO FRITTATA


We enjoy the occasional dinner frittata, so when I saw this one, which contains pasta and chicken, I thought I'd give it a try for a quick weeknight meal. Pasta and eggs is not something I grew up with, though I love pasta Carbonara. Giada's original recipe is here. I made a few minor changes--substituting sour cream for creme fraiche, part skim ricotta for whole milk, and a springform pan for a baking dish.


Serves 4
3/4 cup orzo pasta
6 eggs
1/3 cup ricotta
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cooked chicken breasts (about 2 cups), cubed- I rubbed them with Italian seasoning and roasted them
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup diced roasted red peppers
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and add the orzo. Cook 7-8 minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and sour cream and stir until the eggs are beaten and the ingredients are combined. Add the cooked orzo, cooked chicken, scallions, parsley, red pepper, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray. Pour in the mixture and bake 25 minutes. Turn on the broiler and place the pan under the broiler until the frittata is golden on top, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let set for 5 minutes. Unmold, cut into wedges, and serve with a side salad.
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TASTE NOTES
This was a hearty frittata, perfect for a light dinner or a filling lunch (we had half left over). It released fairly easily from the springform pan, though I'd spray it more heavily next time. I actually enjoyed the combination of pasta and eggs. I was going to add cheese, but thought I'd try it Giada's way first time out. Next time, I'll definitely add a bit of fontina or fresh mozzarella. With a simple Caesar salad, it was perfect and perfectly simple.

Monday, March 28, 2011

5-INGREDIENT MEATLOAF


Do you have a favorite meatloaf recipe? I've enjoyed any number of delicious meatloaves this year: some beef, some turkey, some with sausage, some chock full of veggies, some with bacon, some with sauces. This list goes on. With 2 pounds of ground beef on hand and the desire to try yet another version of this family favorite, I logged on to the Kraft website and found this 5-ingredient meatloaf (and I had all 5) and decided to give it a go.

Serves 8 - 7 SP per serving
2 lb ground beef
6 oz stuffing mix for chicken
2 eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup BBQ sauce, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the ground beef, stuffing mix, eggs, water, and 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce in a large bowl. Mix just until blended. Shape into loaf in a 13 X 9 inch baking dish. Top with remaining BBQ sauce. Bake 1 hour or until thermometer registers 160 degrees.

Tell me you can't waltz in the door and have dinner on the table easily with this one!
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TASTE NOTES
I was skeptical of a recipe that called for no seasoning whatsoever, but being familiar with stuffing mix, I knew there'd be plenty of salt and pepper and some dehydrated spices. Before you turn up your nose at this one, let me tell you it was absolutely delicious. Moist and flavorful, the only change I'd make would be to add a bit more BBQ sauce. You'll love it sliced thin for sandwiches and you can slice and freeze any leftovers if, like me, you cook for 2.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BAKED CHICKEN TAQUITOS


One of the best things about blogging is all the wonderful people you "meet" as you explore the world of cyber-eating. Sometimes I find a slightly different version of a favorite dish that I just have to try. Other times I am inspired by someone else's recipe and tweak it to suit my own fancy. Almost always, the result of my blog surfing is something delicious on the table. Recently I came upon The Sisters' Cafe and Brittany 's recipe for creamy chicken taquitos. Having hit a sale at Sam's Club recently, I had a freezer filled with vacuum-sealed packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and decided this sounded like a good weeknight meal. Here is Brittany's version and following is my riff on it.

Serves 2-4
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 to 1 1/4 lb total)
2-3 tsp Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
olive oil

3 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened
1/4 cup your favorite salsa
3 large scallions, chopped
1 tbs lime juice
2-3 tsp Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)

8 whole wheat tortillas
cooking spray
Garnishes:  guacamole, salsa, sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rub each side of the chicken breasts with the taco seasoning mix. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, turn breasts over and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and cover with foil to rest.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix the softenend Neufchatel cheese, salsa, scallions, lime juice, taco seasoning mix, and shredded cheese.

When chicken has cooled, dice into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the mixture above.

Place a few tortillas between paper towels and cook in the microwave on high for about 15-20 seconds, just to soften.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions. Place a portion on the lower third of the tortilla and carefully wrap as tightly as possible without causing the filling to pop out the sides. Place on a lined cookie sheet (I used silpat mats but you could use parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray). Fill all 8 tortillas. Spray tops with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with your favorite condiments. With some saffron rice and roasted cauliflower, this was a hearty dinner with lots of leftovers. Two of these taquitos is a very hearty serving.
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TASTE NOTES
Thank you Brittany for a great idea.  While these were perfect and flavorful as is, they were a bit large to qualify as taquitos...unless there's such a thing as taquitos grande. I will definitely make these again but will dice the chicken finer. I prefer roasting to poaching and dicing to shredding, not to put too fine a point on things. I foresee these serving double duty as an appetizer, wrapped tighter and cut into smaller portions. Using a rub on the chicken added another flavor dimension. With homemade guacamole, all that was missing was a great Margarita. Now, why didn't I think of that? I know you'll enjoy these, so please give them a try and let me know what you think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

INDIVIDUAL FALLEN CHOCOLATE CAKES FOR TWO


Chocolate lava cakes--fallen chocolate cake--is a cross between the most intense, rich, decadent chocolate cake you've ever tasted and a chocolate souffle. I've been making them since they first hit the restaurant scene some 15 years ago, I'd guess. I've had great success with the various recipes I've made in the past, but what drew me to this recipe was that it is for 2 individual cakes-- enough for a splurge, but not a sugar coma. Since I've had good success with the other recipes I've tried from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011, I anticipated that these ultra-chocolatey, molten-in-the-middle cakes would be a special ending to a family dinner.

Serves 2
cocoa powder, for the ramekins
2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Ghiradelli)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tbs granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tbs all purpose flour
confectioner's sugar for dusting (optional)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6 ounce ramekins and dust with cocoa powder.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until melted, 1 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in vanilla.

In a large bowl, whip the egg with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the egg to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in the granulated sugar and salt; continue to whip the egg until very thick and pale, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Scrape the whipped egg mixture on top of the chocolate mixture, then sift the flour over the top. Gently fold the mixture together with a large rubber spatula until just incorporated and no streaks remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins, smooth the tops, and wipe any drops of batter off the sides.  Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the cakes until they have puffed about a 1/2 inch above the ramekins and jiggle slightly in the center when shaken gently, 10-13 minutes.

Run a small knife around the edges of the cake and gently invert onto an individual serving plate. Let sit until the cakes release themselves from the ramekins, about 1 minute. Dust with confectioner's sugar (if using) and serve immediately.
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TASTE NOTES
With a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream, this was a small piece of heaven. I loved the runny center, the deep chocolate flavor, and the warm airy cake. This is my new go-to lava cake (sorry! Old Faithful). It was so easy to prepare. In fact, I prepared them earlier in the day and kept the filled ramekins in the fridge until they were ready to bake. I wondered if this would inhibit the puffing--it didn't. You must try these.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SHORTBREAD


The rich, buttery crumble in your mouth is the hallmark of a good shortbread. Though I'm a firm believer in the old adage that "good things come to those who wait," in the case of this shortbread it's a very good thing and it can be dispatched with very little waiting.

Makes 16 wedges (adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
14 tbs (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/8 inch slices)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Pulse the oats in a spice grinder until reduced to a fine powder. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix the oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt on low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and continue to mix on low speed until a dough just forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.

Pat the dough into a 9 inch circle on a parchment lined baking sheet. Smooth the top of the dough with the back of a spoon. Score the shortbread into 16 even wedges, cutting halfway through the dough. Use a skewer or fork to poke 8-10 holes into each wedge.

Bake the shortbread for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the edges turn pale golden. Turn off the oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon to leave a 1 inch gap at the top. Allow the shortbread to dry in the turned-off oven until pale golden in the center, about 1 hour.

Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool the shortbread to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut the shortbread on the scored marks to separate and serve. Wrap well and store at room temperature for up to 7 days.
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TASTE NOTES
I've generally had success with any shortbread recipe I used, though those that contain oats, a traditional ingredient, have had a better crumb. These cookies were the best yet and I'm certain it's because they are not "handled" as other recipes have required. There is no creaming process but just a low and slow mixing of the dry ingredients with the butter. The flavor of the butter shines through, but the texture is perfect, crumbly with an even browning.  The fact that the whole process from start to finish was under 30 minutes made this recipe nearly perfect. Why nearly? You are supposed to wait for the shortbread to cool (note to self--be sure to wait next time).

Friday, March 11, 2011

CRISPY TOPPED BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CAULIFLOWER GRATIN


I think my magazine buying is a bit out of control. The pile on my lamp table was too high to see over (and Miss Pittipat, my beautiful tortoise shell cat, likes to leap off tall buildings and send things flying), so it was time to clip recipes. Among the rather large pile of clippings was this gem from the March issue of Cooking Light. Since Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are favorite veggies in the Food of Love kitchen, this was a great place to start.

Yield:  8 servings
4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 pound)
4 cups trimmed quartered Brussels sprouts (about 1 3/4 pound)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 1% lowfat milk
2/3 cup half and half (I used lowfat half and half)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
4 slices center cut bacon, chopped
2 cups Vidalia onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated Parmigiano cheese
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the cauliflower and sprouts in boiling water 2-4 minutes, then drain.

Combine flour, milk, half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly (3-4 minutes).

Remove from heat and stir in the vegetables.

Coat an 11 X 7 inch broiler-safe dish with cooking spray and spoon in the mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Remove foil.

Preheat broiler to high. Combine cheese and Panko and sprinkle evenly over vegetables. Broil 5 inches from heat for 3-4 minutes, until browned. Let stand a few minutes before serving.
N.I.   148 cal; 5.2 g fat; 18.3 g carb; 8.7 g protein; 3.8 g fiber
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TASTE NOTES
Because we like eating our veggies fresh, I cut this recipe in half and still had leftovers. Despite a longish list of ingredients, this side dish went together very quickly and was the perfect accompaniment to a store-roasted chicken. Because oven temperatures vary so widely, be sure that your veggies are bubbling before you add the topping. This was a satisfying side dish, so much so that no starch was needed or missed. Because Brussels sprouts have been in storage for a while, the next time I make this gratin, I will use just cauliflower or cauliflower and broccoli.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WEDDING SOUP WITH STRACCIATELLA


Wedding soup is a favorite of mine. I love to play with the ingredients, making the meatballs with ground chicken or beef or turkey or sausage. For greens I prefer spinach, though I've used escarole at times. And for pasta, sometimes I'm in an acine de pepe mood and other times only orzo will do. But what I've never done until now is combined wedding soup with stracciatella, which is an Italian egg drop soup. I decided to "marry" these two favorites--sorry, I couldn't help myself--with excellent results.

Serves 2-3
 Meatballs
1 slice white bread, crust removed
1/4 cup milk
garlic clove, minced
6 oz ground turkey
1 tbs olive oil
1 egg yolk
2 tsp fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Soup
4 cups chicken broth
2 oz orzo
1/2 pkg. fresh baby spinach
1 egg
1 tbs water
2 tbs grated Parmigiano
2 tbs fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Place the bread in a bowl and pour the milk over it. Let it soak for 5 minutes. While the bread soaks, saute the garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic in oil, the ground turkey, the egg yolk, the parsley, and salt and pepper to the bowl. Use a fork to gently mix together--the less you handle the meat, the lighter the meatballs will be. Divide mixture into 12 equal parts and form into balls.

Bring broth to a simmer and gently drop in the meatballs. Simmer 5-10 minutes, just until cooked through. Remove from the broth with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the broth to a boil and add the orzo. Cook for 10 minutes. When orzo is almost done, add the spinach and return the meatballs to the soup. Add parsley. 

Break the egg into a small bowl, add the water, and stir briefly. Stir in the grated cheese. Quickly stir the soup, then drizzle in this egg-cheese mixture slowly so that the heat of the soup will quickly form the mixture into cooked strands.
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TASTE NOTES
Combining these two favorites was a good call. The broth was enriched by the egg-cheese mixture and the added protein turned a light supper into a filling one. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP WITH STUFFING DUMPLINGS


It was time to cook the turkey in the freezer and use up the leftover gravy and stuffing stored there as well. Since I stuff the bird at Thanksgiving, I don't use the carcass for soup--the stuffing makes a cloudy broth. I knew I wanted to make a soup with this carcass and decided to search for something a little different than the usual turkey soup with noodles. On the Food TV website, I found this very different preparation courtesy of a Wes Martin. Printable recipe here.

Ingredients

  • Carcass from one 12-14 pound roasted turkey, picked clean
  • 2 large onions, one quartered and one chopped
  • 4 peeled carrots, 2 coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, 2coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, 4 smashed and 2 chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups leftover stuffing
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups shredded leftover turkey meat
  • 1 cup leftover corn kernels

Directions

Put the turkey carcass, quartered onions, coarsely chopped carrots and celery, smashed garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a large stockpot and add enough cold water to just cover, about 2 quarts. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain the solids from the broth. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve; you should have about 10-12 cups broth.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper together until smooth. Add the stuffing and mix until well combined; cover and reserve.
Wipe the stockpot clean with a paper towel. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the sliced carrots and celery, thyme sprigs, and reserved broth and bring to a simmer; cook vegetables are just soft, about 10 minutes.
Roll level tablespoons of the dumpling mixture into balls with wet hands (see note) and drop into the simmering soup; cook until dumplings float, 3-4 minutes. Gently stir in the turkey meat, corn, and season with salt and pepper, and simmer until heated through. Serve immediately.
Note: Moistness of stuffing can vary; if the dumpling dough is too soft to roll, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it is firm enough to hold its shape while rolling.
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TASTE NOTES
DSO and I love stuffing. I prepare it with bacon, as my mother did, and he always exhorts me to "Make plenty of stuffing so there's leftovers." Hence, the gallon-sized freezer bag of leftover stuffing. This was the perfect recipe for us and my only admonition is to make sure you add more flour if your stuffing is a moist one, as mine is. I should have added a bit more flour because some of my dumplings didn't hold together. That did not affect the taste in the least. We enjoyed this soup immensely. The dumplings were surprisingly light and fluffy, which I would not have expected from using the stuffing. I will absolutely make this soup again. I imagine it would taste as good whether you make your stuffing with sausage, chestnuts, oysters, cornbread, or any of the other wonderful family traditions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

BBQ CHEESEBURGER (PIZZA) PIE


My freezer is packed tight with portions of chicken thighs, sausage, meatball mix, soup, sauce, lasagna...you get the picture. So, when I used 6 ounces from a package of ground turkey, I did not want to just freeze for a later date. Intending to make burgers, I spied the roll of Pillsbury crescent seamless dough sheet in the fridge and thought a pizza sounded more interesting. Gathering a few of our favorite things, I came up with a delicious pizza that was not over-the-top in terms of healthy eating.

BBQ Cheeseburger Pizza from Arlene's Food of Love Kitchen
Servings:  8 slices

1 large vidalia onion
1/2 tbs olive oil + 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
12 oz lean ground turkey
salt and pepper to taste
Gulden's spicy mustard
Kraft's Original BBQ sauce, reduced fat version
1 tube Pillsbury crescent seamless dough sheet
cooking spray
1 1/2 cups 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice onion. In a large skillet combine the oil and butter. Add the onions to the skillet and slowly carmelize them over medium heat (about 15 minutes). Remove from skillet. Add the ground turkey to the same skillet, season with salt and pepper, and brown, breaking up into small crumbles. Return the onions to the skillet and mix well.

Spray a small baking sheet with cooking spray. Pat the dough sheet to cover the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 6-7 minutes, patting down dough as necessary. Raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Remove dough from oven and use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer of spicy mustard over the crust. Next, spread a few tablespoons of the BBQ sauce over the mustard. Spread the meat and onion mixture to the edges of the dough. Top with the cheddar cheese and another 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the cheese.

Bake for 9-11 minutes.
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TASTE NOTES
The crescent dough, like the pizza crust in a tube, makes a very thin, crispy pizza, which DSO and I both adore. It's pizza, but it's not, if you know what I mean. The combination of spicy mustard and BBQ sauce added just the right amount of tang to the ground turkey - onion mixture. Nothing tastes as good as carmelized onions! And cheddar cheese was a natural since I was going for a burger taste. This was one of those "let's use up what's in the larder" meals, but it was so good, it bears repeating. For those last minute, "I don't want to get take-out" nights, I heartily recommend keeping a tube of the seamless dough in the fridge.