Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Bucatini

If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, right now it would be this cheesy chicken buccatini. If you've never had buccatini (or perciatelli), let me warn you upfront that you can't slurp it like regular spaghetti because it is a hollow tube. So, if you're not a good twirler, save this meal for weeknight eating. That said, you will want to put this in your rotation as soon as possible, it's that good.

Serves 4
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb bucatini or perciatelli
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
3 tbs chopped fresh basil
3 tbs chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 cup reserved pasta water

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.

Heat 1 tbs oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the bucatini to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tbs oil and garlic together in the same skillet, stirring often, until the garlic is softened, but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and lemon juice and cook, stirring up the browned bits in the skillet with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken and juices from the plate and stir to reheat the chicken, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Drain the bucatini in a colander. Return to the skillet and add the cheese and herbs, plus 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta water. Toss. Add the butter and toss again. Serve with additional cheese on the side.

(adapted from Fabulicious by Teresa Giudice)
I've already said that I could eat this dish every day, if necessary. My addition of the pasta water makes the sauce creamier and seemingly decadent when, in fact, the fat content is very healthy. You could certainly substitute your favorite cheese; for example, I think Asiago would be equally delicious. I did cut the recipe in half for the two of us and still had leftovers. Next time I'm going to try it with farfalle and maybe another time I'll substitute shrimp for the chicken. This is a delicious and simple dish; try it!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

TAST Week 4: Cretan Stitch

Cretan stitch is one of the first I learned and it remains a favorite. I usually use an open cretan stitch, but have been playing with the closed version as well as echoing cretan stitches. After a few practice stitches on my doodle cloth, I embellished a few seams on my CQ sampler with this old favorite.

 Below I combined cretan stitch with detached chain and fly stitch, then worked some beads into it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mushroom Lasagna

I've made vegetarian lasagnas before, but when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, I thought I'd give it a try. I should have gone with my first instinct and made a basic roux to create the white sauce. Instead I followed directions and ended up throwing out the first sauce and making it again, this time using a roux. There are some procedures that shouldn't be subjected to short cuts. When I made the second sauce, I decided to eliminate the 3 garlic cloves because I felt they were excessive and didn't add to the flavor in a good way--there is already shallot and garlic in the mushroom mixture. The changes are reflected in the recipe that follows.

Serves 6
1 cup boiling water
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbs butter, divided
1 tbs olive oil
4 shallots, chopped
1 (8 oz) pkg presliced cremini mushrooms
1 (4 oz) pkg presliced shitaki mushrooms or mushroom blend
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3 oz Neufchatel cheese
2 tbs chopped chives
3 cups reduced fat milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
cooking spray
9 no boil lasagna noodles
2 oz (1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1 cup boiling water and porcini. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl, reserving liquid and mushrooms.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add shallots to pan and saute 3 minutes. Add cremini and shitaki mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and saute about 6 minutes or until mushrooms are browned. Add thyme and garlic and saute an additional 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook until most of the liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Remove from heat and stir in Neufchatel cheese and chives. Add reserved porcini mushrooms.

Add the remaining tbs butter to a skillet, sprinkle on flour and cook, whisking constantly, about 1 minute. Slowly add the porcini liquid and milk, whisking until liquid comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce into an 11 X 7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with 3 noodles. Spread half of mushroom mixture over noodles. Repeat layers, ending with remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese over top. Bake for 45 minutes.

*I would recommend covering this with foil; I didn't and my noodles crisped. Take foil off for last 10 minutes of cooking.

Let set about 5 minutes before slicing.
I was very annoyed at having to make the sauce twice, which significantly increased the time it took to prepare this dish. That said, I really enjoyed the combination of mushrooms with the Neufchatel cheese (which is just reduced fat cream cheese). If I made this again for a main dish, I would add some roasted red peppers to the mushroom mixture to punch up the flavors.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Feather Stitch for TAST

For week 3, feather stitch was the challenge. For those of you who haven't read other posts about TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday), it is a year-long challenge offered by the very talented and generous Sharon Boggons (www.pintangle.com). Each week on her blog, Pin Tangle, Sharon offers a tutorial on a new embroidery stitch. The challenge is for beginning stitchers to master the stitch and for more experienced stitchers to try to get creative with the stitch. Being left-handed, I had always wanted to learn more than the few basic stitches I had learned in childhood, but could never figure out how to adapt them since books and tutorials were generally for right-handed stitchers. Thanks to women like Judith Montano and Valerie Stanton, left-handers now have excellent resources at their disposal.

I have used feather stitch fairly often in my stitching, but did some practice on my doodle cloth before adding a few seam embellishments on my miniature crazy quilt sampler.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Getting Ready for Superbowl Sunday

Those of you who know me personally know that for me getting ready for Superbowl Sunday means finding a movie I've been wanting to see or a quilt shop that stays open late. However, in the interests of my readers who DO follow the antics of large men wrestling a pig skin (and not in the interests of making a good Sunday gravy), I thought I'd share an appropriate dish for the occasion. I apologize for the photo. I hadn't planned on blogging about this dish until after I tasted it, so I only got a shot of a leftover bowl.

I'll say upfront that I've never "gotten" why people eat chili. In fact, if truth be told, I've looked down my nose at this dish, placing it in the category of things people who don't know how to cook make. But DSO loves chili and had been talking about it for weeks, so I decided I would make him a chili that was more than a tossing of meat, tomatoes, and spices in a pot.

After doing a little research, I decided to do a riff on Jamie Deen's recipe. What drew me to it was that it combined ground beef with ground sausage, so we were already on our way to a little deeper flavor. Jamie's recipe, however, called for just 1 pound of meat, which I felt was stingy; I doubled it. It also called for both diced tomatoes and whole plum tomatoes rather than the ubiquitous tomato sauce. I used the petite diced tomatoes and put the whole plums through a food mill, which yielded a good consistency. I liked Jamie's suggestion for using red kidney, pinto, and black beans, but increased the amount to balance the increase in meat. Finally, while Jamie suggested using a packet of chili seasoning, he also called for ground cumin and ground chili powder to taste. I added some garlic as well. What follows is my adaptation of Jamie's recipe.

Serves 8 - 10 generously
1 lb each ground beef and ground sweet sausage
1 onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
2 cups chopped celery
2 (28 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes
1-2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 (14.5 oz) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pkg chili seasoning mix
shredded cheddar cheese, crema, guacamole, chopped scallions (optional toppings)

In a large Dutch oven, brown ground beef and sausage, drain, and set aside. In same Dutch oven, add the onion, pepper, and celery and saute 5-8 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and run the whole tomatoes through a food mill and add to the mix. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt to taste and cook for an additional 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add the beans, browned meat, and chili seasoning. Partially cover the pot and let simmer for 4 hours. Serve with your favorite toppings and cornbread or rice.

*If you wish to make this in a slow cooker, after browning meats and veggies, set slow cooker to low heat and cook 6-8 hours.
I served the chili with homemade guacamole, Mexican crema, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese. DSO likes his chili served over rice, so that's what he had. I also made a simple corn bread. I actually broke up the corn bread in my chili, giving me the idea to make cornbread croutons next time. Have I been converted to a chili eater? Yes, perhaps once a year. The flavor of this chili was deep and satisfying. The recipe yields at least 8-10 good-sized servings (DSO brought a big batch to work to share with his friends, we gave his mom some, we ate it 2 nights, and there was still a bit left over). If you DO like chili, I exhort you to try this one. DSO pronounced it the best chili he had ever tasted, high praise indeed from a diehard chili man.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Breasts

We eat a lot of chicken in The Food of Love kitchen, though it's generally boneless, skinless chicken thighs. With a lovely log of garlic goat cheese in the fridge, I logged on to Food TV to see what Ina would do with chicken and goat cheese. Luckily, I happened to have some chicken breasts on hand, which I deboned (not as well as I'd like, but I didn't waste anything since I cooked the backs along with the breasts). I also had a jar of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil in the fridge, so we were good to go. Dinner came together quickly with some orzo cooked in chicken broth and some broccoli rabe sauteed in garlic.



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving 1 side attached. Cut the goat cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 1 or 2 slices plus 1/3 of the julienned sun-dried tomatoes under the skin of each chicken breast. Pull the skin over as much of the meat as possible so the chicken won't dry out. With your fingers, rub each piece with olive oil, and sprinkle them very generously with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.
While I'm not a big fan of white meat chicken, these were moist and flavorful and very simple to prepare. There's no "wow" factor, just a simple, straight-forward weeknight dinner. As Ina would say, "How easy is that?"

Monday, January 9, 2012

TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday) - Week 2: Buttonhole Stitch

So it's week 2 and I'm relieved to find another familiar stitch:  buttonhole stitch. What I like about this stitch is that it can be made to look very different just by varying the length or direction or by working it in a half or full  circle. To the left is my "doodle cloth." I have to confess that I really dislike working on this linen because it requires me to count threads and holes to produce a uniform stitch. Never one to "color in the lines," I find I'm constantly ripping out stitches because I've miscounted. I also find it incredibly tedious to add counting to something as relaxing as stitching. That said, I decided after week one that after a few practice stitches, I would switch to a sampler that I'm more comfortable with and that I can actually use when the year's worth of stitches is done. I made a 9 block miniature crazy quilt in neutral tones with some gold accents. It is on this sampler that I will experiment with each stitch. Below are some of my first attempts at playing with the buttonhole stitch.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cake Pops

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to win a cake pop maker and cookbook over at Moogie and Pap, one of my favorite blogs (Moogie is a baker extraordinaire as well as a wonderful cook). Since DSO is a diabetic, I do try to keep my baking to a minimum, but with the holidays approaching, this was the perfect time to try out my new toy. The cake pop maker came with simple, but thorough directions and several recipes for batter that would work well for the pops. I chose to make the vanilla cake recipe. It was very simple to put together and yielded 28 cake pops (I actually used sticks for just a few since DSO was taking these to work and I didn't think the guys would "get" the lollipop sticks). I dipped them in melted semisweet chips and colored sprinkles.

I thought the first batch would probably stick, but each and every cake came out perfectly. Each batch took exactly 7 minutes to bake.

Since I'm certain the batter could be used for cupcakes, I'll include the recipe.  I'd bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes. I'm guessing the batter will yield 12 regular sized cupcakes.

1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix in vanilla.

I loved, loved, loved these little cake balls! The cake is dense--a cross between a pound cake and a donut--and just incredibly delicious. These little gems could be quite addictive and I can't wait to try another recipe--probably the one for donut holes. Did I mention the little injector that came with the set so you can inject jelly or another filling into the cakes?  This is a great little appliance for moms who are called upon to bake for school birthdays or scouts or bake sales!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

TAST (Take a Stitch Tuesday)

 Cooking isn't my only interest, though this blog may make it seem as though it is. I am also an avid quilter, an interest I developed in the late 70's and that retirement has allowed me to pursue to my heart's content. Back then I was looking for something (non-cerebral) that I could do that would help alleviate stress, enable me to express my artistic side, and keep me occupied but not cut off from the company of others (an avid reader, I was accused on being anti-social when I would bury my nose in a book for hours). I began as a hand piecer and hand quilter, moved on to machine piecing and quilting about 10 years ago, and discovered crazy quilting last year. My enthusiasm for crazy quilting lead to a desire to pursue embroidery, something that I'd tried in the past without a lot of success.

Part of the reason for that lack of success is that I am left-handed, though somewhat ambidexterous, and live in a world of right-handers. I can't tell you how many times I've been told things like "sit across from me and just do what I do in reverse" or "sit in front of a mirror and reverse the instructions." Neither works. But thanks to people like Judith Montano and Yvette Stanton, there are now excellent resources for the left-handed stitcher.

That brings us to TAST 2012 (take a stitch Tuesday). Having taken 2 online classes with Sharon Boggons after finding her wonderful blog Pin Tangle, I was delighted when she decided to repeat this year-long challenge. Simply, each week Sharon posts a stitch, along with her wonderful tutorials and resources, and the challenge is to try to master the stitch and even use it in a creative way.

The first stitch was the FLY STITCH, one that I have used before. I am using a 25 count piece of linen as my "doodle cloth," and after practicing the stitch using several types of thread and attempting to work the stitch in a circle--more practice needed there--I used 2mm silk ribbon to add texture to one of the blocks that will be part of my latest crazy quilting project.

I'm looking forward to practicing the stitches that I know and learning many more that I have not used.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Navy Bean Soup

When I saw this soup over at Deb's Kahakai Kitchen, I knew I had to make it. I ate few legumes as a child, but navy beans were something I enjoyed. A bowl of navy bean soup and a butter sandwich was my idea of a perfect meal. What I should have realized when I saw the recipe was that I was making soup for the neighborhood. After a hearty dinner and leftovers for lunch, I sent some to DSO's mother and still had a huge bowl to freeze for another time. You may want to cut the recipe in half unless you are planning to feed a crowd.

From The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather (as featured on Deb's Kahakai Kitchen)
Makes 8 very generous servings

2 lbs (about 5 cups) dried navy beans
1 1/2 lbs smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tsp dried thyme or summer savory
salt and freshly ground pepper

Sort the beans by spilling them onto a baking sheet and removing any debris and broken beans. Transfer the beans to a colander and rinse the beans with hot water until slightly whitened. Pour the beans into a large pot with a lid and add 2 quarts hot tap water. "Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. Drain the beans by pouring into a colander in the sink; rinse with cold water. Return the beans to the pot.

Add the ham hocks, onion, carrots, and 2 quarts hot tap water and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 3 hours. Remove the ham hocks and set aside to cool. Allow the soup to continue to simmer.

Remove the meat from the ham hocks. Dice the meat and return to the soup, discarding the gristle and bones. Add the thyme or savory. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes longer, then serve.
This tasted every bit as delicious as I knew it would and would be a great soup to make in the slow cooker--just fix it and leave it on slow for 5-6 hours. If you've only ever eaten navy bean soup in a can or at a diner (where it comes from a can), you will notice how much more subtle the flavors are. Leftovers will generally need to be thinned out--use water or broth. A delicious and economical way to feed a crowd.