Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Turkey Sausage, Escarole, and White Bean Stew

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 22, 2014


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

Yield:  4 dozen

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

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

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

To make the rugelach:

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

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

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Peanut Butter Kisses

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

Yield:  6 dozen

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butternut Tortilla Soup with Ground Turkey

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

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs

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

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

For the sweet and sour sauce:

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

For the meatballs:

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death by Chocolate

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

What you'll need:

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


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

Prepare mousse according to package instructions.

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

To assemble:

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