Monday, January 31, 2011

Dessert Wars: Nutella & Hazelnut Caramel Corn

Sweet, crunchy, nutty, and chocolatey, this is one addictive snack that will satisfy all your cravings.  Buttery caramel corn is mixed with chopped hazelnuts and coated with a chocolatey Nutella drizzle.  A big bowl of this caramel corn would be great to serve at your Super Bowl party and/or packed up as gifts for Valentine's Day!

Nutella & Hazelnut Caramel Corn
A Stirring the Pot Original

For the Caramel Corn:
12 cups plain popped popcorn 
1 cup hazelnuts (optional)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Nutella Glaze/Coating:
1/3 cup Nutella, room temperature
1-2 tablespoons milk or cream (enough to make thin or pourable)
Place the popped popcorn into two shallow greased baking pans.  You may use roasting pans, jelly roll pans, or disposable roasting pans.  Add the hazelnuts (if using) to the popped corn.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring enough to blend.  Once the mixture begins to boil, boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture will be light and foamy.  Immediately pour over the popcorn in the pans, and stir to coat.  Don't worry too much at this point about getting all of the corn coated. (The caramel will become liquid-like in the oven and will be easy to mix in intervals).

Bake for 1 hour, removing the pans, and giving them each a good stir every 15 minutes (this will evenly distribute the caramel).  Line the counter top with waxed paper.  Dump the corn out onto the waxed paper and separate the pieces.  Allow to cool completely.

While the caramel corn is cooling, mix together the nutella and milk and/or cream in a small bowl until evenly mixed and smooth. When the caramel corn has completely cooled, place nutella mixture into a squeeze bottle or simply use a fork to drizzle over the caramel corn.  Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour so that the coating is allowed to firm up.
This is my entry for the new Dessert Wars, hosted by Reeni of Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice and Christine of The Cupcake Bandits.  This month's challenge was to create a dessert using Nutella and the winner will win the fabulous gift pack you see below:

-Endless Vanilla and Cinnamon Extract

-Unlimited Layers: A Recipe for Turning Your Passion into Profits

-$50 Gift Certificate to Theme Kitchen

-$50 Coupon Redeemable for Organic Valley Products

-$50 Coupon Redeemable for Organic Prairie Products

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cheesy Baked Farro

Farro.  Have you had it before?  I hadn't, until today.  On my travels up in Cleveland, I ran across a bag of farro and bought it with this recipe in mind.  In case you haven't heard of farro before, it is an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and firm texture.  It also happens to be one of the first cultivated grains of ancient Italy.  It is used in salads, pilafs, soups, and also in place of pasta.
 I'm always a little skeptical to introduce new foods to my picky family, so I thought this recipe was perfect. A big douse of cheese is always a good way to introduce anything, right?

Cheesy Baked Farro
Adapted from Giada at Home
4-6 servings

Vegetable oil cooking spray
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups low-soldium chicken broth
2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups assorted mushroooms, cleaned and sliced
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
2 -1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

For the sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil).  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

For the farro:  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the farro, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain if necessary.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until tender.  Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender.

In a large bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, Fontina cheese, and thyme.  Remove 1 /2 cup of the  mixture and set aside.  Add the cooked farro, sauce, and mushroom mixture to the cheeses.  Stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup reserved cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.  

Bake until the top is golden brown and forms a crust, 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before servings.
Notes/Results:  It looks very brown and unappetizing, but I promise that it is delicious.  I really loved the nutty taste of the farro combined with the nuttiness of the cheese.  In fact, the whole family enjoyed it.  This is something that I would definitely make again!

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe.  I halved the recipe, leaving out the mushrooms and using diced canned tomatoes in place of fresh cherry tomatoes.  I also subbed out extra Parmesan in place of the Gruyere (which I didn't have on hand).  Other than that, the only other change I made was to add more chicken stock to the farro so that the chicken stock didn't cook out and in addtion, I cooked the farro a little longer, until tender, about a total of 30-35 minutes.
Now cooking the recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Friday, January 28, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie Rewind: I'm a Month Behind!

So I'm literally drowning in recipes, but that really isn't a bad thing, right?  I'm a month behind on French Fridays with Dorie, so this is actually December's monthly roundup (minus the speculoos, which I didn't make).  Surprisingly enough, my very favorite recipe of the bunch was Dorie's Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots.  The carrots are cooked until tender and glazed in a wonderful combination of onion, ginger, garlic and cardamom seeds.  As a lover of cooked carrots, these were some of the best I've ever had.
No one else in my family likes cooked carrots (I told you I lived with a bunch of crazy folk), so I just made a half batch.  I had them as a side dish for dinner one night and then ate the rest of them for lunch one day.  Just me and a plate of carrots.  I felt virtuous, for once.
I've done an obscene amount of braising this month, but Dorie's Go-To Beef Daube really does stand out among the others. A very robust and hearty beef stew loaded with veggies and braised in red wine.  A real winner for the whole family.  Even my picky daughter asked for more!
I usually don't have a least favorite when it comes to Dorie's recipes.  However, I really didn't care for the Leek and Potato Soup.  I think the recipe was written well enough.  It was really more of a personal thing.  I'm thinking that maybe I'm not the biggest fan of leeks.  Not sure.  Either way, I jazzed mine up with some extra buttery croutons, which made the soup MUCH tastier.

And, finally, Dorie's Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts.  I made the recipe two times and both times they disappeared quickly.  The first time I made them according to the recipe, with chili powder, cinnamon and a dash of cayenne.  We loved them!  The second time I made them with only cinnamon, sugar and a sprinkling of cardamom.  We loved those too!  I think it's safe to say that Dorie's Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts are a winner.  I can see myself making them many times in the future (almonds and pecans are my favorite)! 

Now onto next month!  Hopefully I'll have a chance to catch up.

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tackling Bittman: Linguine with Butter, Parmesan, and Sage

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.  When life gives you too many snow days, and a house full of rambunctious children, you make pasta.  Not just any pasta mind you.  Pasta with lots of butter and lots of cheese.  Pasta that will both calm and comfort you while your children run around the house with a roll of masking tape, taping each other, their toys, and everything else in sight.  Oh, the joys of parenting...............
Linguine with Butter, Parmesan, and Sage
Adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express 

Boil salted water for pasta and cook it(I used one pound), leaving it just short of done and reserving some of the cooking liquid(I reserved one cup and wish I had reserved more).  Meanwhile, melt two tablespoons butter (I used 4 tablespoons) and add a couple handfuls of fresh sage leaves (about 30 leaves) to the pan; cook until the butter browns and the leaves have shriveled.  Add the pasta to the butter and sage, along with about three-quarters of a cup of the cooking liquid; cook until the pasta is done; it's OK if the mixture remains a little soupy(it's probably best if it is soupy).  Stir in a couple of good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and mix until it becomes creamy; season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Notes/Results: How can you go wrong with a pasta dish like this?  Bittman compares this recipe to a lighter version of Alfredo and I have to agree.  I do wish I had reserved a little bit more of the pasta water to thin out my cheese sauce more.  If you make this recipe, my suggestion would be to reserve 2 full cups of pasta water just for that purpose.  Either way, this was a delicious and comforting recipe that helped to provide a little sunshine on my otherwise hectic and crazy day.  A few snow days are always fun, but twelve snow days......not so fun!!

This is my entry for Tackling Bittman, being hosted by my friend Heather at Girlichef this month.  Heather is also hosting a great giveaway for Mark Bittman's newest book, The Food Matters Cookbook. You still have a few more days to submit a Bittman recipe in order to win! Follow this link for the details.

Special Note:  I haven't been around to comment much lately and I do miss visiting all of you.  Things have been a little hectic with all the snow days and I've been feeling a little under the weather.  I hope to get around and see all of you soon!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe #59 - Stirring the Pot: Veal Braised in Milk and Honey with Buttered Turnips

In effort to continue cooking my way through Tyler's Stirring the Pot, I will have two recipes from the book to share with you this week.  I've been trying to work my way through Tyler's book for two years now and one of the constant problems I have is finding all the specialty ingredients.  Take this recipe for instance, veal shoulder?  Have you ever seen it in your market?  I've searched high and low for about 2 years now and never found it.

I decided just to bite the bullet and use beef shoulder.  I'm sure veal shoulder is great, if you can find it.  Also, let's talk about turnips.  I've had them.  I like them.  I couldn't find them in my local market, so I subbed yukon gold potatoes.  So basically, instead of having Veal Braised in Milk and Honey with Buttered Turnips, we really had Beef Braised in Milk and Honey with Buttered Potatoes.  How's that for a stretch?

 I'd like to think the main point of this particular recipe is the unique use of milk and honey as a braising liquid, not necessarily the focus on whether or not you use beef or veal and/or turnips and potatoes.  I have to say that I was somewhat reluctant about braising anything in milk as I'd never done it before.  This was yet another dish that really surprised me, in a very pleasant way.  The milk and honey braising liquid turns into a rather creamy gravy with a savory and slightly sweet taste that enhances the richness of the meat.  I would definitely use this method again when braising.
Beef Braised in Milk and Honey with Buttered Potatoes
Adapted from Tyler Florence's Stirring the Pot
Serves 6-8

Extra virgin olive oil
4 pounds beef shoulder (or veal)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (about 4 sprigs)
4-5 dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 gallon milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 recipe Buttered Potatoes (or turnips)*recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven heat a 3-count of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) over medium-high heat.  Season beef (or veal) with plenty of salt and pepper.  Add beef (or veal) to pot, cook and turn  until brown all over and a crust forms.  Add garlic, thyme, and mushrooms.  Pour in the milk and stir in the honey.  Cover and braise about 3 hours, until the beef (or veal) is fork-tender.

Remove beef (or veal) from pot and set aside.  Carefully pour small batches of the braising liquid, along with garlic and mushrooms, into a blender.  Tightly hold the lid in place with a kitchen towel and puree until slightly thickened and silky smooth.  Continue with the rest of the braising liquid, mushrooms, and garlic.  Season to taste with pepper and pour over meat.  Serve with Buttered Potatoes (or Turnips).

Buttered Potatoes (Turnips): Preheat oven to 350F.  Peel and quarter 6 medium potatoes.  Place potatoes on a roasting tray; drizzle with EVOO and season with kosher salt.  Roast for 25-30 minutes until just tender.  Toss roasted potatoes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley so they are evenly coated and glossy.  Season with kosher salt. 

Notes/Results:  We really enjoyed this recipe.  I will probably still keep my eye out for a veal shoulder, just because I'm sure the veal is much more tender, and a little more sweet, than the beef.  Also, I like that this was a really quick and easy recipe that took little to no time to prepare.  

I do have some notes to share.  Braising liquid is suppose to cover the meat by 2/3rds.  You should be able to see the top half of the meat peeking out.  With this recipe, using a Dutch oven and 1/2 gallon of milk, the meat would be completely covered.  I made the mistake of using only 1/4 gallon of milk (so as not to cover the meat completely) and all the braising liquid evaporated out of the pan.  I caught my mistake in time and was able to pour the other half of the milk in the pan.   Next time I would just pour all the milk into the pan, even if it completely covered the meat.  I guess it pays to follow directions sometimes. 

One more recipe down!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Symon's Pork Chili with Potato Pancakes

I've made beef chili, turkey chili, chicken chili, and vegetarian chili.  I've never made chili with pork, until now.  Clearly I've been missing out because Michael Symon's pork chili is delicious.  This is definitely a man's chili, hearty and robust, full of flavor, and great served with Symon's potato pancakes for dunking.
Pork Chili
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live to Cook
Serves 12-14
4 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
5 pounds pork cheeks or pork shoulder, cleaned, trimmed, and cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin-olive oil
1 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 6)
2 jalapeno chiles seeded and very finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and finely diced
1 (12 ounce) bottle amber ale or porter
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, with their juice
2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (1and 2/3 cups), picked over and rinsed
1 small cinnamon stick
Shredded smoked cheddar cheese, for garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Sliced scallions, white and green parts, for garnish
Creme fraiche, for garnish
Note: I added about 1 cup of black beans because I had them on hand

In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika, and cumin and toss with the pork cheeks(or shoulder).  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.  Add half of the pork and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Transfer the pork to a plate.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and brown the remaining pork.  Transfer to the plate.  Add the bacon to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and slightly crisp, about 7 minutes.  Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos, and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Return the pork cheeks (or shoulder) to the pot along with any accumulated juices.  Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles, black-eyed peas, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2-1/2 hours.

Season the chili with salt and pepper.  Spoon off the fat from the surface and discard the cinnamon stick.  Serve the chili in bowls.  Pass the smoked cheddar, cilantro, scallions, and creme fraiche at the table.
 Dad's Potato Pancakes
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live to Cook
Serves 8
4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 200F.

Peel the potatoes and keep them submerged in cold water.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, baking powder, flour, salt and pepper.  Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the onion and add it to the egg mixture.  Grate the potatoes onto a clean kitchen towel and wring as much water out of them as you can.  Add the potatoes to the egg mixture.  Toss so that the mixture is evenly combined.

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat and melt half of the butter in it.  Using half of the potato mixture, shape 4 pancakes, each about 4 inches of diameter and about 1/2 inch thick.  Saute the pancakes in the butter until each side is golden brown and the interior is cooked through, 15-20 minutes.  Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels and keep them warm in the oven while you shape and cook 4 more pancakes using the remaining butter and potato mixture.
Notes/Results:  The chili is delicious, satisfying, and full of flavor.  I really love how the pork broke down as it cooked and became rather shredded in the chili.  My chili ended up rather thick, which we liked, but if you like your chili on the thinner side, you could always add more stock.  The potato pancakes made for a nice accompaniment to the chili. However, I made the mistake of making my potato pancakes on the thick side and therefore they weren't real crispy.  Next time, I will be sure to make them on the thin side so they stay nice and crispy.

I am submitting this to Ashlee at Veggie by Season for this round of Symon Sundays.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mind-Blowing Braised Chicken Thighs

I stuck my spoon into the braising liquid for a quick taste. It was liquid gold.  I stuck my spoon back into the pan for another taste.  Rather perplexed, I wondered how in the hell it could taste so good? Truth is, I wasn't expecting much and I sure wasn't expecting a mind-blowing dish.  I had picked the recipe just because I had everything on hand Turns out I hit the jackpot. This recipe is one of the best things I've had in awhile. 

In this simple recipe, a handful of ingredients come together to make one flavorful, knock-out, lip-smackin' dish. Chicken thighs are seasoned with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning then browned in a pan on each side.  After removing the chicken, the onion, garlic, and herbs are added to the pan with a dusting of flour and some chicken stock.  When all that comes a boil, the chicken is added back in and allowed to braise on the stove for one hour.  The chicken becomes meltingly tender and the braising liquid.....turns into a delicious gravy.  This recipe is like magic.

Braised Chicken Thighs
Serves 4-6 (consider making a double batch)
6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), trimmed of any excess skin or fat
1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence or Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon a/p flour
2 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bundle or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
*Steamed white rice, for serving

Season the chicken all over with the Essence and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.  Place the 1/2 cup flour in a small bowl, and quickly dredge both sides of each thigh in the flour, shaking to remove any excess.  Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a 10-12-inch flameproof casserole or saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, and when it has melted, place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan.  Brown for 2 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan, and when it has melted, add the onions, garlic, thyme bundle or rosemary sprigs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper.  Cook, stirring as needed, until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.  Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon flour over the onions and cook for 2 minutes longer.  Then whisk in the chicken stock and increase the heat to high.  Return the chicken, skin side down, to the pan, and bring the stock to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a heavy, tight-fitting lid, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan, stir the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching, and turn the chicken skin side up. Cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes longer.

Stir the bottom of the pan a final time, re-cover, and simmer for 20 more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and discard the herb bundle or rosemary sprigs.  Transfer the chicken to a serving platter.  Add the parsley to the sauce, stir to combine, and then spoon the sauce over the chicken.  Serve with the steamed white rice.

Notes/Results: A surprisingly delicious meal and one that I will be sure to make again.....soon!   It's healthy, it's economical, it's easy, and it's beyond delicious.  That makes it a winner in my book.  I do want to point out that I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs because that's what I had on hand.  I had no problems with the substitution.  The directions for the recipe seem rather long and time-consuming, but they're really not.  You're basically just going back to the pot every 20 minutes to stir the liquid and flip the chicken.  Easy peasy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stuffed Baby Peppers

These stuffed baby peppers should come with a warning.  They're insanely addictive.  They're like beautifully colored little bites of sweet and savory heaven.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

Before I proceeded to sit on my hands, I swallowed down eight of them.  Yes, eight!  The entire time I was trying to convince myself that I was doing the right thing.  After all, they are stuffed veggies, right?  And, I was getting in at least three of the five food groups, right?  Surely my body would benefit these glorious ingredients. 

Stuffed Baby Peppers
Adapted from Giada at Home
Serves 4 to 6

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped (I used diced prosciutto)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
24 (2- to 3-inch long) sweet baby peppers (SEE NOTE)

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta (or prosciutto) and cook, stirring frequently, until brown and crispy, 5-7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta (prosciutto) and drain on paper towels.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, pancetta (prociutto), cheeses, and peas.  Season with salt and pepper.

Using a paring knife, cut 1/2 inch from the stem end of the pepper.  Remove the seeds and veins.  Using a small dessert spoon, fill each pepper with the cheese mixture.  Place the filled peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, until the peppers begin to soften and the cheese is warmed through.  Cool for 10 minutes.

Arrange the peppers on a platter and serve.

Note:  I found the mini sweet baby peppers at my local Meijer store. They were fairly inexpensive.  After reading the reviews for this recipe on the Food Network, it appears that many people were able to find the mini peppers for a good price at their local Costco.   If you cannot find the little mini peppers, DO NOT let this stop you from making this recipe.  It's really too good to pass up.  Giada includes this note in her book for those who want to make this an entree and serve the filling in full-sized bell peppers.

To serve as an entree portion, double the filling, stuff it into 4 full-sized bell peppers, and bake at 350F for 1 hour, covering with foil if they brown too much, until the peppers are just starting to collapse. 

Notes/Results:  These stuffed peppers are really something special!  I will definitely be making them again and will keep them in mind for parties, etc.  I was hoping to have some leftover, but we polished them off in record time. This is a fabulous recipe!
Now Cooking the recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chicken Croquettes & Rotisserrie Chicken to the Rescue!

Rotisserie chicken.  I usually buy one every week.  Most weeks we have quite a bit of leftover chicken.  Over the years I've made lots of things with that leftover chicken: nachos, salads, chicken salad, soup, sandwiches, pizza, risotto, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, potpie, casseroles, pasta, and macaroni and cheese. I've literally beat all those options to death.  I was ready for a new take on leftover chicken.

During a recent trip to the library, I picked up this book, Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue! by Carla Fitzgerald Williams.  The book has 125 simple recipes for already-roasted chickens, but does not have any pictures.  Saying that, it is a great source for fun and unique ways to use up that leftover chicken.  Not to mention, the book is available on Amazon for mere pennies, pretty much the cost of shipping(I have had great success buying used cookbooks from Amazon).  Thanks to this book, I now have a few new methods/recipes for using up that leftover chicken.

Last week I tried Chicken Croquettes for the first time and they were a big hit!  I love the possibilities with the chicken croquette.  You can dress them up and make them fancy or serve them just as is.  Either way they are delicious.  I love that you can make them your own by changing out the seasonings. I also like that they have a lot of serving options: on their own with a dipping sauce, on top of a salad, as a patty on a bun, mini-sized in little lettuce get the idea.  Lots of possibilities. I'm definitely going to be having fun testing different variations.
Chicken Croquettes
Adapted from Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue!
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish, drained
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Squirt of freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne (optional)

2-1/2 cups small shreds rotisserie chicken, skin removed (some dark meat preferred)
1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) *I subbed one finely chopped jalapeno
3 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon minced garlic
20 individual soda crackers  (I used about 1/2 to 1/3 cup breadcrumbs)
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

Make the sauce: Stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Make the Croquettes: Toss together the chicken, onion, bell pepper (or jalapeno), mayo, parsley, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic in a medium bowl.  Crumble the crackers over the mixture, making fine crumbs (or pour in the breadcrumbs).  Pour the egg over all and toss well to combine.  Use a 1/3 cup measure to scoop up the mixture.  Form oval croquettes (I just made patties) about 3 inches long by 3/4-inch high by putting the mixture between the palms of your hands and pressing down firmly but gently.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the croquettes and cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes.  Turn and cook until the other side turns a light brown and the tops of the croquettes are firm to the touch, about 2 minutes.  Press down gently with the spatula and add more oil as needed.  Serve immediately with a dollop of sauce.

Notes/Results:  I really like the concept of a chicken croquette and see myself making these a lot.  I love the crispy exterior and the meaty interior.  I served mine with a lightly dressed couscous salad and it was a big hit.  A winner recipe for sure.

What do you like to do with your leftover chicken?  I'd love to hear!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

If you're looking for something that looks beautiful, tastes delicious, and fills your house with wonderful aromas, then look no further.  Giada's Honey-Mustard Pork Roast is all of those things wrapped into one--plus bacon!  You can't go wrong with that!

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon
Adapted from Giada at Home
Serves 6
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves (I used thyme)
1 (3-1/2 pound) center-cut, boneless pork loin roast
12 slices (about 1 pound) bacon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups (5 ounces) baby arugula (I used spinach)

Special Equipment: Kitchen Twine (I don't have any so I improvised)

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.

In a  small bowl, mix together the Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, honey, garlic, and rosemary (thyme in my case), until smooth.  Spread the mustard mixture evenly over the pork.  Starting at one end, wrap a piece of bacon around the pork.  Wrap another slice of bacon around the pork, making sure to slightly overlap the first piece.  Continue with the remaining bacon until the pork is fully wrapped in bacon.  Using 6-8 pieces of kitchen twine, tied at regular intervals around the roast, secure the bacon in place.

Place the pork in a 9x13-inch baking pan and roast for 1 hour.  Cover the pan loosely with foil and roast for another 10-20 minutes (I didn't cover mine with foil because I wanted the bacon to brown), until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 160F.  Remove from the oven.  Cover the pan with foil again and allow the pork roast to rest for 20 minutes.  Remove the kitchen twine (if using) and slice the meat into 1/4 inch thick slices.

For the salad:  While the pork is resting, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil until smooth.  Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Arrange the arugula (or spinach) on a large platter and drizzle with the dressing.  Lay the pork slices on top and serve.

Notes/Results:  This pork roast is fantastic!  The mustard flavor is not predominant, but does lend a wonderful flavor to the pork.  This recipe would be a wonderful choice for a family get together or dinner party because of it's beautiful presentation (plus it really does deliver in the flavor department).  I do have one tip to share.  I had a little trouble getting my bacon to crisp up,both on top of the roast, and underneath the roast.  I placed my roast on a roasting rack so that the air could circulate underneath and hopefully crisp up the bacon, but that didn't work so well.  I ended up broiling the roast on both sides so that the bacon would crisp and everything worked out well.  However, next time I will buy the kitchen twine, wrap the roast with the bacon, and sear the roast with the bacon on it, in a skillet, before putting it in the oven.  The bacon just needs a little help to crisp up a bit.  Other than that, this is a wonderful recipe that I plan on using often.
Now Cooking the recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ellie Krieger's Aromatic Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes

If I was asked to name some of my favorite cookbooks, Ellie Krieger's newest cookbook, So Easy, would very likely make my top ten.  It's been a year since I first received the book and to-date I have cooked 23 recipes from it.  The recipes are easy, reliable, and healthy, which is a magical combination if you ask me. 

This Aromatic Beef Stew is a dreamy pot of gloriously scented spices: cumin, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes.  The warm scent of the spices, together with the meltingly tender beef, will have you anticipating dinner in the worse way possible.  Ellie's aromatic beef stew comes alive served over couscous with toasted sliced almonds and parsley as a garnish.  If you are in the mood for a twist on the regular old beef stew, then this is the recipe for you. 
Aromatic Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes
recipe found on and in Ellie's cookbook, So Easy
Serves 4  
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound stew beef (round or chuck), cut into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups) *I subbed sweet potato
1 can (14.5 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked whole-wheat couscous
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, 2 minutes

Heat oil in a 4-qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate, leaving juices in saucepan. Add onion; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Return beef to pot; stir in squash, tomatoes, sauce, broth, cumin, cinnamon and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer until beef is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Divide couscous and stew among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with almonds and parsley.

Notes/Results:  This is such an aromatic, comforting, and satisfying meal.  The combination of cumin, cinnamon and red pepper flakes really heats things up and gives you that warming sensation in the back of your throat.  A very exotic version of beef stew that I would make again.
NOTE: I subbed equal parts sweet potato in place of butternut squash, which seemed to work out just fine.
For Deb's Souper Sundays Event
For Roz's Seasonal Saturday Event

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grilled Sausage Ring with Parsley and Provolone Over Pepperonata

Grilling a ring of sausage has been on my culinary to-do list for years.  Call me silly, but there is just something about a spiraling circle of sausage that is extremely appealing to the eye, or at least my eye.  The issue is that I can't find rings of sausage in any of my local markets.  As far as I know, there are no local Italian delis.  And, as much as I like to cook, I'm just not into the whole "making fresh sausage" thing. 
Lucky for me, on a recent trip to Ohio, we got the chance to go to Cleveland's West Side Market. The West Side Market is such a fabulous market, full of culture and every kind of food item you could long for.  My head spins from the time I walk in until the time I leave.  One of our favorite stalls is Dohar Meats, a Hungarian-based old world butcher shop.  Dohar's reputation is golden in Cleveland.  In fact, many customers swear up and down that Dohar's products are even better than those from the "old country", or their native Hungary.  Dohar's Paprika Bacon and Garlic Sausage fly off the shelves in huge increments.  On the day we arrived, we were buying 4 pounds of Garlic Sausage for ourselves and another 4 pounds for my Dad and his wife.  If you are in the area, or ever get a chance to go to Cleveland's West Side Market, you have to try Dohar's Garlic Sausage.  It is "the best sausage I've ever ate."
A ring of sausage this special deserved a special recipe and this recipe from Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook did not disappoint.  Should you be lucky enough to get your hands on some authentic Italian or Hungarian sausage, then this recipe is as good as gold.  This was a truly wonderful family meal that goes very well with roasted potatoes. 
Grilled Sausage Ring with Parsley and Provolone Over Pepperonata
Adapted from Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook
Serves 4
3 Cubanelle Peppers or Other Mild Peppers
2 Hot Italian Peppers or Other Hot Peppers
2 Medium or 1 Large Green Pepper
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic
2 Large Spanish Onions, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
20 Cherry Tomatoes
15 Leaves Fresh Oregano, Chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 Large Bay Leaf
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1-1/2 to 2-Pound Sausage Ring with Parsley and Provolone or Link Italian Sausage*
*NOTE: Most Italian delis and markets sell sausage rings flavored with provolone and parsley.  These are long ropes of sausage, not divided into links, and about half the diameter of Italian link sausages.  They are called "sausage rings"  or "sausage rolls" because the rope is wrapped into a tight, snail-like roll and held together with large toothpicks.  If you can't find a sausage ring, buy link sausage flavored with provolone and parsley, and if neither one is sold in your local markets, buy the best Italian sausage you can find. 
1.  Core the peppers, cut them in half, and cut them into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2. In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the peppers.  Cook them for 2 minutes without stirring.  Stir them well and cook them for 2 more minutes without stirring.  Repeat this routine 2 to 3 times or until the peppers start to brown and wilt.  Add the garlic and saute the mixture for 2 minutes or until the garlic softens.  With a slotted spoon transfer the peppers to a large bowl.  Set them aside.
3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Saute them for about 3 minutes or until they are lightly browned.  Return the peppers to the pan.  Add the tomatoes, fresh and dried oregano, and bay leaf.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook the sauce, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 13 minutes or until the peppers have softened completely.
4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill so that one side of the coals or heating elements is medium-hot and the other side has a low heat; first, lightly spray the grilling rack with vegetable oil spray to prevent sticking.  Or preheat the broiler.
5. Lightly brush the sausage with olive oil.  Grill it on high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is browned.  Turn it over and grill the other side for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is browned.  Transfer it to the lower heat and grill it for 7 to 8 minutes.  Check for doneness by cutting into the sausage.  Return it to the high heat and grill it for about 1 minute on each side to complete the cooking.
6. Spread the pepperonata on a large platter.  Lay the sausage ring on top.  Serve with crusty bread.
Notes/Results:  This was one incredible meal!  I garnished the sausage ring with the pepper and onion mixture and sprinkled provolone cheese over the top.  We served this sausage with Romano Roasted Potatoes and everyone was swooning in delight.  I do want to note that I used the entire 4 pound ring of sausage in this recipe (the recipe calls for 2 pounds).  Because I was doubling the meat, I also doubled the peppers and onions.  I'll definitely be stocking up on this sausage the next time I'm in Cleveland.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Papa Bear Oatmeal

Last Saturday, I happened to be flipping through the channels and noticed that Food Network was hosting a breakfast and brunch theme for the day.  Since I love all things breakfast and brunch related, I recorded all the episodes, even some of the shows that I don't normally watch.  Last night I had some free time and I got caught up on hours and hours of every delicious breakfast food you can imagine.  The one recipe that stuck with me, really stuck with me, was this Papa Bear Oatmeal from Paula's newer show, Paula's Best Dishes.   
I wanted it right then and there and vowed to wake up and make it for breakfast this morning.  Lucky for me, I had all the ingredients.  Old-Fashioned oatmeal cooked on the stove with juicy plump raisins, poured in a bowl and doused with a little milk, brown sugar, sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and maple syrup.  Wow!  Not only is this a beautiful breakfast, it's quick, it's easy, it's healthy, and it feels extremely indulgent.  I can't wait to make it again!
Serves 4
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
  • Brown sugar, for serving
  • Honey, for serving ( I used maple syrup)
  • blueberries (optional, my addition)
In a medium saucepan, bring 3 1/2 cups water and the salt to a boil. Stir in the oats and simmer until almost thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more
Spoon the oatmeal into individual bowls and serve. Place the banana and strawberry slices, cream (or milk) , brown sugar, and honey or maple syrup into the oatmeal bowl. Stir if desired. 

Notes/Results:  I was blown away by how delicious this oatmeal really was.  I couldn't believe how tasty it was and can't wait to make it again. 
One of my best blogging friends, Teresa at A Blog About Food, tagged me in "4 things about me".  Normally I'm really bad at these tagging games.  It's not that I don't want to participate, it's just that I forget. If you tagged me and I didn't respond, please don't take it personally.  Chances are that I made a mental note to respond and then forgot.  I'm scatterbrained like that. This year I'm going to try and do better with them.  

Anyway, I lead a real exciting and riveting life (ha-ha)!  Here goes:

Four shows I watch:
1. True Blood.  Best Show Ever.  Period.
2. Vampire Diaries.  Yes, there is a theme here.  Ever since I can remember, my favorite shows have always been vampire-based or mafia-based.  I can't explain why, especially since I don't really like gore.  Go figure.
3. I Survived.  Okay.  Has anybody else seen this show on the Biography channel?  Holy cow.  You just can't believe that people can survive the things they do.  It's amazing, and scary, and unnerving.  Sometimes I have to make myself watch it.  You know, just in case.
4. Hawaii Five-O.   Two words ladies.  EYE CANDY! I first started watching Hawaii Five-O because of Alex O'Loughlin.  I loved him in the vampire series Moonlight, but it was canceled.  When I heard he would be in the new Hawaii Five-O I had to watch it.  Alex O'Loughlin is gorgeous. Completely and totally drop dead gorgeous.  I think he's just about the most handsome man ever.  Did I say EVER?
 The eyes.
 The million dollar smile.
Like I said.  His eyes.  His smile ;-)
During the course of the show, I've also developed quite an infatuation for Scott Caan.  Normally I like men with dark hair and dark eyes, but Scott Caan.  I don't know.  There is just something about him that I find very appealing.  You can tell he's a little bit of a bad boy.  A little mischievous.  A little bit of a smart ass. A little bit of trouble.  A whole lotta fun.  Not to mention, his Dad is James Caan, who played Sonny Corleone in the mafia epic, Godfather. What's not to like about that?
At any rate, Hawaii Five-O is a great show, with lots of eye candy.  I don't miss a single episode.  You shouldn't either.  The way I see it, men have way too much eye candy all the time.  We ladies deserve some too!

Four Things I'm passionate about:
1. Cooking.  I spend most of my time doing it, reading about it, thinking about it, and even dreaming about it.
2. Books.  Books have got to be the best things ever.  Each book is like a brand new adventure. No Kindle for me though.  I have to hold the book, it's part of the beauty for me.
3. Laughing.  I love to laugh.  Chuckling, big laughs, belly laughs, laughing so-hard-you-need-to-cross-your-legs, laughing until you cry, laughing until your temples ache,  laughing until you fall on the floor, and of course, laughing until you snort.  Good times!

4. Traveling. It really doesn't matter where to.  I just like to see different places and meet new people.  I could have a fantastic time in Boise, Idaho or Paris, France.  Every place has something unique to offer.

Four phrases I use a lot:
1. Brush your teeth/hair!  Or, my personal favorite "Groom yourself."  (Mainly for the benefit of my 9 year old daughter).
 2. Shut the doorYou're letting all the cold air in. (Again, for the benefit of my 9 year old).
3. Quit fighting.  (As an only child I really don't understand all the sibling fights).
4. Put your clothing on.  (My son is going through a phase right now).

Four things I've learned in the past:
1. Raising children is an extremely challenging job.   Just when you think you get the hang of it.....someone comes and pulls the rug out from under you. 
2. All you need in life is one good friend.  One good friend can make all the difference.

3.  You have to learn how to adjust.  When I was younger, my Grandpa would always tell me that the key to life was "learning how to adjust".  I never knew what the heck he was talking about, but now I get it.  Life is full of changes and you have to learn how to adjust in order to hang in there.
4.  Always remember who you are and where you come from. I mean this in the deepest sense possible.  Don't let anything get in the way of being who you are.

Four places I'd like to go:
1. Ocean City, Maryland.  We went there every year when I was growing up and I haven't been there in about 15 years.  I'd love to go back, see some old family friends, and take the kids.  Spend the days the beach.  Spend the nights on the boardwalk.  Smell the fresh salty air.
2. New Orleans, Louisiana. I've never been there, but I have a deep romance for it.  The culture, the food, the drinks, the architecture, the wildlife, the gardens, the people.  I have to get there one day.  That will be a trip made either with my friends, my Mom, or my husband.  The kids.....not going!
3. San Antonio, Texas.  I'd like to spend some time on the Riverwalk.  Most of all, I'd just like to see the area, eat some good Tex-Mex, and drink lots of tasty Margaritas.  Preferably alone with my husband.
4. Alaska.  My Dad was in the Army at the height of the Vietnam War. He thought for sure that he was going to Saigon.  When his orders came, he was surprised to find that he was being sent to Fairbanks, Alaska.  Thank God my Dad never had to go war in Vietnam.  Instead, he spent two years with the Army up in Fairbanks, Alaska doing maneuvers and practicing survival skills.  Ever since I can remember, he has loved sharing stories about his time in Fairbanks, Alaska.  You can just hear the passion for Alaska in his stories. I know he'd love the chance to go there again and I'd love to go with him.
 Four things I did yesterday:
1. Burnt and blistered my lip on Dorie Greenspan's Potato-Leek soup.  Apparently that new Dutch oven really keeps the food steaming hot.
Dorie's Potato-Leek Soup with Crouton for FFwD

2. Talked to my best friend on the phone for 2 hours.
3. Shampooed, mopped, and vacuumed the downstairs carpet and floors.
4. Enjoyed several hours of quiet time while my husband took the kids to his Mom's house.

Four things I love about winter:
1. Snow.  I'm crazy about snow.  I think it's magically beautiful.
2. Peace and Quiet.  I love that no one is knocking on the door and the phone isn't ringing off the hook.  It seems like everything quiets down in the winter.
3. Being cozy and snuggling up in PJ's with blankets, slippers, etc. It's the best!
4. Relaxing and staying in. The rest of the year is a mad dash, but wintertime is relaxing and lazy with lots of time for movies, cooking, etc.

I'm supposed to tag 4 people, but I'm no good at picking and choosing.  If you'd like to play along, feel free to.

In the meantime, I'm running out to the store for more oatmeal so that I can have some Papa Bear Oatmeal in the morning! I can't get enough of it!