Thursday, March 31, 2011

Individual Florentine Frying-Pan Pizza

A big thank you to all of you who took the time to leave such sweet and caring comments on the loss of my friend.  It means so much to be part of such a caring and supportive group of people. Your caring support is what got me back in the kitchen today.

My friend Brenda, of Brenda's Canadian Kitchen, and I started a new venture where we pick one recipe from Rachel Ray's newest book, Look + Cook, per month.  Last month was our first month and I chose Rachel's Pimento Mac 'n' Cheese, which was delicious.  This month was Brenda's pick and she chose this super fun and delicious Individual Florentine Frying-Pan Pizza.  (You can see Brenda's post on this recipe by clicking HERE.)

The very idea of baking pizza in a frying pan is a unique and fun idea.  I didn't have the 6" frying pan that Rachel called for in the recipe so I used my 10" cast iron skillet.  The biggest perk in using the frying pan was that you essentially end up with a deep-dish style pizza.  I love that! Rachel's recipe calls for a Florentine-style pizza filling and it was delicious, but you could easily fill the pizza dough with any topping/filling of your choice.
Individual Florentine Frying-Pan Pizza
Adapted from Rachel Ray's Look + Cook
Serves 3-4 easily

3 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in a clean kitchen towel
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, quartered
1 cup shredded Italian Fontina or Provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a handful

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the EVOO.  Add the mushrooms and saute until golden brown.  Season them with salt and pepper, then remove to a plate.  Lower the heat to medium-low, then add the butter to the pan and melt.  Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, then sprinkle the flour into the pan and whisk for a minute.  Whisk in the milk and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Add drained defrosted spinach into the mushrooms and sauce.  Remove from the heat.
Roll out 1/4 pound of pizza dough to form a round large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 6-inch skillet.  Wrap and freeze the unused pizza dough in 1/4-pound individual portions.  Heads up: If your skillet handle isn't oven-safe, wrap the handle a couple of times with aluminum foil.  Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of EVOO into the skillet and coat the sides with a pastry brush.  Lay the dough into the skillet, pressing gently as you work the dough up the sides so it reaches the edge of the skillet.  Fill the dough with the mushroom and spinach mixture and top with Fontina or Provolone and the Parmigiano cheeses.  Pop in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes, until the edges and bottom of the crust are golden brown.
Notes/Results:  I am a fool for creamed spinach so I really loved the filling in this pizza which consisted of creamed spinach, sliced mushrooms, and lots of cheese - yum!  Also, I really wondered whether or not the pizza dough would crisp up due to all the filling, but it was perfectly crisp and delicious.  Once the pizza cooled I slipped it out of the frying pan and onto a cutting board and noticed that it looked just like a deep-dish pizza- very nice.  I can honestly say that I love this method of baking a pizza in my cast iron skillet and will try it again for sure.  

I do have a few notes to share.  As mentioned above, I didn't have the 6" frying pan called for so I used a 10" cast iron skillet with great results.  Also, the recipe calls for frozen pizza dough.  I couldn't find any frozen pizza dough anywhere and didn't feel like making any from scratch so I used Pillsbury's refrigerated pizza crust.  The refrigerated pizza crust works in a pinch, but I do think this recipe warrants either making your own pizza dough or buying a good quality pizza dough.  Also, Rachel calls this an individual pizza and says that it serves one, but the pizza is very sizable and will easily serve 3 or 4. 
April's Look + Cook recipe is Sirloin Burgers with Garlic-Black Pepper-Parmesan Sauce & Roasted Tomatoes with Basil & Balsamic Drizzle.

I'm also linking this post to Deborah's Saturdays with Rachel Ray over at Taste and Tell

Thanks again for all of your sweet and caring comments!  I'm hoping to get back in the game and catch up on all my comments in the next few days.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'll Be Back Soon

Last week I lost a very dear childhood friend and it has been weighing very heavily on me.  I should be back in a couple days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Arrivederci Giada: A Recap of Some of My Favorites Along The Way

I've had so much fun cooking Giada's recipes with the I Heart Cooking Clubs group over the past six months.  I've found so many great new recipes that have become popular staples in my house. In fact, with so many great recipes, I decided a recipe recap was in order so that I could highlight some of my absolute favorites. 

As we say goodbye to Giada this week, I don't have a new recipe to share.  Instead I have seven of my absolute favorites from the past six months.  I realize that seven is a rather strange number of recipes to choose, but in the end I only went with the ones that completely bowled us over.  Of the seven recipes, four of them are pasta dishes.  Proof positive that pasta is always a favorite no matter what size or shape.

(Click on the highlighted recipe titles below to be directed to my original post for each recipe) 
Orecchiette with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Although the chicken meatballs can be a little tricky to work with (sticky, etc.) this recipe is well worth it.  With a little tweaking, and quite a bit of extra garlic, this dish was one of my personal favorites during our six months with Giada.  I confess to being a total kid when it comes to cute little mini meatballs and fluffy little puffs of mozzarella cheese.  I've made this recipe at least 6-7 times.  It's a real staple at my house. 
 Orecchiette with Sausage, Beans and Mascarpone
This recipe is also another personal favorite of mine.  Not only does this recipe combine some of my favorite things (pasta, beans, cheese) it's also economical, quick, and delicious.  I love the creamy texture and the heartiness of the dish.  This is another recipe that I've made over and over again, so much so that I have the recipe memorized.
Turkey and Cranberry Ravioli
This recipe for Turkey and Cranberry Ravioli is so good it will knock your socks off! The filling is absolutely flavorful and spot on, but I will admit that it is the gravy that makes this dish so good.  This recipe is fantastic and will be made again in my kitchen this fall for Thanksgiving.
Giada's Pot Roast with Porcini Mushrooms
This recipe for Pot Roast is hands down the very best pot roast I've ever ate in my life!  This recipe also happens to be my family's favorite during the six months spent with Giada.  The roast is tender and succulent and the flavor from the porcini mushrooms is unparalleled.  I would probably go so far as to say this is my very favorite Giada recipe ever.  This is a must make recipe!

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon
This Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon was another family favorite.  The roast turned out perfectly tender and moist and the flavor from the bacon was phenomenal. This is an easy, yet very impressive recipe, that is great for entertaining and special family dinners.  I guarantee everyone will love it (unless they're a vegetarian).  

Stuffed Baby Peppers
These little stuffed baby peppers are genius and make the most wonderful appetizers.  Not only are they completely delicious and addictive, but they are fantastic served warm and room temperature, which makes them perfect for parties and gatherings.  And, as a bonus, they are pretty healthy too. I've made them a handful of times since my original post and I'm not tired of them yet!
Pastina with Peas and Carrots
Last, but not least, is yet another pasta dish to conclude my top seven Giada recipes. This recipe is perfect for spring and well-suited for kids and family dinners.  The recipe includes mascarpone cheese and is so very creamy.  It's kinda like a ramped up version of macaroni and cheese with veggies and I LOVE IT!  You can bet I'll be making this one over and over again.

There were a lot of other tasty dishes along the way, but these seven were my absolute favorites. Arrivederci Giada!
Cooking with Jamie Oliver as of next week!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Moosewood Mondays: White Rabbit Salad

Spring is officially here and that means that bathing suit season is right around the corner.  Every year I tell myself that I'm not going to gain weight over the winter.  Sometimes I even try to convince myself that I'm going to lose weight over the winter.  Who am I kidding though?  It's almost impossible to resist all that good comfort food that winter brings.

So as of right now, I'm on a mission to lighten things up.  Immediately!  Those shorts and tank tops from last year....they don't fit, which is a real problem since it's already in the 70's here.  Over the weekend I revamped the fridge and pantry, stocking up on lots of fruit, veggies, and lean proteins.  Now I'm on the hunt for fun, colorful, and healthy recipes and this White Rabbit Salad is the perfect start!
White Rabbit Salad
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Serves 4-5 as a main course OR 6-8 as a side dish

3 cups cottage cheese (may be lowfat)
1-2 Tablespoons honey (optional), to taste
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
1/4  cup (packed) raisins or currants
1/2 cup chopped, toasted, nuts
1 Tablespoon poppyseeds
2 medium-sized tart apples, diced

Plus Many Options:
Fresh Peach slices
Fresh Pear slices
Seedless red or green grapes
Orange sections
Chunks of ripe honeydew or cantaloupe

Combine everything and chill.
Notes/Results:  It's been ages since I've had cottage cheese and I really enjoyed this salad, both deconstructed and in it's parfait form.  It's got a very nice contrast of flavors and textures and makes for a wonderful and healthy snack or breakfast.  I used 2% cottage cheese and added the lemon juice, honey, raisins, chopped and toasted walnuts, cubes of golden delicious apple, cubes of fresh ripe pear, halved red grapes, cantaloupe, and garnished with poppyseed, honey, and a little sprinkling of chopped walnuts.  The first time I served the salad somewhat deconstructed on top of a cantaloupe wedge.  The second time I mixed it all together, following the recipe, and served it in parfait glasses.  Loved it!
This post is linked to Moosewood Mondays and Souper Sundays.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Parmesan Crust

 My friend Michelle, of Ms. enPlace, has been making all sorts of tasty things lately.  When she choose Giada's Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Parmesan Crust for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs theme I knew I had to make it as well.  I couldn't resist the allure of those irresistible red potatoes and zucchini tossed with butter and garlic and topped with a crispy Parmesan crust.  It's like a side dish made in heaven! 
 Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Parmesan Crust
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, recipe online @ Food Network
Serves 4
4 small new potatoes (red or white, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter)
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 lengthwise (about 1-inch wide by 5 inches long)
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool. When cool, cut the potatoes in half.
Place a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary and let cook until the butter melts, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, season the cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper. Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes cut side down in the melted butter. Let them cook until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet cut side up. Sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan. Place in the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve.

Notes/Results:  The whole family loved it! We all agreed we could eat it at least once a week as a side.  I added extra garlic for more flavor and also subbed dried Italian seasoning for the fresh thyme and rosemary.  Another keeper recipe.
Cooking with Giada De Laurentiis for 1 more week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Nachos

 Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Back when I worked full-time, my co-workers and I used to go to a place called Lynagh's Irish Pub for lunch.  One of our favorite things to get were the Irish Nachos.  The Irish Nachos at Lynagh's were a lot like cheese fries, but way more special.  Potatoes were cut into somewhat thick slices, resembling English chips.  Once the chips were fried, they were topped with tons of cheese, bacon, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and sour cream.   Eating those Irish Nachos at lunchtime was not only good fun, but a total escape from reality.

This morning, while doing the Irish Jig in water aerobics, I remembered those Irish Nachos and knew I had to make them.  Is it wrong to think about super fattening food while working out?  No?  Ok, good! 
 Irish Nachos
Adapted from Lynagh's Irish Pub
Serves 1-4, depending on how hungry 

1 large russet potato, sliced 1/4"-1/2" thick
3 strips of bacon, fried and cut into strips
handful of cheddar cheese, or other favorite cheese
handful of sliced green onions
handful of sliced jalapenos, more or less to taste

Fry sliced potatoes at 375F for 2-3 minutes and remove from oil.  Allow your oil to come back up to 375F and fry for a second time, 3-4 minutes, or until desired crispiness.  Top your hot fried potatoes with the handful of cheese and allow to melt.  (You may stick the potatoes and cheese under the broiler to melt.)  When the cheese is melted, top with toppings of your choice, including: bacon, sliced green onions, jalapenos, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.  

Eat it like a shark!
Oh yes!  My Irish eyes are smiling!
Notes/Results:  Delicious!  I know you all know how to make cheese fries, but I wanted to share this idea because it's a different way to celebrate St. Patty's Day.  You can customize this to your liking.  I think this concept would be terrific topped with some shredded corned beef , maybe some swiss cheese, and quite possibly a little drizzle of thousand island?  You really can't go wrong!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deep-Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney

 A couple of years back my local Williams-Sonoma featured cooking classes with various topics like risotto, pasta, pizza, weeknight meals, etc.  They would hire well-known local chefs to host 2-3 hour cooking classes for a class of 12.  Each cooking class was a whopping $40, but this was before I discovered blogging and I was desperate for anything that had to do with cooking, so I paid the price. I can still remember how excited I would get before those cooking classes.  It was as if each new class was an exciting new adventure for my senses.

There is one cooking class that I remember extremely well.  It was the cooking class all about CHEESE. It was a full house that night as they allowed 14 people to attend and we were all crammed around an island in the middle of the store.  The chef that night was one of the most well-known chefs in town, a personal chef to the sheik who owned the largest horse farm in Lexington.  I don't remember what we made that night, probably some fancy foods with cheese. 

What I do remember is this.

Halfway through the class, one of the quietest ladies in the audience spoke up.  I think she just assumed that since it was a class about CHEESE that we were going to make fried cheese.  When she found out that we weren't making fried cheese she just wasn't going to let it go. The chef was trying to move on, but the woman just wouldn't let up.  She asked question after question, all regarding fried cheese, until most of the class and even the chef  became annoyed. On the other hand, I had to suppress my giggles because I thought it was kinda cute.  She had paid $40, just like the rest of us, and she was not walking away until she knew how to make fried cheese.  Who can blame her?  Fried cheese is one of the best things on the planet!
 Deep-Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney
Adapted from
Serves 6-8

16 (1-inch diameters balls) bocconcini mozzarella cheese
2 cups flour
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

8 cloves garlic
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (left out, didn't have any on hand)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

For the bocconcini: Drain the bocconcini and pat dry with paper towels. Put on a paper towel-lined plate and allow to dry in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Put the eggs in a second medium bowl and the bread crumbs in a third medium bowl. Coat the bocconcini in flour and then dip into the eggs. Roll the bocconcini in the bread crumbs until coated. Dip the coated bocconcini, again, in the eggs and then coat with bread crumbs. Freeze the breaded bocconcini for 20 minutes.

For the chutney: In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger, 1/4 teaspoon salt, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin and pepper. Blend until smooth. Pour into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick, about 45 to 55 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently break up the tomatoes as they begin to soften during cooking. Season with salt, to taste. Let the chutney cool to room temperature, about 35 minutes. Place in a serving bowl.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 1 to 2 minutes.) In batches, fry the bocconcini until golden brown, about 15 to 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange the bocconcini on a platter and serve the chutney alongside as an accompaniment.
Notes/Results: Absolutely addictive and delicious!  There is just something about those cute little balls of crispy melting cheese that are irresistible.  The tomato and garlic chutney is perfect for me as I like spicy food, but it is pretty darn spicy so you may consider holding back on the cayenne. I do want to note that you need some time to make this recipe as it requires some planning ahead.  This isn't one of those recipes that you can just throw together. The cheese needs to be removed from the container, drained, and allowed to drain/dry in the refrigerator for 2 hours.  In addition, the chutney takes about 35-45 minutes to cook down on the stove.  Also, once the cheese is breaded, it has to set up in the freezer to harden for at least 20 minutes
Another delicious Giada recipe that I would definitely make again!  
Cooking the recipes of Giada De Laurentiis for two more weeks!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My First Guest Post

I want to give a big thank you to the very sweet Velva of Tomatoes on the Vine for asking me to guest post on her blog today.  Please head over to Velva's site, by clicking on the link above, to see the recipe for these very yummy and really fun Pot Roast Potato Skins.

Thanks again Velva!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Indian-Inspired Shrimp with Coconut, Chiles and Tomatoes

I've been wanting to make this recipe for Indian-inspired shrimp for an entire year, ever since I received my copy of Emeril 20-40-60.  The recipe looks beautiful in the book, lots of glorious shrimp sitting in a spicy red sauce served over rice.  I knew it would be something different and unique, but I also knew that I was probably going to be the only one in my household who would want to eat it (my family is full of picky eaters).  I filed this recipe away in my stack of recipes to share with my Mom, who adores shrimp in any and every style she can get her hands on.  Finally the time came where Mom and I could sit and enjoy this terrific meal.  Thank God for my Mom who is always more than willing to share in my kitchen experiments.  Each and every one of them.
Indian-Inspired Shrimp with Coconut, Chiles, and Tomatoes
Adapted from Emeril 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast
Makes 4-6 servings

2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup finely chopped red onion
4 green serrano or jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives 
Steamed basmati rice, for serving

Melt the butter in a 14-inch saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and toast until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the onion, chiles, ginger, and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes and their juices, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, 3-4 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and add the coconut milk. (Do not walk away and scald the mixture).  Simmer until the milk is reduced by half, 3-4 minutes.

Season the shrimp with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt.  Add the shrimp to the pan and cook, stirring as needed, until they are curled, pink, and just cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat.  Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and garnish with the cilantro and chives, if desired.  Serve immediately over steamed basmati rice.
Notes/Results:  This is a beautifully spiced meal that is full of heat, both from the spices and the jalapenos.  The shrimp cook at a slow simmer in the sauce and become extremely tender.  This is a different take on the typical shrimp recipe and we really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I've Gone Bananas....

Sometimes we can't have enough bananas laying around the house and yet other times I buy them and no one eats them.  Does this happen to you? I was feeling rather confident in the banana love when I bought 3 pounds of bananas from Sam's Club.  I figured they would be gone in record time, but I was wrong.  No one ate them.  Not one single banana. 

While I contemplated what I wanted to do with my bounty of bananas, I fixed myself one of my favorite childhood snacks.  Sliced bananas topped with a mixture of peanut butter and Cool Whip.  There really isn't a recipe for this.  I just slice my bananas on the thick side and then mix about 3-4 tablespoons of Cool Whip with about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.  Then I pile the Cool Whip/peanut butter mixture on top of each banana slice. 
This is one of my all-time favorite snacks as I love the combo of bananas and peanut butter.  Sorry for all you Cool Whip haters.  I've tried this same treat using whipped cream and it just isn't the same. 

I love banana bread, so when I saw this Jacked-Up Banana Bread over on A La Graham, who got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, I had to make it.  This banana bread is awesome for so many reasons.  First and foremost, you don't need a mixer, just a bowl and a spoon.  Easy peasy and no mess, gotta love that.  Secondly, this recipe uses 4 bananas - now that is some banana love!  Third, this banana bread is jacked-up with Bourbon, and I happen to live in Kentucky, the land of Bourbon. 
Lots of wonderful texture with all those bananas

Jacked-up Banana Bread
Adapted from A La Graham via Smitten Kitchen
one 4x8 inch loaf

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed (I used 4)
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (depending on the level of sweetness you prefer)*I used 1 cup*
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
I loved the caramelized banana bits!
I left the banana pieces on the larger side when I made this bread and I'm glad that I did.  We enjoyed the texture of the bananas and loved how the bananas caramelized on the bottom of the bread.  At first I worried that the small amount of Bourbon (1 tablespoon) would be unrecognizable, but you could definitely taste that the bread was jacked-up.  Delicious!

After my banana snack and the banana bread, I still had quite a bit of bananas left over AND I had another problem.....GIRL SCOUT COOKIES.  Since my daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies we have boxes and boxes of them everywhere.  

I decided to take my favorite recipe for Banana Pudding, Paula Deen's Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding, and replace the regular Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies called for in Paula's recipe with Shout Out Girl Scout Cookies.  Banana Pudding is probably my all-time favorite dessert and this amped up version with the Girl Scout cookies was fantastic.  So, if you happen to have some Shout Out Girl Scout cookies or Shortbread Girl Scout cookies then this would be a great recipe for you! 
I've posted about this banana pudding recipe before, but you can find the recipe HERE on Food Network.

What do you like to do with your leftover bananas?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moosewood Mondays: Beans for Breakfast?

Do the words Bean Porridge sound appetizing to you?  No, not so much?  How about Bean Risotto?  Still no?  Try as I might to come up with a better, more appetizing name, I just couldn't.  I can tell you that this dish, which Mollie Katzen refers to as Bean Porridge, is a thick, creamy, garlicky, wonderful bowl of cooked and mashed beans which I topped with a fried egg for breakfast.  It is also wildly delicious.  As in double the recipe wildly delicious.  

Better yet, it's good for you and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry/refrigerator. Winner, winner, winner.
Bean Porridge
Serves 2 (take my advice and double the recipe)
Prep Time: 45 minutes (5 minutes of work)

1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked white beans (or a 15oz. can)
1/2 cup water (possibly more)
1 medium clove garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon dried sage or thyme (I used a sprinkle of Italian seasoning)
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
*1 fried egg for each serving (or any other topping of your choice)

Without rinsing or draining them first, transfer the beans directly from the can or cooking liquid to a small to medium saucepan.  Add 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and partially cover.  Cook for 30 minutes.

Add the garlic and the sage or thyme, partially cover again, and let it simmer another 10 minutes.  (Check the water level during this time.  It should be fine- slightly soupy-but if for some reason the beans are running dry, add more water, a tablespoon or two at a time.)

Remove the pot from the heat, and use a potato masher to mash the beans until they turn thick and creamy but still retain some texture.  You can be the judge of how far to take this.

Season to taste with coarse salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.  Serve hot or very warm, in bowl, topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a small splash of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of minced parsley.  Additionally, top with a fried egg or any other topping.

Notes/Results:  I love beans, so this was a total winner for me.  In fact, I can see it as my new breakfast obsession with all sorts of different toppings.  This bean porridge is ultimately satisfying and oh so creamy and delicious.   I really wish I would have made a double batch and would advise you to do the same should you decide to make this.
Click on this badge for more info on Moosewood Mondays

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

I found a copy of Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook on sale for $6.99 and I just couldn't pass it up.  It won me over with it's beautiful photography and cute little cupcakes and I couldn't wait to get it home and look it over.  When my daughter saw it sitting on the couch she became interested and asked if she could pick the first recipe, hence these little Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes.  The girl loves Oreos.

The little cheesecakes look so cute in Martha's book and naturally I had high hopes that mine would look as pretty as Martha's.  Let's just say that didn't happen.  The picture at the top of my post is a copy of what they looked like in the book. Naturally Martha and her crew make them look perfect, right?  Well, here's what mine looked like.  Mine are not so cute.  Strike #1.
At any rate, this recipe should be really simple.  One whole Oreo cookie is placed at the bottom of each lined cup in your muffin tin.  A cheesecake filling is made with a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, and more chopped Oreos, then poured over the cookie.  Easy enough, right?  It was easy until I discovered that I only had (2) 6-cup muffin tins and could only make 12 at a time.  Strike #2 (totally my fault). Since the recipe makes 30 cheesecakes that bake for 20 minutes, then need to cool for even longer, the entire process took forever.  I learned a valuable lesson that day, which was that I need to buy more muffin tins and also start paying attention to my kitchen equipment, as well as the ingredients, when choosing a recipe.
The recipe indicates that it makes 30 cheesecakes, but I had a lot of leftover filling which meant more batches of cheesecakes, more cooling, and another hour of standing in the kitchen.  Strike #3 You're out!
In the end I do have to tell you that the recipe made about 42 cheesecakes.  Most of them went to my daughter's Girl Scout Troop, who really enjoyed them.  Some stayed here in the house and the rest went with my Mom to work.  Everyone enjoyed them, but I don't think they were anything to write home about.

Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes over 40 cupcakes

42 cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole and 12 coarsely chopped (This  is the equivalent of one pacakage of Oreos) NOTE: I would buy 2 packages though because you will have extra filling
2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275F.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined.  Beat in vanilla.

Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in sour cream and salt.  Stir in chopped cookie by hand.

Divide batter evenly among cookie-filled cups, filling each almost to the top.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely.  Refrigerate (in tins) at least 4 hours (or up to overnight).  Remove from tins just before serving.
Notes/Results:  I learned several things while making these cheesecakes.  Probably the biggest lesson was to give more thought to my kitchen equipment, not only the ingredients, when making a new recipe.  The second thing I learned is that I really don't like it when the food doesn't turn out as pretty as it does in the books.  The difference between the way Martha's look and the way mine look is pretty stark.  Because these cupcakes took so much time and care, tending to the muffin pans and such, it really upset me the way they came out. 

I definitely want to say that I still love Martha's cupcake book and plan on making several more of the recipes in the future.  Overall this is a good recipe, just not the best.  I don't know that I would necessarily recommend it. On the other hand, Martha's book does mention that these are a staff favorite so maybe I just did something wrong.  I'll never know because I'm most definitely NOT making them again. 

Have you had any similar kitchen adventures lately?