Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

As a young girl, my favorite show was Mary Poppins. This was back before the days of Cable TV, or VHS tapes, or DVD players. I waited, rather impatiently, for Ms. Poppins to grace my TV screen.
God help anyone who would disturb me during my Mary Poppins time. After all, I had to concentrate. How in the world did she fly with an umbrella? Why were her cheeks so rosy? How was it that she could snap her fingers and the room would clean itself? All I knew was that I wanted to be her.
I wanted to be Mary Poppins so bad that I made up the Mary Poppins game and encouraged (maybe even forced) my friends to play along. The game was a simple concept really. I was Mary Poppins, naturally, and my friend and her brother were Jane and Michael Banks. (Yes, we're still friends to this day.) I would dress as Mary Poppins and ascend the stairwell with my umbrella. Jane and Michael would stand at the bottom of the stairs and sing to me. Once their song was finished, I would hold onto my umbrella and fly down the stairs. NOTE: My Mother hated this game. My friends didn't like the game, but went ahead with it anyway. I loved this game! I should be embarrassed to admit I did any of this, but I'm not. And, I'm still a sucker for Mary Poppins.

Right now you are asking yourself: What does Mary Poppins have to do with twice-baked sweet potatoes? One word:


I was trying to think of how to describe them, and this is the only word I could come up with. If you like sweet potatoes, then you really have to try these!

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4
About 210-250 calories per serving
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 -2 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (I used 2 or 3 garlic cloves)
1 bag baby spinach (about 9 ounces ) (I used half a bunch of chopped kale)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 slices turkey bacon (feel free to use regular old bacon here)
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Scrub sweet potatoes, prick with fork or knife, season with a little oil, salt and pepper, wrap in foil and bake for about an hour or until tender.
Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan, heat the olive oil and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the entire bag of spinach (or some chopped kale) and scallions, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the spinach has wilted.
In another pan, cook the turkey bacon until crisp and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. When cooled, chop the bacon into small pieces and reserve.
When the sweet potatoes are tender and through baking, let cool 5 minutes, then slice in half and scoop out inside of potato into a bowl. Add cream cheese, buttermilk, salt, pepper and vegetable mixture. Stir until desired consistency.
Coat your baking pan with a little oil. Place sweet potato shells onto baking pan and fill with mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown . Top with bits of turkey bacon and serve.

Notes: I adapted this recipe from the cookbook Cook Yourself Thin. These were hailed as healthy potato skins, but the skins never really got quite crispy enough to qualify as a potato skin. They were, however, absolutely lip smacking and delicious served over a bed of garlicky kale. I enjoyed them just about as much as you could enjoy anything. I served these twice-baked sweet potatoes as a meal themselves, but you could easily use them for a side dish.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup

Every once in awhile I get a massive craving for beans. Kinda strange, huh? I mean who craves beans? Maybe it is the result of being a vegetarian for several years, who knows. I think I ate about every kind of bean this week. I made a creamy rice dish with red chili beans and kidney beans, this Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup, black bean burgers, and then had garbanzo beans in my couscous. Suffice it to say, I have certainly satisfied my craving for beans this week!

This Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup is really creamy and flavorful and costs next to nothing to make, which is a plus. The recipe and the picture caught my eye while reading through a copy of Giada's Kitchen and I was very happy to find that I had all the ingredients to make this soup. I am a big sucker for recipes made with pantry/staple ingredients.

Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup
*Adapted from Giada's Kitchen*
Makes 4-6 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 sage leaves, stems removed
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 slices ciabatta bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place a medium, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the butter, olive oil, and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cannelini beans, and garlic and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth to the pan, until the garlic is softened, about 15 minutes. Pour half the soup into a large bowl. Carefully ladle a third to half of the soup from the bowl into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth (be careful to hold the top of the blender tightly, as hot liquids expand when they are blended). Pour the blended remaining soup from the bowl. Once all the soup is returned to the soup pot, stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm over very low heat.

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the slices of ciabatta bread with the EVOO. Grill the bread until it is warm and golden grill marks appear, about 3 minutes per side. Serve the soup in bowls with the grilled bread alongside.

Notes/Results: I blended about half of the soup and left the other half chunky. I also added some red pepper flakes and a little more sage. This soup doesn't have a lot of body to it, but it is flavorful, delicious and filling nonetheless. I enjoyed it with some baguette, which I didn't even bother to grill. It is a simple, easy and delicious soup that can be made from pantry ingredients. I made this for dinner one night and was eager to have it again for lunch the next day. If you are concerned with calories, I think the cream could probably be omitted, or at the very least reduced. This is a keeper recipe based on the fact that it is easy, delicious and pretty healthy!

I am sending this recipe over to my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays! Each Sunday, Deb has a roundup of soups, salads and sammies. Head on over there this Sunday to check out all the delicious goodies!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Saffron Chicken Kabobs, Couscous with Pistachios, Chickpeas, and Corn, and Green Salad with Herbs and Radishes

If you have not had Middle Eastern food, then you are missing out. This was one seriously delicious meal. I'm talking seriously delicious! It is so seriously delicious that you will not be able to focus on anything else while eating it. In fact, I was able to tune out my eight-year old daughter (for those of you who know young girls, you understand). You see, the child is never quiet. NEVER! She is either talking, humming, singing, blathering, arguing, you name it. I never heard a word she said throughout dinner. I was too busy marveling at all the fresh flavors, the textures, and the overall appeal of this dish. It was one of those meals where you are full, but you keep on eating anyway.

I have my friend Joanne, of Eats Well With Others, to thank for this meal. Joanne is now hosting Regional Recipes which is a monthly roundup of regional cuisines from around the world. This month, we are celebrating the cuisine of the Middle East. Believe me when I tell you that this is one delicious cuisine that uses fresh flavors and is very healthy, for the most part.
I borrowed a wonderful cookbook from the library called Feast From the Mideast by Faye Levy. I highly recommend it. I flipped through this cookbook for 5 minutes and was hooked. There are no pictures, not even black and white, but there are 350 delicious recipes. I actually preferred this cookbook to Claudia Roden's books. (Sorry, Claudia)

I have been wanting to cook with saffron for a really long time so I decided on the Saffron Chicken Kabobs. To go along with the kabobs, I chose the couscous and green salad with radishes (I love radishes).
Saffron Chicken Kabobs (Chich Tawouk)
*Adapted from Feast From the Mideast by Faye Levy*
Pinch saffron (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) crushed
2 or 3 onions
3 tablespoons strained lemon or lime juice
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut in 1-1/4 inch pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large cherry or small plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
Basil sprigs, chives and other fresh herbs
fresh pita bread
Put saffron in small cup and pour 2 tablespoons hot water over it. Let stand for 5 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon liquid saffron for basting chicken. Pour remaining saffron into bowl large enough to contain chicken. Finely grate 1/2 onion and add to bowl. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and mix well. Add chicken pieces to bowl and mix well. Cover and marinate for 2-6 hours in refrigerator.
Cut peppers in 1-1/4-inch squares. Quarter remaining onions. Remove chicken from marinade, brushing off bits of onion and discarding marinade. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Thread chicken on skewers, alternating with pepper pieces, onions and tomatoes.
Heat barbecue, stove-top grill, or broiler and lightly oil rack. Combine remaining liquid saffron with oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Brush this basting liquid over chicken. Put kabobs on barbecue. Grill or broil about 10 minutes, until chicken is just cooked through but is still succulent, turning kabobs often and brushing them occasionally with basting liquid. To check, cut into a chunk- chicken should not be pink inside. Serve hot with herbs and fresh pita.

Couscous with Pistachios, Chickpeas, and Corn (Salat couscous im fistookim v'hummus)
*Adapted from Feast From the Mideast by Faye Levy*
3-4 tablespoons EVOO
1 onion, minced
1/2 large zucchini, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 cup couscous
2-4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 small garlic cloves, minched
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 cup cooked or canned corn kernels, drained
1 - 15 oz- can chickpeas, drained
1/3 cup salted pistachios, toasted

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and saute over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. cover and cook for 1 more minute. Remove vegetables to bowl. Add water, carrot, and a pinch of salt to saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Add couscous and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 7 minutes.
Lightly spoon couscous mixture into large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, and mint, and mix lightly. Add corn, chickpeas, and sauteed zucchini mixture and toss lightly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve salad warm, cold, or at room temperature, sprinkled with pistachios.

Green Salad with Herbs and Radishes (Marul salatsi)
*Adapted from Feast From the Mideast by Faye Levy*
5-6 cups bite-size pieces romaine lettuce, or one 10 oz. package
3/4 to 1 cup coarsely chopped arugula or watercress (optional)
6 small red radishes, sliced
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lmeon juice or white/red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons EVOO
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup good-quality black olives, such as kalamata (optional)
Toss lettuce with arugula, radishes, green onions, parsley and dill in bowl. Whisk lemon juice with oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with olives.

Notes/Results: I love this meal! Surprisingly, I think the radish salad might have been my favorite component of the meal. It was bright, fresh, lemony and had a bite to it. Of course, I could just be biased because I love radishes. The saffron chicken kabobs were tender and juicy and had a very mild flavor. I didn't really know what to expect of the saffron. For some reason, I expected it to have a very strong flavor, but it was somewhat mild and pleasant. The couscous salad was addictive. When you bite into it the corn and chickpeas burst in your mouth and the overall texture of the couscous is wonderful. You have the tenderness of the couscous, the crunch of the pistachios, and the sweet burst of the corn. Let's just say that this cook had her fair share directly out of the bowl. It's all about quality control, right?

Click HERE for information about Regional Recipes.

Hmmmm.....if only I had made the Queen of Sheba Chocolate Cake:D

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

North American Salad

Wild rice is a group of grasses that grow in shallow water in small lakes and slow-flowing streams; and often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water. Wild rice is native to North America and is harvested as a grain. Wild rice has less calories, fat, carbohydrates and higher protein levels than brown rice. Sounds good to me!

While flipping through pages of Nigella Lawson's Feast, I couldn't help but take notice of her recipe for North American Salad. This recipe immediately stood out to me based solely on the beauty of the dish. A background of gorgeous black wild rice, with jewel-toned cranberries, flecks of vibrant green parsley, and chunks of golden pecans running throughout. This was the perfect recipe in celebration of great grains at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Nigella says "Since this salad was made up by me in my kitchen in London, there is an argument that says it isn't remotely American, North or otherwise. But it seemed to me that a salad comprising turkey, wild rice, cranberries and pecans couldn't really go under any other name".

North American Salad
Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson
Serves 6-8, recipe can be halved

3 cups wild rice
1/2 cup dried sliced cranberries
4 cups diced cold turkey (I omitted the turkey this time around)
2 tablespoons cranberry sauce or jelly
2 tablespoons lime juice (I used lemon)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup halved pecans or pecan pieces (I recommend toasting the pecans)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the rice according to the package instructions, rinse and leave to cool. Add the dried cranberries and turkey to the cold, cooked rice. Make a dressing with the cranberry jelly, lime juice and oil by whisking everything together in a bowl. Toss the dressing through the rice, cranberries and turkey. Snap the pecans in half (or if using pieces leave as they are) and add to the salad with most of the parsley, turn out on to a plate or serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

NOTE: Reserve the pecans until ready to serve so that they remain crunchy.

Notes/Results: This was a very fun salad to make and it was also my first time cooking wild rice. This is an easy recipe, but takes some time to cook since the wild rice takes about 60 minutes on it's own. I thought this was a truly stunning salad that would be delicious with the diced turkey or on it's own. I also loved the flavors and textures in this recipe. The wild rice has quite a bite to it and goes well with the sweetness of the dried cranberries. Toasting and salting the pecans turned out to be a great and crunchy addition to this salad. I really loved this salad and enjoyed it even more knowing that it was good for me at the same time!

Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what everyone is cooking up in celebration of Great Grains!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cheese of the Month: Camembert

This year I made a new year's resolution to try a new cheese every month. So many cheeses, so little time. I know you understand.

I decided to do a Cheese of the Month feature, highlighting each of the cheeses and recipes I try along the way. Last month, I featured a Red Dragon Mustard Seed and Ale cheese, which I served with a pretzel baguette from Whole Foods.

This month, I am featuring ILE DE FRANCE Camembert. I have had Camembert once or twice before, but each time it has been served alone with bread. I've been wanting to try Camembert in a recipe to test out it's creamy melting abilities.

While watching a recent episode of Alex Guarnaschelli's new show, Alex's Day Off, I saw her make Cheese Fondue Hash Browns. Alex fried chunks of potato until golden brown, topped them with a wheel of Camembert, and baked them in the oven until the cheese melted and oozed over the potatoes. Those cheesy fondue hash browns looked irresistible and I instantly marked them down on my "things to make" list. How could I not try them? Fried potatoes with a wheel of Camembert melted on top- a stroke of genius!

You can find Alex's recipe for Cheese Fondue Hash Browns by clicking HERE. It requires very few ingredients and is quite simple to make.

Notes/Results: Brie and camembert are known as the crown jewels of French cheese. They are both a semi-soft cheese and can be used interchangeably in recipes. I love both of these cheeses for their soft, smooth, thick and creamy consistency. Alex's recipe for cheesy fondue hash browns is quite a decadent treat and really is very tasty. Crunchy potatoes and oozing cheese is the all-time comfort food and everyone enjoyed this recipe. I think this is a great recipe and would make for an impressive breakfast/brunch menu, but I will say that my favorite way to enjoy this cheese is simply all on it's own, served over bread.
How do you like to serve Camembert?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Computer Crash

My computer crashed last night. Thankfully we were able to recover most of our family pictures. However, I did lose most of the pictures for my upcoming posts. My computer is back up and running, but it seems to be on it's last leg. I think it's probably time to shop for a new one.

I lost all my bookmarks and a lot of other information. It might take me a few days, but I should be back up and running soon.

It seems like my computer and me are having a love/hate relationship lately.

See ya soon!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Before the Microwave: Mashed Potato Edition

Cooking was a little bit different before the microwave, especially when it came to leftovers. A week or so ago, I posted about how my Mom used to serve leftover pasta. This time around, I am posting about what my Mom used to do with leftover mashed potatoes. After all, before the microwave there really wasn't a great way to reheat leftover mashed potatoes.

If you are lucky enough to have leftover mashed potatoes, you should consider making these Potato Cakes. They are not healthy, whatsoever, but they are delicious.

Potato Cakes - adapted from my Mom
*Recipe can be doubled*
Nonstick skillet
1 cup of mashed potatoes (can also use sweet potatoes)
1 egg or egg white
1/4 cup a/p flour, plus a little extra to coat your hands and form the cakes
3 tablespoons butter, or oil, whichever you prefer
Put one cup of leftover mashed potatoes in a medium-sized bowl. (One cup of mashed potatoes will make about 2 large or 4 small potato cakes). Add in one egg or one egg white and about 1/4 cup of flour. Stir together. Form the mashed potato mixture into 2 large patties or 4 small patties. If the mixture is a little sticky, coat your hands with flour and pat mixture into cakes.
Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-heat in a nonstick skillet. I'm sure you could use any skillet, but nonstick seems to work best for this recipe.
Put the potato cakes into the skillet and fry over medium-heat. You want to fry them slowly so that the potatoes have a chance to warm through. When the edges of the potato cakes start to brown, it is probably time to flip.
Look at those delicious and buttery fried potato cakes - yum!! Fry on the opposite side until you achieve the desired color and crispness.
My Mom liked to serve these for breakfast with eggs and bacon. To this day, that is one of my favorite breakfasts. Of course, back then I could eat these fried mashed potatoes and not think twice about it:D These are also delicious served with pork chops or steak.

You can top these beauties with all kinds of fun things:
Sour cream
Caramelized Onion
Fried Egg
Hot Sauce
Melted cheese

There are also all kind of things that you can add to the Potato Cakes to give them more flavor and/or to use up other leftovers on hand:
Green Onion
Any green vegetables
Diced up hard-boiled egg

I've also toyed with the idea of forming the cakes, dipping them in egg, and then coating them with panko and frying. I think that would be delicious too!

I am also submitting this recipe to Reeni's Side Dish Showdown, click here for details. Reeni of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice is hosting a monthly event to celebrate side dishes. I think that these Potato Cakes are one side dish that everyone, including kids, would love to eat!

Have you had Mashed Potato Cakes before?

What do you like to do with your leftover mashed potatoes?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

King Cake from "My New Orleans"

Months ago, I received a copy of John Besh's new cookbook, My New Orleans, from a giveaway hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen. My New Orleans is an amazing cookbook, full of stories, great photos and pure love for the city of New Orleans. There is an entire chapter devoted to Mardi Gras, with many wonderful recipes. I have always wanted to try a King Cake, so I chose this recipe to celebrate Fat Tuesday coming up this week.

The dough is enriched with butter and eggs and is wonderfully fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. Besh braids his cake, dividing the dough into three equal parts, and rolling into three equal ropes.
The ropes are braided and the ends pinched to seal the seams. The cake is baked for 30 minutes in a 375F oven

Once the cake has cooled for 30 minutes, it is time to decorate the cake. I took this opportunity to put the plastic baby in before decorating. Can you see his little head peeking out?
The icing is a delicious combination of powdered sugar, fresh lemon juice, and condensed milk.
While the icing is still wet, you top the cake with purple, gold and green decorative sugars. I couldn't find any decorative sugars, so I made my own using food coloring and normal granulated sugar.King Cake
adapted from "My New Orleans" by John Besh
Serves 10-12
For the Cake:
1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110F
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup melted butter
5 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Several gratings of fresh nutmeg
For the Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup condensed milk
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
1 feve (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking

For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.

Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.

After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.

Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise for 1-1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.

Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 3o minutes.

For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it's a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.

Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the feve or plastic baby into the underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

Whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby, or feve, is said to have good luck. However, they are also responsible for buying the King Cake next year. The kids go crazy for the baby!

Notes/Results: I have never made or tasted a King Cake before, but as soon as I smelled the dough I knew that I was going to love it. The dough smells of cinnamon rolls (yum) and is smooth, easy to work with, and wonderfully fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg flecked throughout. The only change I made was to use about double the amount of condensed milk to achieve the right consistency. The icing itself is delicious and I had a very hard time keeping my daughter's hands out of the bowl. This is a very fun cake to make, with the decorative sugars and the whole idea of hiding the baby and all. My daughter was so excited to get the piece of cake with the baby. Definitely a kid-friendly recipe to make. I can see myself making this recipe again next year.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Throwdown: Prosecco

Alcohol hardly ever gets any love in our house. We live in a dry county, where no alcohol or beer is sold. The next county over sells alcohol, but only in liquor stores, not in the grocery stores or convenience stores. Since I have two small children with me at all times, I usually never get the chance to visit the liquor store. So, when I made a trip to Trader Joe's over the holidays I stocked up on a few things, namely white wine, but also Prosecco.

I had never tried Prosecco before and was excited to try it out. I have an entire list of drinks I wanted to make using Prosecco, so I decided a Prosecco Throwdown was in order for Valentine's Day.

I mixed up three different Prosecco drinks this week. There were so many recipes that I wanted to try, but I settled on a Pomegranate Bellini, a Fruit Fizz with Meyer Lemon Sorbet, and an Amaretto Sour with Prosecco. While I did have a favorite, all of them would be a great drink for your Valentine's Day table.

First up, and probably the prettiest, is Nigella's Pomegranate Bellini. This recipe is the simplest of all three drinks. It only consists of two ingredients (pomegranate puree/juice and Prosecco). The color of the drink is gorgeous, but the drink was a little too tart for me. I think this drink would be best served in smaller amounts, perhaps a champagne glass.
Pomegranate Bellini
1 part chilled pomegranate puree or concentrated juice (I used concentrated juice)
3/4 part chilled Prosecco or other fizzy dry white wine
Pour the pomegranate puree/juice into a glass. Top with Prosecco. One 750ml bottle of Prosecco should yield about 6 Bellini

Next up, was Giada's Amaretto Sour with Prosecco. Back in the day, an Amaretto was one of my favorite drinks, so I was really excited to get started on this one. This was a really tasty drink made with Amaretto, simple syrup, and Prosecco. The glass is dipped into a lemon/lime sugar to coat the rim and the drink is supposed to be served on the rocks. I got a little too excited and forgot to serve mine on ice. This is definitely a sweetly flavored drink that is served with even more sugar on the rim, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the Amaretto mixed with the bubbly Prosecco. I will definitely make this drink again, especially if I had a party or people over. You can find the recipe HERE online at Food Network.
The last drink I mixed was Nigella's Fruit Fizz, which is almost like a dessert because it starts with a scoop (or two) of sorbet. You simply scoop some sorbet into a glass and top with Prosecco. I used a Meyer Lemon Sorbet that I made earlier this week, but almost any flavored sorbet will do. For Valentine's Day, a strawberry or raspberry sorbet would be gorgeous! This drink was cold, crisp, bubbly, fruity goodness and I really enjoyed it. You can find the recipe for the Fruit Fizz HERE on the Food Network.

AND THE WINNER IS..................................................................................................



Well, Nigella's Fruit Fizz was really cold, crisp, refreshing and fun! The Meyer Lemon Sorbet seemed to compliment the Prosecco much more than the Pomegranate juice or the Amaretto. I loved that sour tang from the lemon sorbet and would definitely make this drink again using other sorbets.

Giada's Amaretto Sour with Prosecco still deserves a shout out because it was a really tasty drink. I would be happy to serve it anytime.

Do you have a favorite drink that is mixed with Prosecco?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Granola Muffins

I got these sweet little heart shaped ramekins at Target a few weeks back and just couldn't wait to use them. Valentine's Day is still one of my favorite days of the year. I love the cutesy decorations, the parties for the kids, the romance in the air, and of course, the emphasis on the food. Food is a big part of Valentine's Day, isn't it?
I was searching through Nigella's recipes, looking for something romantic, but I kept focusing on her Granola Muffins. I absolutely love granola and have never had it in a muffin before. I couldn't get the idea out of my head, so I settled on Granola Muffins in sweet little heart shaped ramekins. Since my husband is out of town working, these muffins were a perfectly sweet treat just for me!
Granola Muffins - adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson
*Makes 12 muffins * I halved the recipe and it filled three ramekins*
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups granola (I used a storebrand oats and honey granola)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups. (I halved the recipe, and just buttered and floured the ramekins). Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a wide-necked pitcher, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, sugar and oil. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix lightly to combine. Fold in the granola and then divide the muffin mixture between the 12 paper cups (or greased ramekins). Bake for 25 minutes, by which time they should have risen and become golden brown. (Mine baked about 28 minutes). Remove from oven, let cool, on a wire rack.

Results/Notes: I sprinkled some extra granola on top of the muffins before baking, which made them a little prettier and added that extra crunch on top. I really enjoyed these muffins with a little honey drizzled over the top. I halved the recipe, which was somewhat tricky trying to add in one half of an egg, but the muffins turned out perfectly with a very tender crumb. Muffins aren't usually my favorite type of food, but I passionately love this muffin recipe! I will be making these muffins again and can't wait to try out some different flavors of granola. I can see maple flavored granola muffins in my near future!

I am submitting this recipe to I Heart Cooking Clubs. This week we are celebrating a little romance. Stop on by to see all the romantic recipes this week!
Happy Valentine's Day!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kielbasa Skillet Dinner, Jalapeno Popper Dip, and Sloppy Joes

I'm a little behind on posting lately, so I'm going to throw three things at you today! The first recipe is a new favorite of mine and is called Cheesy Kielbasa Skillet Dinner. If you like kielbasa, then you will love this quick, easy and economical meal. I have made it twice in two weeks and have plans to make it again. I adapted this recipe from RecipeZaar, making a couple of changes along the way.

The recipe calls for four main ingredients, that's it. The first ingredient is one pound of kielbasa, sliced. The second ingredient is potatoes (recipe calls for 5, I use two large russets). The third and fourth ingredients are one minced onion and a cup of green pepper. My husband doesn't really care for green pepper, so I sub in some diced jalapeno peppers which really spices things up a bit.
The next step is to saute all four ingredients in a large skillet. I use olive oil, but you could use any kind of oil here. Here is where I made another change. It is really hard to saute all four ingredients at the same time and develop any kind of color. If you decide to saute everything at once, then you will basically be steaming the food instead of sauteing. End result is okay, but not the best it could be. I had better results sauteing the food in batches and then adding it all back into the pan.
After you get the desired color on your potatoes and kielbasa, add in 1-1/2 cups water (could probably use chicken stock), sprinkle in some seasonings (I used Italian seasoning to taste) and simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Once the potatoes are cooked through, sprinkle on about 1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese (recipe calls for American) and place the lid back on to melt the cheese.
It may sound kind of strange and not look that great, but it is extremely comforting, delicious and crave inducing! I didn't have high expectations for this one, but it really blew me out of the water. It is one of my favorite meals (for the time being, of course). You can make this whole meal for around $5-6 dollars, which I also love.

The second recipe I am sharing today is Jalapeno Popper Dip, which has been extremely popular with the Superbowl this past weekend. (Congrats to the Saints! I'm so happy they won.) This dip is so good that it disappeared within one day! It is a creamy delicious dip made with cream cheese, mayo, diced green chiles, diced jalapeno peppers, parmesan cheese, shredded Mexican cheese and some panko breadcrumbs. You can find the recipe here at Noble Pig's site. Be prepared to wear elastic pants if you make this dip, because you will want to eat all of it on your own!
Creamy, spicy, sinfully delicious. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, bread,'s all good!

And finally, the Sloppy Joe.

Chances are, if you grew up in the 80's and were invited to a birthday party, or any other social gathering, a Sloppy Joe was on the menu! Does anyone else remember the days of eating Sloppy Joes served out of a crockpot? It was a retro favorite and I can definitely see why now. Sloppy Joes are easy, economical and serve a crowd.

With a special fondness for the Sloppy Joe, I made them last night for the Superbowl. The recipe I chose had received some awesome ratings, a 5 star rating with 500 reviewers, so I went with it. Let me just say that it was not my favorite. I wanted to share this information with you in case you ever thought about trying it. You can find the recipe HERE.

The basis of the Sloppy Joe recipe was 1 pound of ground beef, 8 oz. tomato sauce, ketchup, bbq sauce, brown sugar, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar. Something was just not right about that mixture. I tried adding some more mustard powder, I also tried some more red pepper flakes, a little more sugar. It just never came around to being very good. I wouldn't recommend it at all and it definitely wasn't the Sloppy Joe from my childhood.

Oh well, two out of three ain't bad!

Happy Cooking:D

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Egg and Chips

"Fish and chips, steak and chips, chicken and chips, all are desirable, but none comes close to the simple, harmonious perfection of egg and chips." _Nigella Lawson

Have you ever had egg and chips for breakfast? I haven't.

Egg and chips seemed like a great idea for this week's theme over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, Budgets and Bargains. A couple of eggs and potatoes and you have an entire meal. You can't get much more economical than that.

Egg and Chips - adapted from Feast, by Nigella Lawson
*Serves 2
Eggs (fried overeasy, overhard, scrambled, etc)
One decent sized potato (about 7 oz) One per person is about right

Heat the oil to 325F. And when I say oil, I mean a lot of oil. These babies swallow gallons at a time.

Peel the potatoes then slice them thickly, then cut these thick slices into thick chips (or the size you want them). Put a dishtowel out, plonk the chips in the middle and then wrap over the two ends, like a package, and give a gentle rub. Now your chips are ready for frying.

Put the chips into the basket and lower this into the hot fat and wait for it to rise, yellow and bubbling, up above the pale strips of potato. Unless the basket is really packed, 5 minutes is all you should need for this stage. Lift up the basket, give it a second or two to settle and for oil to drip off and then turn the chips out onto the paper towels.

Turn the gauge up to 375F and when it's reached that temperature, re-fry the chips. About 2-3 minutes should be plenty, but just do this by eye and ear; the chips should look golden and golden-brown in places (good to have some vairety) and they should rustle when shaken in the basket and clatter when turned out on to a plate.

Notes/Results: Easy, fun and extremely economical. The whole family loved the chips for breakfast. I think Nigella intended for the eggs to be fried or served over-easy, but I served my eggs scrambled. I started cooking the eggs when the chips went back into the oil for the second fry. The timing worked out great. Nigella's recipe is written to serve two. I think you definitely need at least one potato per person. The chips are really good (especially with hot sauce). I made two batches. This is definitely something that we will enjoy again!!

Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs today to see what other budgets and bargains everyone cooked up!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


It's time for another Throwdown here at Stirring the Pot. About a week ago, I put up a poll where readers could vote on the next Throwdown and........... chicken wings won out! Never having made chicken wings before, I had a fun time choosing the two competing recipes. I wanted to compare cooking techniques for the wings, so I kept the wing flavor the same. I didn't want to be confused by which flavor I liked best, I wanted to pick the wing that was simply "cooked the best".

I chose Alton Brown's Buffalo Wings, which are steamed in order to melt away some of the fat in the chicken skin, baked until crisp, and then rolled around in a garlicky buffalo sauce. I compared Alton's recipe with Paula Deen's Uncle Bubba's Wings, which are marinated for 24 hours, deep fried, and served with two dipping sauces (buffalo and sweet asian chili).

Results/Notes on Alton Brown's Wings: Somewhat of a hassle. I don't have a steamer, so I had to use my metal strainer over a pot of boiling/simmering water. After steaming the wings, they are placed in the refrigerator for an hour to "dry out". After the wings have had a chance to dry out, they are baked, being rotated halfway through and coated in sauce. I felt like this was a lot of work for 12 chicken wings. (Pictured below are Alton's wings)Results/Notes on Uncle Bubba's Wings: Marinate 24 hours in a combination of hot sauce, cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. When ready to eat, simply fry them for 10 minutes and you are all set. Simple and easy, the way I like things. (Pictured below are Uncle Bubba's wings)
Sounds like I'm already biased, doesn't it? Which wing do you think you would prefer? I thought I had it all figured out before I even tasted one.........
But I was pleasantly surprised! Alton Brown's steamed and baked wings were actually our favorite. It was a unanimous decision between me and my husband.


Well, Uncle Bubba's wings were easy and quickly deep fried, but they were a little too crunchy. Maybe this was because they were "dry" and not tossed with any sauce. I thought that I would like dunking the wings in sauce, but it turns out that it isn't very easy to do. Both my husband and I agreed that we like our wings to be messy and coated in sauce. Nonetheless, this was still a good wing recipe and had great flavor and color from the marinade.

Alton Brown's wings were a little more labor intensive, but they were dripping with sauce and messy like you would expect a good wing to be. The skin had a nice crispness about it, but wasn't too crunchy. Alton's wings were more reminiscent of the wings we are used to eating.

All in all, this was a fun challenge! Doing research on wings was fun. There are so many ways to prepare and serve them. I'd love to try wings with Sriracha sauce and I've even seen some tossed with peanut butter and jelly. This challenge has just opened up the door to many more possibilities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pot Roast and Mashed Potatoes, Pioneer Style

Tender, flavorful, fragrant and comforting are all words I would use to describe pot roast. Serve it up with creamy mashed potatoes and you are instantly transported back to Mom's Kitchen.

Everyone has their own recipe for pot roast. I like to start with a shoulder cut, just because I think it is the most tender. I also prefer to cook my pot roast in a crock pot rather than the oven. There are a lot of ways I cook my pot roast. Sometimes I throw in a jar of pepperocini peppers and let the roast cook in the peppers and their juice. I love to shred the roast and reserve the peppers and serve on a sandwich bun. Sometimes I do the traditional dried french onion soup mix and beef broth. Other times I throw in a packet of taco seasoning in case I want to make tacos, burritos, enchiladas or taquitos. The crock pot never lets me down.

Open to new possibilities, I decided to try the Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast. Ree's recipe is different than mine in several ways. First, she likes to use a chuck roast. Secondly, she cooks her roast in the oven. Lastly, she sears her onions, carrots, and roast before roasting in the oven. I have to admit, I was intrigued by the idea of searing the onions and carrots and was excited to give it a try.

I served the pot roast with PW's Creamy Mashed Potatoes. Loaded with cream cheese, butter, and half and half, the potatoes are insanely good. Definitely not your every day mashed potatoes, but so worth it. For the best results, make them a day ahead, refrigerator overnight, and bake the next day. You can find the recipe for the Creamy Mashed Potatoes HERE.
You can find the recipe for Ree's Pot Roast HERE.

Results/Notes: This pot roast was definitely a winner! My husband (meat lover that he is) said that this was probably the best pot roast I have ever cooked. In fact, he and I battled over the leftovers! I like the idea of searing the carrots and onions before roasting. Ree simply cuts her onion in half and sears each half. Although I like this concept, the onion fell apart while roasting and some of the pieces didn't have much color. Next time, I will slice the onion and give it some color before adding to oven. Other than that, this was simply delicious. A wonderful dinner, with leftovers and all for around $10 total.

I am submitting this to Foodie Friends of the Pioneer Woman, hosted by Debby of A Feast for the Eyes and Muneeba of An Edible Symphony. Foodie Friends has bimonthly roundups, which gives you plenty of time to cook along with us. Each and every Pioneer Woman recipe I have tried has been excellent! Head on over there by clicking on the link above to check out this fun new group!