Monday, February 28, 2011

Moosewood Mondays: Homemade Protein Bars

For the past few weeks I've been successfully going to the gym.  There are two reasons why I've been successful.  The biggest reason is that my friend joined the gym and we have been going together. Just knowing that she is waiting for me is enough to get me up and out of the house.  It's a great motivator.  The second reason I've been successful is because my friend and I LOVE the Aqua Zumba class.  Neither one of us looks forward to putting on our bathing suits, but we do look forward to the class.  It's fun, it's somewhat relaxing being in the water, and it's just a great workout.

Even though I grab something to eat before the class, I am absolutely famished, starving, and ready to eat everything in site when I'm done with the class.  Being in that water makes you really hungry!  Last week I was unprepared and made some really bad food choices.  This week I am trying to get a bit more organized and think ahead.  I decided to make these Homemade Protein Bars so that I could pack them in my gym bag and have something to eat on the way home.  These homemade protein bars are great for anyone on the go.  They're delicious, filling, and very satisfying.  I think they'll do the trick just fine!

Homemade Protein Bars
Adapted from Sunlight Cafe by Mollie Katzen
Yields about 20 bars

Nonstick spray
1 cup soy protein powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup oat bran (I subbed wheat germ)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup (packed) brown sugar (I used 2/3 cup)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt (I used vanilla Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup canola oil (I subbed 1/2 peanut butter) *see list of variations below
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F (325F for a glass pan).  Lightly spray a 9-by 13-inch baking pan and a baking tray with nonstick spray.

Mix together the protein powder, flour, oats, oat bran, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Crumble in the brown sugar, rubbing it with your fingers to break up any clumps.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Measure the yogurt, oil, vanilla into a second bowl, stirring until well combined.  Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix patiently until thoroughly blended.  (You may have to use your hands - it will be a thick batter, verging on a dough).

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, patting it evenly into place with your hands.  Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes, the remove from the oven and cut into bars of any size or shape.  Place the bars on the prepared baking tray and bake for another 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges.  (For extra-crunchy bars, turn off the oven and leave them in there for up to 45 minutes longer.)  Remove the bars from the oven, and place them on a rack to cool.

Eat the bars within a few hours, or seal them in a heavy zip-style plastic bag and store in the freezer.  For maximum crispness, "refresh" them in a toaster oven after defrosting.

Replace the canola oil with 1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter (softened in a microwave).

Replace the flour with quinoa, ground to  a powder in a blender or an electric spice grinder.

Replace the yogurt with mashed silken tofu (soft or firm).  Add an extra pinch of salt.

Add 2 - 3 tablespoons powdered egg whites.

Add up to 1 cup chopped nuts and/or sunflower seeds.

Notes/Results:  I think I'm somewhat obsessive about making homemade granola bars of any kind.  I always feel drawn to these types of recipes because of all the variations.  I made a couple of substitutions with these bars.  I subbed peanut butter for the canola oil, used wheat germ in place of oat bran, subbed milk chocolate chips for semi-sweet, added about 1/2 honey roasted peanuts, and added about 1/4 cup honey.  Also, I baked mine in the pan for the full 30 minutes and then removed them to let them cool on the countertop.  The recipe indicates to bake them for 15 minutes and then cut them into bars, place on a cookie sheet, and bake individually for another 15 minutes.  I felt like doing all that was too much work and also that the bars wouldn't have held together.  I think that baking them 30 minutes in the pan was definitely the way to go and I would do that again.   

I loved the bars and will make them again.  They remind me of  very thick and dense oatmeal cookies, but with peanut butter and nuts.  I found them to be very filling and satisfying.  Next time I'd like to make them with the ground quinoa just to up the protein in the bars. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Winter is quickly coming to an end here in Kentucky and I'm on a mission to squeak out a couple more  ultra-comforting recipes like this Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Risotto. What's not to love about risotto cooked in a quick porcini broth and lots of creamy Gorgonzola and Parmesan?  This is a beautiful and indulgent risotto that is very rich and satisfying.  A little bit of this risotto goes a very long way.
Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Giada at Home
Serves 4-6

4 cups (1 quart) chicken broth
1-1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the porcini mushrooms.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and set aside.

Reheat the broth to a simmer and keep hot over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and mushrooms and cook until the onion is tender but not brown, about 3 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, and allowing each addition to be absorbed, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes in total.

Remove the pan from heat.  Stir in the Parmesan, Gorgonzola, chives, salt and pepper.  Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl.  Serve immediately.

Notes/Results:  This is an extremely rich, comforting, and satisfying risotto that is beautiful enough for special occasions.  The flavor of the porcini is so wonderfully savory and inviting.  I personally loved the little chunks of Gorgonzola as I found they didn't melt all the way into the risotto.  We served this risotto on it's own as a meatless meal, but it would also pair well with steak as part of a very indulgent dinner.

Now Celebrating the Recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Starting next week we will be voting in a new male chef at I Heart Cooking Clubs.  Please stop by to place your vote!

Food 'n' Flix: Spicy-Sweet Pretzel Mix and Pomegranate Sodas

Over the winter months, my family and I have at least one movie night per weekend.  So far this year, it's been a winter full of old 80's movies (Goonies, Back to the Future, Karate Kid, Poltergeist, Spacecamp, you get the idea).  It's been a lot of fun watching the look on my daughter's face as she discovers how different things were back in the 80's.  A lot of things have been very shocking to her and we've had a lot of good laughs. My husband likes to joke that each old movie must be torture to her, but I can honestly say that she has loved each and every old movie we have chosen.  How could she not?  They're classics for a reason, right? 

On family movie night we always have popcorn.  Lots of popcorn.  I've tried to deviate from this, but it's just not pretty. Things just get ugly. So, during the week, when everyone is at work or school, I pick my very own movie and make my very own snack.  Most of the time this involves chocolate, but this time it was this Spicy-Sweet Pretzel Mix and a special drink just for me, a pretty pale pink Pomegranate Soda with a maraschino cherry floating on top.


Once I have my snack, I pop in a movie of my very own choosing.  No cartoons, action flicks, or teeny bopper shows.  Only chick flicks.  It's time for girly, romantic, sappy, ridiculous, over-the-top, dramatic, passionate, and funny movies.  Even better if the movie involves cooking, like this month's Food 'n' Flix pick, Woman On Top. A very passionate love story about both love and cooking, it was the perfect choice for some down time. 
Spicy-Sweet Pretzel Mix
Adapted from Everyday Food September 2008 issue
Martha says this serves 8 (I say more like 2)

2 cups thin pretzel sticks
1 cup natural almonds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, toss together pretzels and almonds.

In a small saucepan, bring butter, sugar, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon water to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Pour over pretzel mixture in bowl; gently toss to combine.

Spread pretzel mixture in a single layer on prepared sheet.  Bake until almonds are crisp, about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally.  Cool on sheet before serving (To store, keep at room temp, up to 5 days).

Pomegranate Sodas
Adapted from Everyday Food September 2008 
Serves 8

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
club soda, for serving
maraschino cherries (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and juice; bring to a boil over high, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Reduce to a simmer; cook, without stirring, until mixture is syrupy, about 2 minutes. (To store, refrigerate syrup up to 1 week; adjust consistency with water, if necessary.)

To serve: Fill 8 glasses with ice. Pour 2 tablespoons syrup in each glass, and top with club soda. Garnish with cherries, if desired.

Notes/Results:  A very satisfying snack and drink combination that really caters to those sweet and salty cravings.  The sweet and spicy pretzel mix is delicious, a little more sweet than spicy, but it does have a gentle heat to it.  If you enjoy your food a little more spicy, go ahead and add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in place of the 1/8 teaspoon. The crunchy pretzel mix pairs perfectly with the sweet pomegranate soda, a fun and delicious match.  I really enjoyed the pretzel mix, but I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the pomegranate soda.  The soda is just plain fantastic! Not only is it a gorgeous pale pink color, but it is also sweet, bubbly, refreshing and just plain fun to drink.  Decorated with some maraschino cherries, this would be fun for a family, your next party, a group of girls (any age), or even just on a day when you're on your own and need a fun treat.  
Now Watching Woman On Top

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Symon Sundays: Chicken and Dumpling Soup and Lizzie's Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde

On Monday morning I went to a water aerobics class, Aqua Zumba, to be exact.  My friend and I loved the class.  In fact we loved the class more than I can even say.  Afterward we felt great and immediately made plans to go again.  We were both feeling on top of the world.  However, when I woke up Tuesday morning, everything (and I do mean everything) ached.  Apparently Aqua Zumba is an awesome workout because I have NEVER been this sore.....not in all my life.

I had to laugh when I rolled out of bed, planted my foot on the ground, and found that even the arches in my feet were sore. Turns out walking on your tip toes against the current works the muscles in your feet.  The good news is that my feet should be in great shape for flip flops and sandals this year.  The bad news is that I could hardly move yesterday. 

By the middle of the day I was able to move around enough to make Symon's Chicken and Dumpling Soup.  This recipe was possible because it really didn't require too much on my part.  I had already made the chicken stock and cooked the chicken.  It was just a matter of slicing some veggies throwing them in a pot and making some dumplings.  I'm talking quick and easy, and the best squatting involved!  
 Chicken and Dumpling Soup
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live To Cook
Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 carrots, finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
4 cups Chicken Stock (homemade preferably)
2 cups shredded chicken
1 bay leaf

1/2 cup chicken fat (skimmed from the top of your homemade stock) 
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
Optional garnish: chopped parsley

To make the soup:
  Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onion, garlic, and a good three-finger pinch of salt.  Sweat the veggies, stirring occasionally, for 2 -3 minutes.  Add the stock and bring it to a simmer.  Allow stock to simmer while you make the dumplings.

To make the dumplings:  Combine 1/2 cup chicken fat (or 1/2 cup butter) in a saucepan with the milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon until the flour has absorbed all the milk and the resulting dough pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until each eggs incorporated.

Drop, scoop, or cut the dough one tablespoon (I made mine much larger) into the soup.  My method is to wet a cutting board and press portions of the sticky dough into thin sheets about 1/4 inch thick and 1-1/2 inches wide, then cut into about 1/2-inch pieces, and scrape them into the soup.  Add the shredded chicken and simmer all for about 10 minutes, garnish with parsley (if using), and serve.

Notes/Results:  I did alter Symon's recipe quite a bit.  I used the 3lb chicken to make his recipe for homemade chicken stock so that I could use both the chicken stock and chicken fat for the soup and dumplings.  Since my chicken was already cooked, I skipped the step of cooking it in the soup itself.  Additionally, Symon adds both parsnip and celery root to his soup, but there was no way I was running to the store so I just went with what I had on hand.  And finally, I halved the recipe for the soup and used the whole recipe for the dumplings, creating a chicken soup with double the dumplings.  The recipe above reflects my changes.  I'm very glad I let my homemade stock sit overnight in the fridge so that I could use the chicken fat in the dumplings.  I think the chicken fat really helped to give the dumplings, and overall, the soup a great flavor.   This was a perfectly wonderful meal that certainly helped to warm my aching muscles.  I would make it again!
Next up is Lizzie's (Symon's wife) Roast Chicken with Salsa Verde.  Let me go ahead and say right now that I didn't do this recipe justice.  I should have used a meat thermometer to make sure it was completely done before I went to serve it, but I didn't.  Instead I cut the chicken open, hoping to serve dinner, and found out that it wasn't done.  Argh!  Note to self: buy a good meat thermometer.  Also, I should know by now that when the inside of your chicken is stuffed full then it usually always takes a bit longer to cook.  In the end it was all good though because this chicken was super moist, really flavorful, and worth repeating.  I believe there are two secrets to why this chicken was so good.
  1. The chicken gets salted, liberally, the day before cooking and is refrigerated overnight.
  2. The chicken is allowed to come to room temperature for an hour prior to cooking.
Lizzie's Roasted Chicken with Salsa Verde
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live To Cook
Serves 4
1 (3-4-pound) chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
2 fresh bay leaves
1 small onion, peeled
3 garlic cloves
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil

A day before cooking, rinse the chicken inside and out under cold water and pat dry.  Salt it liberally, cover, and refrigerate.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking it.  

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Lift the skin off each chicken breast and wedge 3 lemon slices and a bay leaf between the skin and each breast.  Put the onion, garlic, thyme, and remaining lemon in the cavity of the chicken.  Rub the entire chicken liberally with the olive oil.  Put the chicken in an ovenproof saute pan or in a roasting pan breast side up, slide it into the oven, and roast it until the thigh reaches 160F or until the cavity juices run clear, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-20 minutes.  Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and serve with the salsa verde.

Salsa Verde
Makes 1-1/4 cups
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
2 salt-packed anchovy-fillets, rinsed and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the parsley, mint, anchovies, garlic, shallot, lemon zest and juice, capers, jalapeno, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Notes/Results:  I definitely recommend salting the chicken the day before and also pulling the chicken out one hour prior to roasting.  I think this is a great roast chicken recipe and it's one that I would make again.  I'd just be sure to use my meat thermometer next time.
I am submitting both recipes to Symon Sundays which is being hosted by Ashlee of Veggie by Season.

In the meantime I'm off to help my daughter's girl scout leaders lift and move 300 cases of girl scout cookies.  Wish me luck.  If I don't have to squat then I just might make it.  LOL!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moosewood Mondays: Fresh Strawberry Mousse

My four-year old son, Jackson, has a long list of food allergies.  The allergies include, but are not limited to: beef; pork; turkey; eggs; wheat; all nuts, beans, legumes and lentils; and soy.  His diet is pretty limited, so I'm always on the hunt for recipes that he can enjoy. This recipe for fresh strawberry mousse is perfect for him since it doesn't call for eggs or flour, neither of which he can have.  I'm always thrilled when I can find something new for him that we can all enjoy together as a family.
Fresh Strawberry Mousse
Serves 4-6

4 cups sliced strawberries
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped
1 cup firm yogurt (nonfat ok), stirred until smooth

Place the strawberries in a medium-sized saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until it looks like soup.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and set aside.

Without washing it first, use the same saucepan for this step.  Combine the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice in the pan, and whisk until uniform.

Pour the still-hot strawberry soup back into the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Return the pan to the stove, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.  (This should take about 5 minutes.)  Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon rind.

Transfer back to the same bowl the strawberries had been in, and cool to room temperature.

Puree until smooth in a food processor or blender, and return to the bowl.  Cover tightly and chill until cold.

Fold in the whipped cream or yogurt and serve.
Notes/Results:  We all loved it! The mousse was sweet and creamy with quite a bit of thickness to it which made it a very filling dessert. I halved the recipe and still had enough for 4 large portions.   I used the whipped cream this time around but also like the option of subbing yogurt, specifically Greek yogurt, in place of the whipped cream in this recipe.  Either variation would make for a heavenly dessert.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce and Bibb Salad with Parmesan Butter Crostini

Today in the Stirring the Pot kitchen we have yet another shrimp dish.  In the past few weeks I've made garlicky shrimp, shrimp fried rice, and now Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce.  I've enjoyed all the shrimp dishes that I've made thus far, but this one is probably the most impressive and certainly has a restaurant-quality feel to it.  I can see making this meal for a dinner party, as a romantic meal for two, or even just for me and my girlfriends.  
 Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce
Adapted from Giada's Kitchen
Serves 4-6

1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil (I used 1/8 cup)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup bottled clam juice
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the basil, 1/4 cup of the parsley, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the wine and simmer for another 2 minutes.  Add the clam juice and cream.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens.

Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the cooked shrimp, the drained pasta, and the remaining basil and parsley.  Toss together until all the ingredients are coated with the sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.
Notes/Results:  Delicious!  I think the key to this recipe is adding a little extra garlic and possibly a little extra red pepper flakes (especially if you like it hot).  I think this is a very quick and impressive meal. 

I also made Giada's Bibb Salad with Parmesan Butter Crostini.  The salad is great and all, but it's the Parmesan Butter Crostini that steal the show.  Giada combines half a stick of butter with 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  When the crostini come out of the oven, they are coated with the butter mixture.  The butter soaks into the bread and the Parmesan cheese melts onto the surface of the bread.  Those Parmesan Butter Crostini are the stuff dreams are made of.  I have made them at least four times already.  They are great to serve alongside a meal such as this Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce, or any other meal for that matter.

Now Cooking the Recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kicked-Up Shrimp Fried Rice

I have two things to share with you today. 

1.   I'm obsessed with shrimp right now.  I've made a lot of shrimp dishes and I plan on making quite a bit more in the coming weeks.

2. I'm convinced no one has as many shrimp recipes as Emeril.  In fact, let's just refer to him as the King of Shrimp from now on. 

This recipe for Kicked-Up Shrimp Fried Rice is the second shrimp dish I've cooked from The King of Shrimp.  A third shrimp recipe might just be gracing my table tonight.  When I obsess over something I mean business. 
 Kicked-Up Shrimp Fried Rice
Adapted from Emeril's 20-40-60
Serves 4

4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and freshly grond black pepper
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 1lb of peel and eat shrimp)
1/2 teaspoon Emeril's Original Essence or Creole Seasoning
3 green onions, white and green parts separately minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 cups cooked white rice
1 tablespoon dark Asian sesame oil
2 cups (about 12 ounces) frozen stir-fry veggies, defrosted (I used red bell pepper and edamame)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a large s
killet or wok over high heat.  When it is hot, add the eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper, and quickly stir until the eggs are fully cooked, moving the skillet off and on the heat as necessary, about 40 seconds.  Transfer the eggs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.  Chop the eggs into small pieces when cool enough to handle.

Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining peanut oil to the skillet.

In a small bowl, season the shrimp with the Essence and a pinch of salt and pepper.  When the oil is hot, add the shrimp to the skillet, in batches if necessary, and cook until pink and lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil to the skillet.  Add the green onion bottoms (white portion), the ginger, and the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Add the rice and cook, tossing, until it is hot and golden, about 2 minutes.  Add the sesame oil and the stir-fry vegetables, and cook until heated through, 1 minute.  Add the soy sauce, the reserved cooked eggs, and the shrimp, and cook until everything is warmed through, about 1 minute.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with green onion tops, and serve.
Notes/Results:  I love fried rice and found this meal to be perfect in every way. I had leftover rice on hand so this meal was really quick for me.  Ten minutes of prep and ten minutes of cooking.  A  quick tasty dinner with minimal cleanup is always a winner for me!

I've also been enjoying the kitchen department at Marshall's (maybe a little bit too much).  One of my favorite finds is this Visionart Italian Wok for $12.99.  I thought this pan was so awesome with all it's colors and floral designs.  Of course I had to have it! 

So here's my advice.  The next time you have some free time (and a little bit of extra cash) head over to Marshall's and check out their little kitchen department.  I guarantee you will find something that you love.  I know I always do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pimiento Mac 'n' Cheese

A short while ago my sweet friend Brenda, over at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen, pointed out her love of Rachel Ray's newest cookbook, Look + Cook.  After seeing all the great dishes that Brenda was cooking I decided to sneak a peek at the book myself.  I was really impressed with all the beautiful pictures, as well as all the fun recipes, and decided to purchase the book myself.  I quickly emailed Brenda to tell her how happy I was with the book and asked her if she'd like to do a little cook along together.  We decided on a laid-back approach of one recipe per month, posting the chosen recipe at any time during the month.  The first recipe in our little cook along is this super tasty and flavorful Pimiento Mac 'n' Cheese.

All of the recipes in Look + Cook stand out to me, but this recipe for Pimiento Mac 'n' Cheese really caught my eye. In this recipe Rachel really spices things up with with a generous dose of paprika and hot sauce.  I was a big fan of the spicy undertones in this macaroni and cheese and found myself craving it even after it was gone. This is a fantastic recipe that I will make again in the future.  Probably soon!
Pimiento Mac 'n Cheese
Adapted from Rachel Ray's Look + Cook
Serves 6
1 pound cavatappi pasta (hollow, fat corkscrew-shaped pasta) or elbows (I used mini penne)
1 tablespoon extra virgin-olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (maybe a little more)
Black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sweet paprika, plus additional for garnish
2 cups whole milk (I used 1%)
2 teaspoons hot sauce
3 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
2 (4-ounce) jars pimientos, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Salt the water and cook the pasta to just shy of al dente.  Heat a large pot over medium heat with the extra virgin olive oil and butter.  When the butter melts, add the onions, garlic, and salt and cook for another minute.  Stir in the paprika.  Whisk in the milk and hot sauce and bring up to a bubble, then cook to thicken for a minute or two.  Turn off the heat and stir in half of the cheese in a figure-eight motion until melted.  Add the pimientos.  Preheat the broiler.  When the pasta is  nearly al dente, drain it well and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce.  Toss to combine.  Then under the broiler, 2 to 3 minutes.  Garnish with the chopped parsley and a generous sprinkle of sweet paprika.

Notes/Results:  This is a smooth and creamy macaroni and cheese with spicy undertones and lots of yummy garlic flavor.  One thing I liked about this macaroni and cheese is the fact that it goes under the broiler for just a few minutes, which allows it to be smooth and creamy instead of having the consistency of baked macaroni and cheese. A keeper recipe for sure!

This Pimiento Mac 'n' Cheese was February's choice for our Look + Cook Cook Along.  For the month of March Brenda has chosen Rachel's Individual Florentine Frying-Pan Pizza on page 213 of the book.  If any of you would like to cook along and need the recipe, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to send it to you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Moosewood Mondays: Bulgarian Pepper Casserole

Lately I've been obsessed with the glorious combination of sausage, peppers, and onions.  I think I've indulged in this heavenly trinity of ingredients at least once a week for a full month now.  When I saw this recipe for Bulgarian Pepper Casserole, I knew it was something I had to have.
This recipe for Bulgarian Pepper Casserole was written meat-free, a combination of colorful bell peppers mixed with brown rice, lots of onions, 8 cloves of garlic, as well as tangy feta cheese and some very creamy whipped ricotta.  I added 1/2 pound of ground Italian sausage because I had some on hand.  Katzen suggests topping the casserole with sliced tomatoes and olives.  I didn't have any fresh tomatoes on hand so I just sprinkled with olives and popped it in the oven.  The end result was a gloriously cheesy, fully flavored, delicious casserole that is reminiscent of a stuffed pepper.  A great recipe!
Bulgarian Pepper Casserole
Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook
Serves 6-8 easily
1-1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
2-3/4 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons freshly minced dill (or 2 tsp. dried dill)
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced onion
4-5 medium green and or red bell peppers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt (more, to taste)
fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons basil
8 medium cloves garlic, half of them minced, half of them sliced (keep minced and sliced garlic separate)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1-1/2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese (may be lowfat)
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 cup whole Nicoise olives (or sliced, pitted Kalamata olives) possibly more, to taste
Optional: 1/2 ground Italian sausage, cooked (my addition)

Place rice and water in a saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down as low as possible, and simmer without interruption for about 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender.  Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and stir in lemon juice and dill.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, and saute over medium heat 5-8 minutes, or until the onions become soft.  Add peppers, salt, pepper, and herbs, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes, or until the peppers are tender.  Stir in the minced garlic (save the sliced garlic for later) and cook for just a minute more.  Remove from heat, and stir in the feta cheese.

When you are ready to assemble the casserole, preheat the oven to 375F.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

Place the cottage or ricotta cheese in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade, and whip until smooth.

Combine rice, pepper saute, and whipped cheese in a large bowl, and mix until very well combined.  Transfer to the prepared pan, and spread into place.  Top with tomato slices, then scatter olives and slices of garlic in a liberated, random fashion over the tomates.

Bake uncovered at 375F until bubbly- about 30 - 40 minutes.  Serve hot or warm.

Notes/Results:  Something about this casserole just screams old-fashioned food to me.  It reminds me of my Mom's stuffed peppers, but in a casserole form.  I'm finding that Katzen's recipes are full of herbs, aromatics, and seasonings  which makes her recipes extremely flavorful.  I loved the use of all the fresh herbs in this recipe, as well as the use of 8 cloves of garlic.  I'm all for bringing on the flavor!  This is a keeper recipe and one that would feed a crowd.
If you're interested in participating with Moosewood Mondays, please click HERE for more information.  If you would like to play along, but don't have any Moosewood books, there is a wonderful website full of recipes HERE.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Triple Pork Split Pea Soup

 Up until now, I've only had vegetarian versions of split pea soup.  This version is MOST DEFINITELY not vegetarian.  Leave it up to Michael Symon to use not just one, but three forms of pork in his split pea soup.  In his original recipe, Symon uses bacon, ham hock and spare ribs.  I modified the recipe according to what I had on hand using bacon, ham hock, and ground sausage.  This recipe makes a huge pot of split pea soup that is so soul-satisfying and comforting.  It's thick, it's creamy, it's meaty, and it has just the right balance of spicy undertones from some ground cayenne.  Serve it up with crusty bread or some homemade biscuits and get ready for a nap.
Bacon, Ham, and Sausage...oh my
Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Ham Hock and Sausage
Adapted from Michael Symon's Live To Cook
Serves 8-10

4 ounces slab bacon, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 pound ground sausage (Symon uses 1 slab of pork ribs cut into individual pieces)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 red onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 pound split peas (1-1/3 cups)
2 big garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 meaty ham hock
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Crusty bread, for serving

Saute the bacon in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat until the fat has rendered and it's cooked 5-10 minutes.  Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon, increase the heat under the pot to medium, and add the 1/2 pound ground sausage.  Brown and set aside with bacon.

Add the carrot, onion, celery, and salt and sweat the vegetables for about 3 minutes.  (You may find you need to add a little oil at this point).  Add the split peas, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, ham hock, cayenne pepper, black pepper, the reserved sausage and bacon, and 2-1/2 quarts of water.  Simmer, skimming the foam that will rise to the surface as the water comes up to heat, until the peas are tender, 2-3 hours.

Discard the bay leaf.  Remove the hock from the soup.  When it's cool enough to handle, pick the meat off it and add it back to the soup (discard the bone). 

To serve, divide the ribs amoung bowls and ladle the soup over them.  Eat with abundant crusty bread.

This is my submission to Symon Sundays being hosted by Ashlee over at Veggie By Season.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Giada's approach on the everyday chocolate chip cookie is a little bit different than most.  Old-fashioned oatmeal is finely grounded and added to the batter to help ensure a chewy cookie without all the texture of the oats.  Little bits of crunchy toffee are added to the batter, as well as chopped hazelnuts.  The end result is a beautifully thick cookie with a chewy texture and lots of crunchy bits.  A perfect treat for your Valentine, or yourself.  You choose. 

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, recipe found online
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces English toffee candy  (recommended: Heath or Skor bar), finely chopped
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, and chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely chop the oats in a food processor. Transfer the oats to a medium bowl. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer,  beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the toffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips.
For each cookie, drop 1 rounded tablespoonful of dough onto sheet, spacing 1-inch apart (do not flatten dough). Bake until the cookies are golden (cookies will flatten slightly), about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. (The cookies can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Notes/Results:  This is an awesome cookie recipe, one that you can tell will be a winner from the time you starting mixing the ingredients.  They were great when eaten warm right out of the oven, but were even better (in my opinion) when they were allowed to cool and the toffee had a chance to set up.

Now Celebrating the Recipes of Giada De Laurentiis

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recipe #60 - Stirring the Pot: Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Salsa Verde

I don't know about you all, but sometimes there are just posts that I don't want to write.  This post is one of them.  Theoretically, this meal should have been wonderful.....but it wasn't.  The pork shoulder, while wonderfully seasoned and slow cooked, should have been meltingly tender and mouth-watering.  It wasn't. I'm not faulting Tyler's recipe at all.  If anything, the blame is on me.  Somehow or another, I chose a bad cut of meat that was tough, fatty, and almost impossible to cut.

Does this ever happen to you all?  Do you occasionally make a recipe to find out that you're working with a bad cut/piece of meat?  It doesn't happen often, but I seem to experience this at least once or twice a year. At any rate, I really wish this recipe had not turned out so poorly because the pork roast smelled so heady with aroma as it cooked in the oven.  I think this recipe, when done correctly, would be fantastic.

Tyler's recipe for the pork consists of rubbing a herb paste made from toasted ground fennel, garlic, rosemary and sage all over the pork to create a crispy and flavorful outer coating.  Tyler pairs what should be a wonderfully tender pork shoulder with grainy mustard mashed potatoes and tangy and sweet salsa verde.  With the right pork shoulder, this would be an incredible meal. The recipe can be found on Tyler's blog, HERE.
Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Salsa Verde and Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Stirring the Pot
Serves 6-8

1 4lb. boneless pork shoulder
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
4 tablespoons kosher salt (1 tablespoon for every lb. of meat)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 recipe Salsa Verde (see recipe, below)
1 recipe Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes (see recipe, below)
1 sprig fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Place the pork, fat side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack insert.  For the rub, toast the fennel seeds in a small saute pan over medium heat until fragrant.  In a food processor combine the toasted fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper.  Pulse to combine.  With the motor running, gradually pour the oil through the feed tube to form a paste.  Rub the herb paste on the pork.  Cover the pork with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325F  Allow the meat to stand at room temperature for 3o minutes.  Loosely cover pork with aluminum foil; roast about 3 hours, until juices run clear (160F).  Let the meat stand for about 15 minutes before slicing.  Serve with Salsa Verde and Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes and garnish with parsley.

Salsa Verde
Soak 1/2 cup golden raisins in warm water until softened; drain.  Rinse 1/2 cup salted button capers.  In a food processor combine raisins; caper; 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots; 1 cup fresh Italian parley; the  juice of 2 lemons; 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard; 1 teaspoon lemon zest; and 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Pulse for 30 seconds, until combined.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grainy Mustard Mashed Potatoes
Heat 1 cup whipping cream and 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts; set aside and keep warm.  Place 3 large peeled Yukon gold potatoes in a saucepan; add cold water to cover.  Place saucepan over high heat; bring to boil.  Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt; reduce heat.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Drain.  Pass potatoes through a food mill into a bowl.  Stir in cream and butter mixture.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir in a 1/4 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard.

Notes/Results:  The herb paste created a wonderfully flavorful and crispy coating on the outside of the pork shoulder.  Unfortunately, my pork shoulder was pretty much inedible.  As a lover of all things mustard, I did enjoy the grainy mustard mashed potatoes, although it's hard to knock plain old mashed potatoes.  The Salsa Verde was a nice accompaniment, sweet and tangy.