Sunday, December 31, 2017

Herbed-Baked Eggs {#Foodgoals}

I began 2017 with two #Foodgoals. The first goal was to cook simple recipes featuring quality ingredients. The last goal: cook with lots of eggs. So, 2017 began with Heidi Swanson's Poached Eggs in White Wine and things were off to a fun, and tasty, start.    

I shared forty-one recipes this year and all of them were simple, using 10 ingredients or less, with most being under five ingredients or less. Of those recipes, six recipes featured eggs, so about 15% of my recipes showcased the incredible edible egg. Funny enough, there were many times I wanted to share more egg dishes but felt as if I were sharing too many. Looking back, I could've shared a few more.

I'll be doing a roundup of my Top Favorite Recipes in 2017 later in the week, but for now, I'm going to round up all my egg dishes.  The year started with Heidi's Poached Eggs in White Wine, then after that I made Giada's Baked Gruyere and Sausage Omelet, followed by Jamie Oliver's Mexican-Inspired Breakfast Bowl, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Swiss Chard, Green Onion & Cheese Tart, Giada's Pan-Roasted Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg, and ended the year with Ina Garten's Herb-Baked Eggs. (click on the recipe titles to be directed to the original post) 

Out of all six egg dishes, Giada's Pan-Roasted Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg was hands down my personal favorite. I love flavor profile in this dish, along with the healthy dose of veggies, and the texture from the crispy egg and breadcrumbs. If I had to choose a second favorite, it would be Jamie Oliver's Mexican-Inspired Breakfast Bowl, simply because I tend to favor a Mexican flavor profile. The other egg dishes were all delicious, and I'd make them all again but let's face it...we all have our personal, and biased, favorites.

Saying that, Ina's Herb-Baked Eggs wins the award for being the most versatile egg dish in my roundup, and for that reason, it will be made over and over again in my kitchen. There are endless possibilities!

Ina's recipe consists of a handful of ingredients: eggs with a touch of cream, butter, garlic, parsley, thyme, and rosemary. Now, this version is perfectly delicious if you're in the mood for a mild egg dish. It was very satisfying with pieces of crusty toast, had a hint of garlic and herb flavor, and it was the epitome of easy to make. In fact, the ease of this dish makes it perfect for entertaining.

However, I think the fun of this dish is the endless possibilities! You can add just about anything to the baked eggs. Pieces of cooked meat (whatever you have leftover in the fridge: pot roast, sausage, bacon, ham, etc.); veggies of any variety (I'm mostly thinking a spinach and artichoke version would be the best); a variety of cheeses; a spicy version with chorizo, jalapeno, and red pepper flakes served with a warmed tortilla, or any other way you chose! You name it, you can make it! 

So while the other two egg dishes may have been my personal favorites, they were in no way my family's favorites. Since Ina's Baked Eggs can be customized to suit everyone's individual taste, and is about the easiest egg dish that can be made, this recipe is likely to be the real winner of the bunch!  Therefore, I encourage everyone to give it a try, making it your own with your favorite ingredients!

Happy New Year! I'll be back in 2018 with my Top Favorites of 2017, new #Foodgoals, and also to round out my 10th year of Stirring The Pot! Beginning January 2019, Stirring the Pot will turn 10 years old! Back in 2009, when I first started Stirring the Pot, I never imagined I would continue the blog this long and still be going strong ten years later. Very exciting!

Herb-Baked Eggs
Adapted from Food Network
 by Ina Garten
Serves 2-3

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper, to taste
Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.)

Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoons of cream and 1/2 tablespoon butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Weeknight Bolognese {Perfect For A Busy Christmas Eve}

When I'm looking for a helping hand this is my go-to dish. Ina makes a Weeknight Bolognese with a jar of crushed tomatoes and a few herbs and seasonings. While I'm sure her version is perfectly delicious, and easy, I use a jarred tomato sauce my family loves. This is a dish you can have on the table in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Even better, this dish is one of our all-time favorites so it's a win-win all around.

I make this dish with whatever I have on hand. More often than not I will use either ground pork or Italian sausage for my bolognese.  If I don't have that I'll go with ground beef or even ground lamb.  I also think this dish is perfectly good without the meat (even though it's not technically a bolognese then). If it's summertime and the herbs are fresh I throw those in. If not, I use an Italian seasoning blend that I love. We always spice ours up with plenty of red pepper flakes and I'll admit that I probably use a little more than the 1/4 cup of heavy cream Ina calls for in her recipe. I think the whole point is to make it your own.

For example, I rarely have red wine on hand since I prefer white, so I will usually sub a veggie, chicken, or beef broth in its place. Sometimes I add cheese to the sauce and sometimes we just serve it on top. Sometimes we don't even use Parmesan and opt for those cute little baby bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls). If so, I like to toss them into each bowl right before serving so they don't melt away in the hot pan.

I do feel like pasta choice is important here. While you could use any pasta in a pinch, this is best with small shapes like shells, or orecchiette, where the bits of meat and sauce can get inside of the pasta for the ultimate bite.

This quick bolognese is the perfect dish for my family this Christmas Eve. It's something we all know and love and it helps get me out of the kitchen faster so I can drink hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies with the family.  

A Very Merry Christmas to all!

Weeknight Bolognese
Adapted from How Easy Is That?
by Ina Garten
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra to cook the pasta
1 pound lean ground sirloin
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/2 an onion, minced*
1 tablespoon dried oregano*
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1-1/4 cups dry red wine, divided*
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes*
2 tablespoons tomato paste*
salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound dried pasta, small shells or orecchiette
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

*Notes: You can speed things up by using your favorite jarred sauce and using an Italian seasoning blend in place of the herbs and seasonings listed above. I do this on busy weeknights and also in the winter when fresh herbs aren't readily available. If you don't have the wine on hand, feel free to sub a good quality broth in its place.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and pepper stir until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box. 

While the pasta cook, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss well.  Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every Christmas my daughter and I make Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms, a classic peanut butter cookie with a Hershey kiss placed on top. My mom would make Buckeyes, a sugary peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. We would always laugh because these are by no means traditional Christmas cookies, but for us, it was all about the peanut butter and chocolate. Always.

This year things are so different. My daughter and I muddled our way through putting the Christmas tree up, something we always used to do with my mom. I was so proud of my daughter the way she strung all the extra lights and fussed over the branches, studying for openings and fixing them, like my mom always did. She even remembered the special way my mom hung the angel, using a ruler to anchor the angel to the tree, and I watched as she stepped back several times to make sure she was straight. We took special care to hang all the ornaments that we had made over the years, the same ones my mom had painstakingly saved, in all the places my mom liked them to be, right at the top of the tree. Front and center.

When we were finished we each went to our rooms and I cried. I was so very thankful for my daughter. She did all the things my mom used to do. All the things I'm not any good at. The things I didn't think I could do on my own. My extremely sassy 16-year-old, who constantly has headphones in her ear, saved Christmas; and, there wasn't a sassy bone in her body while she did it. I was so proud of her and I wanted to tell my mom how Olivia saved Christmas. I wanted to see that smile on my mom's face, the one she reserved for times like these when she was bursting with pride.

I don't know if we have it in us to make the Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms or the Buckeyes like my mom always did. If not this year, I know we will next year. But for now, we made something completely different. We made Ina's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies and they were delicious. Who doesn't love a peanut butter cookie with lots and lots of chocolate chips running throughout? Fluffy and chewy and full of chocolate, these were a hit at my house, and they definitely satisfy our peanut butter and chocolate craving. I know my mom would approve!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Makes about 4 dozen

1/2 pound butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature*
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter*
2-1/2 cups all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt*
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate chips*

Notes: My grocery didn't have extra large eggs so I used two regular large sized eggs with perfect results. You could easily use crunchy peanut butter, but I prefer creamy. These cookies needed a bit more salt and were bordering on needing a touch more granulated sugar. I'd taste your dough and add accordingly. One classic-sized bag of chocolate chips isn't enough. You'll need about one and a half bags.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer (this is some hefty dough), cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time. Add the peanut butter and the vanilla and mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the batter, mixing only until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet, using either a 1-3/4" ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands, flatten dough lightly. Bake for exactly 10 minutes (your time may be different). The key is to remove the cookies when they still look slightly wet on top and a little underdone. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lemon Drop Cocktail

From time to time I like to enjoy a little cocktail. Usually, I'll pour one of three things: Prosecco, Champagne, or Pinot Grigio. It's also likely there's some fruit involved: usually peaches, but sometimes strawberries or raspberries, lemon, orange, and on occasion, pomegranate seeds. I love the color the fruit adds, and let's face it, the fruit is a special treat after it's soaked up a bit of the alcohol.

This past fall I discovered a delicious little sipper. An Apple Cider Mimosa. It is the perfect fall drink: crisp, fresh, and sweet. It's so simple! Simply pour the desired amount of apple cider in the bottom of a champagne glass and top with either Prosecco or Champagne. Enjoy! The amount of apple cider is totally up to you and let me tell you....there is no way you can mess it up! It's an amazing drink. Perfect for ladies parties and brunches.

The store is no longer selling apple cider and the mills have closed, so I've been looking for a new go to drink. Of course, I wanted this drink to be something every bit as simple as my beloved Apple Cider Mimosa; but also, something that could be made with ingredients I typically have on hand. Ina's Lemon Drop Cocktail fits the bill perfectly. Three basic ingredients: vodka, lemon, and sugar. Easy enough, right? A pour of vodka, a quick squeeze of lemon, a dusting of sugar, a quick shake and you're ready to pour yourself a tasty glass of relaxation!

Now, full disclosure, this Lemon Drop Cocktail is way more potent than a glass of champagne! Most martinis are on the strong side, and after a few sips, this goes down fairly easy I enjoyed mine with a slice of lemon, orange, and a sprig of basil. The pretty colors on a cold winter day help to cheer me up!

Whether you're hosting a party, or simply unwinding from holiday chaos, this Lemon Drop Cocktail is a tasty and delightful way to relax.

Lemon Drop Cocktail
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Serves 6

2 cups frozen vodka
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 superfine sugar
thinly sliced lemon slices, for garnish
herbs, for garnish

Combine the vodka, lemon juice, and sugar and pour into a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into martini glasses and garnish with lemon slices.  

It's 5 o'clock Somewhere!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

16 Bean Pasta e Fagioli

This "16 bean" pasta e fagioli beckoned to me from the pages of Ina Garten's Cooking For Jeffrey. A simple peasant soup full of all the things I love: tomatoes, beans, and pasta. It screams of comfort food.

So, on a blustery winter day, I gathered my ingredients and set about preparing this soup. This recipe takes some forethought, namely soaking the beans overnight. If you forget, like me, you can do the quick-soak method (thanks Deb). After soaking, this recipe does take quite a bit of time. The beans cook an hour and you have to watch, skimming off foam. When they're done it's time to get out the food mill, or in my case, the blender.  One-third of the beans gets pureed so as to thicken the soup. Then you have to add all the beans, and pasta, back to the pot and cook the soup for another 30 minutes.

Do you see where I'm going with this? This soup takes forethought, quite a bit of work, and results in lots of dirty dishes. No problem, right? After all, I love all the ingredients and this soup is definitely going to be great.

Wrong. So wrong. I wish I didn't have to say this, but my soup was really mild. Way too mild. In fact, my husband's comment was "this has no flavor at all." I had to agree with him. Baffled, I explained how I added bacon, extra onions and garlic, loads of red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and topped it off with a little drizzle of some really nice extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.  Normally, these ingredients always deliver flavor. This time they did not.

Every once in awhile I have a kitchen failure, but I don't mind because I usually learn something helpful. This one leaves me wondering. What was the lesson? Was it the brand of beans? Were they old? Was it because I didn't soak my beans overnight? Maybe the quick-soak worked to make them tender but perhaps they just didn't soak up enough water? Maybe the quick-soak method affected the flavor profile of the soup? Maybe when you quick-soak you need to add xyz.... to help make up for something. Maybe it's something else altogether.

Either way, this recipe is a no go for us. Don't be afraid to give it a try though because I know a few others who have really enjoyed it! But, do me a favor, soak your beans overnight!

"16 Bean" Pasta e Fagioli
Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 6-8

1 (1-pound) bag Goya 16 Bean Soup Mix*
2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for serving
6 ounces pancetta, 1/4-inch-dice, or bacon*
1 large onion, chopped*
1 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)*
red pepper flakes, to taste*
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine*
4 to 6 cups good chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup miniature pasta, such as ditalini or tubettini
1/2 cup freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar*
Julienned fresh basil leaves, for serving

Note: My grocery didn't have the Goya brand bean mix so I bought an equiavalent. I used bacon in place of pancetta, added extra garlic and onions, about a tablespoon or more of red pepper flakes, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a good amount of salt and pepper. I didn't add the red wine but replaced the liquid with chicken stock. The red wine vinegar did help to wake up the flavors, but unfortaunely not enough.

The day before you plan to make the soup, place the bean mix in a large bowl, add cold water to cover by 2 inches, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, drain the beans, rinse under cold running water, and drain again. Place the beans in a large pot with 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally and skim off any foam that rises to the top. The beans should be very tender and the skin will peel away when you blow on them.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium (10-inch) stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and onion and saute over medium to medium high heat for 12 to 18 minutes, until browned. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for one minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, 4 cups of the chicken stock, salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

Drain the beans and add two-thirds of them to the soup. Pass the remaining beans through a food mill, discarding the skins. Stir the bean puree and the pasta into the soup, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender. Add up to 2 more cups of chicken stock if the soup is too thick. Stir in the Parmesan and the vinegar. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and add a swirl of olive oil,a sprinkle of Parmesan, and some basil. Serve hot with extra Parmesan on the side.