Friday, April 30, 2010

Week 35: Shepherd's Pie

I'm not sure what made me want to make this. I'd guess, though, it was the mashed potato topping that sealed the deal. And, the fact that it's another potato recipe. It is, after all, potato week around here.

Shepherd's Pie
Taken from Everyday Food
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

1 lb baking potatoes (peeled and sliced)
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 medium carrots, halved and thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, thiny sliced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 pound ground beef
1/2 C whole milk
3/4 C shredded sharp white cheddar (3 oz), divided

Preheat oven to 450.

Boil potatoes in salted water until easily pierced with fork, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook carrots, celery, and onions in vegetable oil until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring 6 to 8 minutes until no longer pink. Add 1 C water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set filling aside.

Drain potatoes. Return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; add milk and 1/2 C cheese. Mash until smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Pour filling in to 9 x 9 baking dish. Drop potatoes over filling; spread to edges of pan with spatula. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C cheese.

Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

My notes:
This was good, and it made great left-overs. Brad and I had a long time while we were eating it about what other vegetables we could add. Corn, probably.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Week 35: Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes on Monday. Potatoes again today. Too bad I don't have the power to declare national holidays; I would declare this week to be week of the potato.

A local restaurant makes the most amazing garlic, cream cheese mashed potatoes. (They have great martinis, too, which, oddly enough, go really well with the aforementioned mashed potatoes.) These potatoes are the potatoes against which each recipe I try at home is judged.

This recipe is the closest I've gotten.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Taken from Pioneer Woman Cooks (p. 146 - 148)
Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
6 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp butter (optional), softened
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 (or slightly more) C half-and-half
1/4 tsp season salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a slow boil over medium-high heat.

Peel potatoes and rinse in cold water. Chop in halves and/or fourths for quick and even cooking. Add potatoes to pot. Increase heat to high and bring to full boil. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes. The potatoes are ready when they are poked easily with a fork.

Drain potatoes. Return to pot on low heat.

Mash potatoes over low heat until steam escapes. Continue mashing about 2 minutes or until all lumps are gone. Turn off heat.

Add butter and cream cheese. Add half-and-half. Stir.

Add seasonings and adjust to taste.

Spread potatoes in 1-quart baking dish. Add 2 Tbsp sliced butter (optional). Bake covered at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

My notes:

I realize that the picture I included is terrible. Don't let it cloud your judgment. Potatoes just aren't particularly photogenic. These potatoes are perfect in every way.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Week 35: Roasted Potato Wedges

The week has gotten off to a crazy start, so this is the very best I can offer you. Roasted Potato Wedges - a recipe and a really terrible picture.

Roasted Potato Wedges
from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Serves 2

Potatoes (Russets, 4 medium-sized)
1/4 C olive oil
2 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash potatoes. Cut potatoes into wedges.

Toss with oil, butter, salt, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and parsley.

Toast for 15 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Shake around. Stir.

Roast for another 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

My notes:

Combine all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Add the potatoes and toss. I didn't do this. I mixed it all on the pan which resulted in lots of extra olive oil and butter sitting on the pan, smoking up my oven. Super quick and easy side dish.

I'm always looking for side dishes - healthy, easy side dishes. I will add this to my permanent rotation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Week 34: Chewy Chocolate Brownies

I love chocolate. What's there not to love? I wouldn't say, though, that I'm a really huge fan of brownies. I couldn't resist this recipe, though.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies
Taken from Cooks Illustrated
March / April 2010 (p. 23)

1/3 C Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp boiling water
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 C sugar
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 tsp salt
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2" pieces

Begin by preparing 9 x 13 pan. Cut 18" length foil and fold lengthwise to 8" width. Fit foil into length of pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14" length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk cocoa and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 90 minutes. (If using glass pan, only cool in pan for 10 minutes.)

Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely for about 1 hour. Cut into 2" squares and serve.

My Notes:
The recipe suggested adding 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso along with the cocoa powder to the boiling water. I didn't this time but would in the future.

These beg to be eaten with glass of cold milk or, better yet, vanilla ice cream. AMAZING!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Week 34: BBQ Meatballs

I'm pretty die-hard about in my thinking about meatballs. Italian meatballs are the only real meatballs. Don't get me wrong - I'll eat Swedish meatballs or BBQ meatballs, but I firmly believe that Italian meatballs are the best. Nevertheless, I tried this recipe.

BBQ Meatballs
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Servings: 6

1 1/2 lb ground beef
3/4 C oats
1 C milk
3 Tbsp finely minced onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste

1 C flour (coating for frozen meatballs)
Canola Oil

1 C ketchup
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
4 Tbsp finely minced onion
1 dash Tabasco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer for five minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour.

Brown meatballs in canola oil until just brown. Place into a baking dish.

Combine all sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or crusty French bread.

My notes:
We had this as a main dish, but it would make a great appetizer. I never know what to take to a party and am glad to have this new idea.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week 34: Macaroni and Cheese

I always thought macaroni and cheese was hard to make. The noodles are easy enough to cook; it was the sauce that freaked me out. But, once I made a batch I realized just how easy it is and haven't gone back to Kraft since.

Macaroni and Cheese
Taken from: Pioneer Woman
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: 6

4 C dried macaroni
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
2 1/2 C whole milk
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 whole egg, beaten
1 lb cheese, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Optional spices: Cayenne pepper

Cook macaroni until very firm. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add salts and pepper. Adjust to taste.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.

Serve immediately (very creamy).

Or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

We ate this with Pioneer Woman's BBQ meatballs.

And some steamed broccoli.

And some wine.

My notes:
This was WAY TOO MUCH food. It was tough to think about cutting it in half, though, because it used an egg. I never know how to half recipes that have an egg in them. Also, I would cut back on the mustard next time. The original recipe called for 2 tsp dried mustard. It was too much. Oh, I used cheddar cheese - half white cheddar and half regular cheddar. It would be fun, though, to play around with different types of cheese. The verdict? Liked it. Will make again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Week 34: Carrot Cake (belated Easter)

I've been meaning to share this for awhile. I got distracted by the pizza, though.

Here's the cake I made for Easter. . . .

I have an incredibly complicated carrot cake recipe from my great uncle involving pineapple and raisins and coconut and shredded carrots and lots and lots of mixing. Needless to say, I was a little skeptical of this carrot cake recipe - it doesn't have hardly any ingredients. It did not, however, disappoint.

Taken from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Servings: 12

2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
4 whole eggs
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 C grated carrots

1 stick regular butter, softened
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 C pecans, chopped

Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add to first mixture and combine. Then add carrots and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured pan (bundt, sheet cake, 9 x 13 pyrex) and bake until done, 25 to 50 minutes, depending on the pan you use.

(I used two circle pans. It still took close to 50 minutes to cook.)

Cool completely.

In larger bowl, cream butter and cream cheese. Add sugar and vanilla and blend, then mix in the nuts. Spread on cooled carrot cake.

I doubled the frosting recipe, ate many spoonfuls, and still had lots and lots left-over.

My notes:

This recipe is a keeper. I think it may have replaced my great-uncle's stand-by simply because it's way easier.

My mom was awfully proud of herself; she taught Luke to stick his fingers in the frosting and lick them off. Guess the cake really was irresistible.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week 33: Chocolate PB Cupcakes

My mouth is watering even as I type this. These cupcakes are seriously delicious. I took them to a friend's for dessert. It's possible that she told her four-year-old daughter not to wipe the frosting off the table because we "could use it." Then, she wiped it up and licked it off her own fingers.

Seriously delicious, I tell you.

Originally published in Cook's Illustrated (May 2010)
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ganache Filling
2 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
1/4 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp powdered sugar

Place chocolate, cream, and powdered sugar in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
3 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
1/3 C Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 C hot coffee
3/4 C bread flour
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan with baking-cup liners.

Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake.

Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.

PB Frosting

Makes 2 1/4 C (just enough to pipe 12 cupcakes)

Notes: The frosting can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. When ready to frost, place frosting in a microwave-safe container and warm briefly on high power until just slightly softened, 5 to 10 seconds. Once warmed, stir until creamy.

1/2 C granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1/8 tsp table salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C creamy peanut butter

Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.) Once all butter is added, add vanilla and peanut butter; mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

My notes:
It's a good thing this recipe only makes 12 cupcakes because these are not something that can just "be" in the same room as me. They demand to be eaten.

I also think would be fun to garnish the cupcakes with Reese's pieces. I didn't have any on hand.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Week 33: Barbecue Chicken Pizza

I'm usually pretty traditional and habitual about my pizza (sausage and mushroom), but I wanted to try something a little different.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

taken from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Prep Time: 2 Hours
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Servings: 12 (2 large pizzas)

1 whole recipe For pizza crust (makes 2 crusts)
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 C barbecue sauce
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt, for sprinkling
16 oz (weight) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
1/2 whole red onion, cut in half and sliced very thin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Salt chicken breasts on both sides, then place in an ovenproof dish. Pour BBQ sauce over the breasts and turn them over to coat. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove from oven and cut into a fine dice. Set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.

Roll/stretch out one pizza crust. Lay it on a sheet pan drizzled with olive oil. Drizzle a little olive oil on the crust, then sprinkle on a little salt.

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of extra BBQ sauce on the crust and spread it evenly. Top sauce with half the sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle on half the diced chicken and thinly sliced red onion.

Sprinkle again with a little salt, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are bubbly.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle on plenty of chopped cilantro. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Repeat with other crust and other ingredients, or save for another time.

My Notes:
We only made one pizza but still used the amounts of chicken, cheese, onion, and barbecue sauce listed above. What can I say? We like our pizza covered with stuff.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Week 33: Pizza Dough

I have a cooking crush on Ree Drummond. And, I'm terrified of cooking with yeast; it just never goes my way. But, I trust Ree. So, I tried her pizza dough recipe with great success.

Pizza Dough

Taken shamelessly from Pioneer Woman Cooks
(Also in her cookbook)

Makes 2 large pizza crusts (12 servings)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Wait time: 1-2 hours or overnight

1 tsp instant or active dry yeast
1 1/2 C warm water
4 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 C olive oil

Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. Let stand for a few minutes.

In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined, and the dough comes together in a sticky mass.

Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside for 1 to 2 hours, or store in the fridge until you need it.

When you are ready to make the pizza, grab HALF the pizza dough (recipe makes 2 crusts) and squeeze the dough toward the bottom to form a nice, tight, pulled ball. You can roll out the pizza with a rolling pin if you’d like, but sometimes it’s just as easy to throw it around and pull and stretch till it feels right. And when the crust is nice and thin, lay it on an oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and spread it with your fingers. Very lightly sprinkle some salt on the crust.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Top your crust with your toppings of choice. Then bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and toppings are bubbly.

Note: The dough is good for up to 3-4 days.

Now, for your viewing pleasure. . . I used the pizza dough to make a special dinner with Natalie and Katelyn. They each made their own small pizza - plenty of germs included.

Later in the week. . . the same pizza dough for a grown-up pizza.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week 33: Risotto with Chicken, Spinach, Lemon, Leeks, and Garlic

I love risotto. I really do. And, this one made me think of spring. It was really, really green.

Taken from Cook's Illustrated (published May 2010)

Makes 6 side dish servings

5 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 C water
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, each cut in half crosswise
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium leek , finely chopped white and light green parts
Table salt
3 large garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 C Arborio rice
1 C dry white wine
2 oz grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 tsp juice from 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
Ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach , thawed and squeezed of excess moisture

Bring broth and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer.

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to saucepan of simmering broth and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to large plate.

Once chicken has cooled, remove and discard skin and bones from chicken, and shred meat into bite-size pieces.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to now empty Dutch oven set over medium heat. When butter has melted, add leek and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek is softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.

Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Ladle in the simmering chicken broth 1 C at a time, stirring often. Let the rice absorb most of the broth before adding the next cup, usually about 5 minutes between additions.

Stir in Parmesan.

Gently stir shredded chicken, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, lemon juice, parsley, and chives into risotto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

My notes:
I will definitely make this again.

I had a hard time getting the chicken to cook before I needed the broth; it took way more than the 15 minutes listed in the recipe. But, I just realized I didn't cut the chicken in half - like the recipe suggested.

The lemon tasted absolutely fabulous in here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Week 32: Tiramisu

My favorite local restaurant makes an amazing tiramisu. It comes in an adorable individual serving all dolled up in a parfait dish. I've seriously considered washing dishes at the restaurant just to get the recipe.

This recipe isn't quite the same as Carmella's, but it was worth a try. And, it's a great treat for a Friday.

Taken from Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond

Prep Time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 4 Hours
Servings: 8

1 package (7 Oz.) Savoiardi Or ladyfingers
5 whole egg yolks
1/4 C + 4 Tbsp sugar, divided
1/4 C Marsala wine, divided
1 pound Mascarpone cheese, softened (room temperature)
1 C heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 C VERY strong coffee
1 Tbsp vanilla
Cocoa powder, For dusting

Note: Cook time is actually chill time in the refrigerator.

Put 5 egg yolks into double-boiler. Add 1/4 cup sugar and whisk until pale yellow in color. Add 1/2 cup Marsala wine gradually, whisking constantly as you do. Cook over the simmering water, scraping the sides and bottom occasionally for 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes, or until cool.

Place Mascarpone cheese in a bowl and stir until smooth. In a mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and remaining 4 tablespoons sugar. Whip until soft peaks form. To the bowl of whipped cream, add the softened Mascarpone cheese and the chilled Zabaglione (the egg yolk mixture). Fold mixture gently. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Measure 1 1/2 cups VERY strong coffee. Add remaining 1/4 cup Marsala and 1 Tbsp vanilla. Arrange the Savoiardi or ladyfingers in a single layer in a 9 x 13 pan. Spoon 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the coffee mixture over each ladyfinger. Plop 1/3 of the cold cream/mascarpone/zabaglione mixture on top and spread it into a layer. Sprinkle a thin layer of cocoa powder. Repeat the process two more times.

Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. This allows for more moisture to soften the cookies and the whole mixture to meld together. To serve, spoon out helpings onto individual plates.

Note: Tiramisu does not last beyond 24 to 36 hours, as everything eventually starts to break down and become soupy.

My notes:
Next time I will make individual servings in parfait dishes, and I will add some coarsely chopped dark chocolate for a little crunch and flavor. It was delicious, though, a perfect combination of coffee and liquor.