Thursday, May 27, 2010

Week 39: Spring Couscous

I'm not a huge fan of couscous. It usually tastes dry and has kind of a weird texture. I thought I'd try this, though, to see what the couscous tasted like mixed with lots of other stuff. Also, the recipe reminded me a little of risotto, except way healthier and faster. I was happy with the final product.

Spring Couscous
Adapted from Everyday Food, May 2010 (p. 94)

Makes 4 servings
Prep and Cook time: 15 minutes

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 scallions, sliced thinly
Zest and juice of one lemon, separated
Salt and Pepper
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
3/4 C frozen peas
1-1/4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1-package (5.9 oz) Near East Parmesan couscous
1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 Tbsp dried parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring constantly, until softened (approximately 3 minutes). Add the lemon zest and the broth and season with a little salt and pepper.

2. Bring to a boil, then add the asparagus and peas. Return to boiling and stir in the couscous and the chicken.

3. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the lemon juice and the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Week 39: Sundried Tomato Risotto

I love risotto. Sigh. It's actually something that I'd much rather have at home than at a restaurant. Rare.

I wasn't going to try this one because I have a sundried tomato fear - it's something about the shape and the color and the texture. But, I pulverized these in the food processor before I tossed them in the risotto and let them cook for 60 minutes. Fear cured.

Sundried Tomato Risotto
Taken from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Servings: 10

4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 whole large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 C Arborio rice, uncooked
8 whole sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and minced
1 C dry white whine
7 C low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and pepper, as needed
1 C Parmesan, freshly grated
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
Dried basil

Heat broth in a saucepan. Set aside.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add dry rice. Stir to coat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring gently.

Pour in wine. Stir and cook over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add in minced sundried tomatoes and stir.

Then begin adding broth, one cup at a time, stirring gently while the rice absorbs the liquid each time. Repeat this until the rice is done—it usually takes between 6 and 8 cups of broth. The rice should have a slight bite to it, but not be crunchy at all.

Remove from heat, then stir in Parmesan and heavy cream. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

My notes:
This really did take then entire 60 minutes to cook. It was slow to soak up the broth - maybe because I used a pot that was way too small (2.75 quarts was not enough space).

We ate this with salmon (flavored with Italian seasoning) and steamed broccoli. Next time, I'd serve it with a different colored meat. The salmon was too close in color to the risotto. Just me being strange.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Week 38: Snickers Bars

Em sent me this recipe. She does that. She sends recipes and says, "I think you should make this." And, I do almost every time. And, she's right almost every time. Thanks Em.

Note - I don't usually measure ingredients by weight, but I did for this recipe. It made things much easier and more precise.

Taken from Instructables Living

14 oz milk chocolate (about 2 C chips) divided in half
3.5 oz  (1/2 cup) butterscotch chips, divided in half
192 g (3/4 cup) creamy peanut butter, divided into 3 parts (1/4 cup, 64g each)
5 1/2 Tbsp butter (divided: 4 Tbsp and 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1 C sugar
1/2 C evaporated milk, divided in half
156 g (1 1/2 C) marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 C salted peanuts, chopped (or substitute nuts of your choice)
1 lb chewy caramels 

Line a 9 x 13" pan with waxed paper or plastic wrap, making sure there's plenty of extra draped over the sides and ends of the pan.  Don't skip this step or your delicious and beautiful Snickers Bars will never ever leave your 9 x 13" pan.

Layer 1: Chocolate
Combine 7 oz chocolate (1 C chips), 1.75 oz butterscotch (1/4 C chips), and 64 g (1/4 C) peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 20-second increments, stirring each time, until all ingredients melt together smoothly. Pour into your pan, and spread in an even layer. Put the pan in the fridge or freezer to set.

Layer 2: Nougat
Combine 4 Tbsp butter, 1 C sugar, and 1/4 C evaporated milk in a small heavy-bottomed pot. Heat on low until the mixture melts, mixes, and starts to bubble.  Stir as necessary. Remove from heat, and add 1 tsp vanilla, 64 g (1/4 C) peanut butter, and 1.5 C (156 grams) marshmallow fluff. Stir until all ingredients are melted and smoothly combined, then let it cool slightly. Pour into your pan on top of the chocolate, and spread in an even layer. Put the pan back into the freezer to set.

Layer 3: Caramel and Peanuts
Combine 1/4 C evaporated milk, 1 1/2 Tbsp butter, and pound of caramels in the (cleaned) small pot. Heat on low, stirring frequently, until the caramels have melted into the milk and butter.  Melt slowly over low heat and stir. Follow the directions or it will burn. Coarsely chop the 1.5 cup peanuts, and stir into the caramel. Pour caramel/peanut mixture into your pan, and spread in an even layer. Stick the pan back in the freezer to set.

Layer 4: More Chocolate
Melt 7 oz milk chocolate (1 C), 1.75 oz (1/4 C) butterscotch chips, and 64g peanut butter (1/4 C) as described in initial step. Pour into your pan, and spread in an even layer on top of the caramel. Put the pan back in the freezer to set.

Remove pan from the freezer, and lift up the waxed paper or plastic to remove the treats. Deposit your block on a cutting board. Use a sharp, heavy kitchen knife to cut the rough edges offf your block, making the edges nice and square and tidy. Cut strips across your block.  These should be the desired width of your finished Snickers bars. Cut across your strips, setting the length of your finished Snickers bars.  (I cut about 1" square pieces.) Return to the freezer while slicing, as necessary. These slice much easier when cold.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

My Notes:
I made this for a potluck at work. Everyone loved it! It will be part of my regular rotation of desserts, especially for large events. It made many, many little squares of deliciousness.

I'm not sure if my nougat layer set quite right. It remained really soft, and the bars had to be chilled to be served.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Week 38: Zucchini, Tomato, and Ricotta Pasta

I love, love, love zucchini. That was the impetus for this choice. That and the totally failed pasta recipe from earlier in the week.

Zucchini, Cherry Tomato, and Fresh Ricotta Pasta
Taken from Cooking Light

Makes 2 servings
Prep and Cook time: Less than 30 minutes

3 C whole milk
1/2 C buttermilk
3 1/2 tsp salt, divided
8 oz uncooked fettuccine
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
3 C cherry tomatoes, halved

To make about 1/2 C fresh ricotta:
Combine milk and buttermilk in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; drain. Place milk solids in a small bowl; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Toss gently to combine.

Prepare fettuccine noodles according to package directions.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add zucchini; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently; stir in tomatoes. Combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, pasta, and tomato mixture in a large bowl; toss. Top with ricotta.

This was light and fresh tasting, but it didn't have a lot of flavor. To make it a little livelier, I would suggest: use flavored fettuccine noodles (like peppercorn), increase portions of zucchini, tomato, and garlic to the amounts listed above, and top with some Parmesan.

Also, I have to comment on how easy it was to make the ricotta. It freaked me out a little when I initially read the recipe, but I'm glad I tried it. It dirtied an extra pot but didn't add much time or prep to the cooking process. If you want to substitute store-bought ricotta, you'll need about 1/2 C.

Also, I made this as a main course dish for myself. It's enough for two main course servings. Next time around, I would use it as a side dish with grilled chicken, salmon, or steak.

There will be a next time, though.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 38: Artichoke and Sausage Pasta

I don't care much for artichokes, but they seem like such a fun and sophisticated food that I am trying to make myself like them. Thus, an artichoke pasta dish.

Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Taken from Giada di Laurentiis

Makes 6 servings
Prep and cook time is about 40 minutes

3/4 C drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
2 Tbsp of oil from sun-dried tomatoes, reserved
1 lb Italian hot sausages, casings removed
2 (8 oz) packages frozen artichoke hearts
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 3/4 C chicken broth
1/2 C dry white wine
16 oz fusilli pasta
1/2 C shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
1/3 C chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 C chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
8 oz water-packed fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.

Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse).

Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve, passing the additional Parmesan cheese alongside.

My notes:
I won't be making this one again. There just wasn't much flavor; I'm choosing to blame that on water that seeped out of the frozen artichokes. Oddly enough, Brad loved it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Week 37: French Silk Pie

I love French Silk Pie from Baker's Square. Our Baker's Square closed. That means no more French Silk Pie for me. So, I decided to make my own, and it was almost the death of me.

Taken from: Cook's Country (sample edition, 2010, p. 27)
Serves 8 to 10

1 C heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 C sugar
2 Tbsp water
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces and softened
1 (9") pie shell, baked and cooled

With electric mixer on medium-speed, whip cream to stiff peaks, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl and refrigerate.

Combine eggs, sugar, and water in large heatproof bowl set over medium saucepan filled with 1/2" barely simmering water (don't let water touch bowl). With electric mixer on medium speed, beat until egg mixture is thickened and registers 160 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat egg mixture until fluffy and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Add chocolate and vanilla to cool egg mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. Using spatula, fold in whipped cream until no streaks of white remain. Scrape filling into pie shell and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

Serve with whipped cream.

My Notes:
The step that involved beating the eggs, sugar, and water over simmering water did not work at all. I dumped the first batch and beat the second batch for about 30 minutes. I still don't think the pie turned out to be the right consistency. It still tasted good, though.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Week 37: Corn and Chicken Chowder

It's still cold here. No sandals or capris for this girl! Bring on the soup. . .

This soup was a totally new experience for me. The only kind of chowder I've ever had is clam chowder. I made it for a Sunday lunch with BLTs.

Corn and Chicken Chowder
taken from Noble Pig

Makes 4 servings
Prep and Cook Time: Less than 30 minutes

12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 fresh ears of sweet corn
1 32 oz. container chicken broth
1 small green sweet pepper, chopped
1 C whole milk
1-3/4 C instant mashed potato flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper, optional

In a Dutch oven combine chicken, corn and broth. Cover; bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat. Simmer 12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken and corn to cutting board.

Add half the sweet pepper to broth in Dutch oven. Stir in milk and potato flakes (if you want the chowder thicker, continue adding potato flakes in 1/4 cup increments until you get to your desired thickness).

Shred chicken using two forks. Return chicken to Dutch oven.

Using a kitchen towel to hold hot corn, cut kernels from cobs. Place corn in Dutch oven; heat through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with remaining sweet pepper and crushed red pepper.

My notes:

I've never really thought of soup as a summer food, but this tasted like summer. It would taste even more like summer with fresh corn from the farmers' market (instead of frozen cobs of corn).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week 37: Pasta Fagioli Soup

Soup is one of my favorite weekend meals. It can cook in the morning, be enjoyed for lunch, and eaten for lunch the rest of the week.

Josie recommended this one to me when I bought a new soup pot, and it's been unseasonably cold here. It actually snowed the past few nights. I can't think of a better time to bust out some soup.

Pasta Fagioli Soup
Taken from Creating Post It Notes

Makes about 5.5 quarts
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 70 minutes

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
3 links turkey Italian sausage, mild, removed of casing
5 C reduced sodium beef broth
1 jar spaghetti sauce (1 lb, 10 oz)
2 cans (16 oz each) cannellini beans (do not drain)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 tsp oregano
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
8 oz ditalini pasta, uncooked

In a soup pot, heat a little olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf and saute for a minute. Do no let the garlic burn.

Add the sausage and cook. As it cooks, break the sausage apart.

When the sausage is almost cooked, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Stir well and cook until onions are almost translucent.

Add the broth and spaghetti sauce. Then add the beans and tomatoes (liquid and all!). Stir well and bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for about an hour, if not longer.

30 minutes before serving, put a pot of water onto boil and cook ½ a box of ditalini pasta (short macaroni) according to the directions on the package. Drain well and add to the soup.

Stir well and let sit for 10 minutes or so. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Ladle and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

My notes:
This turned into a "stoup" after the first day, but it still tasted great. I ate it with french bread and a salad. Into my regular rotation of soups.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Week 36: Tequila Lime Chicken Marinade

Like I said earlier this week, I'm always looking for great marinades to make my chicken taste like something more than just chicken.

This one was delicious, especially with Brad's mad grilling skills.

I served this with some Spanish Rice (from a box) and steamed green beans - nothing special.

Tequila Lime Chicken Marinade

Taken from Ina Garten for Food Network

Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinate time: Overnight
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1/2 C gold tequila
1 C freshly squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 limes)
1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp minced fresh jalapeno pepper (1 pepper seeded)
1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (3 cloves)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 whole (6 split) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. Combine the tequila, lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken breasts. Refrigerate overnight.

2. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade, sprinkle well with salt and pepper, and grill them for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through.

3. Remove from the grill to a plate. Cover tightly and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

My Notes:
This is another recipe that I will make again and again. It would go great with margaritas!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 36: Asian Pork Marinade

I'm always looking for great marinades. The truth is. . . I really prefer that my meat not taste like meat, and a good marinade seems to do the trick.

Angie found this one. We tried it first at her house, and I cooked it up another time at home (with Brad the grill expert handling the actual cooking).

I served it on this particular night with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and some steamed broccoli.

Asian Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin
Taken from Anne Burrell, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef

Prep time: 10 minutes
Marinating time: 24 hours
Cook time: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

3/4 C soy sauce
1/2 C rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp hot chili sauce (sambal oelek)
1 tsp dried ginger 1
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 scallion, both green and white parts, thinly sliced
1 orange, zested
4 pork tenderloins


1. Combine the soy, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce, ginger, garlic, scallions and orange zest in a bag or marinating container. Add the pork and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Remove the pork from the container, put the marinade in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and reserve it for drizzling over the pork when serving. *WARNING: This liquid MUST be brought to a boil to kill any bacteria from raw meat juices.

3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

4. Place pork on the preheated grill. Brown it on all sides then move it to a cooler part of the grill to cook it to desired doneness, about 10 to 12 minutes.

5. Remove the pork from the grill to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice the pork on the bias and place on a serving platter. Serve drizzled with the reserved boiled soy marinade.

My Notes:
This is officially part of my regular rotations of marinades.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Week 35: Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

Because I don't make cookies nearly enough.

And because cookies with oatmeal and raisins must be healthy.

And because there has been all-together too many potatoes around here this week.

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa on Foodnetwork

Bake time: 25 minutes
Makes 30 - 35 cookies

1 1/2 C pecans
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 C dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 C granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 C old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 C raisins
2 C milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the oats, raisins, pecans, and chocolate chips and mix just until combined.

Drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

My notes:
These needed to sit on the pan and cool for several minutes before they could be moved to the cooling rack. Any attempts to move them right away resulted in cookies that were crumbled and had to be eaten immediately!

And, it has to be said that these really were best eaten right away. Even sealed in an air-tight container, the cookies got really crunchy really fast. They don't keep in a tasty way for more than a couple of days.