Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

How can something so simple taste so good?
This recipe was fast and fudgey- exactly what was needed for a chocolate craving. One bowl, one spoon, no muss and no fuss. The peanut butter icing was the perfect pair for these cupcakes (and very easy to pipe.)
Next time, I'll try melting white chocolate chips and chocolate peanut butter chips, and drizzle them on top for a fancy look. You can even place some sprinkles on top for a festive look! I love fudge brownies, so I may try making them as brownie cupcakes (and not cake-like brownies). The peanut butter cup can easily be replaced with white chocolate chips, chopped up Snickers or even Heath bars. You can't mess these up!!!

A tip I learned: Don't overfill the muffin tin too full or your brownie cupcakes will turn out like this:

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
18-1/2 oz package chewy fudge brownie mix
12-oz package peanut butter chips or 24 miniature peanut butter cups

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 regular muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.
2. Prepare the brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies.
3. Fill the cups half full with brownie batter. (Using a cookie scoop was very helpful in this step.)
4. Place about 1 Tbsp peanut butter chips in the center of the batter, or press 1 peanut butter cup into the batter in each muffin cup until the batter meets the top edge of the peanut butter cup.

Fill the muffin wells 1/2-3/4 way full. The brownie should be at the top edge of the muffin well after you placed the peanut butter cup:

5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are set.

6. When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: (24) mini-cupcakes

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

1. Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work.
2. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Source: Brownie cupcake from Paula Deen; Peanut Butter Icing from Ina Garten


Beef Stroganoff

While my DB and I can just about agree on everything regarding food, beef is not one of them (he loves it, I don't care for it). Thus, I tend to lean towards recipes that we both enjoy- poultry, pork, and fish. The interesting thing is- while I don't care for beef/steak products, I do love the flavor that beef imparts. Since it has recently become quite chilly, I have been longing to make warm, comfort foods. I love beef stroganoff (minus the beef- I'll use it but will pick around it) for its delicious mushroom-beef sauce that it comes in. We haven't had any red meat in our rotation recently, so I wanted to try a recipe. This recipe includes creme fraiche, which is similar to sour cream but milder, sweeter, and thicker in texture. Creme fraiche is ideal since it will not break down ("curdle") when simmered in sauces. (I purchased this at Trader Joe's for $3.59.) My DB loved this dish- I just gave him all my beef, and he gave me all his mushrooms- a fair trade, if you ask me. The sauce was FANTASTIC!!!! So flavorful, rich, and warmed our souls. While egg noodles are widely used in this recipe, I prefer rice or crusty bread since it absorbs the sauce so well.

3 Tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 lb. top sirloin, cut into thin strips about 1" wide and 2" long
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and light green portions only, cleaned and finely chopped (Used 2 medium onions)
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced (Used baby bellas)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups beef stock
1/3 cup crème fraîche
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.
2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
3. Add half of the beef strips (do not overcrowd the pan) and sauté until nicely browned but still a little pinkish on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 Tbsp of the oil and the remaining meat.
4. In the same pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil.
5. Add the leeks and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned, about 5 minutes more.
7. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until blended in, about 1 minute.
9. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to incorporate.
10. Add the stock and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium. 11. Add the crème fraîche, mustard and lemon juice and cook for 1 minute more to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
12. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and cook just until the beef is heated through, about 2 minutes.
13. Garnish with parsley and a dollop of creme fraiche (or sour cream), and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Serving Tip: Stroganoff, though not technically a braise, has a similar consistency when finished. It is traditionally served over wide egg noodles.

Source: Williams-Sonoma

Monday, September 28, 2009


When Rachel and I were deciding what food to make for our Spanish Feast, we both knew right away that paella would be our main entree. This was amazing! The rice was light, fluffy, and flavorful from our various meats and seafood baking in the same large pot. We were somewhat intimated to make this due to the long list of ingredients, but it was not difficult at all... just a lot of steps but well worth it in the long run, I promise you. It is a great comfort meal with everything I love in 1 pot- chicken, chorizo, seafood, rice, and vegetables. Saffron threads can be $$, but I purchased mine at Trader Joe's for $6.99- so much cheaper than Kroger. Soccarat, a layer of toasted, crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In this version, soccarat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven, but the directions below show you how you can achieve this crust; if you don't want to, just skip this step and move forward with the next step. This dish was DIVINE, and was excellent even as leftovers.

1-lb extra-large shrimp (21/25), peeled and deveined
Olive oil
8-9 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 Tbsp)
1-lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each thigh trimmed of excess fat and halved crosswise
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut pole to pole into 1/2"-wide strips
8-oz dry-cured Spanish chorizo, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
14-1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Valencia rice or Arborio
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp saffron threads, crumbled
1 bay leaf
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 lemon , cut into wedges, for serving

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Toss shrimp, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp oil, and 1 tsp garlic in medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
3. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.
4. Heat 2 tsp oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.
5. Add peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer peppers to small plate and set aside.
6. Add 1 tsp oil to now-empty Dutch oven; heat oil until shimmering but not smoking. 7. Add chicken pieces in single layer; cook, without moving pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes.
8. Turn pieces and brown on second side, about 3 minutes longer; transfer chicken to medium bowl.
9. Reduce heat to medium and add chorizo to pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chorizo to bowl with chicken and set aside.
10. Add enough oil to fat in Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking.
11. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
12. Stir in tomatoes; cook until mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes.
14. Stir in rice and cook until grains are well coated with tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes.
15. Stir in chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
16. Return chicken and chorizo to pot, increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
17. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until rice absorbs almost all liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove pot from oven (close oven door to retain heat).
18. Uncover pot; scatter shrimp over rice, insert mussels hinged side down into rice (so they stand upright), arrange bell pepper strips in pinwheel pattern, and scatter peas over top. Cover and return to oven; cook until shrimp are opaque and mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.
19. Optional: If soccarat is desired, set Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat about 5 minutes, rotating pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.
20. Let paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and bay leaf, if it can be easily removed.
21. Sprinkle with parsley and serve, passing lemon wedges separately.

If You're Using a Paella Pan (Paella pans look like this):
A paella pan makes for an attractive and impressive presentation. Use one that is 14"-15" in diameter. A 14-inch ovensafe skillet will work as well, but do not attempt to use anything smaller because the contents will simply not fit. Follow the recipe for Paella, increasing the chicken broth to 3 1/4 cups and the wine to 1/2 cup. Before placing the pan in the oven, cover it tightly with foil. For soccarat, cook the paella, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after about 1-1/2 minutes for even browning.

Here is a picture of our soccarat!

Source: Cook's Illustrated

Spanish Feast

With our love of food and fascinated by trying new ethnic foods, our International Cooking Day was born!

Our first Cooking Day featured Greek food. It was only a matter of a few weeks and we were already planning our next ethnic cuisine of choice- Spain. We researched, reviewed, and gathered ideas and finally finalized a menu:

Spanish Cheese and Crackers
Garlic Chicken
Bacon-wrapped Dates

Entree- Paella
Dessert- Flan

We had a blast cooking, testing, and experimenting. We used all types of Spanish food- Marcona almonds, Medjool dates, assortment of Spanish cheeses, etc. Check it out!

Bacon-wrapped Dates

This appetizer was fabulous! I loved the salty and tasty bacon wrapped in a soft date filled with melted blue cheese and a crispy almond. We used Spanish Marcona almonds, which were more circular in shape (than almonds we're used to), but had a slightly stronger almond taste, and Spanish Valdeon blue cheese which have a creamier texture, and the flavor seemed more intensely-flavored than US blue cheese. Rachel and I couldn't have enough of these dates, but we truly enjoyed the cheese we used... our men didn't care for it because of the strong cheese flavor, but agreed they would have loved it if we had used a milder cheese. All in all, a delicious appetizer (and leftovers tasted great the next day). For a healthier alternative, I will try baking the dates in the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, turning the bacon halfway through.

12 Medjool dates
6 slices bacon, cut in half
Spanish Marcona almonds
Spanish Valdeon blue cheese
Skewers, 6"
6 cups canola or vegetable oil

1. Slice the dates down the middle and pit the seed.
2. Place a small chunk of blue cheese and 1 almond in the middle.
3. Close the date and take a half-strip of bacon.

4. Pulling on the bacon, wrap the date around it, ensuring a tight fit.

5. Place 3 bacon-wrapped dates onto a skewer. Repeat with remaining dates.
6. Preheat a large pot or dutch oven with oil. Once the oil registers at 350 degrees, place your dates into the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes until he bacon is cooked.
7. Serve immediately.

Garlic Chicken

For our Spanish Feast, we wanted to serve some appetizers tapas-style. We served Spanish cheese and crackers, Bacon-wrapped Dates, and wanted to offer a chicken dish as well. The chicken turned out so flavorful and moist- this dish ran out quickly. We loved the flavor of the sherry (and purchased it at Trader Joe's for $6.99)! While this was served as an appetizer, this could have easily been served as the main entree with a side of Spanish rice and salad. Delicious!

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed, plus 2 cloves, minced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup fino or manzanilla sherry
1/2 cup chicken broth
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. Rub the chicken with paprika, salt, and pepper and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour or preferably in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not colored, 2 minutes.
4. Add the chicken pieces and fry, turning as needed, until golden on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes. You want them nicely colored on the outside but not cooked through.
5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, and then arrange the pieces in a cazuela or baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer.
6. Remove the crushed garlic from the oil and discard. Return the pan to low heat.
7. Add the minced garlic and cook briefly.
8. Add the thyme, bay leaves, sherry, and broth, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
9. Remove from the heat and pour over the chicken.
10. Bake the chicken until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and discard the bay leaves and thyme.
12. If the pan juices are thin, transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat until reduced, and then return to the cazuela.
13. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.

You also can complete the cooking on the stove top. Sauté the minced garlic as directed, return the chicken to the pan, add the sherry and broth, and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is tender, 15 to 20 minutes

Source: Epicurious

Spanish Cheese & Crackers

For our Spanish Feast, we wanted to try some Spanish cheese on top of crackers. We purchased a variety of cheese, and here they are below:

Spanish Spice-Crusted Double Cream Cheddar- This cheese was incredibly delicious, soft, and CREAMY! I love how the spice added a hint of salt & spice to this dish. Very easy to spread over a cracker, or just eat small chunks. We all loved it!

Smoked San Simon- The texture was semi-hard and reminded me of Parmesan cheese. This cheese had a mild flavor as well. I would eat this on its own (without a cracker). The smoke imparts a woody taste.

Queso Tetilla- This cheese was very creamy and soft- the texture reminded me of Brie cheese, but milder in flavor.


Growing up, I spent half of the year living in Japan and the other half living in the USA. In Japan, there is a delicious refrigerated custard dish called "pudding", though it isn't the typical Jello-style vanilla, chocolate, etc. pudding but in fact, a flan-like custard dish. It has the sugar/caramel topping and the soft custard at the bottom. I've never found a dessert quite like it here in the US, but do get my "fix" by going to my local Asian grocery store and purchasing my beloved Japanese dessert there.

Since our friends and we have started having our International Cooking Day (check out our Greek Feast), we have continued our tradition and decided on a Spanish food theme this past weekend. Our dessert of choice? FLAN! Rachel spent some time in Spain and loved having it while she was overseas, and I've been dying to have some and always wanted to try making it too.

I was in charge of caramelizing the sugar- be very careful and watch closely! It only takes a few seconds for the amber color (caramel) to turn dark and brown (and burnt). Once you start seeing a light brown color, remove the pan off the heat and place the caramelized sugar into your baking pan. Work quickly to spread the caramelized sugar around the pan evenly, as the sugar will start hardening soon after it is removed form the heat source. After baking in the oven, the dish will need to cool at room temperature for a few hours, and then chilled for at least 2 hours in the fridge. There are very few ingredients, but you need to work carefully. Overall, the efforts were worth it, and the flan turned out beautifully and tasted fantastic (with a hint of lemon)! We were both so thrilled with the results!

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp grated zest from 1 lemon
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups low-fat milk (see note)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and place a 9-inch cake pan in the center. (We used 9-1/2" cake pan).
3. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, swirling the pan gently, until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes.
4. Reduce to a simmer and cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture has caramelized to a deep, dark mahogany color, 7 to 10 minutes.
5. Carefully and slowly pour the caramel into the cake pan, being careful not to splash caramel onto yourself or outside of the cake pan, and cool slightly until hardened.
6. Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat.
7. Meanwhile, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolks together in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
8. Whisk in the zest, sweetened condensed milk, and low-fat milk.
9. Pour the mixture into the cake pan, and gently place the roasting pan on the oven rack.
10. Being careful not to splash any water inside the pan of custard, pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until the water reaches halfway up the side of the cake pan.

11. Bake until the center of the custard is just barely set, is no longer sloshy, and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes (start checking the temperature after 25 minutes). (We baked it for 50-55 minutes total, and didn't use a thermometer.)
12. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
13. Wrap the cake pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
14. Run a knife around the cake pan to loosen the custard.
15. Invert a large serving platter over the top of the cake pan, and grasping both the cake pan and platter, gently flip the custard onto the platter, drizzling any extra caramel sauce over the top (some caramel will remain stuck in the pan).
16. Serve immediately.

Source: Cook's Illustrated

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gingersnap and Pecan-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping

This was my first attempt at making cheesecake, but it definitely wasn't without some challenges. I had successfully made my first cheesecake and placed it into the oven, thinking "that wasn't difficult at all!"... until I saw the 3 eggs lying on my counter- oops. The second time I made it, I tried to make a shortcut by not buttering my springform pan, and even though the crust looked lovely after it baked in the oven, while cooling, it completely collapsed into this mess:

And then the cheesecake wasn't setting in the oven... so I put it back in again. And again. And then when it had finally set, there were cracks in the top. But I thought- no biggie- I'm making a delicious Bourbon Sour Cream Topping so I can "cover" it... but then the topping also cracked.

Thus, I started to research on the web to see if there were any tips/tricks to making the perfect cheesecake. And of course, there were numerous websites saying "Don't do (that) or (this bad thing) will happen". Well, I did just about everything these websites said I shouldn't have. I was nervous to share this with friends, but I have to say- it turned out quite well. I am not a cheesecake fan myself, but our friends and my DB took large portions and said it tasted great. Rachel even said she'd take this over pumpkin pie any day! I've organized and listed various tips/tricks I've read, and am listing it here so you can now make a fool-proof cheesecake. Enjoy!

Tips & Tricks I learned to making Cheesecake. There may be some precautions, but the steps are not difficult:
a) Be sure to eliminate all lumps in your cream cheese BEFORE you add the eggs. The eggs are what add the air in the batter.
b) Don't overmix the batter! The more you beat the batter, the more air you bring in, which can result in cracks in your cheesecake. Add the eggs last, and mix as little as possible once they're added into the batter.

a) Bake your cheesecake in water bath. The water will maintain an even temperature around your cheesecake, which helps prevent cracking.
- Wrap the outside of your springform pan well with foil. Use 2-3 heavy-duty foil sheets in a crisscross pattern, covering the pan to a height greater than where the water will reach.
- To ensure a good, non-slip surface, fold a kitchen towel or use a Silpat/silicone baking sheet on the bottom of your roasting pan.
- Place the foil-wrapped springform pan inside a larger baking/roasting pan that is filled with water. The water should go halfway up the pan.
b) Don't overbake the cheesecake. The cheesecake will continue to bake after it's removed from the oven. The cheesecake is ready when the edges are firm, but the center is still a "jiggly" and moist.

After baking
a) After it is removed from the oven, take an angled spatula and carefully run the tip around the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan. This will assist in having the cake pull away freely from the pan as it cools.
b) Invert a plate and place over the cheesecake to slow the cooling process. Cracks may form due to drastic temperature changes.
c) Loosen the clamp of the springform pan ONLY WHEN THE CHEESECAKE IS COMPLETELY COOLED.

For the crust
3/4 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (1-1/2 cups whole cookies, finely processed)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (3/4 cup whole pecans, finely processed)
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling
1-1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
(3) 8-oz packages cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon liqueur or bourbon if desired (Used Maker's Mark)

For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon liqueur or bourbon, or to taste

For decorating
16 pecan halves, for garnish
Caramel sundae syrup, for garnish

Make the crust
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a bowl combine the cracker crumbs, the pecans, and the sugars, stir in the butter, and press the mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the side of a buttered 9-inch springform pan. (Here is a helpful way to press the crust mixture of the side of the pan evenly.)
3. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Make the filling
1. In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar.
2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, beat in the cream, the cornstarch, the vanilla, the bourbon liqueur, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.
3. Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set, and let it cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes.

Make the topping & Decorate
1. In a bowl whisk together the sour cream, the sugar, and the bourbon liqueur.
2. Spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake the cheesecake for 5 minutes more.

3. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight.
4. Remove the side of the pan and garnish the top of the cheesecake with the pecans.
5. Place pecan halves on top of cake, and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Source: Recipe adapted from Gourmet, Cheesecake Tips and Tricks from Lesley's Recipe Archive

Beach Shrimp

This was an incredibly easy and DELICIOUS dish! It only took a few ingredients to make a great sauce for the shrimp. We served this dish with one full loaf of warm, crusty French bread to sop up the sauce. A side salad or roasted asparagus would have been great too. Next time, I plan to peel the shrimp- having to peel the shrimp before eating was a challenge for my hungry DB.
The website suggests that if you're at the beach, simply place all the ingredients in a large roasting pan for easy clean-up.

3–lb unpeeled, large raw shrimp*
1-1/2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper*
16-oz. bottle Italian dressing
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 lemons, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up (I used 1/4 cup)

1. Place first 4 ingredients (shrimp through garlic) in a 13x9-inch baking dish, tossing to coat.

2. Squeeze juice from lemons over shrimp mixture, and stir. Add lemon halves to pan.
3. Sprinkle evenly with parsley; dot with butter.

4. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Serve in pan.

*3-lb. frozen peeled, large raw shrimp, thawed according to package directions, may be substituted. Prepare recipe as directed, reducing pepper to 1/2 tsp.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Source: Southern Living

Turkey & Apple Sausage Patties

When it comes to breakfast, I'm not one who desires pancakes. Maybe a few times a year. However, if you place a sausage breakfast sandwich in front of me, chances are- I'll take two. The downside? Sausage isn't exactly the healthy breakfast meat. I was looking for a healthy, yet tasty sausage recipe, and I found one in Elly's blog. With the fall season in full swing here, I also included grated apple and a smidgen of pure maple syrup to add a nice sweetness to the patties. I have to say- these were quite tasty. If you really want to amp up the taste factor, I'd suggest including 1/2-lb ground pork (but decreasing the salt to 1/2 tsp tsp). But on its own, this will replace my old standby Bob Evans sausage any day! I toasted a whole-wheat English muffin, scrambled some egg whites, and melted a slice of low-fat cheddar cheese- it was a great start to my Saturday morning.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup grated apple
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 lb. ground turkey*
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper (or can substitute black pepper)
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp allspice
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and grated apple, and cook for 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and cool.
3. Lightly mix the remaining ingredients together until the herbs/spices are well incorporated - make sure you don't over mix!
4. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts, and then make 4 patties.
5. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 tsp. of oil. Place the patties into the pan and cook about 3-4 minutes per side or until browned and cooked through.
6. Repeat with the next 1-2 batches, adding an additional teaspoon of olive oil per batch.

*Ground chicken breast will make a leaner patty, but dark (or a mixture of white and dark)
meat will make a tastier patty.

Source: Adapted from Elly Says Opa!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gorgonzola Filled Meatballs, Bay and Onion Creamy Tomato Gravy

Who doesn't love to eat healthier right?
The original recipe calls for a ground beef/veal combination, but I subbed this for 93% lean ground turkey- and it didn't compromise the taste at all. I loved the flavor of gorgonzola cheese filled within the meatball cavity. The creamy onion & tomato sauce was fantastic too, and it made A LOT (which is good, since I love my sauces). When filling the meatball cavity, I used 2 Tbsp of cheese per meatball. Make sure to make your meatball "walls" sturdy, or you'll have an "oops!" moment like this one:

Otherwise, they were easy, tasty, and a nice alternative to meatballs! I paired this dish with these potatoes, and it came out to be a perfect pair.

1-1/2 pounds ground veal (Omitted)
1 pound ground beef (I used 2-1/2 lb 93/7 ground turkey)
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 handfuls grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 handfuls plain bread crumbs
3 Tbsp sliced or finely chopped sage leaves
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces Gorgonzola
1 Tbsp butter
2 fresh bay leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Place meat in a mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper, add in garlic, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs and sage. Mix meat, roll into 8 large balls and arrange in a baking dish. Coat balls with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
3. Using the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation half way into each ball and fill the cavity with some Gorgonzola. Bake until golden and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, add bay and onions and season with salt and pepper.
5. Add chicken stock and tomatoes and heat through, stir in cream, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer to thicken slightly 8 to 10 minutes.
6. Ladle sauce into shallow bowls and top with big stuffed meatballs and potatoes alongside, if desired.

Source: Rachael Ray

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Spinach

Ooo-weee. These were mighty good. Whenever I've made garlic mashed potatoes, I've always just added fresh garlic to the potatoes- and I always felt like the garlic flavor was maybe there, but not that strong. Melting the butter and sauteeing the garlic really brought out the garlic flavor! The potatoes had a great flavor, and resulted in light and fluffy buds. This was also a "sneaky" way to add that vegetable into a well-loved side. I only included 1 box of spinach, as I didn't want it to overpower the mashed potatoes, and it turned out perfect. I paired these potatoes with this meatball recipe, and it was a perfect pair.

4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
2 boxes chopped spinach, defrosted (Used 1 box)
4 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (Used 6 cloves)
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Handful of parmesan cheese (my addition)

1. Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Salt water and boil potatoes until tender 12 to 15 minutes.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, squeeze the water from spinach in a clean dish towel.
3. Drain potatoes and remove from pot.
4. Melt butter in the hot pot, then add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Stir in cream, add the spinach, separating the greens as you do.
6. Season greens with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
7. Add potatoes to the pot and mash to desired consistency.

Source: Rachael Ray

Monday, September 21, 2009

Extra Moist Cheddar-Jalapeno Cornbread

After a disastrous previous attempt at making cornbread, I was reluctant on making this one. My initial (and last one until now) attempt resulted in cornbread that was dry, not flavorful, crumbly, and did I mention dry?

Chili was on the menu tonight, and as much as I knew cornbread would be the perfect pair, I was, well... still reluctant. I perused through countless recipes and side items, but nothing tickled my fancy nor could beat the chili/cornbread combo. Alas- I had to try again. I Googled "extra moist cornbread", hoping for a recipe that looked promising, and what do you know? There actually was a recipe that was called just that. And I was sold. The original recipe can be found here, but since it was just my DB and I, I adapted the recipe to bake it in an 8" square baking dish. The batter was very moist (ok, so I was actually somewhat nervous that it'd be TOO moist), and it produced a moist bread that still held its shape. The flavor of the green chiles added a depth of flavor, and I loved the small bits of corn and onions within. Next time, I think I will add the whole can of cream-style corn and green chiles, but otherwise, I was very happy!

(2) 7-oz packages Jiffy cornbread mix
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 cup Mexican-style cheese, shredded
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
(1/2) of 15oz can cream-style corn (Will use full can next time)
3 oz. diced green chiles or jalapeno (Will use 6-7 oz. can next time)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease an 8x8 square baking dish or cast-iron skillet with cooking spray.
3. Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Pour into prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes.
5. Remove from oven, tint the bread with foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Source: Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Apple Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping and Brown Sugar Glaze

It is finally starting to cool down, and my favorite time of year is here! I love fall for its cooler weather, the transition to orange and yellow leaves, and the food- especially cooking and baking with apples and pumpkin.

Having received some apples from our friends, I was on a mission to bake a coffee cake with them. This was a wonderfully moist, delicious, and light coffee cake. The batter was light and fluffy, and I loved all the aromas and flavors of fall in one recipe. This recipe includes ingredients that you would have on hand in your pantry, and it was easy to prepare. Next time, I would increase the apples to 2.5-3 cups- I love having an apple in every bite! One tip I learned: You want to make sure you dissolve your brown sugar (for the glaze) as much as possible to avoid the "grainy" texture of the sugar. I made the glaze after I popped the cake in the oven, whisked the ingredients well, and let it sit on top of the cooktop/oven rage, allowing the warmth of the oven to help melt the sugar. Once the cake was done, I poured the glaze evenly over the cake- the heat of the cake really soaked in the brown sugar glaze. Don't leave off the glaze- it really makes the cake!

1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened (Used cooking spray, so omitted 2 tsp butter)
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (Used fat-free)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (I would increase to 2.5-3 cups)

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Brown Sugar Glaze
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp water

To make the Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish (3-qt rectangular glass baking dish) with 2 teaspoons of the butter.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each.
4. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
5. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla.
6. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the Topping
1. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes (I baked for 37 minutes).
3. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the Glaze
1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth.
2. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.

Source: Emeril Lagasse

Cheesy Hash Brown Chili

This recipe was easy peasy, and my DB really enjoyed this dish. While it won't replace my favorite chili recipe, this will work as an easy chili. Next time, I would add an additional cup of cheese- the hash browns seemed a bit dry, and this would help. Please note that while the prep work is easy, the food will cook on the stovetop for 30 minutes, and then be placed into the oven for 35 minutes. While I wouldn't prepare this dish for guests, it's an easy and comforting meal for a cold weeknight!

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
One 15-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 1-pound bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Use 2 cups next time)

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onion, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomato paste.
4. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat, for 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the beans and the tomatoes with their juice and bring to a boil.
6. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
7. Transfer to an 8-by-11-inch baking dish.
8. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°.
9. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes and cheese. Scatter the potato mixture over the chili.
10. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the chili is bubbling, about 35 minutes.

Source: Rachael Ray

Friday, September 18, 2009

Maple-Mustard Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes

I had some leftover rosemary from this dish, and this recipe was suggested to me as a "tried & true". The fresh rosemary infused a woodsy and delicious flavor to this bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin. The tenderloin is initially marinated in a Dijon mustard/Maple marinade, wrapped in bacon, and then set on top of fresh rosemary sprigs. Throw in some chopped potatoes, bake, and you've got yourself a full meal. The rosemary makes this dish taste fantastic! Not only was the flavor in the pork, but it also imparted a terrific flavor on the roasted potatoes. Next time I will add some chopped onions with the potatoes. I would have liked to have the bacon come out crispier- I think it's because I used a baking dish that was too small and thus all the food was really crammed in there.... not enough air circulation. (However, I did use the thermometer to ensure the pork was cooked thoroughly.) An easy dish that can be easily made and wow! your guests.

1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary plus 6 sprigs
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
One 4-lb boneless pork loin (about 12 inches long) (Used pork tenderloin)
One 8-oz package lean sliced bacon (Used 12-oz center cut bacon)
6 small baking potatoes (1-1/2 pounds), quartered
Salt and pepper

1. In a resealable plastic bag, mix together 2 Tbsp olive oil, the mustard, maple syrup, 2 tsp chopped rosemary and garlic. Add the pork and turn in the mixture to coat; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the rosemary sprigs in the center of a roasting pan. Arrange six 14-inch lengths of kitchen string crosswise, about 2 inches apart, in the pan.

3. Place the marinated pork on top of the strings and rosemary. Lay the bacon slices, on an angle, over the pork loin. Tie each string around the meat to secure the bacon, then trim the loose ends.
4. Scatter the potatoes around the pork and drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil; toss to mix. Season the pork and potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 150°, about 1 hour. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the potatoes.

Source: Rachael Ray
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