Sunday, January 30, 2011

Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Arugula Walnut Pesto

Diamond Shelled Walnuts

Featured Ingredient: Shelled Walnuts

This product fits into my "other can-tainers" category.  While not a traditional can, this product has a pull top made out of sheet metal so it qualifies.

If you like efficient recipes where you can multi-task and work on several elements at one time, this is the recipe for you.  You can roast the squash, while your pasta water boils and you prepare the pesto part.

The most challenging part is preparing the squash.  Personally, I like dishes with more rustic knife cuts, but I tried to make some effort to make semi uniform dices for the final picture.  When I was in culinary school, they gave us the tool below as a guideline to help us hone our knife skills.  Do the ends justified the means?  Do we really need to waste so much of each vegetable to have geometrically shaped food on our plates?

Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Arugula Walnut Pesto

1. Roast Butternut Squash.  You will  need:

4 cups large diced butternut squash (these don't have to be perfect)
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of pepper
2 tsp brown sugar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F
Mix ingredients in a large bowl.  Spread out on one layer on a large baking sheet.  Roast 30-35 minutes until fork tender, not mushy rotating squash about 1/2 way through cooking time.

While butternut squash roasts... Set water in a large pot to boil.  Add 1 tbsp of salt to water

2. Prepare Pesto.  You will need:

1/2 cup walnuts
2 cups baby arugula
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese divided

In a food processor, pulse walnuts, arugula, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper until combined but some texture remains. Slowly pulse in olive oil.  Stir in 1/4 cup of cheese.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

3. Boil 1lb Farfalle Pasta until al dente. Save 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Return pasta to pot add pesto, pasta water and mix to combine. Fold in roasted butternut squash. Top with additional parmesan cheese and chopped walnut pieces.

Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Arugula Walnut Pesto

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mango Banana Quick Bread

Featured Ingredient: Mango

I have a special place in my heart for mangos. That may sound weird, but I associate some wonderful times in my life with a Mango. Like my first trip to Grand Cayman, driving by all the ripened mango trees, and buying those just picked fruits bursting with a slightly superior juicy sweetness.

Then there is the proudest moment in my career. I was working for Snapple and suggested we use employees instead of models on our bottles for a promotion as a way to tie it back to its roots, as Wendy the Snapple Lady was actually an original employee. 105 employees showed up for an internal photo shoot and 24 were chosen by the promotion agency. Perhaps I got a spot because I take a beautiful photograph with a fish eye lens. Based on a random drawing my Snapple flavor would be 8,000,000 bottles of Mango Madness.
I suggested they temporarily rename the flavor to Milda Madness, but that didn't happen. The promotion was very successful. CNN did a piece on the newly revived brand and I got my mug in the story. Snapple employees loved that they or their friends were on bottles and part of this big marketing program. I was on top of the world.

So mangos make me happy. But, right now the mangos at the store are green.  I also had coconut left over from the pina colada cheesecakes and always have frozen bananas on hand.  I figured I would continue my tropical tangent with an Island inspired quick bread.  Canned mangos don't seem to hold up as well in liquid as peaches for example.  These were rather soft.  But since they are being mixed into a batter with a mashed banana, it was fine for this purpose. 

Mango Banana Quick Bread - Serves 6 - 8

3 tbsps butter
1/3 cup sugar (I reduced the sugar, because the mango is in syrup)
1 egg
1/2 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup mango medium dice
2/3 cup sweetened coconut divided
1 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. With an electric mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment cream butter and sugar until light.  Add eggs and mix to combine.  Add banana, mango, orange zest and mix to combine. I like using the "cake" method for quick breads - which is creaming butter and sugar together, adding egg, flavorings then alternating remaining dry and wet ingredients. This seems to yield a lighter tasting and more moist bread.

3. In a separate bowl mix remaining dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

4.  Add 1/3 of flour mixture to wet ingredients in bowl, stir briefly to combine, add 1/3 of the milk - not 1/3 cup. Alternate with dry and wet ingredients 2 more times, ending with milk.  Make sure not to stir ingredients too much and overwork batter.  Fold in 1/3 cup of coconut.

5. Spray an 8 in X 4 in pan with cooking spray and pour batter in pan.  Top with remaining coconut. 

6. Bake 50-55 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Mango Banana Quick Bread

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Petit Pina Colada Cheesecake Pie

Featured Ingredients: Sweetened Condensed Milk, Pineapple - Crushed

More snow in the Northeast today had me craving a tropical destination. Nothing reminds me more of the warm sun on your face and your feet in the sand than a Virgin Pina Colada. Drinking one on the beach is the defining moment that says "I'm on vacation."

I know this is a very long-winded title for such a little dessert.  I recently bought a set of 4 - 6 oz. little pie tins.  I originally was going to make this recipe into bars or put this into an 8 inch pie plate, but the thought of a personal size petite little treat was too good to pass up.

Pina Colada Cheesecake

1 1/4 cup Honey Maid graham crackers crushed
1/3 cup melted butter

Crush graham crackers in food processor.  Remove to a bowl and stir in melted butter until combined.
Press crumbs into pie plate or bottom of an 8 X 8 pan if you are making bars.   If you decide to make bars, spray the pan with cooking spray and put a piece of parchment paper into the pan with enough paper to fit the pan with a little bit hanging over the sides. This will help the parchment paper stick but will help you lift the dessert easily out of the pan so you can make even cuts.

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (1/3 less fat) softened
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp pineapple juice (from canned pineapple)
2 tsps coconut extract
5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 egg

Mix cream cheese, flour, lemon zest, pineapple juice, coconut extract and sweetened condensed milk with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add egg and mix until well combined.

I read that cheesecakes that have flour in them are less likely to crack.  I actually tested two cheesecake recipes and both didn't crack.  In this recipe it doesn't matter, as this cheesecake would be covered with a topping, but its good to know for future reference.   Place cheesecake(s) in a shallow roasting pan with a little bit of water.

1/8 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
10 oz. crushed pineapple in juice undrained
1/2 tbsp butter

1 cup sweetened coconut, toasted

Stir together sugar, cornstarch, pineapple and butter in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and stir frequently until thickened.
Cool to room temperature.  Spread over cheesecake.   Meanwhile preheat oven to 325F.  Lay out coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast coconut 3 minutes.  Keep checking coconut frequently and keep mixing coconut so it toasts evenly.  Toast until fragrant and lightly colored.  Sprinkle coconut over pineapple topping.

 So, "if you like Pina Coladas..." you'll love this dessert.

Petit Pina Colada Cheesecake Pie
This recipe is linked to:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Italian Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Juice
Featured Ingredient: V8 Vegetable Juice and a cast of Characters from the Land of Misfit Vegetables.

My husband and I have a Saturday night ritual of watching a movie. Last Saturday's selection was a movie called Paper Man.  It stars Jeff Daniels as a reclusive less than successful author with an imaginary friend and desperate need to connect with someone that understands him.  I would recommend it.  It has a nice story and it doesn't hurt that Ryan Reynolds is dressed up in a skin tight Superhero outfit. 

This recipe was actually inspired by the movie.  In the movie Jeff Daniels hires a babysitter for himself and she makes him soup.  The soup is more of a metaphor than a meal.   I don't know what was in her soup besides a carrot, potato and beer, but she created the soup using what he had in his kitchen, so that was my objective as well.   This soup was a great affirmation that something so wholesome and wonderful can come from a big mess of ingredients.  I think that is true metaphor.  Here's some more info on the movie if you are interested

I noticed as I was collecting the veggies from my fridge that the majority of them were the kinds you would find in Italian dishes, so I figured that was the culinary direction in which I would go.

Italian Vegetable Soup

1 1/2 fennel bulb - sliced and roughly chopped
1/2 cup onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cups tomatoes on the vine. Halved and seeds removed
6 cups chicken broth

2 5.5 oz. cans V8 Vegetable Juice
1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp marjoram
2 bay leaves
1 cup carrot thinly sliced
1 cup potato diced

1 tsp salt - plus more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup orzo (or other small pasta)
2 cups roughly chopped zucchini

Heat oil over medium heat in a 5qt soup pot.  Add fennel, onion, and garlic, season with a dash of salt, saute about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, broth and vegetable juice, herbs, bay leaves carrot, potato and orzo, salt and pepper.  Stir ingredients to make sure none are sticking to bottom. Heat to boil and reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally or until vegetables are near tender.  (NOTE: fennel takes the longest to soften).  Add zucchini and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.  Enjoy.
This recipe is merely a guideline depending on what you have on hand.  Maybe you will come up with a new family favorite. I'd love to hear what bit of wonderfulness you create!

Italian Vegetable Soup

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Holy Mole Chili con Carne with Corn Muffins

Kidney Beans, V8, Diced Tomatoes
Featured Ingredients: Kidney Beans, Vegetable Juice, Diced Tomatoes

Tomorrow is apparently the big game? At least that is what my husband told me.  It will determine whether Pittsburgh or the Jets go to the Super Bowl.  Events like this call for a manly meal... so we have a pre-Super Bowl and definitely winter staple.

This chili has layers upon layers of flavor.  Where else can you get "a whole serving of vegetables" and your chocolate fix in one pot? 

To accompany this I made home made corn bread.  Since I made the chili and corn bread from scratch I settled on Minute Rice.

The base of this recipe comes from "Old Faithful."  My Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.  Forget the La'Gastronomique Reference Bible I received from Culinary School.  It's too pretty to get dirty. This is my go to reference book.

Chili Con Carne - Serves 6

12 oz. ground round
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2-3 cloves garlic minced
2 14.5 oz. cans Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 5.5 oz. can V8 Vegetable Juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
2 tsps chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp spanish paprika
2 tbsps Unsweetened "Special Dark" Cocoa Powder (here's where the "mole" comes from)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 15 oz. can Kidney Beans
Handful of parsley finely chopped
White cheddar cheese for topping or Sour Cream on the side

1. Heat a small amount of oil in a 5qt Dutch Oven.  Add peppers, onions and garlic until fragrant add ground beef and saute until beef is browned.  If you use a lean ground round, there is no need to drain.

2. Stir in undrained tomatoes, vegetable juice, tomato paste, spices, chocolate and brown sugar.  Mix well.  Add Kidney Beans.  Bring to boiling and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 25-30 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Or more chili powder if you like more heat.  This chili is relatively mild.

Corn Muffins - I got this off the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal Box.  I found these to be bit on the dry side, but a great compliment to a moist dish like chili.  For a less labor intensive muffin you can use one of those Jiffy Mixes or Trader Joes.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400

Mix dry  ingredients. Mix wet ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients until just combined.  Grease 12 count muffin tin with cooking spray.  Pour batter into cups using a 1/4 cup measuring cup.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Do I really need to give you the recipe for Minute Rice?? :)

Chili con Carne

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Super Bowl Idea - Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fennel Apple Carrot Slaw

Orange Juice Concentrate
Featured Ingredient: Minute Maid Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate

Did you think that I would leave you with all that frozen orange juice concentrate, after only utilizing only 4 tablespoons of it in the last recipe?  If nothing else, I hate wasting stuff.  Unless you used the rest to make orange juice.

This pulled pork recipe is a derivative of another derivative of another recipe I have.  Besides the brown sugar, the pork gets its sweetness and tang from a variety of different forms of fruit. From the orange juice, to the ginger mango flavor in the Pickapeppa Sauce in the braising liquid to the apple in the accompanying Slaw recipe when it is finally composed as a sandwich.

What's Pickapeppa sauce?  If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it.  It comes in mild and more spicy flavors and is great on meats and chicken.  It has been called "Jamaican Ketchup" for its versatility.  I first discovered it on a trip to Grand Cayman.  I thought it was exclusive to the islands with flavors that include scotch bonnet peppers and mangos.  So I stashed a few bottles into my suitcase.  I was thrilled when I found my favorite flavor was sold in my hometown.   Here is a link  Don't forget to come back for my pork recipe.

Pulled Pork - Serves 4 plus leftovers

3.5 lbs pork butt cut in half

1/2 medium onion chopped
1 large celery stalk or two smaller hearts chopped
3 cloves sliced garlic

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Minute Maid Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
1/4 cup Ginger Mango Pickapeppa Sauce
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup water
Dash of Rice Wine Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F

Slice pork butt in half.

Heat oil in a 5 qt dutch oven on medium heat.  Sautee onion and celery for about 3 minutes then add garlic and saute for 1 minute.   Remove from heat unless you have all other elements at the ready.

Add soy sauce, orange juice concentrate, PP sauce, chili powder, chili sauce, brown sugar.  Put in both pieces of pork butt sideways and add 1/2 cup water.  Liquid should come up about 1/2 way up the sides. Heat to a rolling boil. Cover with lid and place in the oven.

Braise pork for 1 hour.  Flip pork pieces on the other side so they get immersed in liquid.  Braise for another hour.  Total cooking time about 2 hours.

Remove pork from dutch oven and shred with fork.

Strain cooking liquid to remove large vegetable chunks. Spoon over shredded pork to moisten.  Put remainder in a small bowl in the fridge.  Next day, scrape off the top layer of fat and reheat with pork.

Fennel Apple Carrot Slaw
This slaw adds a tartness and tang to your sweet pork.  The fennel adds a nice refreshing compliment to the fruit essences in this dish along with some crunch.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp salt
1-2 tsps sugar
2 small carrots
1/2 a large fennel bulb
1 granny smith apple.

Mix mayo, vinegar, celery seed, sugar and salt to make a "dressing".  Adjust flavorings to your liking. Shred carrots and apples in a food processor.  Thinly slice fennel bulb.   Put carrots, apple, fennle in a bowl add in "dressing" .

To serve.  You can use rolls, but depending on the size, I find the bread to pork ratio for a normal serving size is too high.  I grilled some hearty italian bread. 

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fennel Apple Carrot Slaw

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Asian-Style Orange Chicken

Frozen Orange Juice
Featured Ingredient: Minute Maid Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice

I went out to lunch with my 14 year old son yesterday because his school issued yet another snow day.  He is very low maintenance when it comes to food, as I'm sure most suburban teenagers are.  We went to Red Lobster.  I hadn't been in a long time. I used to go with my mom years ago, so I thought would be be nice to go with my kid.  I pass by this newly refurbished one in Bridgeport, CT all the time and never went in.  I have been really disappointed by the chain restaurants in my area and figured given its location, it would also not meet minimum standards.

I'm glad to say I was pleasantly surprised.  The place was updated inside, very clean, service was well timed and friendly, and the food, for a chain, was good. The meals were reasonably priced for lunch.  The bathroom was also clean and had warm water in the sink. I would definitely go back there again. So ends my review of Bridgeport's Red Lobster.  Like most chain restaurants, it's the luck of the draw.

Later that afternoon my husband and I were brainstorming dinner ideas and he suggested an orange chicken recipe he had, which is very cumbersome and requires a bit of prep work. This lead me to think that a form of orange juice comes in a can... and the rest is history.  This recipe was adapted from one I found yesterday on It was originally published in 2003. Goes to show, classics never die.

Asian-Style Orange Chicken - Serves 4.

4 tbsps tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsps brown sugar
4 tbsps orange juice concentrate
2 large garlic cloves minced
2 tsps finely grated orange zest
2 tsps minced fresh ginger
2 tsps kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Four bone-in large split chicken breasts with skin about .85 lb each) - then cut in half crosswise

Preheat oven to 450F

In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients except chicken. Add chicken and turn to coat.  Pour remaining sauce into a baking dish and transfer chicken skin side up.

Roast chicken in oven about 20 minutes.  Brush with sauce a couple of times during baking.  Turn on broiler and broil chicken until it reaches a carmelized color about 2-4 minutes.  When done chicken should register at 175F (for breasts). Let rest 5 minutes.  Transfer to plates and spoon additional sauce and juices from baking dish over chicken.

Asian-Style Orange Chicken
Serve with Brown Rice and Snap Peas or Chinese Noodles (recipe follows).
This recipe varies by how many noodles you put into the pot.  You can use Chinese Wheat noodles or Linguine. So here is a basic breakdown:

Boil noodles according to package directions to desired tenderness.
Add a few splashes of teriyaki sauce, stir fry sauce and toasted sesame seed oil in about equal parts.  Stir to coat.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Easy Dinner - Salisbury Steak

Campbell's Mushroom Gravy
Featured Ingredient: Campbell's Mushroom Gravy

It happens.  You are stressed out. You got stuck in traffic. You are tired and don't have much energy to make dinner. But you are struggling with this underlying guilt to feed your family or even just yourself and your significant other a wholesome home cooked meal and don't want to order pizza again. 

Personally, I love this recipe even if I am having a great day. It is so basic, but really good and it's one of the few recipes where I can make 4 servings of one dish and everyone is happy and digs right in.

I can't claim this Salisbury Steak recipe as my own.  I made one little variation.  It used to be on the back of the can of Mushroom Gravy, when it still was under the Franco American brand and the food styling wasn't as sophisticated as the current package.

This is my Love & Heirlooms cookbook. 
It is so beat up. The binding on one side has come apart. I can't remember exactly when I got it, maybe 15 years ago.  The point of the cook book is you create it.  The authors give you one recipe in each section, and the rest of the pages are blank. Every time I made something everyone liked it would go in the book. Mine is now filled with magazine clippings, handwritten notes, and my grandmother's Lithuanian meat dumpling recipe that we made together years ago. I've crossed out less used categories and expanded other sections.  This Salisbury Steak recipe lives there.

Salisbury Steak - Serves 4
1/4 cup Campbell's Mushroom Gravy + rest of can
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (finely ground in food processor)
1 egg
1 lb ground round

Beat egg, add onion, breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup gravy.  Fold in ground beef and shape into 4 oblong patties.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick skillet on medium to high heat.  Brown patties on both sides, but do not cook through.

Add remaining gravy and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer.  Cover.  Set timer for 5 minutes.  When 5 minutes is up turn beef patties to other side.  Continue to cook for another 4 -5 minutes until done and patties register at 165F.  Remove to plates and spoon remaining sauce over "steaks."

Serve Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes and green vegetable of your choice or a salad.  You can even make something so basic look a little glamorous.
Salisbury Steak with Mashed Potatoes

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Falafel with Sesame Tahini Yogurt Sauce

Sesame Tahini and Chick Peas
Featured Ingredients: Sesame Tahini and Chick Peas or Garbanzo Beans

Recently, I've been pulling out my favorite recipes from Culinary School and revisiting that time in my life. I made one last week that was for a Chicken Tagine, that actually didn't work very well.  It called for nearly 6 cups of water.  It sounded like a lot but I trusted the source.  Unfortunately at the end the dish tasted, like someone left a pot of it out on an outdoor patio table in the rain.  I do recall that the instructor would, at times, modify the recipes in our binders during class.  I was using the original copy and that may have been the case with this recipe as it wasn't the wonderful dish I remember.

This recipe was also from Culinary School, I took some liberties this time.  It seemed there was too much of some elements and not enough of others, so creation is actually a merger of the school's recipe and one I saw recently on Budget Bytes. The falafel recipes are similar.  I just serve mine with a Sesame Tahini dressing.

Falafel   - Serves 4 (about 3 patties each)
2 cups Goya Chick Peas (rinsed and drained)
1/2 a red onion - roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley (washed and dried with paper towel)
1/4 cup cilantro (washed and dried with paper towel)
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
2 tsps baking powder
2 tbsp flour plus more if needed

Pitas, Lettuce, Tomato and Cucumber

Tahini Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)

Place chick peas,  onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro, cumin, salt and black pepper in a food processor.  I like to rough chop the onion and garlic to give them a head start. Process until blended but not pureed. This way everything ends up with the desired texture.

Falafel Mixture
Remove to a bowl and add baking powder.  Add 2 tbsp of flour, you may need to add more depending on how wet your mixture was initially.  You should be able to form a small ball and it should not be sticky.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile make Tahini Yogurt Sauce

7 oz. Fage 2% Greek Yogurt
2 tbsps Sesame Tahini (Mix the Tahini in the container to help recombine)
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt or more to taste
Additional water
When you open the Tahini it looks like peanut butter in its own juice.  It's sort of the same principle as peanut butter as it is ground up sesame seeds. The school recipe called for Tahini Paste, which I couldn't find, so I actually used the pasty part of the Tahini with some of the liquid to help thin out the yogurt.

Whisk yogurt, tahini,  lemon juice and salt in a small bowl.  Add 2 tbsp water, or more if you like a thinner sauce.  I kept mine the consistency of soft serve ice cream. When you first add liquid and start mixing it, it doesn't look good, but keep whisking and the sauce will become silky smooth.

Back to Falafel

Using a tablespoon scoop heaping spoonfuls from the giant falafel ball.  Form into smaller balls and pat down into patties.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick skillet and fry falafels on medium heat in batches until golden on both sides. These things suck up oil, so you may need more as you go along.  (Don't overcrowd pan).  If you have a fish spatula, consider yourself fortunate, as you need to flip them delicately so they don't fall apart. 

Serve with lettuce, tomato and cucumber on pita. I like to cut the top and around the pita so it looks like a sleeping bag.  This way you can lay lift the top of the pita and lay out your falafels with the lettuce, sauce etc, evenly without breaking the bread and then cover them with a "blanket".

Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce
I have a question. Is it falafel or falafels? Are you refering to each individual falafel patty or is the falafel the sandwich itself.  Is it like asparagus?  Is the plural asparagi?  Because asparaguses sounds wrong.  I digress.  Either way it's healthy and delicious.  Enjoy!  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oreo Brownie Ice Cream Cake

Edy's Grand Vanilla Bean
Featured Ingredient:  Edys Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

We all know ice cream doesn't come from a can. Maybe there is some freeze dried version somewhere in the world, but it is not sold at my local Stop & Shop.  So I'm taking creative license and featuring a different type of container. Hey, it's my blog, I can bend the rules.

I made ice cream cake for the first time today.  I've read different recipes on it before, but I was always concerned I would melt the ice cream too much and it just wouldn't work. I'm sure you've seen the remnants of melted ice cream that has been refrozen.  It takes on this watery ice crystal texture and taste that is not optimal.

I wanted to make something special for my son's 14th birthday.  He said he didn't want cupcakes, he didn't want chocolate cake, and you can't shove a candle into a cookie. He said he would like ice cream cake.  Now, I could have gone to my local ice cream store or bought one of those Carvel cakes that have been sitting for who knows how long...but I figured I'd give it a shot.  I watched a video or two on you tube, which I didn't like, but it gave me enough of an idea of where I was going to go.  I'm proud to say, this recipe is all mine!

Vanilla + Oreos = Heaven
Sometimes I get a bit too ambitious with my recipes.  For example I could have bought Cookies and Cream Ice Cream, but instead I opted to make my own with Vanilla so I could control the amount of cookie and sweetness. Every ice cream cake also needs some layer of cake, otherwise it's just one formed mound of ice cream, I figured I would top it with a layer of "cake like" brownies. I did cut corners and used a brownie mix.  Where would the time savings be if I actually made brownies from scratch as well.  Plus the advantage of the brownie mix is those mixes are so full of leaveners and conditioners that the brownies are light, buoyant and cut easily.  No worries.

Oreo Brownie Ice Cream Cake 
1 pkg Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies (about 1 cup crushed)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 reem of Oreos - Crushed
1.5 qt Edy's Grand Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 Family Size Brownie Mix
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
Extra Crushed Oreos for Garnish.

The prep time for this recipe is pretty fast if you coordinate your elements just right.

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix brownies according to package directions and pour into a 13 X 9 inch pan.  Bake a 350F for 22-25 minutes.  Meanwhile make crust. By the time you put this together you can throw this into the oven with the brownies during the last 10-12 minutes.

For the crust crush about a 1/2 a package of the chocolate wafers either in a plastic bag or food processor. Add melted butter and stir together.  Press cookies into a 9" springform pan. Using a cup with a rounded bottom works nicely.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Let ice cream sit out at room temperature in its container for about 30 minutes to soften and put into a large bowl. This is the perfect consistency. Add 1 reem of crushed oreos.  Again you can smash them yourself in a plastic bag or use food processor. I left some little larger chunks for texture. 
Now, one of the more important things I learned in culinary school is you need to taste each element of your dish, for consistency, flavor,etc.  So be sure you don't miss one step when putting this together.  I sure didn't.

Cool brownies and remove from pan.  Put crust and brownies in freezer for a few minutes to speed up cooling.  I was going to put them in "Nature's Blast Chiller (see photo).  As it was just as cold if not colder outdoors. 

When crust and brownies are cool.  Put ice cream into springform pan and top with brownies.  Gently press brownies into the ice cream. For this recipe I had enough ingredients to reach the exact top of the springform pan.  Cover with foil and place into freezer for at minimum 4 hours.

Nature's Blast Chiller

When ice cream has set run a thin knife or offset spatula around the cake.  It should remove easily from pan.  Make whipped cream.  Mix whipping cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla in cold bowl, ideally in a stand mixer and whip until it forms soft peaks.  Top cake with whipped cream.

While that's going take out a handful of oreos and lightly crush.  Sprinkle oreos on top of whipped cream.

By the time your whipped cream and oreos are done your cake will have been out about 10 minutes at room temperature and be ready to serve.

The bottom line was I was proud of my creation and my son loved it.  Hope you do too!

Oreo Brownie Ice Cream Cake
This recipe is linked to:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day - Cherry Almond Bars with Lemon Icing

Solo Almond Paste
Featured Ingredient: Almond Paste
Snow Day.  My area of Connecticut reported that we got the most snow in a 24 hour period since like the 1800's.

On a snow day there is nothing better to do than bake.  Since I am fortunate enough to have a husband and teenage son, I am able to bypass shoveling duties.  One of my major roles in this family is to cook, as you have probably guessed by now.  So I am more than happy to have hot chocolate, coffee and snacks at the ready when my boys come out of the snow.

Like the two feet of snow outside, this recipe was a challenge.  The steps in itself couldn't be easier once you have it down.  However, I was testing a couple variations today, adapting the recipe from one I found online on the Better Homes and Gardens site.

The biggest hurdle was the icing.  I wanted to use white chocolate, to match the landscape outside.
It melted just fine, when I tried to thin it out so I could drizzle it two separate times with two different liquids, it turned into a big curdled mess. I think I found the solution with the lemon icing, as I occasionally like to add a bit of citrus, whether zest or juice when I bake fruit desserts as it seems to highten the flavor.  Let me know what you think.

Cherry Almond Bars with Lemon Icing - Makes 12 bars

Crust -
1/3 cup butter (plus extra for greasing)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour

Topping -
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almond paste
2 tbsps butter

Filling -
2/3 cup Hero Black Cherry Preserves
1/3 cup dried cherries (optional).  I mixed the cherries with the preserves for some added texture.

Icing -
1 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F

Grease an 8X8X2 pan with butter. For crust beat butter in a medium bowl with electric mixer or use stand mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, beat until combined. Add flour and beat until combined. (Mixture will be relatively dry and crumbly). Press mixture into prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make topping by combining flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small mxing bowl. Cut in almond paste and butter with pastry blender until crumbly, set aside.

When crust is done let rest 5 minutes then spread preserves over top.  Sprinkle almond mixture over top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until topping is golden.  Cool in pan on wire rack.
For icing - Stir lemon juice slowly into confectioners sugar until it's "drizzleable" I just made up a word. Dip fork into icing and drizzle diagonally one way then diagonally the other to make a cross hatch.
Cherry Almond Bars with Lemon Icing

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Super Bowl of Soup - Roasted Chicken Tortilla Soup

Canned Tomatoes & Chicken Broth
Featured Ingredient: Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles and College Inn Chicken Broth (Lower Sodium)*

Super Bowl is around the corner. Not that I follow football, I am only mindful of this time as my dog was born on Super Bowl Sunday 3 years ago. But like the Super Bowl players I like to have game plan that will help me achieve my goal of great meal in record time.

After dinner last night, I was already thinking about what would be on tomorrow's menu.  I knew I had a 3.5 lb raw chicken in the fridge that I could throw into the oven, to save myself some prep time today. Below are my go-to ingredients for a simple roast chicken: 

Onion, lemon, celery, butter & some form of fresh mild herb.  For this chicken I had dill on hand.

I put a couple slices of onion, lemon, and two small stalks of celery into the cavity of the chicken. (Don't over stuff).  Soften about 4 tbsps of butter and blend in 1/4 cup of chopped herb, salt and pepper. With a butter knife loosen the skin on the chicken breast and insert butter under the skin and then spread out the butter by running the knife over the skin.  Be sure to leave little butter mixture. Melt butter and herbs and glaze the top of the chicken with a pastry brush. Put a little water in the bottom of your pan. Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes Baste chicken with juices and add more water if needed (about 1/2 way through baking for a 3.5 lb bird).  Roast for an additional 25 minutes until thigh registers at least 175F. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes so it can reach 180F.

Now all you have to do is put together your soup.

Roasted Chicken Tortilla Soup - This soup serves 4 very generously.

1 cup thinly sliced/shredded cooked chicken
1 14.5 oz. can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles undrained
2 tsps oil
2 cloves garlic minced
3 scallions
1/2 tsp cumin
3 cups low sodium chicken broth* (if you don't use low sodium don't add the additional salt in the recipe)
2 tsps salt
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 avocado peeled, pitted and cut in chunks
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice + a little extra

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add scallions and garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add broth, tomatoes, cumin.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add chicken and simmer an additional 5 minutes, until heated through. Stir in lime juice.

Meanwhile cut up chicken and avocado. Drizzle avocado with lime to help retain color and deter oxidization. Grate cheese.
Don't you just a love a perfect avocado

The Fire Roasted Tomatoes with the Chiles already pack a lot of flavor, so you don't need a lot of extra ingredients. There is a subtle heat to this product that gives the back of your throat a slight burn.

 You could also garnish with cilantro, but I didn't think it needed it. The creaminess of the avocado and the cheese counter balance the heat from the tomatoes. Sometimes when there are too many ingredients it becomes a clutter of flavors, that is not necessarily ideal. In this recipe you can taste each note individually and how well the ingredients work together as a team

Topped with Tortilla chips, avocado, cheese and you have your soup and deconstructed nachos all in one SUPER BOWL.
 A Super Bowl of Soup - Roasted Chicken Tortilla Soup
 This post is linked to: Girlie Chef - Tortilla Soup Challenge

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Dinner - Pistachio Flecked Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Orange Gastrique

Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce
Featured Ingredient: Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce

Here is a perfect Sunday meal, that can also warm you up any day of the week as it can be prepared rather quickly.  It looks and sounds glamorous yet is very simple to prepare. For the pork tenderloin, everything you need for the breading goes into a food processor.  A few steady pulses and you are good to go.  

The gastrique can be made while your pork finishes in the oven.  What is a gastrique? It's a french term meaning a thick sauce produced by a reduction vinegar, wine, sugar and usually fruit... and which sounds a lot fancier than sauce. I like using the whole cranberry sauce.  The chopped pistachios and the select whole cranberries in the sauce add a nice texture to this dish.

I happened to be in my old neighborhood yesterday. As it is 20 miles away I don't go there that often.  When I do I always make sure to stop at Palmer's Market in Darien, CT.  It's been there since 1921 and has come a long way from a small family-owned grocery store, to real gourmet establishment.  It's still owned and run by a Palmer. They have the best proteins around! So when I go there, I make sure to stock up. Look at this beauty.

Pork Tenderloin Recipe:

1/2 cup raw shelled pistachios
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400.

Season tenderloin with salt and pepper. Place pistachios, bread crumbs, lemon zest, garlic into food processor.  Pulse until the pistachios are finely chopped.  Pour out onto a plate or on a piece of foil.  (Think ahead... double this recipe freeze extra breading and for a later time.I'm sure you know you put away the extra breading in your food processor before you dip raw pork and egg in it. I just thought I'd put it out there.)

Beat egg and dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Dip tenderloin into egg then coat with breading mixture.

Heat oil in a non stick skillet.  Lightly sear tenderloin on both sides until a golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Spray an oven safe dish with cooking spray. Place pork on dish and put into oven for 15-20 minutes, until pork reaches 155-160F.  Set dish aside on rack cover with foil and let rest.  Your "rested" pork should have a slightly blushed color when sliced. 

Cranberry Orange Gastrique 

1 cup Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 tsp orange zest
2 tsp butter
Salt to Taste

Heat sauce, vinegar, garlic and orange zest in saucepan over low/simmering heat for about 15 minutes.  Stir every few minutes.  When thickened swirl in butter at the end. 
Cranberry Orange Gastrique

Pistachio Flecked Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Orange Gastrique

Serve this with something creamy like mashed potatoes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Panko Crusted Tilapia with Peach Salsa over Basmati Rice

Featured Ingredient: Del Monte Sliced Peaches

While I like the fact that I started this blog in winter I find myself missing some of the fresh flavors of the warmer seasons. Right now the choices for fruit are limited -- apples, pears, and various species of orange are the only things that seem to be at their peak of flavor.  Other fruits are from South America or Mexico and since you need to allot for a longer travel time, the fruits we get, such as mangoes are green and hard and don't seem like they will ever reach their succulent ripeness like they do when they are in season. Doesn't seem to justify $1.50 for one price tag.

 This is a great time to take advantage of canned fruits. Fruits that are canned are picked at their peak of flavor before they are packaged up.  So you don't have to worry about getting an unripe or mealy peach. You can rely on the fact that you will receive consistent flavor from each peach slice. I like to use fruits in their natural juices.  Peaches especially hold their shape well in the can and bring a nice sweetness to this dish.

While I was cooking the rice the fragrance wafted through my kitchen over to my cutting board and married up with the lingering scent of the peaches like they were meant for each other.  This entire dish has nice balance of textures and flavors. Tender, crunchy, salty, tart and sweet.

Serves 4.

Peach Salsa

I make salsa complete by eye and taste.  My measures are only guidelines. Basically the peaches need to be the most dominant ingredient. The rest of the ingredients complement the peaches but are in smaller amounts. If you use an entire 14 oz. can of peaches using the above guidelines you will get about 2 cups of salsa. 

1 can peaches - small dice
1 kiwi - small dice
1/2 red bell pepper - small dice
1/4 of a red onion (more or less depending on what you like)

1/2 lime juiced
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 tsp salt

Adjust number of ingredients and flavors to your liking.

1 cup Basmati Rice.  Cooking according to directions. Add butter as recommended on package.

Panko Crusted Tilapia

I like to use a  mix of panko and regular breadcrumbs, as you get the crunchiness of panko and the regular breadcrumbs help more thoroughly coat the fish.

4 pcs Tilapia
2 eggs
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 cup regular breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper

Rinse and dry fish.  Squeeze half a lemon over the fish and pat dry again.  Season fish with salt and pepper

Mix eggs with dijon mustard in a bowl.

Dip fish into egg mixture and coat with breading.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Cook fish about 4 minutes per side until golden brown on each side.  Cover skillet in between to promote cooking.

Serve over basmati rice and spoon salsa over fish.  Close your eyes and picture a serene warm tropical retreat.

Panko Crusted Tilapia with Peach Salsa over Basmati Rice

Peach on Foodista