Monday, May 31, 2010

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I know that right now, cupcakes are all the rage. I am not such a trend person, so while I think that cupcakes are cute, I could take them or leave them. That being said, when I saw this recipe and thought of the bag of apples that my mom sent home with me the other day, I figured that making cupcakes with apples was a great way to indulge in a sweet treat and prevent the apples from going bad. Win-win, right?!

I did a bit of reading up on the science behind the making of cupcakes and found myself wanting to know more. I learned that it is very important to make sure the butter is at room temperature and to give it a good beating when adding the sugar and the eggs. Once the flour is added, it is important to only beat as long as it takes to incorporate the flour, and no more. Interesting. I think that I may be visiting cupcake baking a bit more often in the future. ;)

Apple Pie Cupcakes
Annie's Eats

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Linguine Carbonara

Such a simple side dish! I love this served alongside Chicken Marsala. This is always a big hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. Tonight, for the sake of using what I had on hand, I used bacon and onions. However, as a disclaimer, I much prefer pancetta and shallots! What a difference in flavor those 2 ingredients make. So, if you are making a list of what you need to buy, don't skimp on flavor--buy the good stuff!

*Sorry for the really awful pic....crappy camera.  ;)

Linguine Carbonara

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chicken Marsala

Have I ever mentioned that I love Marsala wine? Yep. I thought so. What about mushrooms? Yep. I thought so. So, are you surprised to know that I love Chicken Marsala? Nope, I didn't think you would be. :) I've tried several different recipes; the one I will share with you is my most recent attempt. Simple and straightforward.


Chicken Marsala
from Savory Sweet Life

Friday, May 28, 2010

Vegetable & Bean Tostadas

I really enjoy light & simple dinners. My grocery budget loves vegetarian dinners. This is a meal combining both tasty and frugal. I am really loving recipes from America's Test Kitchen, and I was able to pick up a new cookbook from them at the library last week.

These tostadas have a lot of flavor going on, but the end result on your tastebuds is fresh and mellow. Perfect!

Vegetable and Bean Tostadas
"The Best Simple Recipes" America's Test Kitchen

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Honey Yeast Rolls

OMGoodness.....luscious, yeasty, honey delight. I am still in the "newlywed" phase of my love affair with yeast....we are still trying to figure each other out! Sometimes, I end up with bread or rolls that are perfect, and other times....well, not so good. With the exception of my overbaking these just a bit, these rolls turned out wonderful, even if I do say so myself! (I think that my dinner company enjoyed them as well!) I am looking foward to making them again very soon!

Honey Yeast Rolls
Annie's Eats

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vegetable Tian

This is such a simple side dish, but it looks impressive and can really make your spread look fancy. I love the simple ingredients and the integrity of flavors. Side dishes are probably my biggest challenge--I tend to spend a lot of time and energy on my entree and then I have to scramble to put something next to it. This vegetable dish will definitely be showing up on my table often!

Vegetable Tian

Honey Mustard Dressing

I am typically not a honey-mustard dressing person....I prefer ranch on salads and BBQ sauce for dipping chicken. However, this is a "keep" recipe and is great on both salads and chicken, or whatever else you want to dress or dip!! :)

Honey Mustard Dressing #28110

Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup honey
2 tbl. honey dijon mustard (plus more to taste, if needed)
1 tsp. white vinegar
pinch of paprika
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

Island Chicken

This recipe is so easy, and it really delivers on flavor. After marinating, you can grill or sautee the chicken if you prefer that over baking.

Island Chicken
Annie's Eats

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fish Tacos with Quick Slaw, Avocado Sauce, & Green Rice

Stop! Before you write this post off as the most disgusting thing that you've ever laid eyes upon, just take a deep breath. Now, muster up some courage. Ok, good. Now, keep reading. :)

I promise I will never share an absolutely horrid, disgusting recipe with you.

That said, this is an interesting, varied take on fish....and truly, there's nothing "taco-ish" about it, except that a lot of yummy goodness is wrapped in a flour tortilla. My family loves this, even though El Hub thinks that he doesn't. And, every time in the past 2 years that I have been including this meal on our menu, he looks at me across the table and says,

Friday, May 21, 2010

French Onion Soup

This has become my most requested soup recipe! I grew up abhoring onions; as an adult, I can't imagine life without them! And French onion soup has such tender, sweet onions! So delish....
Oh, a side note....I personally do not care for croutons or toast in my French onion soup; I think that ducks have the copyright on soggy bread. So, my recipe is written omitting the toast. However, if you like it, feel free to add it on top of the soup, before the cheese.

French Onion Soup
adapted from Rachael Ray

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Red Chile Chicken and Rice with Black Beans

Very simple and weeknight-friendly dinner! I have made this several times before, omitting the chicken, as a side dish. With the chicken this time, I thought that this needed to be rolled in a flour tortilla and topped with some fresh tomatoes and lettuce and cheddar cheese for an ultimate chicken-n-rice burrito. This dish will be showing up on my table for a while!!

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Greek Fest Dinner

This was my "fun" Saturday activity....tucked away in my kitchen, windows open, the sound of childrens' laughter (along with crying and fighting, who am I kidding?!) wafting in from the great outdoors. This meal with take you all day to make, but the delight you will get from the first bite to the last will be completely worth all your time and effort. Trust me.

(In the hopes of saving some of the time still left in this day, I am just going to link you to all the recipes, since I got all of them from online. Three of them came from Annie's Eats, a food blog that I just adore. As I've stated before, I've yet to be disappointed with any of her recipes!) Please click on the name of the dish for the link to the recipe.

So, roll up your sleeves, get your flour and measuring cups out, and have a blast!!!

Pita Bread
Fresh, homemade. I've made these pitas before, but this time they turned out perfect! I'll be hard-pressed to buy pita bread in the store anytime soon....

These, in Annie's words (I think she described them this way!), are "mind-blowing." Truly. They are amazing. I love the marinade that the chicken soaked in all afternoon, and the tzatziki sauce is outta-this-world! One will fill you up completely, but you will want a second one before you say "uncle." This is a lot of fun to make, as well. You get to strain the liquid out of the Greek yogurt, and wring the liquid out of a shredded cucumber! Fun times!

My good friend shared this recipe with me prior to a Ladies' Soup Buffet that she hosted at her house. I love how the light lemon flavor coupled with the thick creaminess of the rice comes out in this.
When I first showed my husband the picture of this salad online, he turned his nose up at it and declared that he didn't think he would like it (which is very uncharacteristic of my "I'll eat pretty much anything" husband). Needless to say, this was very good and he loved it! Surprise, surprise. I used Roma tomatoes instead of cherry, and added crumbled goat cheese to my feta, since I didn't really have enough.

I cannot wait until I can make this dinner again!!!

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This is a favorite recipe, passed on to me from my mom. While I usually steer clear of prepackaged foods, this coffee cake is so delicious and yummy that I break my own "homemade" rule. The muffin mixes make this so easy to whip up for an early breakfast or a relaxed brunch.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
from my mom

4 Jiffy blueberry muffin mixes
2 cups sour cream (16 ounces)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
2 eggs
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Mix first 5 ingredients together with electric mixer. Gently fold in the blueberries. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Streusal Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (or more to taste)
1/4 cup quick oats
nuts, nutmeg, cinnamon

Fork ingredients together until crumbly. Pour over top of coffee cake batter.

Bake at 350-degrees for 50-55 minutes.

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Can I just say that I love Buffalo Chicken Wings?! However, I find them to be a bit too expensive to get at my local favorite restaurant too often. I have tried to come up with ways to make them at home. Some of the times I have wanted to send those wings a-flying (you know, right into the trash); other times, they have turned out ok and have satisfied the craving. This time was likely my best attempt, even though I about lost my fingertips in the butchering process (you know, detaching the wing tip and separating the wing from the drumstick? Yeah, that process. Yuck.) As a sidenote, I will consider my next tab from the wing restauant a bargain!

Short of deep-frying, this is my best shot. Take it or leave it. Or just saturated 'dem wings in a pool of sauce. That's the best part, anyhow.

Buffalo Chicken Wings
(my best attempt)

a package of chicken wings, thawed (whatever size you need!)
black pepper
canola oil, for browning

Buffalo Sauce (recipe follows)

Cut apart the chicken wings if the wingtip and the drumstick are still attached.

Scoop some flour (1/2 cup, I guess) into a bowl and add some black pepper. Combine with a fork. Dredge each chicken piece in flour to lightly coat.

In a large skillet, pour some canola oil and heat. Add the chicken (in batches, if you have a lot of wings) and lightly brown on both sides. When chicken is done browning, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet with rims (I have found that parchment works best to avoid sticking).

In a preheated 425-degree oven, place baking sheet with chicken and bake until meat is down and skins are crispy and brown (I never know how long this takes; I would start at 30-45 minutes and then check them). When chicken is done, set oven to broil and broil a couple of minutes to finish crisping the chicken wings.

Pour prepared Buffalo Sauce over chicken or serve from a bowl.

Buffalo Sauce
1/2 stick butter
1/3 cup hot sauce (I prefer Frank's Red Hot sauce)
1 tsp. garlic powder, if you like it extra spicy

In a small saucepan, heat both ingredients together until butter is melted. Avoid boiling as that will break down the butter and you will end up with a separated sauce.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

On a recent shopping trip with a girlfriend, she bought "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook" and allowed me a quick perusal through it. The next time I was at my local public library, I spotted this same cookbook on the shelf, and in an effort to keep my $35 tucked safely away, I checked it out.

Now, I am not a huge fan of chocolate chip cookies (I much prefer the dough before the chips are added!) But, I have a couple chocolate chip cookies recipes that yield flat, buttery/greasy, and often doughy cookies. Grrrr..... So, I turned to my borrowed cookbook for help. Wow!! What a difference! I'm thankful that Christopher Kimball and the rest of the test kitchen cooks spent their time and ingredients testing away in order to provide my kitchen with a winning recipe!!

These cookies are crispy on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside. One of the keys to this achievement is the use of melted butter, which acts very differently than softened butter in cookies. Also, be sure you leave your cookies on the baking sheets for the 10 minutes; this helps get that crispy outer layer on the cookies.

After several successful attempts (along with some rave reviews!) with this recipe, I can now say that I am a fan. Enjoy!

Big & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
"The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook"

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
16 tbl. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks (the extra fat provided by the yolks makes the cookie chewy)
1 tbl. vanilla extract
1 (12-oz.) bag of semisweet chocolate chips, about 2 cups

  • Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 325-degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

  • Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as necessary.

  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporated.

  • Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 17-20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

  • Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

*The dough can be made through Step 3 and either covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days or portioned out and frozen. When ready to bake, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and increase the baking time to 25-30 minutes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Ok. Two things you must know about me. 1. I adore soup. 2. Broccoli Cheddar soup is my absolute favorite. Absolute. Favorite. It is what I always order at Panera. Always. For the past couple of years, I have tried several different versions of this delectable liquid food, and have come face-to-face with pot after pot of disappointment. Too watery. Not cheesey enough. Veggies not tender enough. Too many steps. Too many ingredients. Yada Yada.

And then.....voila! I found a keeper on a favorite food blog that I follow. Annie's Eats has yet to disappoint me in the recipe department. Her Broccoli Cheddar soup is perfect...tender veggies, balanced flavors, and the perfect amount of cheddar. A couple of changes that I have made however, is to add more broccoli, which then requires an additional cup of chicken stock, and I never measure my shredded cheddar cheese--I practically just upend the entire package into the thickened milk. I mean, really....can Broccoli Cheddar soup be too cheddar-y? I'm thinking not.

So, I give you lots of love....

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Annie's Eats

6 tbl. butter, divided
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped or shredded
4 cups small broccoli florets
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. onion salt (I use onion powder)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
4 tbs. flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
freshly ground black pepper

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the chopped onion. Sautee until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the carrots and cook a couple minutes more. Stir in the broccoli, chicken broth, onion salt/powder, and garlic powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter (4 tbl.). Add the flour, whisking smooth, to create a roux. Whisk in the milk and cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Once thickened, add the cheese and off the heat. Stir cheese sauce until smooth. Stir into the large soup pot. Allow to gently simmer until heated through and broccoli is tender. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. (If desired, puree the soup with an immersion blender for a smooth texture. I personally like this soup a bit chunky.)

San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread

YUM! That's the only word necessary.....

San Francisco-style Sourdough Bread
"Best Bread Machine Recipes" Better Homes & Gardens

For a 1 1/2 pound loaf
(about 20 slices)

2 tbl. milk
3 cups bread flour
1 tbl. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. bread machine yeast

In the order listed above, add the ingredients to the pan of a bread machine. Select the "dough" cycle. (My dough cycle takes 90 minutes.) When the cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Lighly grease baking sheet; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, shape the 1 1/2 pound dough into one 8-inch round loaf (I like to vary this; sometimes I will make an oval shaped loaf, or smaller round ones).

Place loaf on prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, slash top(s) of loaf (loaves) diagonally. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until nearly double.

Brush tops with water. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven; cool.

For a 2-pound loaf
(about 27 slices):

1/4 cup milk
4 cups bread flour
4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. bread machine yeast.

The dough cycle is the same as above. After dough has rested, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a 6-inch round or an 8x4-inch oval. Follow the rest of the recipe above.

Sourdough Starter

Does anything get more heavenly than sourdough bread? I suppose not. El Hub has always been a fan, and I guess I have as well, though I am much more now that I can make my own! This recipe comes from a cookbook that my in-laws gave to me the same Christmas they gave me a bread machine. Oh, how I adore them (and the in-laws, too!! :) ) I use both the cookbook and the bread machine all.the.time.!

Sourdough Starter
"Best Bread Machine Recipes" Better Homes & Gardens

1 1/2 tsp. active dry or bread machine yeast
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
3 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp. granulated sugar or brown sugar

Dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup warm water. Stir in the 3 cups warm water, the flour, and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high until smooth.

Cover with 100% cotton cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature (75-85 degrees) for 5 to 10 days or until the mixture has a sour, fermented aroma, stirring 2-3 times each day. (The fermentationtime will depend upon the room temperature. A warmer room will speed up the fermentation process.) When the mixture has fermented, transfer starter to a 2-qt. or larger plastic container. Refrigerate the starter until needed.

*To use starter, stir it thoroughly upon removing from the refrigerator (it will have separated). Measure the needed amount and bring to room temperature before using.

**For each cup of starter used, replenish by adding
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (bread flour will make the starter stringy.)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar or brown sugar

(I like to mix this up in a separate bowl before adding it to the remaining starter.) Cover and let mixture stand at room temperature for at least a day or until it is bubbly. Refrigerate for later use.

If you haven't used the starter within 10 days, stir in 1 tsp. granulated or brown sugar. Repeat every 10 days unless starter is replenished.

Taking a Break

Ok, so I have posted 45 blog entries on my Italian cooking adventure since the end of March. In that time, I have made homemade pasta, simmered a couple different sauces, braised a couple different types of vegetables, tried and failed at gnocchi, baked chickens in new ways, and have grown confident in making foccacia. I have purchased a lot of cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil. Some of the recipes I have been excited about, and some I have been very nervous about. My cooking brain has started to think in Italian (well, not really since I don't know Italian, but you get the idea!)

However, this past round of recipes, truth be told, I was less-than-enthused with. I wasn't estatic about the flavors that I knew would be greeting my tastebuds after 2 hours spent in the kitchen, often on my own, while El Hub was working and the kids were fighting/crying in the not-to-distant background.

So, I decided that life is just simply too short to not be passionate about what I am cooking. So, I am taking a 2-week break from Italian cooking (and menu planning, and grocery shopping for the pricey ingredients!) and am going to revisit some of my favorite meals from my standard, but ever-growing, collection of recipes.

Some of you expressed interest on my Facebook page (did you know that The Culinary Enthusiast has a page?? Are you a fan yet?) for the non-Italian recipes, and I am more than happy to oblige you! After all, it has become standard procedure to take pictures of my meals before I eat!!

So check back daily for the latest and greatest! (Oh, yeah.... If you want to make The Culinary Enthusiast super-enthused, leave a comment!!! I practically jump out of my skin when I read them!)

As a bit of a teaser, some of the tastes to look foward to include soup, Mexican, fish, chicken, and certainly a couple of desserts (those are unplanned as of yet, but my sweet tooth will demand sugar at some point!).


Pasta e Fagioli

As an American cook, I rarely think of cooking beans and pasta side-by-side. However, this soup/pasta was very comforting and filling. According to the cookbook, "there are as many variations on this dish as there are grandmas in Italy." So, be creative, and use what you have on hand! More than likely, it will still be authentic!

Pasta e Fagioli
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

2 cups cranberry beans (they are white beans with red stripes. I used 1 can of Great Northern beans and 1 can of dark red kidney beans)
6 cups cold water
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups beef stock
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbl. tomato paste
2 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup tubetti pasta, not cooked (I used ditalini pasta)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped parsley, extra virgin olive oil, and grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

If using dried beans, place the beans and the cold water in a 6-qt. pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the same burner. Allow to stand 1 hour. Drain the beans and return to the pot. If using canned beans, drain and rinse them and begin from this point. Place beans in the 6-qt. pot.

Add the wine and the beef and chicken stock; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain out half the beans and puree. Return the pureed beans to the pot. Add the garlic, tomato paste, parsley, and the raw pasta and simmer gently, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until the pasta is very tender and the soup is thick. Stir the soup regularly to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Add the garnishes if desired.

Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic

A very simple dish of pasta rounded out the chicken dinner I served. This was so simple, and yet so delightfully delicious in its simplicity.

Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic
"Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" Lidia Bastianich

1 pound spaghetti or vermicelli
5 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (I know it seems like a lot, but this is essentially the only flavoring in this pasta! Be brave!)
1/2 tsp. crushed hot red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Stir the pasta into the water and return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 3 tbl. of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until garlic is pale golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the red pepper flakes. Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of the hot pasta water into the garlic sauce. Add the parsely, the remaining 2 tbl. of oil, and salt to taste.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta. Bring the sauce and pasta to a simmer over medium heat, tossing to coat the pasta. When heated through, remove from heat and toss in the grated cheese.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Asparagus Parmigiano

Asparagus is yet another vegetable that I am desperate to love! Though I must say, that falling in love with asparagus has every potential of being far easier to do than falling in love with artichokes. Either way, this dish was very good and very simple.
Asparagus Parmigiano
"The Culinary Enthuisiast Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

1 pound thin asparagus
pinch of salt
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tbl. lemon juice
3 tbl. melted butter
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Break the rough woody ends off the asparagus and discard. Fill a 12-qt. pot two-thirds full with cold water. Bring to a boil and add the salt and the oil. Blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes and drain. Immediately rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain very well.

Place the asparagus in an 8x8 glass baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese. Drizzle the lemon juice and melted butter and top with the freshly ground black pepper. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Chicken Thighs with Parmesan and Brown Butter with Sage Sauce

This is a very simple recipe and the integrity of the flavors is found in its simplicity! The sauce can be served over steak, pork, and certainly vegetables! Be creative!

Chicken Thighs with Parmesan and Brown Butter with Sage Sauce
"The Culinary Enthusiast Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith

Bake 8 chicken thighs in a baking dish for about 30-40 minutes (I baked at 375-degrees) or until done to taste. The juices should run clear. Place on a warm platter and top with Parmesan cheese and the Brown Butter with Sage sauce. The hot butter should sizzle up on the chesse and the chicken.

Brown Butter with Sage Sauce
1/2 stick unsalted butter
4 fresh sage leaves (I coarsely chop mine)
salt to taste
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, over the entree

Melt the butter in a small frying pan. Add the fresh sage leaves and allow the butter to brown. Don't burn! Salt the entree and top with the freshly grated cheese. When butter is lightly browned, pour over the cheese on the entree.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

These sandwiches were very yummy! Once again, I used my bargain enamel roasting pan and discovered yet another item to add to my ever-growing Kitchen Wish List--an electric knife! (I had borrowed my parents'.) I am looking forward to a leftover sandwich for tomorrow's lunch.
Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches
"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
1 4-pound sirloin tip roast
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3 tbl. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 red and 2 green bell peppers, cored and sliced into 1-in. strips
2 onions, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4-6 individual Italian poor boy rolls (I used rolls made from a batch of Italian peasant bread)
Season the meat with salt and pepper, oregano, and thyme. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 2 hours or until the meat reaches 130 degrees in the center. Remove and allow to cool. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water and place the juices in a 6-qt. pot.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan and add the oil, garlic, onion, and bell peppers. Saute for 5 minutes.
Slice the cooled meat very thinly across the grain with an electric knife. Place the sliced meat in the 6-qt. pan with accumulated juices. Add the beef stock, chicken stock, white wine, and parsley. Cover and simmer gently for an hour and 15 minutes. Stir the pot a couple of times while cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Dip each roll in the broth in the pot so that it is saturated and heavy.* Fill the roll with plenty of simmered beef and vegetables.
*I cannot stand soggy bread (I'm not a duck!) so I completely skipped this part.
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Coffee Granita

I love coffee. I love vanilla lattes. When I saw this recipe on Lidia Bastianich's website, I loved the idea of coffee as dessert. So I made it ahead for El Hub and I to indulge in when he got home from work and the kiddos were tucked in tight for bed. Well, El Hub was late. So, I refroze it and saved it for the next night. El Hub was late again. So nerdy genius that I am, today I decided to serve it for a mid-afternoon treat. Well, my poor granitas weren't supposed to be thawed and refrozen so many times, so they were a bit lumpier (is that a word?!) than they are supposed to be. And for being the coffee-lover that I am, I must admit to these being a bit too strong for my preference. El Hub loved them. They have made it to my "make again" list. (Oh, and my son loved the homemade whipped cream. He informed me that he doesn't like the kind at school. Good to know!)
Coffee Granitas--"Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen" cookbook. Lidia Bastianich
4 cups brewed espresso
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
Brew espresso and while it is still hot, stir in 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and add more sugar if you like. Cool to room temperature.
Pour coffee mixture into 9x13 baking pan and set it on a level shelf in the freezer. When ice crystals begin to form around the edges (30 minutes to 1 hour), remove the pan from the freezer and stir the ice crystals into the liquid. Return to freezer and repeat every time ice crystals form. The more of the liquid that turns to ice, the quicker the remaining liquid will freeze after the pan is returned to the freezer. The granita is now ready to serve and should be served within a few hours.
Whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Run a fork through the granita to break up any large crystals and spoon the granita into tall glasses. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve immediately.
(Blender Version Granita)
Pour the coffee mixture into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Grind the ice cubes in an ice crusher or blender. This method will give you more of a coffee slush than a true granita.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Risotto with Fennel

Rice dishes are very common in northern Italy as opposed to the southern part, where pasta plays a bigger role on an Italian table. For me, this was the first time I had ever made risotto, though I have always wanted to before. According to Lidia Bastianich, risotto is only made with imported Arborio rice, which the key ingredient making risotto risotto. So, if you are making this at home, don't substitute regular white rice.
Basic Risotto--"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
7 cups chicken stock
3 tbl. olive oil
2 cups arborio rice
salt and pepper to taste
In a small saucepan, bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Heat a 4-quart heavy-bottomed pot and add the oil. Add the arborio rice and toast the rice for a few minutes, but don't burn. Ladle in 1 1/2 cups of the simmering stock initially, stirring the rice constantly. Cook over medium-low heat. When the liquid has almost been absorbed the rice, add another 1/2 cup of hot stock. Continue stirring and adding the remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time as the stock is absorbed. This should take about 30 minutes to cook and the arborio should be tender but a bit firm to the tooth when done. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You will be amazing at how creamy this risotto is!)
Risotto with Fennel--"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
3 tbl. butter
2 cloves garlic
1 cup diced yellow onion
3 cups julienned fresh fennel bulb
1 recipe Basic Risotto
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbl. grated Parmesan cheese & 2 tbl. fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Heat a large frying pan and saute the butter, garlic and onion until the onion is almost clear. Add the fennel and saute until the fennel is tender, about 7-10 minutes. When the risotto is 5 minutes from being done, stir in the sauteed fennel mixture. Add the salt and pepper to taste and garnish.
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Chicken, Farmer-Style (Pollo Contadino)

This is one of those dishes that you absolutely feel good about eating--protein and a nice, super-sized dose of fresh veggies! And as long as you don't overeat on this yumminess, you will be fine! This is a very simple recipe and I love how colorful it is. (Did you notice my enamel roasting pan? Three bucks at a garage sale the other week! It is in perfect condition!)
Chicken, Farmer-Style (Pollo Contadino) "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
4 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 large red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 large green bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
12 medium Italian or Greek olives, not pitted
1 tsp. capers
6 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tbl. fresh rosemary (I chopped mine a bit to release more of the flavor)
1/4 cup white wine
Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large bowl and toss with the flour and pat off the excess flour from each piece of chicken. Heat a large frying pan and drizzle with olive oil. Brown the chicken on both sides and remove it to a roasting pan, leaving the oil in the frying pan.
Heat the pan again and add the carrots, Saute for 3 minutes and add the red and green peppers and the onion. Saute unti the onion is translucent. Place the vegetables on top of the chicken in the roasting pan.
Heat the frying pan again and add the remaning oil. Add the mushrooms, olives, capers, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper to taste and pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle the wine all over.
Cover the roasting pan with either the lid or foil and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Uncover the pan and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the chicken a couple of times in the vegetable sauce while cooking. Serve the chicken with the vegetables and sauce over the top.
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Cannelloni with Cheese, Potato, and Spinach Filling, Basic Cannelloni Crepes

I came home the other day from an early morning meeting starving and decided to see what I could throw together for lunch, using "extra" ingredients that I had on hand, without dipping into next week's menu items. I love cannelloni, and spinach, ricotta, and potatoes were the "extra" ingredients! Works for me! The best thing about this is, I ended up with more than I needed for lunch, so I tossed the rest in the freezer for a future meal! These were yummy!
Basic Cannelloni Crepes--"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
3 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
Peanut oil (I used olive oil)
Place the eggs in a blender. Add the water, flour, and salt and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Heat a 10-in. nonstick frying pan and lightly oil the pan. Ladle 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and quickly turn the pan to evenly coat the bottom with batter. Cook on one side only until dry on the top, about a minute. These should be only very lightly browned and not too dry, so that pan should not be too hot. Lightly oil the pan before cooking each crepe. Separate the crepes with wax paper until ready to use. The noodles can be refrigerated overnight if you seal them in a plastic bag.
Fresh Tomato Sauce Sicilian (see past post on this)
Ricotta, Spinach, and Potato Filling--"The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian" Jeff Smith
1 1-pound potato (I used 2 medium-sized ones)
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg yolk
Boil the potato in the skin about 35 mintues or until tender when a knife is inserted. Drain and allow to cool. (I stuck my two in the microwave and cooked them quickly.) Peel the potato skin and run the potato through a potato ricer into a mixing bowl along with the remaining ingredients. (I just coarsely chopped my potatoes as I mixed the filling together. Remember, I was starving!) Mix together well.
To fill the crepes, spoon some of the mixture onto the center of each crepe. Roll up and place seam side down in a sauced casserole or baking dish. Pour any remaining sauce over the cannelloni. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese over top. Bake at 375 until filling is heated through.
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