Friday, December 31, 2010

Top 10 of 2010

You probably have seen them on some of the other food blogs...."The Best of 2010" or "Favorite Recipes of 2010."  Being the creative person that I am, I thought I would jump on this bandwagon.  You know, the "everyone else is doing it so I will too" kinda thing.  Like I told you, creative.  :)

This blog has sort of evolved since its inception on March 29, 2010.  What started out as an adventure and challenge to cook my way through a classic Italian cookbook didn't take too long for Italian food to become a bit boring and a bit expensive.  After all, I love me a good enchilada! 

So, The Culinary Enthusiast evolved.  And evolution is good.  Because life is too short to limit my tastebuds to tomatoes, basil, and pasta (even though I am passionately in love with all 3!) 

This blog post is all about my Top 10 favorite recipes of this year (or 9 months, I guess!).  I didn't put my list in any particular order.  What is your favorite recipe from this blog?

I loved learning how to make fresh homemade pasta this year.  It doesn't get much better than that.  I loved how making pasta involved my whole family and loved sitting down together and enjoying a delicious meal.  I also loved that pasta-making sparked a sweet new friendship with Laura.

Margherita pizza is classic.  Simple.  Delicious. 

Of course, pasta makes this list.  And really, how does a pasta-lover with a pasta loving family choose just one?  I loved Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Parsley, and Linguine Carbonara, and Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes.  All delicious.  All easy and simple. 

I mentioned earlier that I love enchiladas.  This year, I made several different versions, but this one is by far my favorite.  Coincedentally, it is also the easiest!  And the one I made for others the most as well!  Three cheers to America's Test Kitchen for Easy Chicken Enchiladas!  (I will make them again soon and post a new picture!)

Snickerdoodle cupcakes must make this list.  And really, they need to make your list!  Heaven meets Heaven.  You know?

This year I perfected (or at least, conquered!) yeast.  And I am so glad that I did.  My culinary world opened up exponentially with cinnamon rolls, yeast rolls, and fresh, homemade pita bread.  I haven't bought pita bread since!  If you haven't tried making pita bread, you should consider putting it on your 2011 Resolution list. 

2010 was the year of homemade ice cream for us.  With the addition of a new Kitchenaide ice cream maker, we cranked out several flavors in very short order.  Our favorite?  Coffee ice cream.  Knowing me, big surprise, right?!

Oh, I can't forget about spanakopita.  Buttery, flaky, to Italian food, ice cream, yeasted breads, coffee, it is the perfect food.  My kids loved it.

These lemon bars are to die for.  Sweet and tart at the same time.  I will be making these again and again.

Last but not least, my family fell in love with buffalo chicken chili mac.  I made it twice in about 2 weeks' time with the request to work it into the menu rotation regularly.  It made a lot, which was perfect for leftovers for a couple more meals. 

Now, as a disclaimer, it was hard to choose and limit myself to 10 favorite recipes.  Because this year, I learned to make cheese, learned to use the grill, cooked lentils for the first time, made oatmeal in the crockpot, made apple dumplings, and ventured a bit into the world of candymaking.  A lot of culinary feats were achieved in 2010!  (For the sake of ease on my part, I didn't include links to the above recipes.  You can use the search bar on the side for the recipes that are of interest to you).

I am looking forward to what 2011 brings out of my kitchen.  Truthfully, I'm not even sure how to speculate what I would like to cook.  But I know I'll be cooking, and I know I'll be sharing with you. 

But I wonder what you would like to see?  What interests you?  What are your thoughts about this blog design?  What works for you and what doesn't work?  I would love for you to leave a comment letting me know your thoughts about The Culinary Enthusiast.

Three cheers to 2010!  Three cheers to 2011!  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

I always think I need some rich, decadent dessert for Christmas, but I have found over the years that no one has room at the end of the huge meal for a heavy filling dessert.  This year, I decided I would change it up a bit and offer cupcakes--light, fluffy, individual servings, no plate or fork necessary!  These cupcakes are amazing!  I love the vanilla undernotes in the frosting; it keeps the peppermint from being overwhelming.  And even though I am not a chocolate fan, I enjoyed the chocolate cupcake itself.

Don't limit yourself to making these just at Christmas time; anytime you get the peppermint mocha urge, these are your cupcakes!

Tips & Tricks:  I have yet to add espresso powder to my spice cabinet, so I improvised and used my coffee grinder to make instant coffee very fine.  For the frosting, make sure that your egg white mixture forms stiff peaks before adding the butter--I didn't and ended up with a soupy buttercream that even 20 minutes of whipping couldn't stiffen.  *I added more butter, as that is the main structure of buttercream, and within a couple of minutes I had a good frosting.   Too much whipping and you will end up with curdled buttercream that doesn't look very pretty.  Just watch it closely.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
Adapted from:  Annie's Eats
Yields 3 dozen cupcakes

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry Eggnog Muffins

I don't know about you, but I think that I like the idea of eggnog much better than I like the actual drink.  I usually tell myself once a year that I need to have a glass of this thick creamy drink because....well, I'm not actually sure why.  Christmas cheer, perhaps?  Childhood memories?

This year, I like the idea of eggnog as an ingredient rather than a beverage!  Now, if you're not a huge eggnog fan, don't stress.  These muffins have just a hint of eggnog flavor; in fact, if muffins could be creamy, that's how I would describe these.  Light and fluffy, truly just a step down from a cupcake.  A perfect way to use up some of that holiday cheer for Christmas morning! 

Cranberry Eggnog Muffins
Source:  Recipe Girl

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbl. baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup eggnog
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries  (I used fresh.  If fresh are unavailable, frozen cranberries is preferred over dried)
2 tbl. granulated sugar

For the streusel topping
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter, slightly softened


Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line 14-16 muffin cups with baking liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, eggnog, butter and almond extract. Mix in dry ingredients just until combined. Toss cranberries with 2 T. sugar and then stir into batter.

 Prepare streusel topping: Combine topping ingredients using a pastry cutter (or two knives) until crumbly.

 Fill prepared muffin cups two-thirds full. Top with streusel topping. Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until muffins test done with a toothpick inserted in the center coming out clean.

Shells with Mini Chicken Meatballs

This is one of the funnest (is that even a word??!) pasta dishes I have ever made!  And sooooo yummy....

Let's start with the fun.

You know me:  I like making things.  So, I made mozzarella cheese.  For the experience, yes.  But also specifically for this dish.

And meatballs?  So fun.  If you have a food processor, you can make your own ground chicken.  Just trim excess fat and dice, and toss it in the bowl of your processor.  Whir away!  If you don't have a food processor--no worries!  You can buy ground chicken.

And as for the yummy part?  This was absolutely delish!  Simple ingredients, simple flavors that maintained their integrity.  Not hardly a spice was used to mask the flavors of the chicken, the cheese, the pasta.


Shells with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Source:  Giada's Kitchen

1 pound small shells pasta (or any other small pasta shape)
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (much more flavorful than curly parsley)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbl. milk
1 tbl. ketchup (or tomato sauce)
3/4 cup grated Roman cheese
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella cheese balls)
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves  (my favorite!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, Romano cheese, salt and pepper, and ketchup.  Add the ground chicken and combine well.  Using a melon baller (or a teaspoon measure) to scoop out the mixture, roll the seasoned chicken into 3/4-in. mini meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Turn the meatballs and brown the tops, continuing the rotate the meatballs until cooked through.  Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of pan.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Toss to coat the pasta, adding some of the reserved liquid to help make the sauce.  Add the meatball mixture, mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup of the fresh basil.  Combine.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fish Sticks

I have never understood why, in all 7 1/2 years of parenting, fish sticks are such a huge hit with kids.  I mean, typically, fish is the least-liked food among most kids (and dare I say, even some adults?).  So, maybe it is the extra crunchy batter that surrounds a less-than-authentic piece of fish?   Maybe it is the colorful packaging on the box that comes out of the freezer?  I don't claim to have the answers.  I just know that I've not been the kind of mom that buys boxes of pre-made food out of the grocer's freezer.  Now, I'm not judging you if you do.  I just prefer to make my own.  And I would like to suggest that homemade is better, especially in the case of fish sticks.  Use real fish.  Make your own breading.  Leave out the processed, partially hydrogenated stuff.  Bake or broil instead of fry.  You know?

My kids gobbled these fish sticks down--flaky, tender white fish.  Breading that was crispy and just the right amount.  A yummy lemon-mayonnaise dipping sauce.  These were even pretty tasty warmed up the next day for lunch!

So, indulge.  But let's keep it real!

Homemade Fish Sticks
Adapted from Giada's Kitchen

1 package of frozen white fish fillets, thawed (I used tilapia)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 egg whites
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup plain bread crumbs
olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Rinse the fish fillet and pat dry with paper towels.  Cut each piece of fish in half; if you want smaller "sticks," slice each piece into 1/2-inch strips (I kept mine in halves).

Place the flour in a medium bowl and season with the salt and pepper.  Place the egg whites in another bowl and beat until frothy, about 30 seconds.  Combine the Parmesan and bread crumbs in a third bowl.  Line the bowls up and tell yourself your breading station looks nice.

Coat the fish fillets in the seasoned flour and pat to remove any excess.  Dip the floured fish into the egg whites and then into the bread crumb mixture, gently pressing the mixture into the fish.  Place the breaded fish on parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Repeat with remaining fish pieces.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite sauce or condiment.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Caramels

Warning:  You will not be able to stop eating these once you start.

Ok.  You've been warned.

Now, the only logical thing left to do is grab your candy thermometer (or run next door to your mother-in-law's house and borrow hers) and set to work making these.

You will not be disappointed.  You will love them.  I guarantee it.

A tin of these would be the perfect gift for your mailman.  Or your mother in law.  Or put them in your own stocking.  Whatever!

Homemade Caramels
Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbl. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. vanilla (the best quality that you can afford)
1 1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-in. square pan with parchment paper, then lightly spray the parchment.

Bring cream, butter, vanilla, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden color (It took me at least 10 minutes).

Carefully stir in cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up, so be careful) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248 degrees on candy thermometer.  Off heat and pour into baking pan and cool for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of caramel.  Let sit until completely cooled.

Cut into 1-inch squares and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square piece of wax paper, twisting the ends to close.  If caramel gets too soft and sticky to lift off the parchment, place freezer for a few minutes to re-harden.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vanilla-Spice Nuts

When I saw this recipe in my newest cooking magazine, I immediately earmarked the page to make as soon as possible.  This is likely one of the safest treats in my house.  You see, my husband hates nuts.  So, I am secure in the fact that I won't have to share these, which is great because they are so delicious that I am glad I don't have to share!  They are the perfect munchie, both at the holidays and the rest of the year.  Of course, I do plan on sharing these at a couple of holiday get-togethers.  I'm nice like that.

Vanilla-Spice Nuts
adapted from Cooking Light, December 2010 issue

1 tbl. vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cardamom

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine vanilla extract and egg white in a large bowl, whisking until foamy.  Stir in the nuts.  In another bowl, combine sugar, salt, and spices and sprinkle over nuts.  Toss to coat well.

Place nut mixture on a baking sheet line with parchment paper.  Smooth into an even layer.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and off heat.  Toss nuts, breaking apart large pieces.  Return pan to oven, with heat off, and leave in for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool to room temperature.  Prepare up to one week ahead and store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans

I am so excited to share this recipe with you!  It is one of my family's favorites and it is so quick and versatile.  I usually make it without the chicken as a perfect side dish to our favorite chicken enchiladas, but it is great with the chicken added in, making it a quick weeknight one-pot-dish.  The possibilities are quite endless with the leftovers--burritos, super-nachos, your imagination is the limit!

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans

adapted from Pink Parsley

2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1.25-1.5 lbs. total)
2.5 tbsp. chili powder, divided
1 medium onion, large dice
1 cup rice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth or water for gluten-free
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped green onions,
salsa, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, and sour cream, for serving (optional)

Trim excess fat off of chicken breasts, and cut into large chunks.  Season chicken with salt,  and 1 tablespoon of chili powder. Preheat a large skillet with oil until shimmering. Brown chicken on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and place on a plate, leaving behind as much oil as possible.

Sautee onion and rice until the rice  is no longer translucent and turns opaque. Add the remaining chili powder, the garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook 1 minute, then stir in the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer 10 minutes.

Add the chicken and the black beans to the pot, stir, re-cover, and cook an additional 10-12 minutes.

Taste a grain of rice. If it is slightly chalky in the center, add a bit more liquid and continue cooking over medium heat until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender to the bit. Off heat, stir in the green onion and cilantro, and let sit, covered, 5 additional minutes.

Fluff rice with a fork, and serve with salsa, sour cream, and lime wedges.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

What a fun and easy dip to make!  This is, in my opinion, a perfect addition to a holiday appetizer buffet.  It will keep the little kids happy and the adults coming back for just one more taste.  I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to take this to a dear friend's house for a simple Christmas get-together.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
adapted from Macaroni & Cheesecake

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 (12 ounces total) pkgs. cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

In a small saucepan, place butter & brown sugar over medium heat. Stir continuously until butter melts and brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and confectioner's sugar for 1 minute. Once creamy, slowly mix in the cooled butter mixture and beat for 1 minute or so, until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into serving dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Take dish out of refrigerator a little bit before serving so it can soften up.  Serve with vanilla wafers or cookie of your choice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes

This is likely the easiest pasta dish I have ever made!  I loved how it was so delicious and there was such a little amount of prep and ingredients involved!  Yay!  Seriously, you could whip this up in about 15 minutes!  My son starts basketball practice this week, making one more night a week where I have zero time to cook dinner.  Pretty sure that this dish is going to make frequent appearances on my menu for the next couple months.

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes
Source:  Giada's Kitchen

3 chicken boullion cubes, dissolved in 3 cups water
2-3 cups water
1 pound orzo pasta
2 tbl. olive oil
1 package Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 jarred roasted red bell peppers, cut in strips
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbl. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth and water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, heat the oil and add sausage and cook over medium-high heat.  Break sausage into large chunks while you are cooking it.  When sausage is cooked through and no longer pink, add the garlic and cook for about 60 seconds.  Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the liquid and transfer pasta to the skillet.  Add half of the chopped parsley, salt and pepper.  Toss well to combine, adding the reserved cooking liquid if needed to loosen the pasta.  Transfer pasta to a nice serving dish.  Top with Parmesan cheese and remaining parsley.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homemade Peppermint Patties

I know, I know.  There are some of you out there that will look at this post and say to yourself, "Why doesn't she just buy peppermint patties?"  Well, I could.  But where is the fun in that??!  And let me tell you, these were fun to make!  So easy and simple.  Homemade is just better!  If you are looking for something to spark your creativity and want to attempt something that truly is hard to mess up, this candy is a great place to start!  No worries if you don't have a stand mixer; use a handheld one.  No worries if you don't have a double boiler; use a heat-proof glass bowl inside a saucepan (that's what I did!).  Just make sure that your bowl is a bit larger than the saucepan.  Have fun!  You will be proud of your attempt, effort, and success when you see fingers snatching peppermint pattie after peppermint pattie off of your holiday treat tray!

Homemade Peppermint Patties
Source:  Worth the Whisk

2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. flavorless oil (corn, vegetable)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. half-and-half
2 to 4 drops peppermint extract
*1 drop red food coloring  (I used green)
1 cup semi-sweet baking chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter. In a small bowl, stir together the vegetable oil, vanilla, half-and-half and peppermint extract. With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the liquid and blend until batter is colored pink and is firm. Remove batter from bowl and make a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, flatten to a disk and refrigerate one hour.

Once chilled, remove from the refrigerator and, using your hands, quickly roll chunks of the dough into approximately 1-inch balls, place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Dip your clean fingers into powdered sugar and flatten the balls to approx. 1/4 inch thick. Place in freezer for one hour.

To make a double boiler, put water in the bottom of a saucepan, enough to cover the bottom of the ban.  Place a heatproof glass bowl on top of the pan, making sure it is secure and not floating in the water.  Heat water to boiling.  In the top of a double boiler, pour the cup of chocolate chips and melt chocolate. Drop dough disks one at a time into the chocolate, turn with a fork to cover with chocolate, lift with the fork, scrape the bottom on the side of the pan and place back on the waxed paper. If your peppermint pattie starts to feel too soft in the chocolate, return to the freezer for 5 minutes or so to harden.  Continue dipping all candy pieces until all are coated.  Add more chocolate chips to the glass bowl and melt if necessary. 

Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, at least an hour. Keep refrigerated. Makes 15 to 20 candies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ladybug Pizzas

This post and recipe is brought to you today by the letter B.

B as in Bennett.

Bennett is my 7 1/2 year old, my oldest.  He is in 2nd grade.  This past summer we spent together in the kitchen, cooking.  He loved it.  We made all sorts of yummy food.  Some he helped me with.  Some he did on his own.  So, it is with pride that I share Bennett's Ladybug Pizzas with you today.  He made them  I sat in the living room reading a magazine.  Seriously.  I could totally get used to someone else cooking dinner.  And, I didn't notice it until I was taking the picture later that Bennett actually made these pizzas look like ladybugs.  I would have just tossed the olives and tomatoes together.  But he made them look cute.

What a cute kid!

Will you forgive me if I just tell you how to make these?  You don't really need measurements, do you?  Good.  I knew that you would be ok!

Ladybug Pizzas
Original Source:  Rachael Ray

English muffins, split in half
prepared pesto  (we have used both tomato pesto and basil pesto)
plum tomatoes, sliced
sliced black olives
mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Place split English muffins on a baking sheet.  Spread each half with pesto.  Top with a bit of mozzarella cheese.  Place 3 tomato slices and a couple slices of black olives on each muffin.  Top again with some mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Creamy Spiced Chai Mix

I am a coffee lover.  Through and through.  Morning, afternoon, and evening.  Sometimes in between.  My dear friend Carmen over at Old House Kitchen is a chai lover.  For her, coffee, not so much.  There is seldom a day that goes by when she isn't running to her kitchen to make up a cup of creamy chai as an afternoon pick-her-up.  Sometimes, she even goes overboard and has a cup in the morning and the afternoon!  So, I decided that I would try it her way.  Switch up the all-time-favorite vanilla latte for a cup of chai.  But only every once in awhile.  I'll be hard-pressed to ever fall out of love with my delighful vanilla latte or my steamy cup of morning coffee. 

I'll be honest with you....I really like this chai. It is kind of addicting.  But I did kind of run around like a crazy person gathering all the ingredients for it.  Here and there for dry creamer, cardamom, and powdered milk.   But it was ok.  It was simple.  However, if you are more inclined to indulge without the hassle of making it, you can buy it from Old House Mercantile--Carmen would love to send you some!

Creamy Spiced Chai Mix
Source:  Old House Kitchen

1 cup dry powered milk
1 cup powdered creamer, plain
1 cup powdered creamer, vanilla
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup instant tea granules
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. EACH ground cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it becomes a fine powder.

Add 4 tsp. to 1 1/2 cups warm/hot milk.

Grab a book or magazine, prop your feet up, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Broccoli Garlic Quiche

Have you made quiche?  Are you intimidated by it?  Let me tell is easy.  And versatile.  As long as you have your custard ingredients of milk (or cream) and eggs, you can pretty much make quiche any flavor you want!  My standard quiche recipe uses mushrooms as the main ingredient, but I knew that I would love this one.  I think that fresh broccoli is the best and of course, I have a serious weakness for garlic.  Put the two together, and voila!  Deliciousness!  This is perfect for a brunch, lunch, or a simple dinner.

Broccoli Garlic Quiche
Source:  Gourmet, September 2009

1 recipe of all-butter pastry dough
10 oz. broccoli florets, coarsely chopped (you can leave a couple inches of the stem if you want)
2 large garlic cloves
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and half (or whole milk)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, either ground or freshly grated
1/4 tsp. cayenne
5 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with oven rack in the middle.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into a 13-inch round.  Fit dough into pie plate, letting excess hang over the edge.  Fold overhang inward and press against side of pie plate to reinforce edge.  Prick bottom all over with a fork.  Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line pastry shell with foil and fill with pie weights (easily found at Bed, Bath, & Beyond in the cooking section), or you can use dried beans.  Bake until pastry is set and edge is pale golden, about 20-25 minutes.

Carefully remove foil edge and weights, and bake shell until deep golden all over, about 15-20 minutes more.  Put pie plate in a 4-sided sheet pan.  Leave oven on.

While the shell bakes, cook broccoli in a medium pot of boiling salted water for about 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water (this stops the cooking), then pat dry.

Mince and mash the garlic cloves to a paste with a generous pinch of salt.  Whisk together the garlic paste, eggs, half-and-half, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl until smooth.

Pour filling into shell and add broccoli, then sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake until the custard is set, 45-50 minutes.  Center may tremble slightly; the filling will continue to set as it cools.  Cool at least 20 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homemade Cinnamon Gingerbread Christmas Ornaments

Ok.  I know that this isn't food.  You can't (or at least shouldn't!) eat these.  But, I figured since 2 of the 3 ingredients are edible, these lovelies deserved some blog space.  As you know, I am into "homemade."  My Christmas decorations are no exception.  These ornaments go back to my college days, as a friend from my elementary education math methods class shared this "recipe" with me.  The fact that I still have the original recipe on her cute notepad paper some (a-hem) 15 years later is truly a Christmas miracle (I am so absent-minded!).  For our second Christmas as a married couple, I redesigned my Christmas decor theme and made these ornaments.  Ten years later, I am still using and loving them!  They look perfect next to my homemade dried fruit ornaments and the rustic metal and wooden snowmen, angels, and stars.

Homemade Cinnamon Gingerbread Christmas Ornaments

3/4 cup cinnamon
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbl. tacky glue

Combine all three ingredients in a bowl, mixing together with a spoon.  Mix until the dough forms a ball.  If dough is too wet, add more cinnamon.  If too dry, add a bit more applesauce.  (I have always had perfect results with the above amounts as is).

Sprinkle a dry flat surface with a bit more cinnamon and roll dough out with a rolling pin to desired thickness.  Use any shape of cookie cutter and cut out shapes.  Place cut outs on wax paper; repeat with remaining dough.  Using a toothpick or cake tester, make a hole in the top of each ornament while dough is soft (this is for your ribbon!).  Allow to dry for 3-4 days, or until completely dry and hard.  Thread pretty ribbon through the hole.

Enjoy the cinnamon smell!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

I really should make these more often.  They are just simply that good.  It might be a bit sad when this is the only sloppy joe recipe I possess in my collection--it is a bit strange to have a twist on the original before you have the original, you know?  But, I have yet to search for a great regular sloppy joe recipe.  So, in the meantime, I share the twist with you.  This particular time I made them, I had some steaks gathering frostbite in the freezer.  I plopped them in the crockpot, and cooked 'em "low and slow" all day.  OMGoodness.  Talk about tender and flaky meat.  It was just perfect.  Of course, the recipe itself calls for ground beef, which is fine as well.  Use what you have.  Serve with light, fresh salad.

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
Adapted from Rachael Ray

1 tbl. olive oil
1 pound ground sirloin
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup steak sauce
1-2 tbl. worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
*I have also added sauteed mushrooms and onion wedges--this addition makes your sloppy joe even sloppier!

4 hamburger buns (I also think that it would be great with fresh pita bread)

 For the provolone cheese sauce:
1 tbl. butter
1 tbl. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup provolone cheese, shredded

Preheat broiler.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, turn the pan with olive oil and brown the meat, chopping it up as you cook.  Add the onion and cook another 3-4 minutes, until the onion gets tender.  Stir in the steak sauce and worchestershire, season with salt and pepper; bring to a bubble and cook 2 more minutes.

Split open the rolls/buns and toast under broiler for a minute or so---keep an eye on them so they don't burn!!

While the meat is cooking, melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Stir in the flour and cook about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly to make it smooth, until thickened.  Turn off heat and stir in the cheese in a figure-8 motion until it is incorporated.

To assemble:  place a scoopful of the meat mixture onto the bottom of the roll/bun, then top with the cheese sauce.  Replace the top of the bun and serve.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Artichoke Cheese Dip

Seriously, who doesn't love a good, creamy, cheesy dip?  One of my dearest friends graciously shared this recipe with me after serving it to me twice.  I turned right around and served it to a group of scrapbooking ladies, and received as many oohs and aahs as I had given to my friend.  I shared this again at my family's Thanksgiving dinner, and I am pretty sure that this recipe is a winner!  My favorite version of this was the one where I used frozen artichoke hearts--a great artichoke flavor without the briny taste that comes with canned artichokes.  So, now I share it with you, dear blog readers.  You're gonna wanna make it!

Artichoke Cheese Dip
Source:  A Troop's Girl

1 jar/can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, cooked according to package directions, drained and chopped *(this is my preferred method)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 block of neufatchel cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Transfer to a medium-sized baking dish, and spread evenly.

Bake covered for approximately 20 minutes.  Uncover, and continue baking for another 10 minutes until browned and bubbly.

Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips, fresh veggies, or whatever sounds good to you!