Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cheddar Corn Chowder

This was so good!!!

Cheddar Corn Chowder

1/2 pack of bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8 cups chicken stock
4 medium-large potatoes, diced (unpeeled)
3 cups frozen corn
1 cup half-and-half
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

In a large pot, over medium-high heat, cook the bacon pieces until it's crisp.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and the butter to the fat and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Add the chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender.  Add the corn to the soup, then the half-and-half and cheese.  Cook for five more minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms

On Christmas Eve I made these stuffed mushrooms.  The cayenne gives them a little mom noticed but it didn't phase my 4-year old.   

Stuffed Mushrooms
Annie's Eats

24 whole fresh buttom mushrooms
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. vegetable oil
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Bread crumbs and minced fresh herbs, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel.  Carefully remove the stems from the mushroom caps, setting the caps aside for later.  Add the stems to the bowl of a food processor.  Add the garlic to the food processor as well, and pulse in brief bursts until the mushroom stems and garlic are finely chopped.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped mushroom stems and garlic and cook until all the moisture has disappeared, about 5-7 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium-low.  Stir in the cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and spices.  Stir together until the mixture is smooth and creamy; remove from heat.  Using a small spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of filling.  Arrange the mushroom caps on the prepared baking sheet.  Top with bread crumbs, if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are hot and liquid starts to form under the caps.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with fresh herbs if using and serve immediately.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Our family tradition, since I had Serena, has been to have appetizers at my house on Christmas Eve evening.  We gather around, snack, bake Santa some cookies, hang out, and simply spend time as a family.  Then on Christmas morning, Serena wakes up to see what Santa brought, we open gifts, and have a large breakfast.  That's it...  That's our tradition.  Simple, not over the top, but fun.  This means not a ton of time is required standing over the stove but rather we can gather around the fireplace and laugh and tell stupid stories from the year past.

I love this tradition.  I always try to switch up the appetizers and I do assign some of the work to my mom.  This year, I decided we'd have Jalapeno Popper Dip, Stuffed Mushrooms, Miniature Crisp Meat Burritos, and Spinach Balls.  I asked mom to bring the spinach balls and make the breakfast casserole for Christmas morning.  With only three easy things that I would be responsible for, there was no stress.  Yay!

I saw this recipe on Annie's Eats website and knew we'd like it.  And I was right!!  This would be great for any gathering. 

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Annie's Eats

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
1 4-ounce can diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1/2 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Panko breakcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, green chiles, jalapenos, and shredded cheeses.  Mix thoroughly with a spoon or spatula until smooth and evenly combined.  Spread the mixture into a baking dish (approximately 9x9-inches).

In a second bowl, combine the Panko and Parmesan and stir with a fork until combined.  Sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture in the baking dish.  Spray lightly with cooking spray.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is hot and the topping is golden.  Serve warm with baguette slices, vegetables, etc. as desired.

***I substituted plain bread crumbs for Panko.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Bean and Black Olive Bagel Chips

I saw this recipe while I was waiting in the lobby at my dentist office and scribbled it down, planning to make it several weeks ago.  The original recipe was for crostini but I had a bag of bagel chips in the pantry and knew this would work just as well so I adapted the recipe to fit what I had on hand.  I thought this was really good, especially with so few ingredients. 

White Bean and Black Olive Bagel Chips
Southern Living, November 2010

15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup pitted kalamata oilves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup diced jarred roasted red bell peppers
1 Tablespoon olive oil
dried basil

Process beans, oil, salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.  Toss together olives, red peppers, and tablespoon of olive oil.  Spread bean misture on bagel chips and dollop with olive mixture.  Sprinkle with a little dried basil.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rosemary Chicken Pockets

I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and these little things, for as simple as they were to make, were great!!! 

Rosemary Chicken Pockets
slightly adapted from Tasty Kitchen

1 package cream cheese (8 oz.)
2 large chicken breast, seasoned and baked, diced up (I used McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning)
2 Tablespoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 package croissant dough (8 oz. can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soften the cream cheese for easier mixing.  Add the diced chicken, rosemary, and black pepper and mix well.  Unroll the croissant dough triangles.  Place a dollop of filling onto each triangle.  Fold over edges and pinch shut to enclose completely.  Place on baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining filling and croissant triangles.  Bake as directed on croissant package.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reuben Dip

I have had several get-togethers over the past two weeks trying to see friends and family members to celebrate the holidays, before the actual holiday.  In come cases, I've cooked a meal and in others, I've made an assortment of appetizers.  This week, at one of the gatherings, I made Reuben Dip, Rosemary Chicken Pockets, and Teriyaki Steak Bites for the guests to snack on.  I've made the Teriyaki Steak Bites before as a main course rather than a finger food.  This time, I marinated the beef in teriyaki sauce, wrapped in bacon, secured with a toothpick and baked them.  They were a hit.

The Reuben Dip is a recipe my friend Sally Hoedel sent me from Michigan.  She had it recently at a pre-parade kickoff they hosted and the recipe got great reviews.  My guests really seemed to enjoy this and it was really easy to throw together.

Reuben Dip
courtesy of Sally Hoedel

4 packages (2 oz. each) of corn beef (found near the hot dogs/sandwich meat in the grocery store), cut into small squares
8 oz. of shredded mozzarella
8 oz. of shredded mild cheddar
14 oz. can of sauerkraut (drained)
1 cup of mayo

Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Dump mixture into a 9x11 pan or corning dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm with Triscuits.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mint Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

I found this recipe online when looking for some holiday cookie recipes to bake my co-workers.  I could not, however, find the Nestle Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels that the recipe called for, even after going to three stores so I substituted Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips. 

These were my daughters favorite~

Mint Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

1 box Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate cake mix
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbsp water
1 (10 oz) bag Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips

Mix together the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water until a soft dough forms.  Fold in the mint chips.

Drop by the spoonful onto parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until set in the middle.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sparkling Peppermint Sugar Cookies

For some of my co-workers for Christmas, I baked cookies.  Of course, I made enough for us too.  And oh, were these good. 

And oh, am I feeling so guilty right now~

Sparkling Peppermint Sugar Cookies
We Are Not Martha

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
1-2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (about 7 candy canes)
1/4 cup sugar, for coating

Crush your candy canes or peppermints.

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and butter in a mixer or bowl with a hand mixer and blend at medium speed until creamy.  Then add egg, vanilla, and mint extract and blend to combine. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

Slowly combine that to the butter/sugar mixture and blend on low speed, until fully mixed.  Then stir in 1/4 cup of your crushed candy canes and mix it up.

Take the other 1/4 cup of crushed candy can and mix it in a bowl with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Now, shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls and roll in the sugar/candy mixture.

Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake the cookie for 8-10 minutes (try to stick to 8 minutes for softer cookies).  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mushroom Casserole

This was a really, really good recipe.  It was easy to make and had a nice mild flavor.  I think it would compliment just about any meat including chicken, pork, or beef. 

Mushroom Casserole
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/2 pound (8 ounces) brown mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 large onion, well chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked brown rice, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
dried tarragon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a medium-large baking dish with a bit of non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms in about 2 turns of olive oil sprinkled with a couple of pinches of salt.  Stir every minute or so until the mushrooms have released their liquid and have browned a bit.  Add the onions and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes of until they are translucent.  Stir in the garlic, cook for another minute and remove from heat. 

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and salt. 

Combine the rice, the mushroom/onion mixture and cottage cheese mixture in a large bowl.  Stir until well combined and then pour into your prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and dried tarragon.  Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 20 to 30 minutes more or until hot throughout and golden along the edges.

Serves about 8.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crispy Baked Chicken

Like most people, especially those from the South, I like fried chicken.  I remember the first time that I made fried chicken.  My ex-husband loved it and trying to impress him and make one of his favorite dishes, off I went to do my magic.  I cooked it on the stovetop and it was some pretty looking chicken!  I was quite proud of myself until we sat down to eat and it was raw near the bone.  When I say raw, I'm talking bloody.  I locked myself in the bathroom and cried.  That was sixteen years ago and I vowed to never make fried chicken again.

Of course, I've made it again and I now make some pretty good fried chicken that's cooked through.  However, I try hard to stay away from it because we all know that all that oil/grease goes straight to your hips and other unflattering areas. 

If I can, I prefer my chicken baked.  I've got several recipes that are baked that are equally as good but much healthier due to the cooking process. 

I decided to try this recipe I found online at Allrecipes for Crispy Baked Chicken.  It had a great! It had a flavorful crispy outside but was nice and juicy on the inside.  Oh so good~  And I didn't feel bad about it (now the cookies I baked and taste-tested, that's a different story).

Crispy Baked Chicken
adapted from Allrecipes

1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
5 chicken legs

1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix the first 7 ingredients together.  Take the chicken legs and dip into milk and roll in the corn meal mixture.  Lay on a baking sheet sprayed with non stick spray.  Drizzle melted butter over chicken.  Bake on 375 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until juices run clear.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Taco Casserole

I found this recipe buried in my email inbox and added it to the menu.  It said "source unknown" but I'm positive I got it from one of my friends at Babycenter.  This was DELICIOUS!!  There is no doubt this will be added to our normal rotation.  Did I say D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S?!?!

I did make a few changes and will type the recipe as I prepared it~ 

Taco Casserole

16 oz taco sauce
12 ounce can buttermilk biscuits
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 lb ground turkey
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.  Spread taco sauce evenly over bottom of dish. 

Cut each biscuit into 4 pieces.  Place biscuit pieces in hot sauce, turning to coat.  Sprinkle biscuits with olives and half of the cheese.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.

In a large skillet, combine turkey, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, cumin and chili powder.  Cook until ground turkey is cooked through.

Sprinkle the ground beef mixture over the baked biscuit mixture.  Top with the remaining cheese.  Bake an additional 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted. 

Serve with sour cream.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Turkey & Asiago Meatballs

I improvised and made up this recipe.  Not to pat myself on the back but I thought it was very tasty.  These meatballs had a good flavor and were healthy to boot.

Turkey and Asiago Meatballs

1 lb ground turkey
1-1/2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese
Bertolli Tomato and Basil

Combine ground turkey, Italian seasoning, red onion, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Asiago cheese and mix well.  Form into meatballs.  Bake on 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until cooked through.  Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente and warm sauce on stovetop to serve on top of meatballs and pasta.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spicy Jambalaya

I am constantly looking at different blogs and looking for different dishes to try.  I came across a blog the other day that I liked and on this blog I found this recipe for Hot and Spicy Jambalaya.  I am a fan of anything spicy so I was definitely interested in trying it.  Now, I'm no expert on this subject, but I always thought that Jambalaya was a dish that consisted of shrimp, chicken, and sausage.  That's how I've seen most restaurants prepare it.  I wasn't distracted though and continued on, adding it to the menu.  While I waited an hour for it to cook, with no peaking, I went to Wikipedia and found that there are several variations to Jambalaya so the name does fit the dish.  With that question answered, I waited and pondered if my substitution would ruin the dish as I used white rice in leui of brown rice (the only brown rice I had in the pantry was instant and I wasn't sure how to adjust the cooking time). 

There was no need to worry about the rice.  I'm positive the substitution made little difference in the meal.  I thought the dish was good.  I used Aidells' Cajun Style Andouille and then followed the seasonings as listed and it definitely had some heat!!!  I doubt I'll add it to my rotation again but I'm glad I gave it a try and learned something about this dish in the process.

Hot and Spicy Jambalaya
slightly adapted from EatLiveRun

3/4 lb andouille sausage
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/5 Tbsp flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup long grain white rice
1/5 cups water
1 16-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.   Brown sausage and then remove and set aside.

Add the flour to the oil and make a dark roux by cooking the flour over medium high heat until golden in color, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula.  Add the chopped onions, celery and parsley to the rouz and toss well to coat.  Cook for about six minutes or until the onions are soft.  Add garlic and cook for thirty seconds more.

Add the water, tomatoes, rice, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Mix sausage back in.  Stir well and bring up to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about one hour (no peaking!).

Before serving, fluff jambalaya with a fork and add more hot sauce to taste. -I added no addition hot sauce.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seasoned Spinach Balls

This is my mom's recipe.  She made these every year at Christmas, along with sausage balls, and now I make these every year around Christmas.  These are GOOD!!!  When I make them for friends and family, I make them as the recipe states, in 1-inch balls.  When I make a batch for myself, I make them a tad larger.  Just what I did on this rainy Sunday afternoon -- made a batch for myself.  Yum!!

Seasoned Spinach Balls
Recipe courtesy of Mom

2 small boxes chopped spinach, drained
2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing
4 eggs - slightly beaten
2/3 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup onion (I used red onion)
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Mix all together.  Make into 1-inch balls and bake on 350 degrees for 10-12 on ungreased pan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tiny Roquefort Popovers

I love all cheeses but I have a special love for blue cheese so when I came across this recipe for Tiny Roquefort Popovers, I knew I had to try them. 

These were good!  I would imagine if you aren't a blue cheese lover you could easily change the cheese out for feta or something similar. 

Tiny Roquefort Popovers

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1-1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 oz. Roquefort or other strong-flavored, crumbly blue cheese, crumbled (I used Gorgonzola)

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Generously brush one 24-cup or two 12-cup mini-muffin pans with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, white pepper and parsley.  In a large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs and butter.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and whisk together until just combined (don't worry if a few lumps remain).  Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups to within about 1/4 inch of the rim (about 1-1/2 Tbs each).  Place a scant 1 Tsp crumbled cheese in the center of each filled cup.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Do not open the oven door during this time.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until the popovers are brown and crusty and fully puffed, 8 to 10 minutes more. 

Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the popovers to a napkin-lined bowl or warmed platter.  Serve immediately.  Or, let cool on wire racks for up to 2 hours, then reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Corn and Bacon Chowder

I have been eating out alot recently.  In the last week alone I have probably eaten out at least 5-6 times either going out to lunch with a friend or going to a dinner party for the holidays.  It is so hard to eat healthy when you're out and about though I do try to stick with salads when I can.  When I saw this healthy recipe for Corn and Bacon Chowder, I knew there was no better time than now to add it to the menu.

I thought this was incredibly good and it was great for a week night meal. 

Corn and Bacon Chowder
adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

2 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups whole corn kernels
1/2 cup light cream or half-and-half
salt to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock and the potatoes; bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the corn; simmer 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a food processor or blender and puree.  Pour back into the saucepan; stir in the cream and heat to serving temperature.  Serve, topped with bacon pieces.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Anything Mexican, Tex-Mex, or similar is generally a hit in our house so when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to add it to the menu.  Mine didn't look as pretty and even though I heated them twice in 20 second increments, the corn tortillas still cracked.  I think this would not have been the case with flour tortillas and next time I make these, I will use flour tortillas for that reason alone. 

But they were mighty tasty.  I changed the recipe slightly and used more cilantro, green onions, and cheese then the original recipe called for. 

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
slightly adapted from Our Best Bites

4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup green salsa
1 T fresh lime juice
1/2 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/4 t garlic powder
6 T shopped cilantro
4 T sliced green onions
2 cups chopped baked chicken
1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
about 16 small corn (or flour) tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. 

Heat cream cheese in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds so its soft and easy to stir.  Add green salsa, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Stir to combine and then add cilantro and green onions.  Add chicken and cheese and combine well. 

You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge.

The corn tortillas are harder to roll without cracking.  For the corn tortillas:  work with a few tortillas and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking.  It helps to place them between damn paper towels.  Usually 20-30 seconds will do it.  If you find yours are cracking when you roll them or come unrolled right away, just try heating them longer and try the paper towel thing.

Place 2-3 T of chicken mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges. 

Place seem side down on the baking sheet.  Lay all the taquitos on the baking sheet and make sure they are not touching each other.  Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle some kosher salt on top.

Plan pan in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes of until crisp and the ends start to get golden brown.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Creamy Orzo with Ham and Peas

Last week, as the weather took a turn and got really chilly and I moved the last piece of firewood from the back of the property to the rack on the back porch, I made a couple of calls for another load of wood.  It would be a couple of days before it could be delivered which was fine; I had plenty to last until then.  I came home from work a couple of days later on an evening that was cold and quite windy and as soon as we walked in, I went to building a fire.  I walked out back, and not only was the rack out on the back of the property line completely full, the rack on the back porch was now full again.  I was ecstatic as this meant, it would be another week and a half until I need to transfer any wood.  And did I already mention, it's now cold here and probably will be until April-ish?!?

Later that night when the guy who had delivered the wood, who also happens to be an old friend of mine, came to pick up the money, I offered him to stay for dinner. It was ready and all...  He was excited.  Apparently as a male bachelor, you don't have many home cooked meals. I tried to warn him not to get excited.  Not that this wouldn't be a good meal; I knew he was a meat and potato kind of guy.

Though this was no meat and potato kind of dish, both he and Serena had two helpings.  It was very good and super easy for a cold winter work night.

Creamy Orzo with Ham and Peas
slightly adapted from Katiedid (Babycenter)

1/2 lb orzo pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb Hormel's Cure 81 sliced ham, diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 to 1 cup 2% milk
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt & ground black pepper

Bring a heavy large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the orzo and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic, and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the ham and cook until they are heated through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream, 1/2 cup of milk, and peas.  Add the orzo and toss to coat.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Add the Parmesan to the pasta mixture and toss to coat.  Stir in remaining milk until pasta is to desired consistency.  Season the orzo with salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Baked Spaghetti

I had a friend that I wanted to take a dish to recently so I decided on baked spaghetti, something they could either eat right away or freeze for a future meal.  I made this on Monday night of Thanksgiving week so I made one for our house too so we'd have a couple of nights that we could eat leftovers and I could tend to making the desert and brining the turkey for the big day.

I thought this was very good.  I kept it simple as I knew kids would be eating it. 

Baked Spaghetti
slightly adapted from Allrecipes
This recipe is doubled to make two separate dishes~

(2) 9x13 throw-away pans
16 oz. spaghetti noodles
4 Tablespoons butter
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
(2) 15-oz containers of ricotta cheese
2 lbs ground beef
medium onion, diced
(2) 26-oz can Hunt's traditional pasta sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
Italian seasoning
16-oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Lightly spray two throw-away pans with non-stick spray and set to the side.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook noodles until al dente.  Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and onion, until meat is cooked through and no longer pink.  Drain grease and add back to the pot, mixing with pasta sauce.  Season with garlic powder.  Once noodles are al dente, drain and mix with butter.  Once butter is melted, add 1 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese.  Spread the noodles in the bottom of the 9x13 pan.  Spread ricotta cheese over noodles.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Spread the meat sauce mixture over cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and lastly, add layer of mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake 20-30 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top if serving now.  Otherwise remove from oven, allow to cool and freeze for a later meal.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake

For Thanksgiving last week, I made this recipe for Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I'm not much of a sweets person.  Matter of fact, until making and posting this recipe, I didn't even have a category for "Deserts".  I rarely, if ever, bake.  I'm pretty handy in the kitchen but I'm horrified of baking. I don't eat sweets so I assume I won't be good at making them. 

With all that said, I do have a weakness for cheesecake.  It's the one exception.  Therefore, I decided to try my hand at it. 

This recipe was a little time consuming but well worth it.  It was a hit!!  I'm looking forward to trying a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake for Christmas now.  Maybe, I'm breaking out of this shell.

Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake
Tasty Kitchen

For the crust:
1-3/4 gingersnap cookie crumbs (from about 40 gingersnap wafers)
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled down

For the filling:
24 ounces regular cream cheese (not low fat or nonfat), at room temperature
15 ounces pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 whole large eggs
1 whole egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9" springform pan by lightly spraying with cooking spray.  For the crust, pulse the cookies in a food processor until the crumbs are uniform.  Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse to combine.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add the melted butter.  Combine thoroughly with a fork.  When the mixture is evenly moist, crumbly, and holds together when you squeeze a handful, it's ready.  Press the mixture evenly over the bottom, and very slightly up the sides, of your springform pan.  Chill for 5 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Prepare a water bath while the crust cools.  Heat a kettle or pan of water to a soft boil.   Have a large baking dish or roasting pan ready to set the springform pan inside it.  Once the crust is cooled, set the springform pan on a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil up around the outside of the pan. 

For the filling, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the pumpkin puree and combine.  Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each one.  Beat in the sour cream.  Then add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and flour.  Beat just until combined, then beat in the vanilla.

Scape the filling onto the cooled crust and spread evenly.  Set the springform pan in the larger roasting pan and add enough hot water from the kettle to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake until the top of the cheesecake is a deep golden color and the center is set, about 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes.  It's okay if there is a slight jiggle to the filling.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a thin-bladed knife between the crust and the pan sides, to prevent the cake from cracking as it cools.  Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack.  Cover and chill for at least four hours or overnight before serving.  Top individual slices with fresh whipped cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blue Cheese and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

I've made a bunch of variations of scalloped/au gratin taters since I've been cooking.  When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  I'm so glad I did, as I think these might be my favorite!  I love the combination of cheeses in this dish.  I love that it's done in one dish.  I love the way the cheese has a singe around the rim of the skillet.  These will definitely be made again.

Blue Cheese and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes
slightly adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

1 Tablespoon butter
1-1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1/2 medium onion, minced
2 cloved garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter.  When melted, add the onion, cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent and beginning to lightly brown.

Toss in the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Dump in the potatoes, chicken broth, and cream.  Bring to a simmer and then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes. 

Remove the cover, sprinkle the cheese on top, and place the iron skillet in the oven.  Cook for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.