Archive for March, 2012

March 24, 2012

Orecchiette with spicy sausage

Food Network

Serves: 4

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 8 ounces fresh chorizo or other spicy sausage, casings removed
  • 2 spring onions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced, plus more for topping
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the spring onions and cook until softened, about 3 more minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until they soften slightly, about 3 more minutes.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the broth to the skillet and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the pasta and cheese, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls, drizzle with olive oil and top with more cheese and spring onions.

*Chef’s note: A nice solid dish. I love all the components, and they came together nicely. Next time I’ll add a splash of white wine! I used spicy Italian sausage (not a huge fan of chorizo), and I didn’t need the reserved pasta water or think it needed the added EVOO at the end. Any short pasta would go nicely in this dish, but I found those little orecchiette to be too darn cute not to use. And yes, I pretty much always use this bowl for pasta.

March 24, 2012

Roasted red pepper penne

How Sweet It Is

Serves: 4

  • 2 large red peppers
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups of dry whole wheat penne
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 thin sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper for seasoning chicken

To roast peppers: remove core and seeds from peppers and slice into pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and preheat the broiler in your oven. Place under the broiler skin-side up until skins are completely charred and black – this took about 10 minutes for me but will depend on your oven. Just check every 2 minutes or so. Immediately remove peppers from oven and using kitchen tongs, quickly place them in a ziplock bag then seal it. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.

While peppers are “steaming” in the bag, pat the chicken breasts completely dry with a pepper towel, then season them with salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown chicken on both sides until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside to cool, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same skillet with onions and a sprinkle of salt. Saute over medium-low heat until onions soften and caramelized. Cut chicken into pieces.

Boil water and prepare pasta according to directions. Remove peppers from the bag and peel the skin off to discard. It’s okay if a little bit of char remains as it adds to the flavor. Add peppers, garlic, parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper to a food processor. Blend until pureed, then stream in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil so mixture comes together.

In a large bowl, combine penne with chicken and onions. Add red pepper sauce and toss thoroughly to coat as it is very thick. Serve with additional parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves.

*Chef’s note: Can I just geek out for a minute? I loved getting to roast my own red peppers. I’d never done it before; so easy! I just felt so official. Anyway, this was very tasty! Next time I would add a tad of plain tomato sauce to smooth out the sauce and add a touch of sweetness with the red pepper. I am very happy to have found a yummy red pepper sauce without cream in it. Score.

March 24, 2012

Cheddar-crusted chicken fingers

How Sweet It Is

Serves: 2-3

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup seasoned regular bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 ounces of cheddar, freshly & finely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

2-4 hours before serving (or even overnight), add chicken to a baking dish and cover with buttermilk. Let soak.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, flour, salt (quantity should be adjusted to taste given the amount of salty cheese), pepper, mustard and paprika and stir with a spoon. Fold in cheese. Lay a wire rack on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick spray.

Remove each piece of chicken from the buttermilk (it should have a think layer of milk around it), and dredge through the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to adhere. Lay on the wire rack and repeat. Before baking, hit each chicken tender with a spray of non-stick spray or mist of olive oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then gently flip using kitchen tongs and spray the other side. Bake for 10-12 minutes more, then remove from oven and serve with dips of choice.

*Chef’s note: I think these could have benefited from a dipping sauce, as suggested on How Sweet It Is (LOVE this blog. Thanks to my gal Alyssa for introducing it to me!). (She used a bacon ranch with added chili powder.) And I should have cooked them longer to get them nice and browned and crispy.  That would have made the dish. I was afraid they would dry out, but the buttermilk really does keep that from happening. Otherwise pretty tasty. I may have even added more sharp cheddar! NOTE: This amount of breading (said to serve 2-3) coated 2 pounds of tenderloins for me with almost half left over, so plan accordingly.

March 24, 2012

Roasted garlic mashed potatoes

The Neelys

Serves: 3-4

  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds red potatoes, washed well and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Slice off the very top of the garlic head. Drizzle head with olive oiland wrap in foil. Place on a sheet tray and bake until tender and fragrant, roughly 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the cloves and mash with a wooden spoon.

Place potatoes in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender and drain. Mash the potatoes until smooth.

Meanwhile heat butter and cream until butter melts. Add the roasted garlic and potatoes and mash all together. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

*Chef’s note: YUM! That roasted garlic really takes these up a notch. These are the type of mashed that don’t need gravy. I used buttermilk instead of cream, and I really like the way its tang balanced out the almost-bitter taste of the red potatoes. I’m sure these would be top-notch with Yukon potatoes, too. I added melted butter and room-temperature buttermilk instead of heating them together because I was afraid the buttermilk might curdle.

March 24, 2012

Roasted blueberry cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting

How Sweet It Is

Makes: 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries + a few additional ones rubbed with sugar for garnish
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk, if needed (I used 2.)

Chocolate Fudge Buttercream

  • 1 cup of butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 3-4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Dark, it’s what I had)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup hot fudge sauce (at room temperature or cold, and using store bought is fine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk, if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread blueberries on a baking sheet (with sides) and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until berries start to burst. Remove from oven and let cool.

Beat butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined, another 2-3 minutes. Add flour, baking powder and salt with the mixer on low speed, then gradually increase speed. Scrape in blueberries and beat on medium speed until the berries break down – about 2-3 minutes. At this point, the berries most likely have enough liquid that you only need to add a small amount of milk to the batter. Begin adding 1 tablespoon of milk at a time and beat with the mixer until the batter is smooth. You definitely want it to be cake batter and not dough.

Pour into cupcake liners, filling 2/3 of the way full, and bake for 18-22 minutes or until cake is set. Let cool completely, then frost.

Frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on low, increasing it to medium-high speed once all the sugar has been added. Add the cocoa, vanilla and hot fudge, and mix until completely combined (while scraping down the bowl every few minutes) for about 5-6 minutes. If the frosting seems very thick, simply add some milk 1 tablespoon at a time and mixer for another minute or 2 until it comes together.

Note: this makes enough frosting for me to frost 12 cupcakes with a pastry bag. If you use a spatula for frosting, you will most likely have frosting left over. If you use a pastry bag and add a lot of frosting, you may not have enough. I add about 1/4 cup of frosting on my cupcakes when piping. If you have some leftover, simply store it in an air-tight container in the fridge (a few days) or the freezer (3-4 months!).

*Chef’s note: OK. This is really, really good. But I still think it’s a muffin with frosting. (Make that AWESOME frosting — my new go-to chocolate.) Super blueberry flavor, which does go deliciously with chocolate, but it is denser like a muffin. I might even make this batter again, throw some whole blueberries in it, top it with raw sugar and call it a super blueberry-y muffin. Aren’t they so pretty, though? And I just love that you get to roast blueberries. Be careful not to overbake these muffins/cupcakes; check (patiently) every 1-2 minutes toward the end of baking time.

March 24, 2012

Oven-“fried” fish

Rachael Ray

Serves: 4

  • 1  1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • A couple Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • A couple Tbsp. finely chopped chives
  • 1 Tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning or Szeged fish rub (about a palmful)
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder (about a palmful)
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder (about a palmful)
  • 1 lemon or lime, zested
  • 1  1/2-2 pounds cod from the thickest part of the fillet-cut into 8 rectangles, rinsed and dried

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Position a rack on a baking sheet. In a shallow dish, toss the panko with the melted butter. Season with the thyme, chives, Old Bay, onion powder, garlic powder and citrus zest.

Season the fish with salt. Place the egg whites in another shallow dish and beat until frothy. Coat the fish in the egg whites, the gently press into the panko mixture to coat evenly. Place on the rack-lined baking sheet. Bake the fish until the breading is a deep golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

*Chef’s note: This was pretty good. I expected a little more of a punch from so many yummy ingredients, but still a good classic breading. I was forced to use tilapia once again (between budget, family taste preferences and availability that day at the fish counter….), but I would have liked to try a sturdier fish.

March 24, 2012

Broiled tilapia with mustard-chive sauce

Giada De Laurentiis

Serves: 4


  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 4 (5 to 6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 1/4 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the fish: Preheat a broiler. Spray a small baking sheet or glass baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

Drizzle the tilapia fillets on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and broil until cooked through and the flesh flakes easily with a fork, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, agave nectar, and mustard until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice and chives. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer the tilapia to a serving platter and drizzle with the sauce.

*Chef’s note: Meh. There was something about a cold sauce on a soft, warm fish that ended up weirding me out  a bit. And a little sauce goes a long way. But the flavors were good, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a simpler dish.

March 24, 2012

Autumn golden vegetable lasagna

Rachael Ray

Serves: 6

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (10 oz.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups Creamy White Sauce
  • 1 can  (15 oz.) pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 10 egg roll wrappers (5-inch square)
  • 1 cup shredded aged gouda cheese (about 8 oz.)
  • 8 large basil leaves
In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the squash and 1 cup water and simmer over medium heat; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the water is evaporated and the squash is golden and tender, about 13 minutes; set aside.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees . Meanwhile, lightly grease an 8-inch square glass baking dish and spread 1/2 cup white sauce in the bottom. In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and egg.
Cut half of the egg roll wrappers into 3 strips each. Fill a large bowl with hot tap water (as you work with the wrappers, dip them in the water to rinse off the starch). Use 1 whole wrapper and 3 strips to cover the bottom of the dish in a single layer (there will be overlap). Spread a generous 1/2 cup of pumpkin mixture on top and sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat the layering.
Add another layer of egg roll wrappers. Spread with 1 cup white sauce, then top with the squash, basil and 1/3 cup cheese. Add another layer of egg roll wrappers, the remaining pumpkin mixture and 1/3 cup cheese. Top with the remaining egg roll wrappers, then spread with the remaining white sauce.
Cover the dish snugly with foil and bake on a baking sheet in the upper third of the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish, sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheese on top and bake until golden and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting.
*Chef’s note: Heavy sigh. I had SUCH high hopes for this recipe. But I had literally been lusting over it since October, so I think I built it up too much. I don’t think it’s a bad recipe, and I can see some veggies just loving it. Still, I have to say, I didn’t like it. Aside from the nicely chewy egg roll wrappers, everything in this has a soft texture and too-similar flavor profile. And honestly, think I was just sick of looking at it, let alone tasting it, after I prepped and cooked everything. (I was hoping to hide this, because I don’t want you to think I can’t eat butternut squash without it, [maybe I can’t? Hmm….] but….) I also added some browned mild Italian sausage, and it still didn’t do it for me. If you are going to make it, definitely splurge for the quality versions of these cheeses. And you’ll definitely need a 9 x 13 dish; I don’t know what those folks over at Rach’s mag were thinkin’! 
March 24, 2012

Buttermilk brownies

Better Homes and Gardens

Makes: 24 brownies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 recipe Chocolate-Buttermilk Frosting (see recipe below)
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 3 tablespoons buttermilk or sour milk
    • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 15x10x1-inch or a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, and cocoa powder. Bring mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared baking pan.

Bake about 25 minutes for the 15x10x1-inch pan, about 35 minutes for the 13x9x2-inch pan, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour warm Chocolate-Buttermilk Frosting (directions: In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder, and buttermilk. Bring mixture to boiling. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. If desired, stir in pecans.) over the warm brownies, spreading evenly. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 24 brownies.

From the test kitchen:

  • Note To make 1 cup sour milk, place 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid; stir. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes before using. Use 1/2 cup sour milk in the brownies and 3 tablespoons sour milk in the frosting. Discard remaining sour milk. Or reconstitute dry buttermilk by following the directions on the powdered buttermilk container.
*Chef’s note: OK, BHG. These are totally not brownies. But, this CAKE is totally delicious. (Despite what my poor pictures may otherwise convey.) Moist, and definitely a hit for those of you who like DARK chocolate. I was happy with how nicely the flavor turned out having used just cocoa powder and no melted chocolate. Mmmm. Obviously, this chocolate CAKE is even further enhanced by vanilla ice cream.
March 24, 2012

Beef with peppers

Pioneer Woman

Serves: 8

  • 1-1/2 pound Flank Steak, Sliced Very Thin Against The Grain
  • 1/2 cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Sherry
  • 2 Tablespoons Packed Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Red Chile Paste (or A Few Dashes Red Chile Oil)
  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 1 whole Medium Yellow Onion Sliced
  • 2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Cored And Sliced Into Rings
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Fresh Jalapeno (or 1 Teaspoon Dice Hot Pepper)
  • Red Pepper Flakes, For Sprinkling
  • Cilantro Leaves

Mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, and chili paste (or chili oil.) Place sliced beef in the mixture and toss to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high to high heat. When it is very hot, throw in the onions and cook for less than a minute. Remove to a separate plate. Return skillet to flame, allow to reheat, and add bell peppers (and hot pepper/jalapeno if using.) Cook for a minute, tossing, until peppers have brown/black bits but are still firm. Remove to a plate.

Return skillet to heat and allow to get hot. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add 1/3 of the meat mixture, evenly distributing over the surface of the skillet. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 seconds, then turn with tongs. Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove to a separate plate. Repeat with remaining meat until all brown.

Reduce heat to low. Add all meat, onions, and peppers to the skillet and toss to combine. Pour in remaining sauce (the sauce the meat marinated in*) and stir. Allow to simmer on low for a few minutes. Sauce will slowly thicken. Turn off heat.

*Update/Note: you can also whip up an extra batch of liquid if you do not want to use the same liquid you use for the meat.

Turn off boiling water, then throw in noodles. Stir, then allow noodles to sit in hot water for 8 minutes or so (check package directions to be sure.) Drain, then add 1/2 the noodles to stir fry. Toss together, then add more noodles to taste. Add very hot water if needed to thin.

Top with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

*Chef’s note: NOMS. So flavorful and tender and scrumptious and yeah. Good stuff. I served this with brown rice and left out the noodles, and I always always always choose to forgo cilantro. (Ick.) I also left out the red chili paste and jalapenos. If you like the added heat, go ahead and add them, but if you’re just looking for flavor, this recipe stood alone fine without them.