May 16, 2012

Lemon-garlic spaghetti with sausage meatballs

Rachael Ray

Serves: 4

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, 5 thinly slices and 1 grated
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 mini whole wheat pitas, torn into big pieces
  • 3 cups baby arugula, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup loosely packed shredded gruyere
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 box (13.25 oz.) whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1  1/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved

In a small saucepan, cook 1/4 cup EVOO and the sliced garlic over low heat until the garlic is fragrant and golden, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest.

In a food processor, pulse the pitas to very fine crumbs and transfer to a large bowl. Finely chop 6 Tbsp. of the arugula and stir into the crumbs along with the sausage, cheese and grated garlic. Form into 12 meatballs.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until well browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup water and a generous pinch of salt. Cover, lower the heat to medium and cook, turning once, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and toss with the garlic oil, lemon juice and zest, the remaining arugula and the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the meatballs.

*Chef’s note: So we all know Rachael Ray is a talented woman, but has anyone ever noticed that she just nails meatballs and burgers? Dang! This spaghetti would be fantastic even alone, the meatballs would be great in a red sauce; but they are so incredible together! Best pasta dish I have made in a long time. Yum, yum, yum. As you may be able to tell, I used a mixture of leftover whole wheat and traditional spaghetti. There was still a lot of water left (which had turned a golden yellow) when the meatballs were cooked through, but they weren’t soggy and I just took them out of the liquid to serve.

May 16, 2012

Salted mudslide cookies

How Sweet It Is

Makes: I forget exactly how many. Enough to give my grandpa a decent amount as a birthday gift and still keep some for myself.

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled for 10-15 minutes
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur + 1 teaspoon (Godiva, Kahlua, etc)
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • sea salt for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour, cocoa, coffee powder, salt and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the melted butter and sugars until they are combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Stream in coffee liqueur and mix. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. I even used my hands to help at one point. If you find you absolutely need more liquid add in a teaspoon of coffee liqueur, but it should come together. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.

Remove dough from the fridge and roll into golfball sized balls. Set on a non-stick baking sheet with 2 inches between each. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are set and the middles are still soft. The centers should be puffy. Do not over bake. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool completely then dig in!

*Chef’s note: These. cookies. are. the. best. cookies. Fantastic! Ms. How Sweet It Is seriously knows what she is doing. Especially when it comes to sinful desserts. Are you weird and hate chocolate? Do you not care for coffee? You’ll still love these cookies. So soft and moist and full of flavor. The salt adds the perfect compliment to the sweetness, too. *Italian finger-kissing delicious perfection gesture*

May 16, 2012

Crock pot chicken Parmesan

Siggy Spice

Serves: 4

  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sliced or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • favorite jarred marinara sauce, I use Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara

Spread the 1 TBSP of olive oil into the bottom of your crockpot stoneware insert.

Beat the egg with a fork in a separate bowl. Mix the bread crumbs with the seasonings and the Parmesan cheese in another separate dish. Dip the chicken into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides with crumbs, cheese and seasonings.

Place the chicken breast pieces in the bottom of the crockpot. Layer 2-3 slices or 1-2 cups of mozzarella cheese on top, depending on how much cheese you like. Cover chicken and cheese with entire jar of marinara sauce.

Close lid and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3-4. I cooked mine on high for about 3 1/2 hours and the chicken was perfect! Serve with your favorite pasta.  ENJOY!

*Chef’s note: I love the idea of this recipe and had to give it a try. It doesn’t beat classic chicken Parm. for me, though. Even cooked on low, it still seemed to taste a bit burned, and though covered in sauce and falling apart, the chicken still had a dry texture that I didn’t enjoy.

May 16, 2012

Peanut butter fudge pretzel brownies

How Sweet It Is

Makes: 12 bars

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cups chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups crushed pretzel pieces
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.

Combine melted butter and pretzel crumbs in a bowl until moistened. With the back of a spoon, press pretzels into the 8×8 pan making a crust. If pretzels seem loose, drizzle some additional melted butter over top of hit with a quick shot of non-stick spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. With the mixer on medium speed, add in cocoa, flour and salt, mixing until combined – about 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in chocolate chips. Using a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray, evenly spread brownies on top of pretzel crust. Set pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownies are baked through.

When brownies have about 3 minutes left baking, melt peanut butter (I melted mine in the microwave in 30 second increments then stirring) in a bowl. Once melted, stir in 1/3 cup powdered sugar and mix until no lumps remain. Pour over warm brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate brownies for 1-2 hours, then cut into bars and serve.

*Chef’s note: If you are a sucker for the sweet/salty combo like I am, you will absolutely die for these brownies. I just know it. I could have eaten the whole pan by myself in just a couple of days (hours?). I did encounter the too-crumbly crust problem, so next time I would try baking the brownies alone, then topping with the peanut butter mixture and pressing the pretzel “crust” into the peanut butter before it sets in the fridge. Would taste the same and be easier to eat! You can sub in your favorite brownie recipe and enjoy this just as much! I added several Tbsp. of that Smucker’s dark chocolate fudge sauce I love so much to this batter.

May 16, 2012

The BEST guacamole

Benjamin Stanley

Serves: 6

  • 6 avocados
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • Southwestern Chipotle Ms. Dash
  • Salt and pepper
  • LIME and/or lemon
  • Olive oil

Serves: 6-10

(If you wanna go “nutritional serving size,” figure about half – to a quarter an avocado per person. If you wanna go “this shit is delicious and we’re having a party”, go with full avo per person or more. That being said, it doesnt keep real well, so take that into consideration.)

Start with your avocados. Kinda squishy and just the right color green. Cut out any ugly spots.

Next are the onions and peppers. Now, if I’m making guac with 6 avocados, I’ll use about half a red bell pepper and half an onion. give or take.

Dice the onion and pepper up, and sautee them in a pan with a little olive oil. I add in a little Southwestern Chipotle Ms Dash ( I forget the exact name, I always just call it “Senorita Dash”). I’ve thought about adding corn into this medley, but have yet to act on it.

While all that is sautee-ing, get to mashing. Just take a fork (or adequate mashing tool) and just smush it all up together. Once pretty well mashed, i like to add a good bit of sea salt and a lilttle bit of cracked pepper, and lately I’ve been adding Season-All to the mix. Even more important is Lime. Squeeze a lime in there, maybe a little lemon if you like, but lime is the superior flavor. Then I pour in the sauteed veggies and mix them into the guac. From here on out it’s basically just taste and adjust, taste and adjust. Its better too be too salty rather than too pepper-y. Maybe more lime, maybe not, just kinda tweak it to how you’re feeling about it.

It is best served warm – but if you must wait to consume, put it all in your bowl/serving dish/whatever, and squeeze more lemon/lime all over the top of it. this will help prevent it from browning – which i dont think effects the taste, it just starts to look gnarly and inedible. I also like to make a little like 1/4 indent in the top of the guac bowl and pour a little salsa in it.

*Chef’s note: This is by far my favorite guacamole. And no, I am not biased because it is my brother’s recipe. He just happens to be a guac god. This is very easy to make, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about eating it. I hope you enjoyed his instruction as much as I did :) Also, my favorite way to peel the avocado is not to peel it. Just slide your knife around the whole avocado until it splits into two, then remove the pit, and the green flesh will slide out like butta with a spoon. Also, notice how there’s no nasty cilantro in this guac? I love my brother.

May 16, 2012

Croque monsieur pockets

Food Network

Makes: 4

  • 1 cup grated gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup deli-sliced ham, chopped (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 11-ounce tube refrigerated French bread dough
  • 1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mix the gruyere, ham, mustard, nutmeg and cayenne in a bowl until combined. Squeeze the mixture together with your hands to make it compact.

Brush a baking sheet lightly with vegetable oil. On a floured surface, roll out the dough and fill the dinner pockets. Step-by-step directions.

Place the pockets seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Beat the egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl; brush the pockets with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

*Chef’s note: My gosh were these good. And the hardest part was finding the seam in the dough to unroll it. Definitely spring for the gruyere here; it is perfect! A fancier, much better-tasting Hot Pocket. Mmmm.

May 16, 2012

Dark chocolate truffles

Ghiradelli

Makes: 30 truffles

  • 1  3/4 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/3 cup Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the chocolate chips. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow bowl.

Cool, cover, and refrigerate the mixture until firm, at least 2 hours.

Using a melon baller or small spoon, roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the cocoa. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Note: The Unsweetened Cocoa can be replaced with 3/4 cup of chopped almonds or pecans.

*Chef’s note: These are perfect for a SUPER DARK chocolate lover. Quite bitter. I like dark chocolate, but next time I would use half semi-sweet chocolate to better suit my taste buds. I also preferred these dipped in pecans over the cocoa (and I even used sweetened cocoa). They were kind of a pain to roll out, because even a melon baller doesn’t form perfect, solid balls, and the chocolate melts as soon as you get your hands on it. That’s another reason I preferred the nut coating; better hides the imperfections ;)

May 16, 2012

Apple galette

Oprah (Jane Lockhart)

Serves: 8-10

  • 4 medium Yellow Delicious or Gala apples
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 Tbsp. softened butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. apricot preserves
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • powdered sugar for dusting
While the pastry is defrosting, peel the apples, cut in half, and core.
Slice the apples very thin, approximately 1/8″ thick. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the sliced apples to prevent them from browning.

Dust counter with a little flour. Sprinkle some flour onto rolling pin. Roll pastry out into a rectangle. Fold and crimp edges of pastry about 1 inch on each side to make a 1/2″ border. (Crimping the border prevents the folded edges from coming undone while in the oven.) Transfer pastry dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Start in one corner with the sliced apples and overlap the slices so that they cover about half of the previous row. Continue to overlap apples in rows until the apples cover the entire pastry. Sprinkle the softened butter over the apples. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples. Place pastry in the oven and bake until the tart is deep golden brown and the apples are caramelizing, about 45 to 60 minutes.

Mix the apricot preserves with water and either microwave or place in a small pot under low heat on the stove until it is warm. Strain the preserves. Brush glaze onto the apples and cool. With a piece of parchment paper, cover the apple part of the Galette, leaving the edges exposed. Dust edges with powdered sugar. Cut the Galette in large squares and serve.

*Chef’s note: I love the simplicity of this elegant dessert. It was a huge hit when I made it for my mom’s French-themed book club meeting (along with Ghiradelli dark chocolate truffles, Food Network’s Croque Monsieur and more). I used granny smith apples but next time may use a combination with a sweeter apple added.

May 16, 2012

Shepherd’s pie

Food Network

Serves:6

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 rib celery, sliced
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup canned low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups Mashed Potatoes, recipe follows
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, optional
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic, half the salt, and oregano. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until mushrooms are soft and tomato paste has turned brick red, about 8 minutes more. Stir in the beef, the broth, the remaining salt, the Worcestershire, and some pepper, breaking up any large clumps of meat, cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the meat and vegetables to a 2-quart oval casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch boarder around the edge. Make a decorative pattern on the top of the potatoes, if desired. Sprinkle with cheese, if using, and dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter. Bake until potatoes brown and the juices bubble around the edge, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

MASHED POTATOES:

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled quartered
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water to cover by about 1-inch and add the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. At the same time, combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Toss the potatoes over medium heat until dry. Add the heated milk mixture and mash the potatoes until just slightly chunky, then stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

*Chef’s note: Such a delicious, comforting meal! I left out the celery (weird.) and used 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire (and may recommend even more!). I loved the Parmesan, a nice change from the sharp cheddar I normally use. Noms!

May 16, 2012

Spinach and ricotta ravioli

Rachael Ray

Serves: 4

  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup thawed frozen spinach, finely chopped and squeezed dried
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 40 square wonton wrappers
  • 4 butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, shallot, egg and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Arrange 10 wonton wrappers on a clean work surface. Top each with a rounded tsp. of filling. Moisten the edges with water and, working with 1 at a time, fold in half to form triangles; press down around the filling to seal. Transfer the ravioli to the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Repeat with the remaining wrappers.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, drop in the ravioli in 2 batches, letting the water return to a boil between batches. Cook until the ravioli bob to the surface, about 3 minutes per batch; strain.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, swirling, until it browns and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat immediately. Stir in the lemon juice, capers, and half of the parsley; season.
Divide the ravioli among 4 plates, drizzle with the butter sauce and top with the remaining parsley.
*Chef’s note: Rach delivers again! Please don’t let my sub-par photograph fool you; these ravioli were not slimy and shiny but scrumptious, indeed. This was great with one link of browned spicy Italian sausage added to the filling. The wonton wrappers were surprisingly easy to work with as well, so don’t be intimidated!