Monday, August 31, 2009

Homemade BBQ Sauce and Succotash

For dinner tonight, I decided to make succotash to clear out the vegetable drawer. JJ requested BBQ succotash, and I aim to please. Usually we have some BBQ sauce on hand, but since we moved, I'd been slow to restock our condiments. I decided to just whip up my own BBQ sauce. It was really easy to prepare, and came out great. I love making my own sauce because I can easily control the spice level, the sweetness, the vinegar, and other aspects. I took a tiny bit of help on getting the smokey flavor by using Chicago Grill seasoning from Penzeys, but it's just fine without it.

Homemade Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce

1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1/4 cup brown sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning (or McCormack Grill seasoning)
Splash of water

Heat a small saucepot over medium heat.
Add onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, saute' for 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pot with the vinegar, scrape up the bits.
Add tomato paste, brown sugar, cayenne and seasoning. Stir well.
Add to a blender and puree, add water 1 tbsp. at a time to reach desired consistency.
Taste and season, pour in a jar or bottle and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The succotash was a mixture of red, green and yellow peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and red onion. You can also add some corn, okra, and beans.

Monogrammed Sugar Cookies

For the party Saturday, I thought it would be nice to make a little favor for everyone in the form of a dessert. I though the standard Famous Sugar Cookie with the "W" iced on it would be pretty, so I went for it.
I put them in individual plastic bags and tied them with red ribbon, and they looked really nice. These would be great for a cheap and homemade wedding favor or for any other family party.

You can see my detailed instructions for making the sugar cookies and the royal icing and how to pipe and flood icing in my Twilight cake/cookies post.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Grandma's Orange Cake

On Saturday afternoon, JJ and I went to a family party. JJ's dad is one of 5 boys, I can't imagine what his mom went through! I was assigned to bring a dessert to the party, but wasn't sure what everyone would like. When we were at JJ's birthday dinner, his mom suggested I try making Big Grandma's Orange Cake. I never had the opportunity to try Grandma's cake, she passed away almost 4 years ago and I had only met her a few times. However, when Mom mentioned the cake, JJ and his brother both said I had to try it. There had been a few attempts by other family members, but it didn't turn out exactly right. Since they know I'm a decent baker, they figured I'd be up for the challenge!
Well, I did them proud! The cake is a simple sponge cake, baked with orange juice rather than milk or water. The filling is an orange curd, and the icing is a basic buttercream, again with orange juice rather than water or milk.
I didn't want to change the integrity of the cake as it's famous and I was trying to perfect it, but I did make a few adjustments to boost flavor and help with the scientific portion of the recipe. For example, Grandma used self-rising flour, but I'm not a fan, so I opted to use cake flour and add leaveners. I also added vanilla to give a little more flavor to contrast with the in-your-face orange notes. Finally, I made the curd a more traditional recipe and used a bit less to fill my layers as JJ told me at times, all you could taste was the sweet filling. Oh, and I was told mine was a bit fancier looking with the little white royal icing orange blossoms and a piped border!
Even if you're not a fan of orange cake, I'd still try the curd on toast or an english muffin. I love lemon and lime curd, but the orange was so different in a very good way!

Grandma's Orange Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups orange juice

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Alternately add flour mixture and orange juice, starting and ending with flour.
Beat until just combined.
Pour into 3 8" cake pans lined with parchment, greased and floured.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick through the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then cool on a baking rack for another 30, or until the cakes come to room temperature.

Orange Curd Filling:
2 cups orange juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. butter

Bring orange juice and sugar to a simmer in a small pot, turn to medium heat.
Whisk together sifted cornstarch and egg yolks.
Add 1/4 cup of the hot juice to the eggs and cornstarch, whisk to create a slurry and temper.
Add the slurry to the pot of juice, whisk over medium heat.
Continue to whisk until mixture becomes thick.
Remove from heat, whisk in salt, then whisk in butter 1/2 tbsp at a time.
Place in a glass dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled.

Orange Icing:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (use if cake will be in heat, if not, use all butter)
2 lbs. confectioners sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup orange juice (I squeezed in the juice from the orange I zested)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange zest

Cream together butter and shortening, add salt, vanilla and zest.
Keep mixer running on low, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Squeeze in orange juice when icing gets too thick.
Continue to mix until all of the sugar is mixed in, adding orange juice as necessary.
Icing should be whipped and spreadable but not too wet.
Use immediately or refrigerate until using.
(I used about 2/3 of the icing to create a 1/4" thick layer of buttercream on the cake)

To assemble, place a cake on a plate, pipe an icing border around the edge. Fill with 1/2 cup orange curd. Add another cake layer and another curd layer. Top with final cake and ice with buttercream.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Penne with Faux Alfredo

A few months ago, I tried to make a healthier version of Fettuccini Alfredo at my sister's request. I used pureed cottage cheese, a technique that I found in the Moosewood Lowfat Favorites cookbook. I thought the pasta was nice, and the cottage cheese was a great substitute. However, after my success with whipped cauliflower, I thought I might try using that as the base for a newer, lighter alfredo. It doesn't pack the same protein punch, but I liked the flavor a bit more.
Now I do realize that this dish is a bit out there, and pureed cauliflower might turn some people off, but luckily flavor of the parmesan really overpowers the cauliflower, so it's hard to tell the cauliflower is even in there.
To round out the dish, I found a can of artichokes in the pantry, so thought I'd add them. Then I was going to prepare a spinach salad, but thought I might just wilt the spinach and add it to the dish to make the ever popular spinach and artichoke combo!

Spinach and Artichoke Penne with Faux Alfredo

1/2 lb. whole wheat penne
1/2 head of cauliflower florets
2 c. vegetable stock
1 lb. fresh, baby spinach
1/4 -1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1 15 oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flake

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add pasta.
Cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente, drain.
Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a small pot, add cauliflower, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, until soft.
In a large saute' pan, wilt spinach leaves over medium heat. Drain and set aside.
Add cauliflower to a blender or food processor with most of the parmesan cheese, add 1/4 c. of milk and any remaining vegetable stock. Puree. Add more milk if necessary, season with salt and pepper.
Add pasta, artichokes, cauliflower puree, and spinach to the pasta pot.
Turn over low heat and bring to temperature.
Plate and top with remaining parmesan and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

Vegetable Wonton Soup with the Works

I've been trying to hold off on preparing this dinner until the winter months, but I couldn't wait any longer! This soup is similar to a traditional wonton soup, but it's got a few additions that make it into a very flavorful, very filling meal rather than a first course.
Back in June, JJ and I went to Siam House in Bloomington. Dinner was delicious, but what made it most memorable was the wonton soup. Usually wonton soup is a few floating wontons in a really salty broth with a few scallions and sliced button mushrooms floating in it. When the server brought out a large cauldron of soup and removed the lid, I was in a cilantro scented heaven! The pot was full of baby bok choy, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, and plump, translucent wontons. I later read that the wontons were a mixture of ground pork and shrimp, though I think the shrimp flavor was overshadowed because I couldn't tell it was in there.
JJ isn't a big cilantro fan, he can take a sprinkle here and there, but the big sprigs turned him off. I figured it would be a great recipe to recreate while he is not home at dinner this week! I made the wontons out of a tofu and vegetable mix, and they were just as good and flavorful as the pork variety. I also used egg roll wrappers and trimmed them down a bit because my wonton wrappers always unseal because they're too small (or I fill them too much).
This dish was easiest to prepare in a deep, wide skillet rather than a pot because I didn't want to disturb the wontons too much as I always fear they'll burst on me!

Vegetable Wonton Soup with the Works

12 egg roll wrappers
1 carrot, peeled
1 c. shredded cabbage
6 oz. shiitake mushrooms
4 scallions, chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp. grated ginger
4 oz. firm tofu, crumbled
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper
2 tsp. cornstarch

8 c. vegetable stock
2 baby bok choy, trimmed and halved
4 oz. bean sprouts
10 sprigs of cilantro
2 scallions, sliced

Place carrot, cabbage, mushrooms, scallions, garlic and ginger in a food processor.
Pulse until ground into small bits, but not pureed.
Add to a skillet with 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium heat.
Saute' for 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper, remove from head and cool to room temperature.
Add tofu to a mixing bowl, crumble with fingers.
Add soy and oyster sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and cornstarch, mix well.
Add vegetables, mix again.
Lay wonton wrappers on a cutting board, fill with 2 tbsp. tofu mixture, wipe sides with water, seal and press, fold over and seal the points, see wonton photo below.
When finished, place wontons on a baking sheet and place in the freezer.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add stock and bok choy, bring to a simmer, add bean sprouts, cilantro, scallions and wontons.
Simmer for 5-6 minutes, until wontons are translucent and float, be careful and don't move them too much, do not boil soup.
Serve as soon as possible, if wontons sit they may start to disintegrate into the soup!

my preferred way to wrap up a wonton or dumpling, they always seem to keep from falling apart this way!
the adoarble and delicious baby bok choy
my preferred cooking vessel for preparing the soup

Monday, August 24, 2009

Island Salad with Coconut Curry Dressing

One of my favorite salad dressings is Ginger-Carrot, the kind you get on a salad at a Japenese Steakhouse. When I saw this dressing on Cheeseburger in Paradise's menu, it sounded similar, and I was intrigued. I decided to go for it on a house salad, and it was so delicious.
Though I had this dressing months ago, I haven't gotten it out of my head. Since I had a large lunch, I decided to make a lighter dinner. I had some coconut milk left over, and always keep a few types of curry on hand. One thing I added to this salad that I normally don't is asparagus. They served it on the house salad at CIP, and it was great, so I blanced a few spears and threw them on the salad along with some masala spiced tofu.

Island Salad with Coconut Curry Dressing

1 head of romaine, chopped
1 c. mixed cabbage slaw
10 asparagus spears, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 c. mandarin orange segments
1/2 c. snow peas, chopped
4 oz. Firm tofu, any variety, sliced

1/2 c. light coconut milk
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. brown sugar

Arrange salad ingredients in a bowl.
Whirl together dressing ingredients in a blender, pour over salad and serve.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spicy and Sweet Tofu Curry Bowl

You may have noticed I haven't been blogging much. Since moving to Jacksonville, it's been a mix of family dinners, events, new restaurants at my disposal, and mosly wanting to get out of the house while I'm searching for jobs all day! This week is going to be the last of JJ's 2-a-day practices with the soccer team, so he'll be gone during dinner and I'll be cooking for myself.
Although dinnertime with JJ is probably my favorite part of the day, sometimes I like when he's not here so I can create some new dishes that he might not like, specifically tofu and cauliflower dishes. I also like to be creative, which is usually a great victory or bitter defeat. I don't mind eating the remains of a defeated meal, but I feel bad feeding JJ a failed dish.
I knew tonight's dinner would be a winner though, because it's something I often make for myself when he's not around. Somehow it never made it to the blog! Maybe because it's so simple, or maybe because I devour it before any photos can be taken... I can't say for sure!
The dish is essentially a beginner's guide to cooking a curry. It's not the most traditional, but it introduces you to the flavors you'll experience at your generic American Thai restaurant. It's totally up to the cook to decide which vegetables to use, how much spice to add, and what starch you want. I enjoy using rice noodles because they cook so quickly and they're much easier to cook than basmati rice (if you don't have a rice cooker).
Again, this dish is a building block. The protein can be switched out, the vegetables, the type of curry (green curry paste, golden curry powder), and the starch. And best of all, it's very healthy and vegan!
I want to note that I usually use Thai Kitchen brand products (noodles, coconut milk, etc.) but tonight I used Hokan brand, which was on sale at Publix. The light coconut milk was much thicker than Thai Kitchen, I definitely liked it much more and highly recommend it!

Spicy and Sweet Tofu Curry Bowl
(This recipe feeds 2 big eaters, with some leftovers)

3 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
1 12 oz. can Hokan brand light coconut milk
3 tbsp. Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1 lime, halved
1 head of cauliflower in florets
1 orange bell pepper, in 1" chunks
1 12 oz. can baby corn
1 6 oz. can diced water chestnuts
6 oz. snap peas
1 block of tofu, diced (I used Indian Masala spiced tofu from Whole Foods, any firm/extra firm tofu will work just fine)

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add rice noodles.
Cook according to package directions, drain and set aside.
Bring an inch of water to a boil, place a steamer basket over the water, add cauliflower, peppers, snap peas, corn and chestnuts.
Steam for 4-6 minutes, or until tender.
In a small saucepot over medium, whisk together coconut milk, curry paste, salt, pepper, cayenne and brown sugar.
Bring to a simmer, add tofu turn heat off.
Plate noodles, top with vegetables.
Add the juice of 1/2 the lime to the sauce, plate over vegetables.
Serve with an extra wedge of lime to squeeze over top, if desired.

And now I must take a minute to wish my wonderful husband a very happy 24th birthday (a day late!) I love you!

And also, Happy 700th post, A Year in the Kitchen!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vegan Pasta Primavera

I didn't intentionally make last night's dinner vegan, but while typing up the recipe, I realized it was Though I'm not vegan, I certainly recognize and appreciate the health benefits and environmental benefits of veganism, and do enjoy vegan dishes from time to time. Dishes like this really showcase the healthy benefits of veganism, a rainbow of colorful vegetables, yet still incredible flavorful and filling.
Now if you're not vegan or vegetarian, there are a few additions you can make if you find it necessary. Vegetarians can simply add some parmesan cheese in the pesto, or mozzarella on top.
If you prefer meat, add some sliced organic chicken or turkey sausage which takes no effort at all!

Vegan Pasta Primavera

1/2 lb. rotini
1 tbsp. EVOO
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb. asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 c. frozen peas
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
5 sun dried tomatoes, sliced

1/4 c. Vegetable Stock
2 tbsp. EVOO
20 basil leaves
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 c. pine nuts
5 sun dried tomatoes
2 garlic cloves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and salt. Cook until al dente.
In the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus.
Drain and set aside while vegetables cook.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add EVOO and mushrooms. Sweat mushrooms until they stop giving off water, add onions and peppers.
Season with salt and pepper, cook until peppers are tender, about 6-8 minutes.
While vegetables cook, add all pesto ingredients to a blender or food processor, pluse until smooth.
Add peas, diced tomatoes, pesto, pasta and asparagus to the skillet with peppers. Toss.
Cover and heat through about 3-5 minutes.
If pasta is dry, add more vegetable stock.
Serve with sun dried tomatoes chopped basil for garnish.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mushroom and Okra Curry

When I was 12 years old, I decided to become a vegetarian. While my parents were supportive and understanding, I don't know that they thought it would last. My mom told me that she wanted me to do some of the cooking so she didn't have to cook 2 separate meals each night, which was great for me! One morning when we were shopping at Sam's Club, I found "The Greatest Ever Vegetarain Cookbook." It is a huge cookbook with over 300 recipes of all types. When she bought it for me, I went through and put post its in my favorite recipes to make and try. I did that a few times as my tastes and cooking abilities changed, so it's interesting to see what I tagged when I was 12, 15, and now.
When I was 12, I skipped over all of the curries, but now I'm excited about them! I found one for okra and mushrooms in a tomato based curry, which is something I've not cooked before. The flavor of this curry was great, but I think I'm more of a coconut milk based curry fan.

Mushroom and Okra Curry
from The Greatest Vegetarian Cookbook Ever

4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 in. ginger root
2 chiles, seeded and chopped
3/4 c. water
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground (I used 1/2 tsp. ground)
Pinch of ground turmeric
1 4 oz. can tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. mushrooms, quartered
8 oz. okra
2 tbsp. cilantro, for garnish

Brown rice, for serving
Mango chutney, for serving

Place the garlic, ginger, chiles and 3 tbsp. of water in a blender, process until smooth.
Heat oil in a large saucepan, add the corriander, cumin seeds and ground cumin, cardamom, turmeric and cook for a minute.
Add the garlic paste, tomatoes and water. Stir to mix.
Add the mushrooms and okra, stir again and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the cover and turn heat up, cook for another 5-10 minutes until okra is tender.
Stir in cilantro.
Serve with rice and mango chutney.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Now that I've got some time on my hands (please, someone give me a job!!!), I've been baking to pass the time. I've been trying to think of some easy recipes that have minor twists to make them a little more interesting. I've never made snickerdoodles on the blog before, so I decided to tackle them. From what I understand they're a basic sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar.
In order to spice them up a bit, I decided to brown the butter first to give it a nuttier, more caramel flavor. I also used part brown sugar to bring home the caramel flavor. For a finishing touch, rather than use cinnamon sugar, I added a pinch of nutmeg and used raw sugar for a bit more crunch and flavor.
These cookies were fantastic, using the melted brown butter made them very chewy on the inside, and the outside was crunchy and flavorful! They're a definite winner.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

1 c. brown butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. raw sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Heat a stainless steel pot or pan over medium heat.
Add the butter, cook for about 5-8 minutes, until just browned (if you wait until it's too brown, it will burn). See example here.
Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Cool to room temperature.
Add sugars and beat until well incorporated (butter will separate a bit)
Add eggs one at a time, mix well.
Add baking powder, baking soda and salt, mix for 10 seconds.
Add flour and mix until well incorporated.
Dough might seem a bit lose.
Place bowl of dough in the refrigerator covered for one hour.
Mix sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spoon out 1" balls of dough, roll in sugar and place on a baking sheet.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Goat Cheese Whipped Cauliflower

For dinner tonight I made black bean burgers in pita, so I wanted to add a side that was a vegetable in addition to salad. Usually with sandwiches or burgers we go for fries or chips, which add up to a lot of carbohydrates. I have been experimenting with preparation methods of cauliflower in hopes that I'll find something JJ will like as he hates cauliflower. I thought about just not telling him this was cauliflower and let him think it was mashed potatoes, but I didn't want to lie to him as he eats anything else I make.
So the preparation for this dish was really easy. Pictured below I have my bowl of cauliflower and JJ's, and though he tried it (only because there was goat cheese in it) he didn't finish that tiny little bowl. He also requested no chunks at all (I left a few little chunks in mine) so you can see the two textures. Honestly, I thought these tasted wonderful, and I'm sure I could fool someone into thinking they were potatoes!

Goat Cheese Whipped Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 c. vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 c. milk
2 oz. goat cheese
snipped chives or other herbs for garnish

Add cauliflower and stock to a soup pot, cover, turn heat to high.
Bring stock to a boil, turn to medium and simmer until stock has cooked off, about 10 minutes.
Using a potato masher, mash cauliflower until it's in little bits in the pot.
Spoon into a blender or food processor (I used a magic bullet), add milk and goat cheese, salt and pepper.
Puree to desired consistency.
Spoon into serving bowl and serve with chives.
*Note: I made mine in 2 batches in the magic bullet, there was too much to make it all at once.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Linguini and Vegetables in Saffron Broth

A few weeks ago at a restaurant in Bloomington I had a dish similar to this. My only compaint was it didn't have enough veggies! The sauce was also a cream sauce, so I took the cream out and left it in the broth. It was a bit slurpy, but absolutely delicious. For the pasta, I tried a 3:1 whole wheat to all purpose, which turned out much better than I anticpated!

Linguini with Vegetables in Saffron Broth

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. AP flour
2 eggs
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 c. vegetable stock
1/2 tsp. saffron threads (a hefty pinch)
4 c. baby spinach leaves
1 15 oz. can artichoke hearts, halved
1 roasted yellow bell pepper, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. crumbled feta
salt and pepper

Follow this guide on how to make fresh pasta with the first 3 ingredients listed
Heat a deep saute' pan over medium heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO and mushrooms.
Sweat for 4-5 minutes, add broth and saffron.
Bring to a simmer.
Add the spinach and wilt into the broth (or to remove a bit of the biterness, saute' in a seperate pan and then add to the broth).
Cook pasta, drain, add to the broth along with peppers and artichokes.
Plate with a slotted spoon, add a splash of broth over top.
Top with cherry tomatoes and feta.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stovetop Vegetarian Chili Mac and Cheese

Tonight's dinner was sort of a last minute creation, but so delicious! I noticed that the gallon of organic milk JJ picked out on Saturday expires tomorrow. We're the kind of people that go through a gallon in 2 weeks, so to have it 4 days and then it expires kills me! I'm pretty sure JJ will be looking at expiration dates from now on as the milk is $6/gallon and we still have well over 1/2 gallon left.
So I had to think of some recipes that use a good amount of milk, and macaroni and cheese is one of them. My pantry is pretty limited right now, but I managed to come up with what we thought was a flavorful, spicy, creamy and delicious dinner! I served it with kicked up vegetables (see previous post).

Stovetop Vegetarian Chili Mac and Cheese

1/2 red onion, minced
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
6 oz. elbow macaroni (I like Barilla plus)
1 12 oz. can Rotel with lime and cilantro
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. corriander
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
cilantro, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt and add pasta.
Heat a deep skillet over medium.
Add onion, EVOO and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Sweat out onions for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle flour over onions and whisk to cook off flour.
Add milk, turn heat to high and bring to a bubble.
Drain rotel and add to the milk, whisk in cheddar cheese and spices.
Once cheese is melted and incorporated, add beans.
Drain macaroni and add to the pot.
Stir well, serve with cilantro.

Kicked Up Summer Vegetables

The last Foodbuzz Tastemaker's package I recieved contained 4 Emeril's brand products. As you may remember, I used the Horseradish mustard a few days ago. For dinner tonight, I made Chili Macaroni and Cheese, and thought some sauteed vegetables would pair well. I thought that rather than raid my spice cabinet, I'd try out the Original Essence! Emeril has written on the package that it's a great basic seasoning for meats and vegetables.
It doesn't say exactly what the spice blend is (obviously) but it had some of the Tex-Mex notes I was looking for to pair with the mac and cheese. This spice blend was great, complex but it didn't overshadow the vegetables.

Kicked Up Summer Vegetables

1 tbsp. EVOO
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 small zucchini, sliced
2 small summer squash, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 tbsp. Original Essence
Sour cream and cilantro, for garnish

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add EVOO, vegetables and essence. Toss well, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with sour cream and cilantro.

Again, Thanks Emeril!

Eggplant Parmesan Calzones

I almost didn't post this recipe because my photos are sub-par, but this calzone was so good that I just had to! JJ got home from work pretty late, so by the time he was home we were both starving! Usually I'll try to get the perfect photo, but it smelled so good and we were both so hungry, I didn't care!
It's actually pretty simple to make, and had few ingredients (because I had some pizza dough in the freezer and marinara inthe fridge from Chicken parm on Saturday).
I'm always trying to incorporate eggplant into recipes where it's not fried (like traditional eggplant parmesan) and quick. Usually eggplant is salted and the water and bitterness is drawn out, but since I sauteed this before stuffing the calzone I didn't have to salt and press it.

Eggplant Parmesan Calzone

1/2 recipe of pizza crust - see this post
1 c. of zesty marinara - see this post
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 tbsp. EVOO
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. basil, chopped
1 c. part skim ricotta
1/2 c. part skim mozzarella
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
Sprinkle of cornmeal or semolina flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add EVOO, eggplant, salt and pepper.
Saute' for 10 minutes, until eggplant is soft and cooked through and water is cooked out.
Add to a mixing bowl, add ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes and basil.
Stir well.
Roll out pizza dough into an oval, sprinkle a pizza pan with cornmeal and place the dough off center.
Fill the bottom half with the eggplan, fold over the top, crimp the edges with your fingers and seal.
Brush with EVOO, bake for 20-22 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with warmed marinara.

Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches

On Sunday afternoon, I had some time to kill so I decided to whip up some cookies. I just wanted a small batch. JJ likes oatmeal raisin, and I like chocolate chip, so I made a combination of the two.
We also had some ice cream in the freezer, so on a whim after dinner, I decided to make them into ice cream sandwiches! I think it's best to keep the cookies in a tupperware and make them right before eating them because I don't like frozen/cold cookies, but they can be made ahead of time, wrapped in plastic or parchment, and stored in the freezer.

Small Batch Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 18 cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened (1 stick)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. AP Flour
1 1/2 c. oats (rolled or quick)
1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
1/4 c. raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla, beat well.
Add baking powder, soda and salt, mix for 10 seconds.
Add flour and oats, mix until just incorporated.
Add chips and raisins, mix until just incorporated.
Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
Drop onto a greased cookie sheet, bake for 13 minutes, or until golden brown.
When cookies come out of the oven, tap on the counter to flatten them a bit.
Cool on a wire rack, store in an air tight container.
Makes 18 cookies, or 9 sandwiches (you need 1 pint of vanilla ice cream for 9 sandwiches)

Monday, August 10, 2009


A Year in the Kitchen Cookbook is finally ready to order!
A huge thanks to my sister for editing it and my husband for taking the cover photos.

If you'd like to order one, please see the order form HERE!
If you have problems opening the order form, please shoot me an email and I will attach it for you

Here are a few photos from the book, and a little more information at the bottom!

A Year in the Kitchen is an 80 page, full color cookbook featuring over 100 original recipes by Ashlee. The book is divided into 15 chapters of courses including meal collections!

The first round of ordering is August 10-August 31, and then a large order will be placed. Books should be mailed to you by October 1, Ashlee will send a confirmation email.

After that date, an order will be placed every time 10 orders come in. Ashlee will keep updates on the blog though! During the holidays, there will also be the option to send a cookbook gift wrapped and with cookies to your family and friends!

1 Cookbook costs $28 plus $2 shipping (media mail, if you’d like it sent priority, add $3)
2-9 Cookbooks cost $27 each, $3 shipping *
10+ Cookbooks cost $25 each, $6 shipping (automatically sent priority)

This will be ongoing, so don't feel like you need to rush and buy one now, they will be available forever (well, maybe not forever...)!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mini Chocolate Chip Cannolis

I think it's very important to try to make everything from scratch at least once. Then you have a good idea if pre-made or store bought short cuts are the way to go. There are a few things I always make at home now - fresh pasta, cakes and cookies from scratch, icing, soft pretzels, and veggie burgers to name a few.
One item I will always buy at the store now is cannoli shells.
I'm sure these are something you get better at making if you have more experience, more metal forms, even oil temperature, etc. However, I think once was enough for me!
For the shell, I looked at many recipes and found that some varied from over 1 c. of crisco to 2 tbsp. of butter... 1 tsp. of wine to 1 c. Since it was all over the place, I kind of made my own recipe that's similar to a pie crust, which is basically what you're going for with cannoli shells.
I tried my best to seal them, but a few puffed and broke. Also, my oil temperature was not stable. Sometimes they would float, sometimes they would sink and stick... even though I had my thermometer in there, it was a challenge!
So here's the recipe and believe me, they were awesome, but no better than any Italian bakery.
Also, please remember after you photograph them that they roll... they roll right off the plate and smash on the floor into Pumpkin's territory... and you can spend 2 hours making 6 presentable cannolis for your dinner party, but in the end you have to make a pan of brownies and ask the guests to pick up some ice cream.

Mini Chocolate Chip Cannolis

Shells, makes about 20
2 c. AP Flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. crisco
1 egg yolk
1/4 - 1/2 c. Marsala wine

8 oz. ricotta (recommended Pollyo brand)
1/2 c. powdered sugar (plus more for garnish)
1/2 c. crushed pistachios (plus more for garnish)
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (plus more for garnish)

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and crisco.
Cut crisco in until it's pea sized, add yolk and steam in the wine until it creates a dough ball.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
Heat a pot with oil about 4" deep over medium heat, about 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough, cut and wrap around cannoli forms. Seal well with water.
Drop into oil and fry about 2 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove, place on paper towels and drain.
Slide off the form and continue.

In a bowl, mix together ricotta, sugar, pistachios and chocolate chips.
Add to a piping bag and fill shells right before serving.
If desired, dip ends into extra pistachios or chips and dust with powdered sugar.
(If you don't seal them well, they'll puff off and up. Also, try to keep them from sinking and browning in some spots)

Zucchini and Carrots a Scapece

A few months ago I was at a cookout and my friend Sara brought this dish. I told her I loved and it she said it was a Giada recipe. When I decided to make an Italian dinner I thought this would be the perfect summery side dish to lighten up the Chicken Parmesan.
I changed it a bit from Giada's recipe. I elected to grill the zucchini rather than fry them because the dish does get a bit oily for my taste. I also added a bit of crushed red pepper and oregano. This dish gets even better as it sits, so I made a huge batch and have some for lunch every day now!
(also, scapece means fried, so the name doesn't really pertain anymore)

Zucchini and Carrots a Scapece
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

5 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/2" on the bias
6 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" on the bias
Salt and pepper
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. EVOO
1 tsp. raw sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. chopped basil
1/4 c. chopped mint
2 tbsp. minced oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat grill pan over medium heat.
Heat a saute' pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. EVOO.
Season zucchini slices with salt and pepper, grill each side for 3-4 minutes, until tender and grill marks appear.
Add carrot slices to the saute' pan and season with salt and pepper. Toss and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
Add warm vegetables to the dressing, toss and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, tossing every hour to coat all vegetables.
Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grilled Ratatouille Pizza

Over the weekend I was flipping channels and Ratatouille was on! It's definitely one of my favorite movies. I have a soft spot in my heart for rodents... and I love food! After I watched it, I wanted to make Ratatouille, but it's more of a wintry dish, and I also have made it before...
So I thought about it for a while. Usually I take a concept or traditional food and think about how I can make it into pasta, burgers, or pizza. It's a pretty effective tool for creating a new dinner!
So pasta would pretty much be a pasta primavera, burger... I'm still thinking about... pizza sounded perfect! At first I was going to use a marinara base, but then I decided to make it even more special and use goat cheese as the sauce base. This pizza was really good, and it's pretty!

Oh, and following the recipe is a photo of what not to do with zucchini. Most vegetables are best when they're small. They're sweeter and less seedy. However, sometimes they do get lost in the garden and you don't find them until they're bigger than you! Since my last 2 posts had photos of my little sister Becky, I'm trying to even it out with one of my big sister, Kristine!
(And in a few hours, I'm sure my dad will email me asking why he's not on the blog.... what? my family? competitive? no....)

Grilled Ratatouille Pizza

crust (makes 2 12" pizzas):
1 c. warm water
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 c. organic unbleached flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. EVOO

6 oz. herbed goat cheese
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 summer squash
3 roma tomatoes
1 orange bell pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Add water, yeast and honey to a stand mixer bowl. Proof yeast 10 minutes.
Add flour and salt, turn mixer on low (with dough hook).
Mix for 5 minutes.
Pick up dough ball, it should be slightly sticky.
Spray the bowl with nonstick spray, place dough ball back in, cover with saran wrap.
Proof for 1 hour, punch down, proof for another hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Divide dough in half, roll out and place on a pizza sheet pan.
Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
While dough cooks, slice vegetables, toss in EVOO, salt and pepper.
Grill on a grill or grill pan for 3-5 minutes per side, until grill lines appear and vegetables are a little soft (do not grill tomato)
Take pizza crust out of the oven, spread with goat cheese, layer on grilled vegetables.
Sprinkle with thyme, crushed red pepper flakes and parmesan.
Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mustard Brown Sugar Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Mustard is probably my favorite condiment, so when I got the latest Foodbuzz Tastemaker's package containing Emeril's Horseradish Mustard, I was so excited! I thought of a few things that I could use it on, and Brussels Sprouts came to mind because of their mustardy flavor. I thought adding potatoes would be great as I've seen mustard roasted potatoes as well. I didn't want the vinegar and horseradish to take over, so I added a bit of brown sugar to balance the flavor and help caramelize the vegetables. I love the way these came out, though I wish it had gotten a bit more brown and caramelized.

Mustard Brown Sugar Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. new potatoes, quartered
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 yellow onion
1/4 c. Emeril's Horseradish Mustard
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Grease a baking sheet with EVOO.
Mince onion, add to a bowl with the mustard and brown sugar, whisk to combine.
Add the potatoes and Brussels Sprouts, toss.
Pour evenly on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 minutes, toss and roast for another 15-20, until potatoes are tender and vegetables have browned.

Thanks, Foodbuzz and Emeril, this mustard is great!

Baked Arancini

One of my best food memories from childhood growing up on Long Island is going to the Italian specialty shop and getting Arancini. The place we went to was right by the hair salon, so my sisters and I would get hair cuts and then my mom would pick up some fresh pasta and we'd get one of the delicious fried risotto balls. I can't remember the last time I had one, it must be at least ten years ago!
I was at an Italian restaurant that had them on the menu, and knew I'd have to make them at home. Traditionally they have saffron risotto, peas, ground beef and mozzarella, then they're fried and served with marinara. I left out the beef and baked mine rather than fry. They tasted great, not as good as the crispy fried balls, but still delicious!
Oh, and I just googled the place we went, and here's the info:
St. James Pasta
244 Lake Avenue
St. James, NY 11780

Baked Arancini

1 tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
3 c. vegetable stock, warmed with 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
1 c. Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 c. Panko breadcrumbs

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, add onions, garlic and rice.
Stir and coat with butter, toast rice grains.
Add white wine, reduce.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add vegetable stock 1/3 c. at a time, stirring well between additions.
Cook for about 25 minutes, or until rice has absorbed all liquid.
Add peas, parmesan and mozzarella.
Stir well to combine, pour into a tupperware dish and refrigerate overnight or until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Scoop out rice in 1/3 c. balls, shape and place on a baking sheet.
When all rice is in balls, toss in breadcrumbs.
Pack breadcrumbs on with hands, place back on baking sheet.
Drizzle with EVOO or spray with oil spray.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serve with marinara.
Makes about 12 balls

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Provencal Stuffed Portabellos

Portabellos are pretty much a staple for vegetarians. Long before veggie burgers were readily available, grilled portabello caps were a stand in for me. When I began eating meat again, I kind of forgot about them. Now that I'm back to vegetarian, I'm sure I'll be using them more often!
For dinner tonight, rather than grill them, I decided to stuff them. I've seen them stuffed with spinach, crab and sausage, but never with a vegetarian protein. I decided to make a white bean ragout and use some of the Herbes de Provence that Becky brought back for me. I topped these with a little Gruyere and bread crumbs and they were absolutely delicious! Much different from any other portabello I'd ever had.

Provencal Stuffed Portabellos

4 portabello caps, stemmed and gills scraped out
Salt and pepper
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1/4 c. vegetable stock
1 15 oz. can of organic cannelini beans, drained
10 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. shredded gruyere cheese
1/4 c. bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place portabellos on a baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven and roast while you prepare the beans (gills side up, see below)
Heat a saute' pan over medium heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.
Cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft and slightly browned.
Add stock, Herbes de Provence, tomatoes and beans.
Stir to combine.
Remove portabellos from the oven.
Spoon bean mixture into caps, sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs.
Roast for another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thanks for the "Herbes from Provence," Lover :)
P.S. - My new kitchen gets NO natural light... so I think a light box construction might be in my future. Anyone have a good tutorial on how to make one?? I might put JJ to work this weekend making it... my photos are just sad!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Roasted Moroccan Spiced Vegetables with Sundried Tomato Cous Cous

As I said in my last post, my sister recently went to Morocco and picked up some spices for me! She had been studying abroad in Geneva for the year, and while on break in Spain, she took a ferry to Morocco. She wanted to say she'd been to Africa!
In addition to the Moroccan mixed spices she got cumin and saffron for me. Everyone knows how expensive saffron is, so when Becky got a gram for me in Morocco and my friend Jen sent me a gram from her trip to the Caribbean, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world!
I finally unpacked my spices and have been really excited to start using them (Becks also got me some Herbs de Provence - she took a special side trip to France to get it for me! What a sister!)

So for dinner tonight, I decided to make a big tray of roasted vegetables with the Moroccan house spice mix (cumin, corriander, cinnamon, anise, cardamom, paprika, turmeric, etc.) with garbanzo beans over some cous cous. The meal was very hearty and filling, and full of delicious vegetables!

I realize that not everyone has the Moroccan Spice Blend, so I will try to write a recipe for it soon when I run out and mix more. I find that it seems to be 4 parts cumin and corriander to 1 part all of the other spices listed above, but again, I'm going to try to mix it up soon!

Roasted Moroccan Spiced Vegetables
with Sundried Tomato Cous Cous

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 2 c.)
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 lb. Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 tbsp. Moroccan spice blend
salt and pepper
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Add all vegetables and beans to the baking sheet, drizzle with EVOO, spices, salt and pepper.
Toss to coat, roast for 30 minutes.
Serve with cous cous.

Cous Cous:
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
1 c. vegetable stock
2/3 c. whole wheat cous cous
10 sun dried tomatoes, chopped

Add EVOO, onion, garlic, salt and pepper to a small stock pot over medium heat.
Saute' for about 5 minutes, or until soft.
Add stock, bring to a boil, add cous cous and tomatoes, stir.
Turn heat off, cover and let cous cous sit for 5-8 minutes.
Toss with a fork, plate with vegetables.

Becky's photos:
1. The market in Tangier

2. Becky and her classmates at a Casbah (Becks is on the right)

3. The ferry she took from Spain to Tangier