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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Haricots Verts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

...Always looking for new ways to dress up our veggies.  And it's nice that so many things are in season now.  These fresh green beans are a great side dish when you want to balance out a main dish that may be on the rich and creamy side. 

Ingredients

1 lb Haricots verts, trimmed
4 slices Thick-cut bacon
4 oz Mild blue cheese, crumbled into small chunks
1 ½ cups Toasted whole pecans, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt





Directions

Wash and trim the green beans.  Trim the side with the stem... the other little curly end is fine to eat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the haricots verts and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove the beans from the water and immediately place in a bowl of ice water. Remove the haricots verts from the ice water and set aside in a medium bowl.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spatula and place on paper towels. Add the beans to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the blue cheese and toss just until it starts to melt. Break the cooked bacon into bite-size pieces and add to pan. Finish by stirring in the toasted chopped pecans. Season with the freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Super Simple 4-Step Chicken Pot Pie

This is one of Lily and Canon's favorite meals... they loves peas and carrots; and the chunks of tender chicken along with a flaky crust are both easy for them to manage.  There are probably more "sophisticated" ways of making this, but this recipe is for the person who needs to put lunch or dinner together easily and quickly.  Although is is very homey and comforting in the end.

For this recipe, I like to use left-over, cooked chicken that I have in the freezer.  Any time I need to cook chicken for gumbo, dumplings, etc., I cook the whole chicken and freeze half.  This is one of my favorite uses for "the other half."  Cook and prep once, eat twice!


Ingredients:
1 box   Pillsbury rollout pie crust (red box)
½    chicken, cooked and cut into pieces  (** could also use large can of chunk white chicken – Tyson, etc.)
½ - 1 whole bag frozen mixed vegetables – I like Green Giant best
1 can   cream of chicken (or cream of celery) soup
to taste salt & pepper
to taste poultry seasoning
to taste garlic powder (not too much)
* optional - you could also add a little creamed sherry if you want to make it a little more "grown up."

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Take pie crust out of refrigerator to warm up a bit. If it’s too cold, you won’t be able to roll it out without it breaking.  Once it has softened up, use it as the bottom layer to the pie. Place bottom pie crust in glass pie plate. Just let it fold over the outside.
2. Fill the crust with chicken chunks, then veggies, then seasonings, then soup.
**we like lots of veggies, so I use the whole pack, but you could cut back to half a pack if you are a bigger fan of more meat, less veggies.



3. Cover with top crust. Fold top crust over bottom crust on the edges. Crimp together with your fingers. Push the “crust” down so that it’s even with the top of the plate – helps to keep it from burning. Cut some slits in the crust so steam, etc can escape.

**Time saving tip**
You can cover with plastic wrap at this point and put into freezer (for long term) or refrigerator (for the next day, etc).  Then just pop it into the oven when you get home from work!

4. When ready to cook:  Cover with aluminum foil on the edges. I like to take a square of it, fold in quarters, then cut a quarter circle – then you have a circular cutout in middle when you open it. Place over outside crust to protect from burning. You will remove it for the last 15 – 20 minutes of baking to brown. If you don’t cover the edges, they will burn before the rest of the crust is done.

You won’t be able to see any more “transluscent” areas of the crust when its done. Will all be golden brown. (about 45 min)


Method:
1. Preheat oven to 425F.  Take pie crust out of refrigerator to warm up a bit. If it’s too cold, you won’t be able to roll it out without it breaking.  Once it has softened up, use it as the bottom layer to the pie. Place bottom pie crust in glass pie plate. Just let it fold over the outside.

2. Fill the crust with chicken chunks, then veggies, then seasonings, then soup.
**we like lots of veggies, so I use the whole pack, but you could cut back to half a pack if you are a bigger fan of more meat, less veggies.

3. Cover with top crust. Fold top crust over bottom crust on the edges. Crimp together with your fingers. Push the “crust” down so that it’s even with the top of the plate – helps to keep it from burning. Cut some slits in the crust so steam, etc can escape.

**Time saving tip**
You can cover with plastic wrap at this point and put into freezer (for long term) or refrigerator (for the next day, etc).  Then just pop it into the oven when you get home from work!

4. When ready to cook:  Cover with aluminum foil on the edges. I like to take a square of it, fold in quarters, then cut a quarter circle – then you have a circular cutout in middle when you open it. Place over outside crust to protect from burning. You will remove it for the last 15 – 20 minutes of baking to brown. If you don’t cover the edges, they will burn before the rest of the crust is done.

You won’t be able to see any more “transluscent” areas of the crust when its done. Will all be golden brown. (about 45 min)

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Perfect Onion Jam

Come on now... don't turn up your nose at the "thought" of this!  This Onion Jam is SOoooo delicious! It's sweet and savory at the same time (and doesn't really bear resemblance to the look, smell, or taste of raw onions). My parents are totally in love with it. I can't quite remember where I got the recipe, but I've made it several times now and it has come out delicious each time. Very very easy, just a little time consuming - although you can just have it cooking over low while you get other kitchen stuff done. That's what I do. Just give it a stir every now and then. Cooking them low and slow enzymatically turns the starches into sugar and makes them so sweet.


Anyhow.... we love love love it with our leftover pork tenderloin. Just get a crunchy French baguette from the bakery, add a layer of Garlic and Herb Spread (Alouette) [the kind you eat with Wheat Thins], add a slice of pork over the spread, and top this crostini with a small spoon of the onion jam. This makes a beautiful presentation and would be absolutely perfect hors'dourves for a cocktail party.(Recipe for the pork at the bottom of this post.)

Try this next time you buy a whole bag of onions and don't know what to do with them. It's very elegant and super simple.

Kitchen tip - When I make pork tenderloin, I make two of them and freeze one with some of the sauce/juice. Takes the same amount of time, but I have only to thaw one morning in the fridge, then heat in the oven for dinner. One prep & clean for two meals! By the way, I buy the sweet onions from Peru or the sweet Vidalia onions when I can find them. Both are wonderful and sweet to cook with.

Onion Jam
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 4 lg onions, sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown malt vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
**NOTE**
If you can’t find malt vinegar, you can substitute ¼ cup lemon juice + ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Directions:
1. Slice the onions thinly and separate the circles.

2. Heat butter in large pan, add onions, cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft and lightly browned.
3. Add sugar, stir to melt sugar, simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick and caramelized.
4. Add vinegar and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes until thickened slightly. Turn off heat then stir in the rosemary.
5. Use a spoon of it over a piece of pork - wonderful!  Adds a whole extra layer of flavor and texture.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Soy Sauce

1 Pork tenderloin
1 – 2 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Tony Chachare’s (or some other Creole Seasoning)
Dried oregano
Dried basil
1-2 cups Apple juice
3-4 Tbsp Soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Apple, cut into thin rings
Honey

Method:
1. Heat a large (12”) skillet and add olive oil
2. Season tenderloin heavily with Tony’s (can use salt and pepper if desired), dried basil and dried oregano. 3. Add to the HOT oil – you want the outside to sear.
4. Place the pork in a deep pan and pour the Worcestershire, Soy sauce and Apple juice in the bottom of the pan. Place apples slices on top of the pork and drizzle with honey.
5. Bake at 400F for about 35-40 minutes (until internal temp reaches 155)
6. Let rest at least 5 minutes before cutting to allow juices to redistribute.

**Note**
If the "sauce" isn't a thick as you would like, reduce down on the stovetop 5 - 10 minutes after you take out the meat and are letting it rest.

Looking for more great recipes?
Please visit my Recipe Index for more awesome recipes to cook with/for your family.  Here are a few to get you thinking... 




Friday, May 21, 2010

Macadamia Nut Crunch Cake

Canon and I worked on this one one rainy, nasty weekend.  Didn't stand a chance once I brought it to work... but he still calls it "his cake." 


For this cake, I started with a recipe out of Giada's Kitchen, but changed it up a bit to make it my own.

There are lots of steps, but none are that difficult.  You end up with a creamy-crunchy filling made up of a macadamia nut brittle that is also echoed on the top as garnish.  The cake part is dark chocolate - from a boxed cake mix.  The topping is a sprinkling of homemade chocolate-orange-sugar!  YUMMY!!!

Will try to get the recipe on soon.

Creamy Farfalle with Carrots and Peas

This is a variation of a recipe made my Giada de Laurentiis.  I made it because Lily LOVES carrots... and peas... and pasta!  It's super easy and really versatile.  Farfalle are a type of pasta. Commonly known as "bow-tie pasta," the name is derived from the Italian word farfalla (butterfly). The "e" at the end of the word is the Italian feminine plural ending, making the meaning of the word "butterflies." Farfalle date back to the 1500s. It originated in Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy.

As a side dish:

½ lb (8 ounces) farfalle or other small-shaped pasta
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 small Onion, finely diced
2 medium Carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup Low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup Frozen petite peas, thawed
8 oz Cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp Chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 2/3 cup of the pasta water.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until the peas are warmed through and the carrots are tender. Stir in the cooked pasta. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheeses and reserved pasta water. Stir until the mixture is incorporated and forms a sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and garnish with chopped basil.


For the next day

This pasta reheats really really well.  Add some crumbled bacon for a variation on the taste and to add protein with a different flavor profile.

Consider adding some chunks of cooked rotisserie chicken for a complete meal.

The Easiest Blackberry Cobbler EVER!!

4 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I’ve used everything from whole milk to 2% with great results)
1 tsp vanilla (optional, but big taste return. I use clear Mexican vanilla!)
Couple of handfuls of blackberries, mixed berries, or strawberries – whatever you prefer.

1. Pour melted butter around in glass pie plate – this part is essential to getting a golden, crunchy, buttery crust – the best part!
2. Mix flour, sugar, milk & vanilla; then pour into baking dish over butter.
3. Add fruit over the batter – you don’t need to stir it in or anything. The “batter” will bake up around it. Trust me on that one.
4. Bake at 350F for about 1 hr. Cobbler will be golden brown.

Note -
a. May take longer for frozen fruit.
b. Serve with heavy whipping cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream
c. For a larger dish (like a 9"x13" casserole dish), just increase the amounts to 1 1/2 cups each.  As long as all of the proportions are the same, it will come out great!

Coconut Praline' Cake


Coconut Praline' Cake
The Vocabulary
For those of you "non-Southerners," a Praline [PRAH-leen] is a brittle confection made of nuts and caramelized brown sugar.  A  Praline' [pra-lee-NAY] is a food that is garnished, coated or made with pralines or praline components.  In other words... something SO SCRUMPTIOUS that you NEED to have a reason to eat it... on ice cream, on anything, would be good on a flipflop!

The Cake
This is really a "cheat" cake, though. The cake is Duncan Hines (Butter Golden Recipe) with added Mexican vanilla. The icing comes from a can - I know what you must be thinking... but sometimes you have to go with convenience.

The Topping
The shaved coconut is the unsweetened kind - but the praline filling is so rich, that it was well balanced. To toast the coconut, just add to a pan and toast in the oven, shaking the pan every couple of minutes until you get the color you want. Keep a careful eye on it!

The Filling
The filling is a variation of my mom's famous coconut filling (the reason I've had coconut cake almost every year for my birthday): a stick of butter, about 1 cup of sugar, a cup of canned evaporated milk, and a little vanilla .... cook on medium for a while. You are basically making a praline filling. Next, add shredded sweetened coconut and a good handful of chopped, toasted pecans. Cook for a while longer and remove to cool slightly. Spread filling between the layers of cake, reserving some for the top. Mom likes to add the filling while it is still fairly warm - she says it allows it to soak into the cake better, keeping the layers extra moist.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Spinach Lasagna Spirals



Pretty enough to have company over. Comfort food at its best, but "lighter" than heavier lasagnas.  And they may look complicated, but really this is so easy.  Mix - slather - roll - bake.


Ingredients

  • 10 wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 (5 oz) package fresh baby spinach
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 (32 oz) jar spaghetti sauce (or homemade)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 5 - 6 fresh basil leaves for garnish
  • roasted grape tomatoes for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9"x13" baking or casserole dish.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 10-11 minutes. Drian and rinse under cool water.


3. In a 10" or 12" pan, saute spinach and garlic in olive oil for 3 - 4 minutes until wilted.
4. Chop the wilted spinach on a chopping board into a small dice.
5. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta cheese, dried seasonings, 3/4 of the mozzarella and all of the parmesan cheese, green onions, and nutmeg.
6. Spread a little of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.
7. Spread about 1/2 cup of the filling along each noodle. Roll noodles to form spirals. Place in the casserole dish. Spoon spaghetti sauce on and around spirals, and top with mozzarella cheese.

8. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
During this time, slice grape tomatoes in half. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until soft and desired doneness is evident.


9. Top with fresh basil ribbons and roasted tomatoes if desired. Serve with extra sauce.

Written Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9"x13" baking or casserole dish.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 10-11 minutes. Drian and rinse under cool water.
3. In a 10" or 12" pan, saute spinach and garlic in olive oil for 3 - 4 minutes until wilted.
4. Chop the wilted spinach on a chopping board into a small dice.
5. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta cheese, dried seasonings, 3/4 of the mozzarella and all of the parmesan cheese, green onions, and nutmeg.
6. Spread a little of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.
7. Spread about 1/2 cup of the filling along each noodle. Roll noodles to form spirals. Place in the casserole dish. Spoon spaghetti sauce on and around spirals, and top with mozzarella cheese.
8. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.
During this time, slice grape tomatoes in half. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until soft and desired doneness is evident.
9. Top with fresh basil ribbons and roasted tomatoes if desired. Serve with extra sauce. 

Please visit my Recipe Index for more soups and lots of different ideas to cook with/for your family!   Here are a few different things:



Crawfish Fettuccine


Please go to the newer post..... Crawfish Fettuccine

 This old one has been upgraded!

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