Palate Pleasers

Here is another great recipe from Cooking Light – this is so easy to make and can easily be used as a main dish or a side dish.  I added grilled chicken to this dish the second time I made it.  When I need something in a pinch, this is an easy, go-to meal.   When I started watching “Chopped” on Food Network, they were using cheeses such as Mascarpone which I’d never cooked with much less heard off.  Since then, I’ve bought it several times and added it to various dishes where I could use cheese – its something that can be used in savory and sweet dishes.    This recipe calls for Mascarpone and Parmesan which provides for nice balance and flavor.

Directions:

  • 8 oz uncooked linguine
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup shaved (shredded) Parmesan Cheese, divided
  • 1-1/2 TBSP mascarpone cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain and keep warm.  While pasta cooks, combine milk, 2 tsp basil, salt and pepper in a bowl; stir milk mixture with whisk.

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add flour to pan, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Ad milk mixture; cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, and add 1-1/2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese and mascarpone cheese to milk mixture.

Add cheese mixture to pasta; toss to combine.  sprinkle with remaining 4 teaspoons basil and remaining 1/2 ounce parmesan.  Yield 4 servings.

COOKs NOTES:  I like a lot of sauce so I often double the recipe so that I have some extra sauce.  It’s definitely worth it.  I don’t really change too much but you can add whatever sounds good to the recipe including pork, bacon and chicken to name a few. It’s a good recipe and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Buon Appetito!

This recipe is from Cooking Light has become another favorite recipe that i made during the summer when Blueberries were in season.  But, recently I went to Sprouts and lo and behold, there were fresh blueberries, so it seems that they never really go out of season.   I made it for Dwaine & Naoma when they came to visit last July and then just recently for my parents when they came to visit.  And, I made it more times than I can count for Mike and me during the summer.    It’s moist and tender and has nearly 2 cups of blueberries in it.  I figure the more the merrier!   I have even doubled the recipe when I wanted to “beef” it up.  It’s fresh and easy and has things like buttermilk and turbinado sugar which gives it another level of texture.    I love turbinado sugar – you can find it at Trader Joes or Sprouts.  I’m always looking for other ways to cook with it.  I think  this will become a favorite to make for all of you too – it’s easy to make and everyone is sure to enjoy it!

Directions:

  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour (about 6-3/4 ounces)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1-1/3 cups buttermilk (it suggests low fat buttermilk, but I use regular)
  • Cooking Spray
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp Turbinado sugar

Preheat Oven to 350*

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking powder, soda and salt stirring with a whisk.  Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes).  Add vanilla, egg and egg white; beat well.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Spoon half of the batter into a 9-inch round baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup blueberries.  Spoon remaining batter over the blueberries.  Spoon remaining batter over the blueberries; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup blueberries.  Sprinkle the top evenly with 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350* for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Yields 8 servings.

 

COOKs NOTE:  I follow this recipe to a tee – however; after I spray the baking pan with Cooking spray, I add Turbinado Sugar on the bottom before pouring in the batter.  And, then I add it at the end.  And, I just use a handful of sugar and sprinkle the top with the sugar.  The same applies to the blueberries – I just scatter a handful or so in the batter.  I love the juicy plumb pockets of berries packed into the cake.   I know you’ll love this and will enjoy it as much as we do!

Bon Appetito!

This is gotta be Mike’s favorite salad of all time.  When we were first dating, Mike impressed me with his culinary skills and made this for me.  It’s become one of our favorite salads, so I try to make it whenever possible.  I have to say that the first couple of times I made it, I attempted to change the ingredients by adding more or less of something, but ultimately, the way the recipe is is just about perfect.   I really just changed 2 things which I do think made it better and I’ll tell you what those things are at the end of the recipe in my notes.  I hope you enjoy it.

ORIGINAL RECIPE:

In a large bowl, mix the following together:

3 bags of pre-shredded red cabbage (you can also mix in some green cabbage)

3 green onions, slides (optional)

2 breasts of chicken, boiled and shredded (or use a rotisserie chicken)

5 TBSP Sesame Seeds (use Roasted if you can find them)

4 oz sliced or slivered almonds

3 packages ramen noodles, crumbled

DRESSING:

In a measuring cup or small bowl mix the following together:

1 Cup Canola oil (less 2 TBSP)

2 TBSP sesame oil

6 TBSP white vinegar

6 TBSP sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.

Mix dressing into Cabbage Salad mixture.  Make sure to crumble the ramen noodles into small pieces.  I typically do this by smashing them in the bag and then mixing into the salad.  I also only use 2 bags of Ramen noodles (Using 2 bags of Ramen means that the dressing isn’t absorbed completely into the ramen noodles) and I use 6 TBSP (or to taste) of Sesame oil.   I like the taste of the Sesame oil and it’s a good balance against the white vinegar.

Once mixed, cover with foil and refridgerater for 4 hours or more before serving.  I like to make the night before so that all the flavors meld together before I serve for dinner the next night.

If you make this, please let me know – we tend to munch on this throughout the week since it lasts for several days.

Enjoy!

In early November, I made Butternut Squash Ravioli’s with Brown Butter Thyme sauce for Mike and me.  They turned out so well that I took a few to my family to taste.  While there it was decided that we would have an Italian themed Christmas and I was asked if I would mind making about 100-150 ravioli’s to feed everyone.   (Plus, I offered to make a Lasagna – but that’s another recipe) We had about 20 family members join on Christmas Day.   Since we were about 6 weeks until Christmas, I figured I had plenty of time to make everything – but of course, December flew by and here we are the week of Christmas and I haven’t even started making these things.  I figured if I could knock out 50 a night for 3 nights I’d have it made.   So I started on Tuesday night (after spending 2 days baking with my nieces) and did 50 staying up until 2pm and then on Wednesday I made 80 more and that was the end of that.  By the end of 2 days, 130 Ravioli’s had been made and put in freezer bags awaiting a pot of boiling water on Christmas Day … Many have asked for the recipe so here it is … you’ll need to make it fit for you as I used a little of this and a little of that and will try my best to put this and that into measurement form.

What you’ll need:

1 butternut squash

Ravioli Stamp

Directions:

Cut Squash in half long ways (top to bottom), scoop out seeds.  Heat oven to 300*

Drizzle Olive Oil over squash – put fresh thyme (or sage or other herb) on squash and salt.   Put on baking sheet/dish in oven (if you have a rack that can go on the cookie sheet or baking dish, use that) for 1-2 hours.  Make sure to check the doneness of the squash to make sure you do not burn it.

Once the Squash has finished roasting, set in place where it can cool.  Once cool – scoop out the squash and put it in a container for use later or put into food processor (or blender/mixer).

Blend, adding the following:

  • up to 1/2 cup brown sugar (to taste)
  • 4 oz marscapone cheese (Ricotta cheese can also be used)

Taste to make sure it taste good to you and is more savory than sweet.  It also needs to taste good to you.  My ravioli’s were savory with a hint of sweetness.  Once completed, you can either freeze the squash in freezer bags or containers or use it right away.

DOUGH RECIPE:  (Recipe from Giada DeLaurentis)

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour for dusting

1 cup very hot water

In a large bowl combine the flour and water.  Using a wooden spook stir to combine into a large ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.  (I used a kitchenaid mixer with dough hook)

To form the ravioli, cut the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces.  The dough should be slightly sticky.  Add extra flour as necessary for rolling, but use only a little as necessary.  Form each piece into a 2  by 6″ rectangle.  Recover the dough with the plastic wrap.

Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling-pin.  Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 4 x 19 inch rectangle.  Place 9 rounded teaspoons of filling about 1-inch apart down the center of the dough.  Fold the dough over the filling.  Press down around the edges of the ravioli with your fingertips or with the stamp as it will seal it.  Place the finished ravioli on a baking tray and continue forming the remaining ravioli.

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.  Add half the ravioli and cook until the ravioli float stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes.  Drain into a large bowl with a slotted spoon and cook the remaining ravioli.

If from freezer, do not thaw – go straight from freezer  bag to boiling water for best results.

COOKs NOTE:  Since this is my recipe, you’ll have to add the things that work best for you including the taste of the butternut squash puree’  or shorten/lengthen your time in the oven.  You can also boil them if that is a faster process for you and add the sweet/savory once they are in the food processor.  The recipe for the dough comes from Giada’s Ravioli Caprese which I will eventually make.  It’s a very easy dough recipe.   You can make sweet dessert ravioli’s by adding more brown sugar both during the roasting process and in the food processor. I will make these again and stock my fridge with them since I really enjoyed them.  The Brown Butter Thyme sauce will follow this recipe.  I hope you all enjoy and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Buon Appetito!

Susan

I’ve tried a few sauces over the years, but this is one of the best pasta sauces I’ve made.   It’s fresh, but savory at the same time.  And, it’s one of Giada’s recipes – I have 4 of her books and she has great sauces in all the books.  I should probably start using them more often.  This sauce is the bare-bones basic, flavored with fresh basil and dried oregano and then cooked briefly so it retains that fresh savory flavor.  I used this for another pasta dish and added  a couple spoonful’s of Ricotta to the sauce to lighten it up – it was just noodles with no meat, so the cheese added some good texture.  Once I finished dinner, I froze the rest of the sauce (minus the Ricotta) until I was ready to use it again.  Next time I make this, I’ll double it so that I have plenty on hand.  I’ll probably freeze 1-2 cups of sauce into Freezer bags and save it until I need it.  

DIRECTIONS:

  • 2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes in Juice
  • 1 bunch of Fresh Basil, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup extra.virgin olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt & pepper

In a blender, puree’ the tomatoes with their juice and the basil until almost smooth.  Set the tomato puree’ aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute both until very tender – about 12 minutes.  Stir in the tomato puree’, oregano and sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Decrease the heat to medium and continue simmering until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead.  If storing for future use, cool then cover and refrigerate.  Rewarm over medium heat before using)

Makes about 1-1/2 quarts or 6 Cups.

COOKs NOTE:  I have to say I was amazed at the thought of taking 2 cans of whole tomatoes and blending them up.  Since there is so much juice, my blender could only handle one can at a time and then I poured it into the pot – I think a food processor would work just as well and allow me to put 2 cans in at a time.   Also, by the time I got around to making this, the basil I had bought turned bad.  So, I used dried herbs – Italian Seasonings, Oregano and seasoned with Salt and Pepper as well as the Onions and garlic.    And, I did use sugar.  I’ve never used sugar before, but I know that when Mike’s mom (Gigi as I affectionately call her) is 100% Italian and makes her sauce with sugar also.  So, when Giada asked for sugar – I figured it must be the right thing to do.  And I find that it takes away the acidity and makes it sweeter, but still savory.  I think next time I will do the basil bunch, hopefully from the herbs in my backyard.  Enjoy!

Mangiamo!

Hello All, It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and I have so many great recipes to share with you, so make sure to keep checking back to see the 2 or 3 that I’ll be posting tonight.  It seems that I haven’t had too much time to write and share with you my favorite foods this past season, but that’s all about to change now…

I had never really been one to buy Eggplant, let alone cook with it but when I started dating Mike, I found out that was one vegetable that he liked so trying to prove to him that I was a good cook, i found one recipe that included Eggplant  and learned to cook with it.  That recipe was Mousakka and it’s still one of his favorite dishes today.  My thought  has always been, “Why order Eggplant Parmesan in an Italian restaurant when you can have meat and Pasta? ” Why even make it?  Well since my husband loves it, I decided to give it try when my parents were visiting since they love it too.  So, this is a recipe I found in Cooking Light and I actually hate to admit it, but I liked it too.  Not sure about love, but I would make it again.  So here it is…

DIRECTIONS:

Eggplant:

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 TBSP water
  • 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (they suggest whole-wheat panko since it held up best)
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 (1-pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • Cooking Spray

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1-1/2 tsps minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 (16 oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Remaining Ingredients:

  • 1 (24 oz) jar premium marinara sauce (or homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz thinly sliced Mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz) finely grated fontina cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375*

2.  to make eggplant, combine 2 eggs and 1 tbsp water in a shallow dish.  Combine panko and 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere and shaking off excess.  Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375* for 30 minutes or until golden turning once and rotating baking sheets after 15 minutes. 

3.  To make filling combine basil and next 6 ingredients (through egg).

4.  To assemble, spoon 1/2 cup pasta sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce.  Sprinkle eggplant with 1/8 tsp salt.  Top with about 3/4 cup pasta sauce; spready half of ricotta mixture over sauce and top with a third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina.  Repeat layers once, ending with about 1 cup pasta sauce.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. 

Bake at 375* for 35 minutes.  Remove foil; top with remaining third of mozzarella and 1/4 cup fontina.  Bake at 375* for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese melts.  Cool for 10 minutes. 

Yields – 10 servings with 1 slice for all or 5 servings with 2 slices for all.

COOKS NOTE:   This is almost like stacking a napolean, but you are working with Eggplant and it’s very savory and when finished, really good.  the Panko really does make the dish, so use that over regular bread crumbs.  When I made it, I forgot to pick up Fontina cheese so used Parmesan cheese and Mozzarella and it was just as good.   I enjoyed it thoroughly as did my family and Mike (which matters most) and wouldn’t change a thing.

Mangiamo!

Here is my long-awaited Lasagna Rolls – actually Giada’s recipe from “Giada’s family dinners.”  I had wanted to make these for several weeks and finally got around to making them this past Friday night.  I started around 6pm and we ate at 7:30, so when I do them again, I’ll start earlier next time.  That being said they are really easy to make if you make sure you read the directions all the way through and prep for the meal.  Get everything ready before you start cooking so that you can add what you need when you need it.   I read it through, but didn’t do the prep on the front end like I should have, so when I needed certain things I didn’t have it at my fingertips – How can you continue to whisk the sauce when you need the milk and it’s in the fridge?  Also, the first thing you want to do is get a pot of water boiling for the pasta noodles.  The non-boil tnoodles don’t work for this recipe.  Also, make sure to squeeze the spinach totally dry so it’s not runny.  Here we go…

DIRECTIONS:

SAUCE:

  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 2 tsps all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 Cups whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg (optional)

LASAGNA:

  • 1 (15 oz) container whole-milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 tsp salt, plus more for Pasta
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 dried Lasagna Noodles
  • Butter for baking dish
  • 2 Cups Quick Marinara Sauce (to follow)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)

To make the sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the flour and cook for 3 minutes, whisking continuously.  Whisk in the milk.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth – about 3 minutes.  Whisk the salt, pepper and nutmeg into the cream sauce.

To make the Lasagna:

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, egg the 3/4 teaspoon of salt and the pepper until blended. 

Bring a very large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the lasagna noodles and cook until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently to prevent the noodles from sticking together.  Drain.  Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Preheat the oven to 450 degree’s F.  Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass  baking dish.  Spread the cream sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. 

Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle.  Roll the noodles up and arrange the rolls, seem sides down and not touching one another, atop the cream sauce.  Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture.  Spoon 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls, then sprinkle with the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.  Cover the dish tightly with foil.  Bake until the rolls are heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake until the cheese on top is golden about 15 minutes longer.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot.  Transfer the sauce to a sauce boat and serve alongside.

COOKs NOTES:  I just followed the directions to a tee; however, I left out the nutmeg.  The white sauce reminds me of a Bechamel sauce but instead of putting it on top of the meal, you put it on the bottom and it all mixes together well.  I was a bit confused initially about how to get these in the lasagna rolls, but what I did was put 4-5 noodles across the cookie sheet and then I took 3-4 Tablespoons of the Ricotta mixture or a handful rather and put it length-wise into the noodle and then rolled up the noodle to create a “mini” lasagna.  I didn’t change anything about this recipe.  It was very savory with the Prociutto; however, I would do this with Chicken, hamburger and just recently heard that Giada did this with Short Ribs.  I might have to try that as well!  Whatever you make it with, it’s sure to please!

The sauce recipe will follow this recipe.

Mangiamo!

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