Tuesday, August 31, 2010

IWAD #12- New Staple

Mark made it back home today and I cooked him a special meal of good ole "Spaghetti & Meatballs". This was pretty easy to make. This one just might become a staple at our house! I even recommend making the meatballs in marinara and serving them as appetizers at a party!

"Spaghetti & Meatballs"

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 pound hot turkey Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain; cover and keep warm.
  2. Combine beef, sausage, egg white, bread crumbs and oregano in medium bowl; mix well. Shape mixture into 16 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet; coat with cooking spray. Bake 12 minutes, turning once.
  3. Pour marinara sauce into large skillet; add meatballs. Cook and stir over medium heat 9 minutes or until sauce is heated through and meatballs are cooked through (160 degrees). Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

IWAD #11- Friendly Neighbors

This IWAD was special because my mom was spending a few days with us. Mark was out of town for work and my mom came to spend a few days with my daughter and I to keep us company while he was gone. Mark dislkes mushrooms so I decided I would knock out a dish with mushrooms in it while he was gone. That's why this weeks dinner was "Chicken Marsala with Fettuccine". For dessert I used those amerreti cookies that Brandy found and made "Mocha Semifreddo Terrine".

The chicken marsala was to be cooked in a slow cooker. Well, I don't have a slow cooker, but I do have a crock pot. I assumed they were the same thing. Before my mom came up I called her and asked her to bring her slow cooker with her. Well, she brought her crock pot. I'm still not sure that they are the same thing, but that's what I used and it worked. If any of you reading this have not cooked with cremini mushrooms you are in for a treat with this dish. A few years ago I made a homemade fresh green bean casserole that called for cremini mushrooms and it was the best green bean casserole I had ever eaten. This marsala dish was good as well. For some reason the sauce didn't thicken up as much as I thought it should have, but it was still a pretty good dish.

For the dessert I made the "Mocha Semifreddo Terrine" in the morning because it had to freeze for at least 8 hours. Before I make a dessert of any kind I normally get out all of the ingredients ahead of time. The last thing I went to get out was the eggs. For some reason I thought I had a full dozen eggs in the refrigerator. Well, I only had 5! Oh no! I needed 3 more eggs and didn't have time to waste so this would be ready by dinner time. My mom persuaded me to go next door and ask the neighbor for 3 eggs. This is not something I would normally do, but I walked outside and luckily my neighbor was outside and I asked if he had 3 eggs I could have and he did! So, I had all of my eggs. This dessert was very good in my opinion. My mother enjoyed it as well. Brandy was not a big fan though. Between the 3 of us we had more than half of the dessert left over. I decided to pay my neighbor back for their 3 eggs and took them the remaining dessert. They said it was very good. Think of it as tasting like a tiramisu ice cream with an ameretto crust. Yummy!

"Chicken Marsala with Fettuccine"

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 2 packages (6 ounces each) sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 8 ounces uncookd fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

    Slow Cooker Directions:
  1. Coat slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until translucent. Add marsala; cook 2 to 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in mushrooms, broth and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over chicken. Cover; cook on HIGH 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.
  3. Transfer chicken to cutting board; cover and let stand. Blend cream and cornstarch in small bowl until smooth; stir into cooking liquid. Cover; cook 15 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and transfer to large serving bowl. Slice chicken breasts andplace on pasta. Top with sauce; sprinkle with parsley.
"Mocha Semifreddo Terrine"

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 1/2 cups (4 ounces) ameretti cookies (about 35 cookies)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  1. Dissolve espresso powder in boiling water; set aside
  2. Line 9x5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Place cookies and cocoa powder in food processor. Process until cookies are finely ground. Add butter; process until well combined. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Place in freezer while preparing custard.
  3. Whisk egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in top of double boiler or medium metal bowl. Stir in cooled espresso mixture. Place over simmering water. Cook 4 to 5 minutes or until mixture thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from heat; place bowl in pan of ice water. Whisk mixture 1 minute. Let stand in ice water 5 minutes or until cooled to room temperature, whisking occasionally.
  4. Beat cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in large bowl with electrick mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into cooled custard. Spread mixture over crust in pan. Cover tightly; freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours before serving.
  5. To serve, invert terrine onto serving plate; remove plastic wrap. Cut into slices. Serve on chilled plates.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

IWAD #10- Turkey in August

So, last Monday night after IWAD Brandy called me from Hawaii and told me she saw an ad on craigslist for a soux chef. At first I was like, really?! How weird! Then I got what she was saying! She was coming home! So, then I played along and asked when she could start and she said tomorrow! If I had known I would have waited, but this wee she's back, but unfortunately Mark is gone overseas for work. I can't wait for us to all enjoy an IWAD night together again! Next week my Mom will be joining Brandy and I, so I am pretty excited about that! We'll have to make something extra special!

Last night I made "Turkey Piccata" with white rice for the entree and for dessert...yep, I had all of the ingredients and we had "Orange Granita with Balsamic and Mint Strawberries". It is pretty obvious that not many people are intersested in eating turkey in August because at the grocery store there were 4 turkey breasts on the shelf. I have personally never bought turkey breasts, but really? 4? Anyways, they were down to 2 after I snatched up 2 for myself. Remember a while back I made "Chicken Piccata"? Well, this turkey one has nothing on that delicious chicken one! This one is defnitely easier, but I would go the hard route and make the chicken instead. It was good, but not great.

As for the dessert- I thought it was very good. I have to admit that I was a bit leary of the idea of eating strawberried marinated in balsamic vinegar, but it was actually a really good combination with the sweetness of the granita. I could have done without the mint leaves if there is a way to get the mint flavor without the actual leaves I would go that route. The orange granita was pretty easy to make, but I found that it melted very quickly and turned the dessert into a strawberry soup. Anyways, it's worth trying!

"Turkey Piccata"

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound turkey breast, cut into short strips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 cups cooked rice (optional)
Slow Cooker Directions
  1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in resealable food storage bag. Add turkey strips and shake well to coat. Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey strips; brown on all sides. Arrange in single layer in slow cooker.
  2. Pour broth into skillet; cook 2 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Pour into slow cooker. Add lemon peel and juice. Cover; cook on LOW 2 hours. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Serve over rice, if desired.
"Orange Granita with Balsamic and Mint Strawberries"

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups Florida orange juice, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  1. Place sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice and pepper, if desired, in small saucepan; bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups orange juice and lemon juice.
  2. Pour mixture into 13x9-inch shallow pan and place in freezer.
  3. Every few minutes, stir and scrape mixture with spoon to create an icy texture. This pocedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on freezer temperature.
  4. Combine strawberries, mint and balsamic vinegar in small bowl; marinate while granita freezes.
  5. To serve, place 2 ounces granita in individual dessert bowls; top with 3 ounces strawberry mixture.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IWAD #9- Easy Peasy

This week I made one of the easiest dishes yet throughout this IWAD experience. This dish is called "Italian Beef Ragu". I have to admit that I do resort to making Hamburger Helper at least once every 2 weeks. I cook dinner for us at least 4 nights a week and there's always a time where I just want something easy and fast. That's the night that Hamburger Helper always comes to mind. This Ragu dish is so easy as long as you have everything you need. The hardest part is chopping the onion! It is also pretty tasty! So, all of you that don't think you can cook...try this one and impress your date!

On a side note- that dessert I was planning to make last week was also supposed to be made this week, but silly me bought strawberries, but didn't know we were out of orange juice...next week it is!

"Italian Beef Ragu"

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cans (about 14 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or black pepper
  • 1 package (about 17 ounces) fully cooked beef pot roast*
  • 8 ounces uncooked fettuccini
*Fully cooked beef pot roast can be found in the refrigerated prepared meats secion of the supermarket.

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until translucent and slightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Remove pot roast from package; add au jus to tomato mixture. Break meat into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces. Add to tomato mixture; simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Meanwhile, cook fettuccine according to package directions; drain. Serve ragu over fettuccini.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

IWAD #8- Lonely

This week was not a normal IWAD night by any means (although it was on a Monday again). I enjoy cooking, don't get me wrong, but I enjoy cooking for others. Whether those people appreciate it I don't know, but I enjoy it anyways. This week my soux chef, Brandy, is out of town :( My husband, Mark, had to work late :( and I'm not drinking because we are working on getting pregnant :(

I was kind of counting on Mark to come home at a decent time because the dessert I was planning on making called for strawberries and we had eaten all of the ones I had bought on Sunday. I would have went out to buy more, but knowing myself I will go in to buy strawberries and leave with $100 grocery bill. So, no strawberries = no dessert.

The dinner I made (for my 2 yr old and myself) was "Spicy Italian Sausage & Penne Pasta". It was a pretty good and easy dish, but like I said, I enjoy cooking for others and even though my 2 yr old daughter enjoyed the dish it just wasn't the same. Mark did eat leftovers yesterday and he said it was pretty good also. Next week hopefully we can enjoy IWAD together again! Well, without Brandy :(

"Spicy Italian Sausage & Penne Pasta"

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (about 14 ounces each) seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Romano cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Return to saucepan; keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, crumble sausage into large skillet. Add onion; cook and stir over medium-high heat until sausage is cooked through. Drain fat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and broccoli. Cover; cook 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.
  3. Add sausage mixture to pasta; toss well. Sprinkle with Asiago cheese.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

IWAD #7 - Dedicated to My Love

This week we had a Tuesday night IWAD because I had a dinner planned with some girlfriends for Monday night. I had a menu planned of "Caponata", "Veal Parmesan", "Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce", and "Mocha Semifreddo Terrine". The dessert, however, was changed to "Chocolate Espresso Panini's" as described below.

Starting with the "Caponata" appetizer. This is one of those appetizers in this cookbook that I wouldn't typically make because I'm not a big eggplant fan. I decided to make it anyways so I could try it. I started it yesterday around noon because it has to slow cook for 7 to 8 hours. I actually didn't think it was that bad. All of the ingredients kind of melded together and it tasted pretty good. It was different, not bad, but probably something I won't make again. Very easy though and would be great for parties!

For the entree I went with "Veal Parmesan". This is one of my husbands favorite dishes and he orders it out frequently when we eat Italian. I have tried it off of his plate, but I'm more of a Chicken Parmesan fan and I have made that before. I had no idea where I could buy veal though. When I went to my normal grocery store of course they didn't have it, but told me to go to the bigger HEB Plus because they have a meat counter and should carry it. So, Brandy and I went to the grocery store together later that night to see if they had it and they did, but we went at 11pm and the meat counter closed at 9pm. I'll have to make another trip, but that's okay at least we found it! So, I got the veal and it turned out to be pretty easy to make and was very yummy! I think my husband approved :)

The pasta I went with was "Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce". This too was very yummy! I got everything prepared and Brandy put it all together. It also went very good with the "Veal Parmesan". The recipe tells you how to make roasted peppers, but it also says you can substitute jarred roasted peppers and I went with the jarred kind. Not sure it makes any difference and it was easier! Very easy and yummy pasta dish!

For the dessert I was planning to make "Mocha Semifreddo Terrine". However, in order to make this recipe you need ameretti cookies. I had 3 employees looking for these cookies with me at my HEB. They also told me to try HEB Plus. Maybe I should just start going there to begin with! Well, when Brandy and I went to HEB plus at 11pm to look for veal, we looked for these cookies as well. A nice guy that worked there assisted us in our search. Unfortunately, we couldn't find them either. So, I knew of another dessert in the cookbook that all I needed was chocolate-hazelnut spread. I asked the nice guy if he had that and he showed me where it was. Next to the "Nutella" chocolate-hazelnut spread were the jellies and I noticed this jalapeno jelly that Brandy really loves, so she picks it up. So here are Brandy and I walking up the this nice Asian guy cashier at 11pm with Nutella and jalapeno jelly. He had the nerve to ask us if we had bread?! It was very funny and we all got a good laugh out of it.

Anyways, so we made "Chocolate Espresso Panini's" instead and they were delicious. I'm not sure where Nutella has been hiding from me, but wow is it good! AND...Brandy found ameretti cookies and I'll be making that other dessert soon. Unfortunately, my soux chef will be out of town and I'll be working solo for a few weeks :(


  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 can (about 14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • Toasted Italian or French Bread slices
  1. Combine eggplant, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, salsa, oil, capers, vinegar, garlic, oregano and salt in slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  2. Stir in basil. Serve at room temperature with toasted bread.
"Veal Parmesan"

  • 1/2 cup CONTADINA Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound thin veal cutlets
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (8 ounces) CONTADINA Tomato Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • Addional grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Combine bread crumbs and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in shallow dish. Dip veal into egg; coat with crumb mixture.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add veal; cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Place veal on ovenproof platter; top with mozzarella cheese.
  3. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  4. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic; saute until tender.
  5. Stir in tomato sauce ansd oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve sauce over veal. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
"Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce"

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Roasted Peppers (recipe follows),* chopped
  • 1 can (about 14 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile flakes or red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    *Or substitute 3 jarred roasted red bell peppers.
  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add Roasted Peppers; cook 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, salt, oregano, chile flakes and black pepper. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes. Serve over spaghetti; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

    Roasted Peppers: Place 3 red bell peppers on a stovetop over and open flame or 4 inches from heat in broiler. Turn frequently to blacken all sides, using long-handled tongs. Transfer to a paper bag, shut the bag and set it aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour to loosen the skin. Scrape off the blackened skin with a paring knife.
"Chocolate Espresso Panini"

  • 2 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 slices rustic Italian bread
  • Butter-flavored cooking spray
  1. Preheat indoor grill.* Combine chocolate spread and espresso powder in small bowl; mix well. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over 1 slice bread; top with second slice.
  2. Spray sandwich lightly with cooking spray. Grill 2 to 3 minutes or until bread is golden brown.
    *Panini can also be made on the stove in a ridge grill pan or in a nonstick skillet. Cook sandwich over medium heat about 2 minutes per side.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

IWAD #6- Delicious Flowers

This week was a little different because my family and I took a trip to Chicago for the weekend and arrived back in town late Monday. With my Book Club meeting on Tuesday, we did IWAD on Wednesday. I did go shopping on Tuesday for all of the ingredients though. On them menu this week was "Margherita Panini Bites", "Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut", and "Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce". Instead of a dessert this week we made a special cocktail I'll discuss later.

Starting off with the appetizer "Margherita Panini Bites". This was a delicious appetizer, although I'm not quite sure I consider it an appetizer. You could totally just make these Panini sandwiches for lunch all on their own. Essentially it's a regular panini that you cut into appetizer portions. Easy, good, and best of all I had no problem finding any ingredients!

For the entree I made "Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut". Let me start by telling you that this was pretty far out of my comfort zone because I do not typically even like fish. However, I have dedicated myself to making everything in this cookbook and will have to encounter it at some point. The recipe calls for red snapper or halibut. I went to the grocery store that I use most often because I know where everything is. After shopping for a few other items on my list I made my way to the seafood counter. I asked the lady if they had red snapper. She said they are out, but could special order me some for $20/lb...no thank you. So, I asked if they had halibut and they did, but it was frozen and not fresh. I decided that I would look elsewhere and if I didn't find anything I could go back and get the frozen halibut. Brandy tried to find it, but wound up buying the frozen halibut anyways.

So, I'm ready to cook my first fish ever! I was pretty nervous about it because the recipe tells you to brown in a frying pan and then place it in the oven in the frying pan. I had never done this before, but I've seen many people do it on The Food Network. I really felt like a professional chef doing that part :) The fish turned out perfectly and tasted pretty good as well (even for a non-fish lover). Not sure how red snapper would have tasted differently, but the halibut worked just fine.

On to the "Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce". I decided to let Brandy take a stab at this one while I was handling the fish because I had already made gnocchi a few years ago. I really enjoy gnocchi and order it out frequently at restaurants (it's always a toss up between gnocchi and risotto for me). As I've mentioned before, I kind of feel the need to watch over Brandy as she is cooking with me because she is somewhat careless in the kitchen. My first inclination that this may not go well was when she asked me what part of the egg was the yolk. I should have taken a picture of how she was forming the gnocchi. She made the dough and then essentially was laying it out into rows and cutting it into 2" squares...really Brandy! Come to find out that she had never even had gnocchi before and had no idea what it should look like. She claims she was doing what the recipe said. The recipe says to roll it "into 3/4 to 1" wide rope" and "cut each rope into 1" pieces", but I've had gnocchi before and she was definitely not making it right. Anyways it was a learning experience and I showed her how to do it  how I thought was correct based on my prior experiences with it. Unfortunately, my water would not boil on the stove and the gnocchi probably didn't cook properly and was kind of doughy and not very appetizing, but it wasn't bad either. Just okay.

Then for the yummy cocktail! While in Chicago my husband (Mark) and I went out to a bar called The Crimson Lounge. Very nice romantic lounge night club. When I was trying to decide what to drink the bartender recommended a "St Germain Cocktail". I said, "Sure, why not?" Well, I wound up having 4 that night because they were so good! St Germain tastes somewhat like passion fruit, lemon, and pear liqeuor...delicious by itself. I found out that it is actually made from the Elderflower blossoms though...wow! Delicious flowers!

"Margherita Panini Bites"

  • 1 loaf (16 ounces) ciabatta or crusty Italian bread, cut into 16 (1/2 inch) slices
  • 8 teaspoons pesto
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • 8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 24 thin slices plum tomato (about 3 tomatoes)
  • Olive oil
  1. Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Spread 1 side of 8 slices bread evenly with pesto. Top with basil, mozzarella cheese, tomato and remaining bread. Brush both sides of sandwiches with oil. Grill 5 minutes or until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces. Serve warm.
"Prosciutto-Wrapped Snapper"
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 skinless red snapper or halibut fillets (6-7 ounces each)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 large fresh sage leaves
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup dry marsala wine
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic in small bowl; brush over fish fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay 2 sage leaves on each fillet. Wrap 2 slices prosciutto around fish to enclose sage leaves; tuck in ends of prosciutto.
  3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets, sage side down; cook 3-4 minutes or until prosciutto is crisp. Carefully turn fish. Transfer skillet to oven; bake 8 to 10 minutes or until fish is opaque in center.
  4. Transfer fish to serving plates; keep warm. Pour wine into skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Stir constantly 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture has reduced by half. Drizzle over fish.
"Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce"

  • 2 pounds baking potatoes (3 or 4 large)
  • 2/3 to 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ntmeg (optional)
  • 1 jar (about 24 ounces) marinara sauce, heated
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pierce potatoes several times with fork. Bake 1 hour or until soft.
  2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise; cool slightly. Scoop pulp from skins into medium bowl; discard skins. Mash potatoes until smooth. Add 1/3 cup flour, egg yolk, salt and nutmeg, if desired; mix well to form dough.
  3. Turn out dough onto well-floured surface. Knead in enough or remaining flour to form smooth dough that is not sticky. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion with hands on lightly floured surface into 3/4 to 1-inch-wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces; gently press thumb into center of each piece to make indentation. Space gnocchi slightly apart on lightly floured kitchen towel to prevent them from sticking together.
  4. Bring 4 quarts salted water to a gentle boil in Dutch oven over high heat. To test gnocchi cooking time, drop several into water; cook 1 minute or until they float to surface. Remove from water with slotted spoon and taste for doneness. Cook remaining gnocchi in batches, removing with slotted spoon to warm serving dish.
  5. Top with marinara sauce and serve immediately. Sprinkle with basil, if desired.
"St-Germain Cocktail"

  • 2 parts Brut Champagne or Dry Sparkling Wine
  • 1 1/2 parts St-Germain
  • 2 parts Sparkling Water or Club Soda
  1. Fill a tall collins glass with ice.
  2. Add Champagne first, then St-Germain, then Club Soda. Stir Completely.
  3. Garnish with a lemon twist, making sure to squeeze essential oils into the glass.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

IWAD #5 - Fancy Nancy

This week was a little different. I had an appointment Monday, so IWAD was going to have to be changed to either Sunday or Tuesday for this week. On Sunday we decided to go ahead and do it. So I went shopping to buy all of the ingredients for the appetizer "Marinated Antipasto", the main course of "Classic Fettuccine Alfredo" and "Shrimp Scampi", and the dessert "Nancy's Tiramisu".

First was the "Marinated Antipasto"...pretty self explanatory. There was nothing special about it (except the mozzarella cheese balls). For people that like olives, quartered artichokes, and tomatoes this is probably a very good appetizer, but for me who likes none of those it was blah. It is very easy though and would be a great appetizer for parties.

The main course included two of my very favorite Italian foods: "Shrimp Scampi" and "Classic Fettucini Alfredo". Of course I cannot go shopping for these meals without encountering some problems. First of all, my HEB didn't have any peeled and deveined shrimp. The lady says "we're completely out right now". Hmmm...Do you have any frozen? She replies "Nope, we're all out". Um, does that mean that all HEB's are out right now. "No". Um...Can you call them for me? "Oh, sure, would you like me too?" Okay, now I'm not exactly the most patient person as many people can attest, but really?! This lady was driving me crazy! Anyways, I left my shopping cart of groceries at that HEB and went to another one nearby that had the damn shrimp.

So, shrimp...check! Now, where the hell do I find clarified butter for the fettuccini? In the cookbook it does say how to make clarified butter, but surely they sell it at the grocery store pre-clarified? Nope, it turns out they don't, or I'm blind and the HEB employees didn't know what they were talking about. With that said, I took a stab at making clarified butter with the margarine I had on hand and I guess margarine won't clarify? Hell if I know, but I'm not really sure if it mattered in the recipe anyways. We used unclarified margarine. Both the "Shrimp Scampi" and the "Classic Fettuccine Alfredo" turned out pretty delicious!

And then...the dessert! "Nancy's Tiramisu"! Well, I don't typically order dessert out at Italian restaurants unless I'm pregnant and can't have wine with my dinner, which I consider my dessert. And when you are pregnant you can't have Tiramisu anyways because it has alcohol in it. Therefore, I have probably tried Tiramsu once or twice. Now, Tiramisu is a multistep process and takes a little bit of time and patience, but it is really not that hard to make. It did help, however, to have both Brandy and I making it together. While I combined the egg yolk and sugar and double boiled the mixture for 10 minutes, Brandy was busy beating the whipping cream "to soft peaks". One thing I would have done ahead of time in hindsight was to make the espresso so it could be chilled. I do have an espresso machine, but it hasn't been working right so I bought some instant espresso. I was very worried about this because I don't like instant coffee at all and I wondered how this would taste. (I even thought about going into Starbucks to ask them for 1 3/4 cups of espresso...what would they have thought of that?!) Anyways, the brand I bought was "Medaglia D'Oro" Instant Espresso Coffee. We made it, added some ice to it, then put it in the freezer to chill for a few minutes.

Next step, dip the ladyfingers into the espresso/brandy mixture (we didn't use grappa) and place in casserole dish. (On a side note, HEB does carry ladyfingers at the refrigerated bakery section of the store). It even tells you to do it quickly because the ladyfingers dissolve quickly. Well, I attempted it first. Failed. It completely fell apart and disentegrated. Okay, try number 2...place on fork...dip...same result. Brandy insisted on taking a stab at it too...quite literally :) She thought she'd try to do it very quickly and for visual purposes imagine someone very large doing a cannon bomb off of a diving board. Yep, those poor little ladyfingers were forced right into that espresso/brandy mixture and made a huge mess. It was quite funny though (and Brandy got her try...glad I didn't give in and let her try to separate the egg yolks from the whites too). So, forget dipping them. We layered them in the dish and poured half of the espresso over them, then after layering (as in the directions) we did it again.

As it turns out, maybe whoever Nancy is has a great Tiramisu recipe, and it tasted delicious, but she could have made it easier from the get go if she would have just told us to layer them and pour rather than dip.

"Marinated Antipasto"

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 ounces) quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 8 ounces small balls or cubes fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup drained pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
  • Lettuce leaves
  1. Whisk oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Add tomatoes, artichokes, mozzarella cheese, olives and basil; toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
  2. Line platter with lettuce. Arrange tomato mixture ofver lettuce; serve at room temperature.
"Classic Fettuccine Alfredo"

  • 12 ounces uncooked fettuccine
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Generous dash white pepper
  • Generous dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  1. Cook past according to package directions. Drain well; cover and keep warm in saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat cream and butter in large heavy skillet over medium-low heat until butter melts and mixture bubbles, stirring frequently. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Stir in salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in Parmesan cheese until well blended and smooth. Return to heat until cheese is melted, if necessary. (Do not let sauce bubble or cheese will become lumpy and tough.)
  3. Pour sacue over past. Cook and stir over low heat 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce thickens and pasta is evenly coated. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.
"Shrimp Scampi"

  • 1/3 cup clarified butter (see Tip)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  1. Heat clarified butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until softened but not brown. Add shrimp, green onions, wine and lemon juice; cook 2 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink and opaque, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add parsley; season with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
  • Tip- To clarify butter, melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Skim off the white foam that forms on top, then strain the clear butter through cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and the milky residue at the bottom of the pan. Clarified butter will keep, covered, in the refrigerator fur up to 2 months.
"Nancy's Tiramisu"

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
  • 1 3/4 cups cold espresso or strong brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons brandy
  • 3 tablespoons grappa (optional)
  • 4 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Beat egg yolks and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale yellow. Place in top of double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, 10 minutes. Combine yolk mixture and mascarpone cheese in large bowl; beat with electric mixer at low wpeed until well blended and fluffy. Fold in whipped cream. Set aside.
  2. Combine espresso, brandy and grappa, if desired, in medium bowl. Dip ladyfingers individually into espresso mixture and arrange side by side in single layer in 13x9-inch baking dish. (Dip ladyfingers into mixture quickly or they will absorb too much liquid and fall apart.)
  3. Spread half of mascarpone mixture evenly over ladyfinger layer. Sift 1 tablespoon cocoa over mascarpone layer. Repeat with another layer of 24 ladyfingers dipped in espresso mixture. Cover with remaining mascarpone mixture. Sift remaining 1 tablespoon cocoa over top. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

IWAD #4 - Read, Re-Read, and Re-Re-Read Labels!

Last night dinner started off with "Asiago Toasts". All I can say about this is DELICIOUS! It's a pretty basic recipe, but I think using fresh herbs in cooking makes a very big difference in the taste. I don't typically use many fresh herbs in my daily cooking, except for the pre-minced garlic in a jar (that's fresh isn't it?). This particular recipe gives the option of using fresh or dried oregano, and optional parsley. I think the outcome of this dish was so good because these were both included fresh. One thing I was wondering while making this was how to measure fresh herbs. When it asks for 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano leaves does that measurement mean pre-chopped or post-chopped because there is a big difference. I have decided that it means post-chopped, meaning you chop up the herbs then measure how much you need.

For the main entree we had "Chicken Piccata" with "Risotto alla Milanese". As I always do on Monday mornings I went grocery shopping for all of the ingredients that I didn't have on hand. There were only a couple of things I needed to pick up including saffron. I have never used saffron before, but I have seen it used on TV cooking shows. I searched the spice aisle at HEB and couldn't find it. I asked an employee for help and he couldn't find it either. We went to the fresh herbs and asked another employee there and he said it was in the spice aisle so we went back. He found it for us...$15! I debated on it and decided I couldn't skip out on something that was a key ingredient in this risotto (plus there was a $1 off coupon...still crazy, I know).

So, Brandy started on the risotto and I started on the chicken. Some things you must know is that Brandy is not a very organized person and we don't necessarily agree on everything in the kitchen. Since I had already made a risotto I thought it would be good for her to take a stab at it too. She doesn't read directions very carefully and even though I had told her that I had already heated the chicken stock for her on the stove she grabbed the can I was supposed to use to make the sauce for the chicken. I saw her just in time and she had only used 1/4 cup of my chicken stock, so no harm done because I only needed 3/4 cup. For some reason I was thinking the can held 1 cup instead of the 2 cups it actually holds.

Brandy continued the monotonous stirring and adding more broth to the risotto and I was working on the chicken. After cooking the chicken in the pan you add the garlic, then the flour/salt/pepper mixture, then you add the chicken stock and lemon juice. For some reason I thought I only had 3/4 cup of stock left in the can and added the whole 1 3/4 cups of chicken stock and lemon juice to the pan. Why didn't I read the label again?! I ruined it!! That's what I thought anyways. I decided to add another tablespoon of flour because I have done this before when trying to make gravy thicker. You must whisk it like a mad woman though to break up the flour chunks. I am still devastated thinking that I totally ruined it and Brandy (being the calm person she is) suggested we just double up on everything else that goes into it. So we added another tablespoon of lemon juice and doubled up on the capers (2 tablespoons), but left the parsley at 2 tablespoons. Well, I'm not sure what it would have tasted like if it were by the recipe, but this "Chicken Piccata" turned out delicious! The risotto turned out okay, but was pretty salty (and we didn't add any additional salt/pepper at the end). I'm not even sure what the saffron did for the dish, if anything. I'm thinking it would have been better if we used low sodium chicken stock to cut back on the saltiness.

For dessert was the bread pudding. The recipe is actually "Panetonne Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce". I have come to find out that panetonne bread is only available during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I do plan to make this again when I can find some of this bread, but after a lot of searching I gave up and decided I would just use some french bread instead. That was probably a big mistake for this recipe. The bread pudding was okay at best. I have made bread pudding before that is much better than this one was, but like I said, it may be much better with the correct bread being used.

On a side note, I did purchase a frozen Vanilla Pound Cake and plan to try the "Limoncello Strawberry Dessert" out again soon!

"Asiago Toasts"

  • 1/3 cup HELLMANN'S or BEST FOODS Mayonnaise Dressing with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Hellmann's Low Fat version)
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (I used Asiago)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • 1/2 French baguette, cut into 18 slices
  1. In small bowl, combine all ingredients except baguette.
  2. On baking sheet, arrange baguette slices in a single layer; spread cheese mixture. Broil until cheese is melted and golden, about 3 minutes.
"Chicken Piccata"

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Reserve 1 tablespoon flour mixture.
  2. Pound chicken between weaxed paper to 1/2-inch thickness. (I buy the thin chicken breasts so you don't have to do this). Coat chicken with remaining flour mixture, shaking off excess.
  3. Heat oil and butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until no longer pink in center. Transfer to serving platter; cover loosely with foil.
  4. Add garlic to same skillet; cook and stir 1 minute. Add reserved flour mixture; cook and stir 1 minute. Add broth and lemon juice; cook 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. (I recommend using a whisk for stirring) Stir in parsley and capers; spoon sauce over chicken.
"Risotto alla Milanese"

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 generous pinch saffron threads, ground to a powder
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Bring broth to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; keep warm.
  2. Heat butter and oil in deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot; cook and stir 30 seconds or just until beginning to brown.
  3. Add rice; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until edges of rice become translucent. Add wine and saffron; cook and stir until wine evaporates.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1/2 cup broth, stirring constantly until broth is absorbed. Repeat until all broth is used. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
"Panetonne Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce"

  • 1/2 (2 pound) loaf panetonne bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (8 cups)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11x7-inch baking dish.
  2. Arrange bread cubes in dish. Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl; whisk in half-and-half, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour mixture over bread, pressing down to moisten top. Let stand 15 minutes.
  3. Bake 40-45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with caramel topping.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

IWAD #3 - Beware of Limoncello!

Last night was another Monday, which meant another night of Italian cooking (and wine drinking). I went shopping for all of the ingredients in the morning so I would be well prepared and overcome any obstacles that I may encounter (as in my pizzelle fiasco). Our appetizer for the night was "Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce". I have to admit that I was very nervous about making this. Even though I love eating Fried Calamari out at restaurants, making it was a whole different story. I kept wondering if the grocery store I go to would even have squid. I was dreading cutting it up into those little rings and chopping off the head. Actually, I'm not even sure what real squid look like, other than watching the Giant Squid show on the Discovery Channel. Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my grocery store (HEB) had frozen bags of pre-cut calamari rings. I also had never deep fried anything before EVER! This meant picking up a deep frying thermometer as well which I was very excited the store had.

One thing that surprises me about this cookbook I am using is the difficult easiness it has about it (if that even makes sense). Let me explain. Some of the recipes sound so complex, yet turn out to be fairly easy. Here, I am referring to the Tartar Sauce. Now, I am well aware that you can buy a jar of tartar sauce pre-made, but this recipe asks you to buy mayonnaise to make your own tartar sauce. Am I the only one that thinks that is silly? Shouldn't it be asking me to make the mayonnaise to then turn into the Tartar Sauce? Well, I made the Tartar Sauce earlier in the day and forgot about it in the refrigerator until 1/2 the Calamari was gone, but it was good. I guess after all of this rambling on I should tell you that the "Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce" turned out delicious and I would recommend everyone afraid of trying it to try it! The only thing I added to the recipe (because of preference and disliking tartar sauce in general) was a small 8 oz can of tomato sauce w/basil, garlic, and oregano (heated) for dipping along side the tartar sauce. YUMMO!

For the main course we had "Skillet Pasta Roma". This is a very good dish of noodles, italian sausage, and tomatoes. A pretty uneventful dish I must say. Essentially, all you do is put everything in a deep skillet and 30 minutes later it's ready. I felt like I was making a upscale hamburger helper! The only thing I did differently was use Fusilli pasta rather than Rotini because that's what the picture in the book shows. And yes, to those of you who know me and are wondering, I DID put onions in this. I dislike onions very much, but surprisingly when they are cooked down in this dish you don't even notice them. I also added the optional mushrooms (cremini's) and grated Parmesan on top.

And then we got to dessert. You know, maybe dessert just isn't my forte! This "Limoncello Strawberry Dessert" was nearly inedible. It is probably my fault, but I thought I was getting the right ingredients. Let me tell you all that Angel Food Cake is NOT Pound Cake! This recipe calls for Pound Cake (another one of those things that I felt guilty not making myself, as the Mayo incident above) and for some reason Angel Food Cake is what I thought of, so that's what I bought. Hey, the picture looks like a Strawberry Shortcake. I'm really not sure it would have made a difference, but that Limoncello, Italian Lemon Liquor, was way too overwhelming for the rest of the ingredients. It has a very stout liquor flavor! It then made sense that it is 30% alcohol. I do plan to try it with Pound Cake soon and will update you on the results.

"Fried Calamari with Tartar Sauce"

  • 1 pound cleaned squid (body tubes, tentacles or a combination), rinsed and patted dry
  • 3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Recipe for Tartar Sauce following
  1. Prepare Tartar Sauce; set aside. I made this early in the day and refrigerated it until use. Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Cut squid into 1/4 inch rings.
  2. Spread bread crumbs on plate. Beat egg and milk in small bowl. Add squid; stir to coat well. Transfer squid to bread crumbs; toss to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 inches oil in large heavy saucepan to 350 degrees; adjust heat to maintain temperature of oil. Fry squid in batches, 8-10 pieces at a time, 45 seconds or until golden brown. (Squid will pop and spatter during frying; do not stand too close to saucepan.) Do not overcook squid or it will become tough. Remove with slotted spoon; drain on paper towels.
  4. Serve immediately with Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges, if desired.
"Tartar Sauce"
  • 1 1/3 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, minced
  • 1 small sweet gherkin or pickle, minced
  1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl; mix well. Cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.
"Skillet Pasta Roma"
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, sliced or crumbled
  • 1 large onion, coarsley chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic & Oregano
  • 1 can (8 ounces) Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 ounces uncooked rotini or other spiral pasta (Fusilli)
  • 8 mushroooms, sliced (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley sprigs (optional)
  1. Brown sausage in large skillet. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is soft; drain. Stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and pasta.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 25-30 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in mushrooms, if desired; simmer 5 minutes. Serve in skillet garnished with cheese and parsley, if desired.
"Limoncello Strawberry Dessert"
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 1 cup limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur), divided
  • 1 (10 ounce) pound cake, cut into 8 slices
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Shaved chocolate
  • Fresh mint leaves (optional)
  1. Stem and slice strawberries. Set aside 2 cups sliced strawberries. Coarsley chop remaining strawberries; transfer to medium bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons limoncello; let stand about 10 minutes.
  2. Place 2 slices cake on each of 4 dessert plates. Drizzle 1 tablespoon limoncello over each slice.
  3. Combine sliced and marinated strawberries. Evenly divide strawberry mixture over cake. Top with dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve with remaining limoncello.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

IWAD #2- Yummy Risotto!!

I had so been waiting for this IWAD night! Last night we made another 3 course dinner! It started with "Asparagus & Prosciutto Antipasto". YUMMY! I even taught Brandy a new technique when cooking asparagus. I do watch The Food Network on TV quite often and they all do this! After rinsing the asparagus under cold water to clean it, hold each end and bend it slightly. It will automatically break at a certain point. That is where you should cut the spears to get rid of the hard ends. While munching on our appetizer we started the main course of "Risotto Bolognese". I had never made a risotto before, but I love it and order it out at Italian restaurants all of the time. This defintely turned out restaurant quality and was very delicious. It was pretty easy as well, but a little time consuming. Then for dessert...oh, for dessert...sigh. I am just not very great at desserts I guess. Don't get me wrong, this one turned out tasty, but the work I put into the damn thing was so not worth it. I made Cannoli Napoleans. You will notice that the recipe calls for 12 vanilla pizzelles. Well, my local grocery store, HEB doesn't carry them. Apparently the only place that does is Mandola's Italian Market, which is a good 30-40 minute drive from where I live, and with a 2 year old about to take her afternoon nap (of which I need for my sanity) I was not about to put her in the car and drive for pizzelles. "I guess no dessert for tonight" I thought. Wrong! My lovely Brandy decided to email me a link with a recipe for them. So I noticed I had all of the ingredients I needed to make them, AND I have a Pizzelle Maker! It has never been used, but it was an attachment for my Emerilware Waffle Maker (of which I don't know where the manual is). So, I'm thinking great, I can make them! Then the chaos begins.

Before I put my daughter down for her nap I whip up the batter to make them. After I put her down I heated up the pizzelle maker. The recipe states to leave it in for 45 seconds, but my machine says 2-2.5 minutes. Now I am confused. The recipe also states to use 1 tablespoon of batter per pizzelle and I decided to eyeball it instead of using a measuring spoon. The first batch (2 at a time and I need 12 of these things) I leave on for 1 minute and is a little under done, oozing out the side of the maker, and slightly sticks to the pan. I took them out, sprayed down the pan with cooking spray, added some more (less) batter, and closed the lid. Okay, 2 minutes this time...BURNT! So, I scrape out the pizzelle maker again and decide to try one more time. (Keep in mind that this naptime is supposed to HELP my sanity). Once again, I spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray, add batter, and close the lid. Wait 1.5 minutes this time...happy medium. NOPE! Burnt again and so stuck to the pan I can't even get them out. I'm DONE! No dessert tonight! I unplugged the maker so it could cool down, threw the batter in the fridge, and decided to get in my workout of Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, which is a major stress reliever I will tell you!

After cooling down I decided to give these damn pizzelles one last try. After all, I had already made the filling for the dessert. So, I thoroughly clean the pizzelle maker, dry it off, and plug it in until it's heated. This is when I realize how this pizzelle maker works...duh! There is a light on the machine that goes off when it's heated and ready. This is when I spray it with nonstick cooking spray and drop in the batter. I wait 2 minutes and open the lid...PERFECT PIZZELLES!! I closed the lid and the red light was back on. I waited until it re-heated and the light went off, sprayed the pan, dropped the batter, closed the lid, and waited 2 minutes...AGAIN PERFECT PIZZELLES!! After all of the stress I put myself through I felt very silly. If only I had the user manual for the maker it would have been easier, but I wound up with more than enough pizzelles and a very yummy dessert for after dinner!

"Asparagus & Prosciutto Antipasto"
  • 12 asparagus spears (about 8 ounces) -I just bought a bunch and used as many as we wanted
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 package (3-4 ounces) thinly sliced prosciutto
  1. Trim and discard tough ends of asparagus spears. Simmer asparagus in salted water in large skillet 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; rinse with cold water until cool. Drain; pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Combine cream cheese, gorgonzola cheese and pepper in small bowl; mix well. Cut prosciutto slices in half crosswise to make 12 pieces. I bought more than enough prosciutto and didn't cut them in half but used a whole piece per asparagus. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over 1 side of each prosciutto slice.
  3. Wrap each asparagus spear with prosciutto slice. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
"Risotto Bolognese"
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) uncooked Arborio rice
  • 4 cups SWANSON Chicken Broth (Regular, Natural Goodness or Certified Organic), heated
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups PREGO Fresh Mushroom Italian Sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. I used a 3 quart saucepan and it worked fine. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add the rice and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until the rice is slightly browned.
  2. Stir 1 1/2 cups of the broth into the rice mixture. Cook and stir until the broth is absorbed, maintaining the rice at a gentle simmer. Continue cooking and adding broth 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until it's absorbed after each addition before adding more.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the beef in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until it's well browned, stirring frequently to break up meat. Pour off any fat. Stir the sauce and black pepper into the skillet. Heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes or until the beef is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spoon the rice mixture on a serving platter. Spoon the beef mixture in the center. Season to taste. Serve with the cheese, if desired. We did!
"Cannoli Napoleons"
  • 1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese -I used low fat
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 vanilla pizzelles
  • 1/3 cup grated semisweet chocolate
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • 6 tablespoons chopped toasted pistachios -To toast nuts, place in single layer on ungreased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally
  1. Combine ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, orange peel and vanilla in large bowl. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  2. For each napolean, place 1 pizzelle on dessert plate. Spread 1/4 cup ricotta mixture over pizzelle. Sprinkle generous 1 teaspoon chocolate over mixture. Repeat layers. Top with dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon pistachios. Serve immediately.

Mid-Week Dessert

It wasn't exactly Monday yet, so no IWAD, but on 6/14/10 I decided to make another dessert out of my "Italian at Home" cookbook. It sounded yummy and the picture in the cookbook looks delicious! Well, I wouldn't say it's anything to rave about. It was pretty easy to make, but it didn't quite taste like I hoped for. Maybe it's because I was expecting something different. Who knows. It kind of tasted like blackberry yogurt...not disgusting, but just not like a dessert.

One problem I had making this was measuring the blackberries. I bought 2 bags of frozen blackberries because, of course, the bags don't tell you how many cups are in them. I measured out one bag, and hey, 3 cups exactly. Once I began re-measuring, as I tend to do, and pouring the cups into my food processor to puree them it was only 1 1/2 cups of berries with tons of juice left in the bowl. Well, then I took out the other bag of blackberries and defrosted them in the microwave this time, because I was impatient, and it took nearly 2 bags of frozen blackberries to make 3 cups of thawed blackberries. Not sure if I was supposed to measure them pre-thawed or thawed, but whatever! The other problem I had was when I went to the grocery store and was looking at the whipping cream. Was I supposed to get heavy whipping cream or just whipping cream? Who knows?! I went with regular whipping cream. And then, the last thing you're supposed to do in this recipe is to unmold onto serving plates. Well, good luck with that! We wound up eating ours out of the ramekins.

"Blackberry Panna Cotta"
  • 3 cups frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
  1. Process blackberries in food processor or blender until smooth. Combine cream, buttermilk and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add blackberry puree. Bring to simmer over low heat.
  2. Pour water into small saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin; heat over low heat, swirling pan until gelatin is dissolved. Pour into blackberry mixture. Stir until combined.
  3. Strain mixture through fine mesh sieve or strainer, pressing down with rubber spatula. Pour evenly into 6 (8 ounce) ramekins or custard dishes. My mixture made 9 dishes, but they may have been smaller than 8 ounces. Refrigerate 6 hours or until set. To serve, unmold onto serving plates.

New Adventure

So, last weekend I bought an Italian Cookbook at Barnes and Noble in their bargain priced book section. It is titled "Italian at Home: Favorite Restaurant-Style Recipes". I have always enjoyed eating Italian food out at restaurants and decided I would pick one night a week and try some new recipes out of this cookbook. I am talking 3 course meals once a week and have chosen Mondays (for now) as my night for IWAD, or Italian Wine and Dine. I also have the pleasure of a volunteer sous chef, Brandy! A while back she told me that she would like to learn how to cook a wider variety of foods, and since I love to cook (and I cook 4-5 nights a week) she asked if we could cook together. Well, back then it didn't work out, but that's a whole other story. For now, she is happily (I think...maybe it's the wine involved) being my sous chef.

On our first IWAD last Monday, 6/14/10, we made a wonderful appetizer called "Caprese-Style Tartlets". It was very easy to make and they turned out very yummy! The only recommendation I would have is to be sure to slice the tomatoes very thin so the juice doesn't squirt out and burn you when you bite into them. I also didn't bother with refridgerating the tomatoes in pesto for 30 min to overnight because I didn't read the recipe ahead of time and didn't have time to waste. Not sure that it would have made much of a difference anyways.

For the entree we made "Pest Chicken Mac & Cheese". Not exactly the most sophisticated of names, but I'm not sure what else you could call it. The dish was very tasty, but the sauce did turn out a bit thick. I will take the blame for that though, as I probably cooked it too long. There are two things that bothered me about this dish. First, cooking the pasta and the chicken should be a step in the recipe, not something you find out needed to be done after you get to the last step. Another reason the sauce was too thick was because I didn't have the pasta and chicken ready in time.

For dessert we attempted to make "Minted Pears with Gorgonzola". The first step was to peel the pears and leave the stems on. Well, poor communication from me to Brandy resulted in stemless peeled pears. The second mistake I made was to leave the juice mixture simmering in the pan for longer than 20 minutes. The result was burnt honey mint grape juice. It made a wonderful air freshener though :) I did, however, have to thow my husbands old (supposedly non stick) pan in the trash after that. So, for dessert we had more wine and sauceless, stemless, grapejuice soaked pears. I didn't even bother with the gorgonzola at that point.

"Caprese-Style Tartlets"
  • 3 tomatoes -Small/medium sized
  • 3 tablespoons pesto -I get low fat pesto..yes, there is such a thing...or you could make your own
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (thawed) -In order for me to make six 4 inch rounds I needed 2 sheets (each package comes with 2) and you can make up to eight tartlets
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese -I just bought a log and sized however much I needed from it
  • 2 tablespoons kalamata olive tapenade -This was by the jarred tomato sauce in my grocery store
  1. Slice each tomato into thin slices (about 1/3 inch thick). Discard tops and bottoms (DUH!). Place tomato slices in resealable food storage bag with pesto, tossing to coat. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight. (Like I said before, I didn't refrigerate, but continued directly with step
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cut out 6 (4-inch) rounds from sheet of pastry. I used a plastic cup that had a 4-inch diameter rim and made 8 rounds out of 2 sheets of puff pastry. Top each round with 2 slices marinated tomato. Bake 12 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and puffed.
  4. Preheat broiler. Turn your oven to "broil" setting. Slice mozzarella cheese into 1/4 inch thick slices. Top each tartlet with 1 slice of cheese. Broil 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Top tarts evenly with tapenade. Serve warm.
"Pesto Chicken Mac & Cheese"
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter -I used margarine
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 package (6 ounces) baby spinach
  • 1 package (16 ounces) radiatore or penne pasta, cooked and drained -I couldn't find radiatore and used penne
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  1. Bring milk and garlic to a boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat; keep warm. Discard garlic. Make sure you leave the garlic clove formed (not chopped up) so you can fish it out of the milk with a slotted spoon.
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly until smooth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir 10 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Make sure it doesn't get too thick as the cheese is going to thicken it further!
  3. Add cheeses to the sauce, whisking until smooth. Stir in pesto; season with salt and pepper. I didn't add any additional salt and pepper. Toss spinach, pasta and chicken with pesto mixture until spinach wilts. Serve immediately.
"Minted Pears with Gorgonzola"
  • 4 whole firm pears with stems, peeled
  • 2 cups concord grape juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  1. Place pears in medium saucepan. Add grape juice, mint, honey, cinnamon stick and nutmeg; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes, turning pears once to absorb juices evenly. Cook until pears can be pierced easily with fork. Remove pan from heat; cool. Remove pears with slotted spoon; set aside. Discard cinnamon stick.
  2. Bring juice mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Place pears on individual serving plates. Pour juice mixture over pears. Sprinkle gorgonzola cheese evenly around pears.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tater-Topped Casserole

Things you'll need:
  • 1 lb Lean Ground Beef or Turkey
  • 1- 16 oz Package Frozen Mixed Vegetables
  • 1- 2.8 can French-Fried Onions
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1 can Cream of Celery Soup
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1- 16 oz Package Frozen Tater Tots
How To:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet cook meat over medium heat until no longer pink (drain if necessary)
  3. Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray
  4. Layer 1/2 beef, 1/2 veggies, and 1/2 oinions, then repeat.
  5. Cut up butter into chunks and spread evenly on top.
  6. In separate bowl combine the soups and milk then pour over the top.
  7. Top with tater tots and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

Things you'll need:
  • 1 lb Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1 Medium Green Bell Pepper Chopped
  • 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2- 15 oz Cans Black Beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1- 16 oz Jar Salsa
  • 2- 8 oz Cans Tomato Sauce
  • 1- 14 oz Can Mexican Stewed Tomatoes
  • 1 tsp each of Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, and Ground Cumin
  • 10- 6 inch corn tortillas
  • 2 cups (8 oz) Shredded Cheddar Cheese
How To:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large, deep, nonstick skillet add turkey, green pepper, and garlic and cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
  3. Stir in the beans, salsa, tomato sauce, tomatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occassionaly.
  5. Coat a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray and spread 1 cup of meat mixture on bottom.
  6. Place 5 tortillas (1 cut in 1/2) on top and spread 1/2 of remaining meat mixture on top of tortillas and top with 1 cup of shredded cheese.
  7. Layer remaining tortillas and then meat sauce (not the cheese!)
  8. Cover dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  9. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and bake another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Creamy Polenta

Things you'll need:
  • 3 Cups Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 3/4 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmigianno-Reggiano Cheese
How To:
  1. In medium saucepan heat milk, butter, salt, and pepper over medium high heat.
  2. Bring to a gentle boil and add the cornmeal a little at a time whisking constantly.
  3. Cook until creamy and thick (about 4 minutes).
  4. Season generously with salt and pepper, remove from heat, add the cheese and stir until completely melted.
  5. Serve Hot!

Emerilized Chicken Cordon Bleu (by Emeril Lagasse)

Things you'll need:
  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut in 1/2 lengthwise and pounded flat, or you can buy 8 thinly sliced chicken breasts) - about 1.5-2 lbs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 8 Thin Slices Prosciutto
  • 8 Thin Slices Emmentaler Cheese
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • 1 Cup Bread Crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 4 oz Chunk of Prociutto
  • 1 Cup Peas (canned, fresh, or frozen- defrost if frozen)
  • 2 Cups Mornay Sauce:
    • 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
    • 1/4 Cup Flour
    • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
    • 2 1/2 Cups of Milk
    • 1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
How To:
  1. Put the 1 cup of flour on a paper plate; beat the eggs and milk in a medium sized bowl, and put the 1 cup of bread crumbs on another paper plate (This will be the assembly line to dip your chicken sandwiches in)
  2. Take plastic wrap and lay it on a cutting board; put 1 piece of chicken in center and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Pound Chicken with a Meat Malet until 1/4 inch thick (be careful not to over pound it).
  3. Season both sides of  each piece of chicken lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Lay out 4 pieces of the chicken and top each with 1-2 slices of prosciutto, 1-2 slices of the emmentaler cheese, then top with another piece of chicken and press firmly together. (You should make 4 chicken sandwiches)
  5. Leave chicken and make Mornay Sauce (or you can make this sauce ahead of time and it keeps refrigerated for up to 2 days, then reheat on low when ready to use):
    1. Heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat until melted.
    2. To melted butter add the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg then whisk all together for about 2 minutes (creates a roux- thick dough like substance)
    3. Slowly add the milk, turn burner to high, and continue whisking.
    4. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens to a gravy consistency (about 4 minutes)
    5. Add the cheese and whisk until melted completely then remove mixture from heat.
  6. Now back to the chicken. Take each chicken sandwich (1 at a time) and place chicken in flour coating it completely and shaking off any excess, then into egg mixture coating completely and shaking off any excess, then into bread crumbs coating completely and shaking off any excess.
  7. Heat olive oil in a large (12"+) saute pan/skillet over medium high heat. Test oil by throwing in a pinch of flour - if it sizzles then the oil is ready.
  8. Place each coated chicken sandwich in the hot olive oil (don't move it around) and cook for about 4 minutes before flipping over with tongs, then cook another 4 minutes. Both sides should be slightly browned.
  9. Remove chicken from pan and place on plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil.
  10. Take your 4 oz chunk of prociutto and cut into thin strips.
  11. In a small saute pan melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
  12. Add the prociutto strips, peas, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
  13. Add this mixture to the Mornay sauce and stir to combine.
  14. Spoon sauce onto the center of the serving plate and top with chicken....and Voila!!

Chicken Lasagna

Things you'll need:
  • 4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 (14 oz) Can Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
  • 8 Quick Cooking/Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles (no boiling necessary)
  • 3 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 8 oz Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
How to:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Fill 3 qt saucepan 1/2 full of water and bring to a boil
  3. Add chicken breasts and boil for 20 minutes (otherwise known as poaching the chicken)
  4. While chicken is "poaching" mix the next 5 ingredients together in medium bowl and set aside
  5. Drain the chicken and chop it up into bite sized chunks
  6. Spray 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and put a small layer of soup mixture to coat bottom
  7. Now layer 4 Lasagna Noodles, then 1/2 chicken chunks, then 1/2 soup mixture, then 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  8. Repeat layers as above, then top with mozzarella cheese
  9. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes