Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tracy, to make your life easier

Here is the recipe that you are looking for:

Basic white sauce turned cheese sauce:
1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon (or a big pinch) pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk (do not cheat and used reduced fat or skim or your sauce will taste like a combination of dog poo and wallpaper paste-you have been warned)
1/2 cup heavy cream (we all have to cheat now and again)
one golf ball size portion of Parmesan cheese, finely grated (no cheating and using the stuff in the little green can. Call me if you need a reasonably priced recommendation)

1. Combine flour, salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.

2. Melt butter over medium heat, stirring constantly. When butter is melted remove pan from heat.

3. Gradually add flour mixture and stir until smooth.

4. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a liquid measuring cup with a spout. Slowly whisk into the butter and flour mixture.

5. Place back onto burner over medium heat and whisk constantly until boiling. Boil for two minutes.

6. Remove from heat. Grate in Parmesan cheese and stir until melted.

7. Pat yourself on the back, you have just made a white sauce and then a cheese sauce. You also made a roux (combining the butter and flour and cooking the flour- although we used the heat of the pan to cook it), which is the basis for soups and other yummy goodness.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

This has become my "go to" cookie recipe. It is frequently requested by family and friends (mostly my in-laws who are nuts about the recipe). What I love most about chocolate chip cookies is that they are almost like a medicine for a bad day. To me, making them is soothing and to others, at least I think, eating them is soothing. I recently made these for a friend when she was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (bonus points if you can tell me what book that is from) and realized that they had not made an appearance on my blog. They certainly deserve to be here among my other recipes so, without further ado, here they are:

Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
(Source: Allrecipes)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Creamy Parmesan Orzo, an oldie but goodie

This recipe is from cooking light, but you would never know by the taste. It is one of my favorite recipes, but unfortunately I had lost it. Thanks to the nesties I have found it again and I will be adding it back to my menus. Here it is, I hope by blogging it that I will never lose it again and have to go without the creamy goodness: Creamy Parmesan Orzo
Cooking Light

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and orzo is done (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in cheese, basil, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the pine nuts. Serve immediately.

4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Dirty Risotto and why I love Giada

Giada Di Laurentis is single handily responsible for my new love of cooking Italian food. You see, I have always loved to eat all types of food but growing up I was not exposed to many different types of cuisine from around the world. In other words, I was intimidated. But, Giada is so darn lovable that she makes even the most difficult tasks (hello homemade gnocchi) seem like the work of children.

Risotto is a pain in the hiney to make. It just is. You have to stand there and stir it the entire time that it cooks. But, it is creamy and yummy and if you are prepared for the work going into it making it can be very rewarding (and I'm not just taking about the party in your mouth when the first grain hits your tongue.)

This recipe could not possibly be any better. I like to add my own touch to recipes so I added in some garlic but other than that I can't possibly think of anything that could be done to this recipe to make it any better. It is that good.

Here is the recipe, my notes and changes are in italic:

Dirty Risotto
(Source: Food Network)
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 T. butter
2 oz. pancetta, chopped (you can substitute bacon but it might not be as good)
6 oz. Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 oz. button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sausage and saute until golden brown about 5 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and saute until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute, being careful not to burn. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering brother and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bit and the mixture is creamy, about 25-30 minutes total.

4. Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4 of the Parmesan. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley and remaining Parmesan and serve immediately.

BakingBlonde's Blondies

Yesterday I went to a baby shower and I wanted to contribute to the menu. I took a spinach & cheese quiche as well as the spinach and sun dried tomato quiche I blogged earlier this month. I wanted to provide something sweet and wasn't in the mood for my stand-by recipe of chocolate chip cookies so I thought that blondies would perfectly fit the bill.

I got this recipe from a nestie. Here is the link to her blog:

I wanted to add a mix-in to the blondies and thought that I would add in some chocolate chips. I had bought a very small bag of very good chocolate chips that was not nearly enough to make cookies but I thought it would be perfect for these. Unfortunately, the chocolate chips completely melted and kept the blondies from setting properly. So I dumped those on a plate and started over. The next time I used mini M&Ms as the mix-in because I thought the shell would keep them from melting, which it did. This worked perfectly and they were a big hit. I hope you'll try them! Here's the recipe:

Basic Blondies
(Source: Bakingblonde)
8 T. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla or 1/2 tsp. almond extract
pinch salt
1 c. flour

Butter an 8x8" pan.

Mix melted butter with brown sugar-beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, stir in flour. Mix in any additions (some ideas below).

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until set in the middle.

Cool on rack before cutting.

Add in ideas:1/2 to 1 c. chocolate chips or butterscotch chips 1/2 tsp mint extract in addition to, or in the place of vanilla extract 1/2 c. chopped nuts, chopped up candy bars

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crockpot "baked" chicken and baked garlic rice pilaf

Last night I tried two recipes from nesties. Both turned out really well. The first I made was the crock pot "baked" chicken by Carrie ( I made a few changes though. I rubbed the outside of the chicken with olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and then quartered 2 lemons and stuffed that in the cavity along with two smashed cloves of garlic. I cooked without liquids on low all day while I was at work. You don't need to add liquid because SO much liquid cooks out of the chicken, plus I figured that I had the lemons inside to keep it moist anyways. The chicken just completely falls apart and is so tender. You don't even need a knife to cut into serving size or to eat it!

The sides that I made to go with it were baked garlic rice pilaf and sauteed green beans (I just add a Tablespoon or so of olive oil to a skilled and add in the snapped green beans. I keep tossing them to make sure they cook evenly. When they are done I add some balsamic vinegar to the pan and let it reduce for a few moments.)

I got the recipe for the garlic rice pilaf from a nestie. I am not sure which blog I got it from so I'll post the links to both. and
It was really so very good and I highly recommend that you try it. I will definitely be making it again!

Baked Garlic Rice Pilaf
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon
black pepper
I also used some fresh squeezed lemon, I added it about 15 minutes before it was finished (I did this also)

Preheat oven to 375*. Heat butter in a skillet; add garlic and rice and cook until both are golden brown. Add 1 cup of broth and the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and pour into a covered casserole; bake for 25 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups broth; cook for another 45 minutes. This can be doubled without increasing the cooking time.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Shephard's pie (kinda)

When Michael and I first got married (almost three years ago!) I made this all the time because he really likes it and it is fairly quick and easy. It is even easier if you are using leftovers.

Shephard's Pie
My no recipe recipe

Leftover ground beef, browned & drained
garlic salt
onion powder
1 small bag frozen corn (or use canned but I just like frozen better)
leftover mashed potatoes
cheese (I like cheddar monterrey jack)

Step 1:
Spray an oven safe baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Step 2:
Place ground beef in the bottom of the cooking dish. Sprinkle garlic salt, pepper and onion powder to taste on top.

Step 3:
Top ground beef with the corn.

Step 4:
Top corn with mashed potatoes. Place small pats of butter on top of potatoes and then cover with cheese.

Step 5:
Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quiche squared

Last night we went over to the *new* home of some of our friends for movie night! I wanted to contribute to the wonderful feast that we always have so I offered to bring quiche.

I have always loved quiche but really fell in love with it in Paris. Now, I am not even going to pretend for a moment that I make authentic French quiche, but it is good and it is easy and it satisfies the craving so I think it's good enough! I made a bacon, cheddar and Monterrey Jack quiche to satisfy my husband's craving for all things bacon and then I made a spinach, sun-dried tomato, Parmesan and mozzarella quiche because well anything is better with sun-dried tomatoes and it just sounded darn good to me as I was thinking of what to make.

Again I had the problem with measuring ingredients, which I DON'T do because I apparently have some sort of aversion to measuring utensils (which explains why I don't terribly enjoy baking) so here is a rough guideline of what I did:

Bacon Quiche

1 package thick sliced bacon

6 eggs

2-ish Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (don't try to use skim milk I did that once to a terrible result really there is nothing in this world like heavy cream)

1 package shredded cheddar Monterrey Jack blend cheese

white pepper (or use what you like I think white pepper is prettier

1 store bought deep dish pie crust (or make your own but you'll have to find your own recipe since I don't do baking I can't recommend a recipe) *also allow this to thaw while you are preparing other ingredients. If it is not thawed all the way it is ok but take it out before you start the other prep work*

1. Broil the bacon. That's right I said broil it. I recently discovered this technique for cooking bacon and I am now a convert. You turn your broiler on high, lay out the bacon on your broiling pan and then just listen (you should hear it sizzling) and use your sniffer to monitor the bacon. When you really start smelling the bacon, check it and it will probably be ready to turn. Then cook on the other side. You want the bacon to be at least done and leaning towards crispy. No soggy bacon for quiches. Once it has finished cooking, remove to paper towels and blot out the grease. Chop into 1/4 inch thick chunks.

2. Use a hand mixer with the whisk attachment to beat 6 eggs and 2-ish Tablespoons heavy cream until foamy.

3. Add bacon, 1/2 of the cheese and white pepper to the eggs.

4. Pour into the pie crust. Top with remaining cheese.

5. Cook at 375 for 35 minutes and then let cool for 10 minutes before you cut into it. Don't skip the cooling process or it won't set properly. Believe me I tried. :)

Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomato, Parmesan and Mozzarella Quiche

1/2 box frozen spinach, thawed and water completely pressed out

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped (press out the oil first)

6 eggs

2-ish Tablespoons heavy cream

white pepper

garlic powder

onion powder

1/2 bag Mozzarella cheese

1/2 bag *good* Parmesan cheese (don't use crap or the quiche will taste like crap :)

1 frozen deep dish pie crust *again thaw while you prep the other ingredients*

1. Beat the eggs with the heavy cream using a hand mixer until foamy.

2. Add in spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and all of the Mozzarella.

3. Pour into pie crust and top with the Parmesan cheese

4. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting.

I hope you enjoy these "recipes" and again sorry about the whole measuring thing... One day I will learn not to just grab bottles and start throwing ingredients together.