Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Product Review- Bertolli Premium Pasta Sauce in a Microwavable Pouch

I have tried a great new product and I want to share a review with my fellow bloggers. I was at the grocery store looking at all the beautiful pasta when something caught my eye. Bertolli is making pasta sauce in a microwavable pouch that takes 90 seconds to heat. I picked up the Summer Crushed Tomato and Basil and it was really great. I bought Champignon and Portobello Pasta Sauce this past weekend and will make it sometime soon.

I like making my own sauce, but for nights when I'm really crunched for time or just plain exhausted, it is nice to have this as an option.

Barefoot Bloggers- Pasta, Pesto and Peas

I am a very bad Barefoot Blogger. This was supposed to be posted by last Thursday. Time really got away from me though and I am late. This is a recipe that I knew I had to try when Michael wasn't going to be eating dinner with me because there is NO WAY he would eat something this green. He doesn't even eat vegetables so he would run at the sight of this.

Because of that, I significantly cut back on the recipe- by 1/2. Believe me... I still had plenty! I used packaged pesto (Classico) instead of making my own. I'll save the homemade pesto for when I have someone to enjoy it with me. (I think this would be good to take to a potluck)

Without further adeu, here's the recipe:

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa

3/4 pound fusilli pasta (I only used bow tie pasta)
3/4 pound bow tie pasta
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 cups pesto, packaged or see recipe below (I used Classico pesto)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups good mayonnaise
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 12 minutes until each pasta is al dente. Drain and toss into a bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the cooled pasta and then add the Parmesan, peas, pignolis, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and serve at room temperature.

1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the walnuts, pignolis, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Notes: Air is the enemy of pesto. For freezing, pack it in containers with a film of oil or plastic wrap directly on top with the air pressed out.

To clean basil, remove the leaves, swirl them in a bowl of water, and then spin them very dry in a salad spinner. Store them in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel. As long as the leaves are dry they will stay green for several days.

Yield: 4 cups

Dunbar Macaroni

Last week I went up to my parent's house and had dinner with my mom (dad was out of town for work and my husband was working late that night). She made one of my favorite childhood meals, Dunbar Macaroni. This is a recipe that is very popular in the tiny town that my mom grew up in. When someone passes away there family is loaded down with casseroles, pies, cookies, cold salads and large quantities of sweet tea and lemonade. The thinking is that they will not feel like cooking and the neighbors, friends, church members and co-workers who provide the food are simply hoping that they will have some comfort in their time of loss. Well, the funeral home where my mom grew up is Dunbar Funeral home. This recipe is very popular on the comfort food circuit, hence its name, Dunbar Macaroni.

This is a long and somewhat complicated recipe, but it makes enough to feed a few small armies and it freezes and reheats very well. If you are planning to freeze this, get several of the small square aluminum foil pans. Do not put the cheese and bread crumb topping on. Instead put a sheet of saran wrap on the top of the meat & macaroni mixture and then put the cheese and bread crumb mixture in a baggie and place on top of the saran wrap and then wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil. When it is time to cook the dish, remove the saran wrap and bag of cheese & bread crumbs and re-place the aluminum foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Then top with the bread crumbs and cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Here is the recipe, by my mother:

Dunbar Macaroni
1 lb. of lean ground beef or 2 cups of cut up leftover roast beef
8 oz. (2 cups) of dry small elbow macaroni
¾ stick of real butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
8 oz. tomato sauce
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
Salt and pepper to your taste (I give several firm shakes of each.)
3 cups (12 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
2 slices of bread grated or torn into bits by hand (Day old or coarse
textured bread, white or even wheat, is best. The blender is also
good for making the bread crumbs. You want about 2 cups, not
compressed, but loosely packed. You may need more slices to make
the 2 cups.)

Get out your largest sauce pan/frying pan with a lid. I use a 12” straight-sided frying pan. Brown the ground beef and drain. You just want to get the pink out - you can put the cover on the pan and not have to watch it so closely. Then you can do other things, like make the breadcrumbs or get out the other ingredients while the meat is cooking.

Then wipe out the pan with a paper towel and bring a quantity of salted water in the same pan to a boil with the lid on to make it boil faster, and add the macaroni. Cook about 6 – 8 minutes, but don’t get it too soft. Drain.

Wipe out the pan and brown the butter till it is golden, but not dark brown. Be careful. If you burn it, start over. This is what gives the dish its distinctive flavor. Add the Worcestershire sauce to the butter in the frying pan and let it sizzle.

Then add the tomato products and heat. Now combine everything except the cheese and breadcrumbs in the frying pan and blend together.

Heavily Pam a 9 x 13” Pyrex dish. Quickly stir in 2 cups of the cheese into the macaroni and meat mixture. Arrange all that evenly in the dish. Mix the breadcrumbs and the last 1-cup (4 oz.) of cheese together and evenly top the other ingredients with them. Cook 15 – 20 minutes at 425 in the oven, or till the topping is nicely golden brown. Everything in the dish is already cooked and warm so you’re just browning the crumbs on top, not cooking the dish.

Comfort Food- Meatloaf

Recently my husband's beloved childhood dog, Pandora, passed away after a long, happy life. I wanted to make some "comfort food" for him. He is not a big meatloaf fan, but when I saw this recipe I knew that he would like it and I was right. This is so, so good and so easy too! Try the recipe soon because it is a great quick and easy weeknight meal.

Meatloaf Patties, Smashed Potatoes, and Pan Gravy
From: Rachael Ray

1 1/3 pounds ground sirloin, 90 percent lean ground beef
1 slice white bread, spread with softened butter, then cut into small cubes
1/8 cup (a splash) milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons grill seasoning blend, or coarse salt and black pepper combined
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium onion, finely chopped, reserve 1/4 amount
2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 scallions, chopped, whites and greens
1/2 cup milk

3-Condiment Pan Gravy:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 medium onion, finely chopped, reserved from meatloaf mixture
2 tablespoons (a handful) all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 rounded teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon steak sauce

Place meat in a large mixing bowl and create a well in the center of the meat. Fill the well with the bread cubes and dampen them with a splash of milk. Pour 1 beaten egg over bread and add seasoning or salt and pepper, allspice, tomato paste and onion to the bowl.

Form mixture into 4 large oval patties 3/4-inch thick. Pan fry meatloaf patties in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat 7 minutes on each side under a loose tin foil tent. The tent will reflect heat and allow the steam to escape the pan.

Cover the quartered, red-skinned potatoes in water in a medium saucepan. Bring water to a boil and cook potatoes 10 minutes or until fork tender. Turn heat under pan off; drain potatoes and return to hot pan and warm stove top to dry potatoes out. Add butter, sour cream, scallions, and milk to potatoes and smash to your desired consistency. Season potatoes with salt, to taste.
Remove meat loaf patties to a platter and return pan to heat. Reduce heat to medium and add butter and onion to your skillet. Cook the onion 2 minutes and sprinkle pan with flour. Cook flour 1 minute and whisk in 1 cup beef stock. Bring broth to a bubble. If gravy is too thick, thin with additional stock. Stir in condiments and remove gravy from heat.

Slice meatloaf patties and drizzle with gravy. Pile smashed potatoes along side and make a well in the center for sour cream or gravy. Serve meatloaf and smashed potatoes with baby carrots, or with a tossed salad dressed with oil and vinegar.

Pizza Pizza!

There is not much better in the world than biting into hot, fresh pizza that you have completely customized to your tastes. On Friday night my husband and I did just that. I have been wanting to make completely homemade pizza for a long time now but it kept getting pushed to the back burner. Part of the reason is I had NEVER cooked with yeast before. But now I have and it wasn't scary at all!

I have a pizza stone, but I used a cookie sheet to bake this on since I wanted something to help me form the pizza dough since it was a first try. This worked out well and resulted in a very thin crust pizza, which I love!

The very best part about making this pizza was that I could have exactly what I wanted on my half. I had: spinach (put this at the bottom right against the sauce so that it doesn't get burned), sun-dried tomatoes, green bell peppers, vidalia onion and sun-dried tomato & basil chicken sausage (from the IL's recent trip to Trader Joe's). The flavors complimented each other very well and there was definitely a party in my mouth!

Michael had: bacon, cheddar and chicken apple sausage (from Trader Joe's) He said that he loved the bacon and cheddar but wasn't crazy about the chicken sausage with it. He did eat it and he's not one to eat food that he doesn't like so it must have at least tasted decent.

I will have to share the sauce recipe that I use with you later since I don't have my cookbook with me. The recipe comes from a McCall's cookbook from the '60s and it is my absolute favorite cookbook ever!

I got the pizza crust recipe from a fellow nestie and blogger. You can view her blog here: http://lovestoeat.wordpress.com/

Crusty Pizza Dough
From: Kitchenaid Mixer Booklet

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2- 3/12 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal


Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt , oil, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Attach bow and Spiral dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix for one minute. Continue on speed 2 add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 1. 5 minutes. or until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down. Brush 14 inch pizza pan with oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Press dough across bottom of pan, forming a collar around edge to hold toppings. Add toppings as desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Makes 4 servings , quarter of pizza per serving.

For a crowd:Double the ingredients, and prepare in the 6 quart mixer bowl. Makes 8 servings.

I would encourage all of you to step out of your "cooking comfort zone" and try something new. Now that I have successfully used yeast there is a whole world of baking waiting for me.

Moist Bran Muffins

My husband loves bran muffins but they are so hard to find (at least good ones) here in South Carolina. So when I saw these muffins in a blog that I read I knew that I had to try them. They were excellent and Michael really liked them!

Moist Bran Muffins
Where I got the recipe: http://http://bethanyjg.blogspot.com/2008/06/on-bran-muffins-and-intellectual-posers.html

Where she got the recipe: King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book

This batter must be baked next-day; it requires an overnight rest in the refrigerator. I'm pretty sure you'll regret it if you skip this step. You can also leave the batter in the fridge for a week, baking as you go. They freeze very well.

3/4 cup (6 oz.) boiling water

1 1/4 cups bran cereal, divided
3/4 cup raisins -I used Trader Joe's Orange Flavored Cranberries
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil- I used 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup (6 oz.) buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 oz.) orange juice

Pour boiling water over 3/4 cup of the bran cereal in a small mixing bowl. Add the raisins, brown sugar and oil. While the bran mixture cools, blend together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg with the buttermilk and orange juice in a large measuring cup. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup bran cereal, and then the bran-raisin mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin. Fill each cup two-thirds full. Bake the muffin until a tester comes out clean, about 23 to 26 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling, or serve warm.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cheesecake Squares

Or How Jennifer got her Groove Back...

I have not been spending much time in my kitchen lately. First, it is SO hot that it is miserable to even boil water for pasta. When your kitchen is the size of a postage stamp, it heats up really quickly. And, second, I just plain haven't had time or the inclination.

But, I had been wanting to try this recipe for a very long time (probably 9 months or more) since someone on my message board had mentioned it. I had printed it and lost it so I was very happy to find it in a blog that I read regularly, unfortunately I apparently forgot to note which blog I found it in, so if it was yours please leave me a comment because I would love to give you credit!

These were very yummy! I made them low(er) fat by using the 1/3 reduced fat cheese and reduced fat sour cream. I don't think that you could tell much of a difference because they were still very creamy and very good.

I would highly recommend trying this recipe very soon!

Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
From Martha Stewart

Nonstick cooking spray

8 chocolate wafer cookies 1
bar (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1 large whole egg plus 1 large egg white
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line with two crisscrossed pieces of parchment or wax paper, spraying between sheets. Spray lined pan; set aside. (I was SO not going to buy parchment paper just for this recipe-I normally use silicone baking sheets- so I used Reynold's non-stick aluminum foil. It worked fine for me.)

Process cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Gently press crumbs into bottom of prepared pan (do not rinse processor bowl).

Blend cream cheese and sour cream in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cocoa, cornstarch, sugar, egg, and egg white; process until smooth. Pour into pan; sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Bake until just set, 35 to 40 minutes; cool completely in pan. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Invert onto a tray; peel off paper, and reinvert crust side down. Cut into 9 squares.

Edit: Yep, you are right! I found the recipe here: http://bethanyjg.blogspot.com/2008/01/i-still-love-chocolate.html