Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stuffed Focaccia

Tonight’s dinner was pretty awesome, and took about 20 minutes. It was almost a faux calzone, a focaccia stuffed with spinach, pepperoni, mushrooms, mozzarella, cheddar cheese and with a crust sprinkled with parmesan cheese and garlic powder sprinkle. I got the idea from a recipe for a “Spinach and Feta-Stuffed Focaccia” suggested on myrecipes.com. It uses a much different filling, which also sounds good, but this time around I wanted to build off of some ingredients I had on hand. Admittedly, it looks kind of funny whole in the photo below and we were so busy getting to the eating part, I forgot to take a picture after I cut into it. Oops. Anyway, following was the result of my adjustments.

½ Tbsp olive oil
6 oz fresh spinach
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
About ½ cup pizza sauce, or more as desired
Around 3oz fresh mozzarella
Handful grated cheddar cheese
1 can refrigerated pizza crust, like Pillsbury
Cooking spray
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp water
Grated parmesan
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring periodically, until mushrooms are nearly soft. Add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is completely wilted and mushrooms are thoroughly tender. Remove from heat.

Open pizza dough and spread out in a rectangle on a non-stick baking sheet or one coated lightly with cooking spray. Spoon pizza sauce over half of the dough, taking care to leave a border. Top with spinach and mushroom mixture, dot mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and finally lay pepperoni slices on top. Fold other half of dough over filling. Crimp the edges together with a fork, and even fold over the edges and press again with fork to seal. Poke the top with a fork in 4-5 places.

Combine milk and water together and brush across the top of the dough. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Bake at 450 degrees for about 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lemon Pepper Chicken Noodle Soup

Chris’ favorite soup is also just about the easiest soup possible. Take the following ingredients:
Chicken broth
Cooked chicken, diced
Wide egg noodles
Carrots, chopped
Celery, chopped
Lemon juice
Lemon pepper seasoning

Bring chicken broth, carrots, and celery to a simmer. Simmer until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Add lemon juice, lemon pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to ensure the lemon juice is warm. Add the chicken and stir until hot throughout. Taste again and add more lemon juice or seasonings to taste.

Or substitute:
Rice, dumpling, or other preferred noodle for wide egg noodle
Chicken bouillon and water for chicken broth
Turkey for chicken

Add, if desired:
Other veggies

Basically, I do everything in this soup to taste. I usually use around 32 oz of broth, but if I want it to be “more soupy,” I add more. I most often use about 6 oz of noodles. I usually end up adding more lemon pepper at the end. It is a most forgiving soup… enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seattle Chef and Shrimp Rolls

I pulled the ingredients for this recipe from an article in Food & Wine’s July issue featuring a Seattle chef. Then, I made it very differently.

¼ cup small salted capers – rinsed, soaked while other ingredients are prepared, and drained
¼ cup oregano leaves
1 small garlic clove, minced
¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
1 ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
1 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
French bread, slit and cut into about 5in sections
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Brush the inside of the garlic bread with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder. Wrap bread in foil and place in the oven at around 250 degrees until warmed thoroughly. Open 1 section of bread on plates and set aside.

Combine capers, oregano, garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, and lemon juice in a mini food processor until mixture is combined and capers and oregano or coarsely chopped.

Warm remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet. Toss shrimp with caper mixture and add to skillet. Cook over medium heat until shrimp are cooked through.

Spoon shrimp mixture atop French bread and season with salt and pepper. Fold as sandwich and serve.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

This morning I made muffins. Penzey’s Spices included, in their Thanksgiving catalog (http://www.penzeys.com/images/G11.pdf), a recipe from a reader named Kathy Ness for Pumpkin Streusel Muffins that I thought sounded very tasty. I tried them out and they were so good. The muffins are fluffy, pleasantly sweet, with the hints of pumpkin pie in a breakfast treat.  

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
¼ cup fat free evaporated milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 2/3 cups flour

2 Tbsp flour
2 ½ Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place muffin cups in a 12-cup muffin pan. Cream together brown sugar and butter. Whisk in the egg. In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin and evaporated milk. Add pumpkin mixture to the butter and sugar, stirring thoroughly. Add the spices and baking soda and stir. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated, taking care not to over-stir. Divide into muffin cups. Blend together the streusel topping ingredients (simply using your fingers works well). Sprinkle over the muffins and bake around 20 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pasta Alla Carbonara

Do you want to know a wonderful and easy recipe for a Friday night? I found an amazing recipe for Pasta Alla Carbonara in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. It’s such an easy dish, but serve it up on a cozy night, light a candle, and pour a couple glasses of red wine (we had a 2008 Ruffino Aziano Chianti) and it becomes a lovely, romantic evening in.

Pasta Alla Carbonara
3 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ cups grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz diced pancetta
Kosher salt
1 lb dried thin spaghetti
Freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and the 1 ½ cups of cheese and set aside. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add pancetta and cook until sizzling, browned, and fat has rendered, about 8 minutes. Set off heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta at high heat in lightly salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of cooking water. Slowly whisk ¾ cup of the reserved cooking water into the egg-cheese mixture.

Return skillet with pancetta to medium heat and rewarm. Add pasta and the rest of the pasta liquid to the skillet and toss to combine. Turn down heat and pour in egg-cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Serve immediately, seasoning each serving generously with freshly ground pepper. Pass extra cheese for sprinkling. (recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Trick or Treat! Sadly, despite the bunches of children in our neighborhood, we get very few trick-or-treaters. However, our neighbors did stop over with their baby boy for his first trick-or-treat and he had on the most adorable little Tigger costume (with footies and hood and all) and had no idea what was going on. Plus, there was a Halloween party at work this afternoon, Chris and I went to a Halloween party on Friday night, and in the spirit of the day, I made pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Thanks to my mom for sending the little pumpkin sprinkles and the muffin cups - they say "take a bite" in ghostly cursive on the bottom. Also thanks to Chris' mom for Jan Moon's Big Book of Cupcakes cookbook (from Dreamcakes Bakery) from where I got the cupcake recipe. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Raccoon Sightings

We live in a very residential area, in a neighborhood full of townhouses and stand-alone family homes. With plenty of wooded areas and trails winding in and out behind the cul-de-sacs, though, we have spotted our fair share of wildlife. Of course there are deer to watch out for, but we’ve also seen rabbits, a fox, mice, and a praying mantis. We even have an opossum that frequently appears inside our tiny fenced-in yard. Most recently, we were visited by 2 raccoons. It was the closest I’ve ever seen raccoons. They wandered across our patio, up to the deck and back down, and then clawed their way up the fence and over to the next door neighbor’s deck. I actually thought they were quite cute, and Chris named them – Roger and Rocky. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Southern Tortellini Soup

I get a number of food related emails. One of them is from MyRecipes.com, a daily email with a “Tonight’s Dinner” suggestion. I almost never make the Tonight’s Dinner recipe on that same night, but I still see plenty of recipes fly into my inbox that I want to make, so I just jot them down for later.

The recipe I pulled for tonight was from one of those emails. It was for Southern Tortellini Soup. It was started with sautéed chopped onions and garlic. Wine and chicken broth were followed by collard greens, green beans, diced Italian-seasoned tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, a little cracked red pepper, and finally tortellini pasta. It called for cheese tortellini, but I actually used a roast chicken tortellini with a hearty dose of cheese shredded on top of the soup for serving, but you could really substitute any filled tortellini for which you crave, or even a mixture.

Although I probably would add a little more liquid next time, the taste was nice and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it again. I would, however, take care to halve the recipe if it were just for the two of us again. I often go ahead and make full soup recipes, because we can typically eat them pretty fast. But for some reason with this recipe, we are going to be eating it for days. It made a giant pot. I could have fed the entire neighborhood! The good news, though, is that soup freezes well so I could stash a tub away if I want. And it would definitely make a good recipe for party, potluck, or company in the future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Huntsville Hot Chicken Salad

I have 2 food stories for today. The first is that I had the most brilliant idea of putting the leftover mushroom ragout from last night (the fish was gone) over brown rice for lunch. After I caused a deformity in my plastic spoon from sticking it in the rice too fast after it came out of the microwave, then proceeded to burn my tongue shortly after (I know, I know – the spoon should’ve been a clue, right?)… then it really was quite a delicious lunch. I’ll just skip the painful preface next time and go straight to the delicacy!

The second story is dinner. I made it wrong and it still turned out well. I love when that happens! I had on the menu hot chicken salad, crescent rolls, and a salad tossed with nuts, mandarin oranges, and apples. It is pretty hard to mess up crescent rolls (unless you burn them which, thankfully, I didn’t) or tossing a salad together (especially when you’re the one deciding what to put in it). So that leaves the chicken salad. The hot chicken salad was a brand new recipe out of an equally new cookbook. It came out of Open Doors, A Collection of Recipes from First United Methodist Church in Huntsville, AL, a cookbook given to us as a wedding gift.

It was a yummy, easy mixture of cooked chicken, celery, green pepper, onion, pimientos, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and cream of chicken soup all tossed together, topped with crushed potato chips and baked. Perfect for a weeknight meal. So how could I make that incorrectly? Well, at the grocery store, I 1)forgot the pimientos and 2)grabbed a cream of potato off the shelf instead of a cream of chicken. Woops. As I am standing in the kitchen, mid-celery-chop, I debated briefly about running to the store for the right ingredients, but the oven was already pre-heated, it was getting late already, and on top of that, it was raining.

So instead, I made hot chicken salad without pimientos and with cream of potato soup. And you know what is one of the greatest things about cooking? A lot of the time, maybe even most of the time, it really doesn’t matter what or where you substitute, make things up, or make a change up for a certain preference. It will still taste good. In fact, I could have not even told you about my blunder at all and instead said I made those adjustments intentionally. But where is the amusement in that? Sometimes it is just as fun to share your cooking mishaps. As I said, it was still a perfect weeknight meal, tasty even with a few potato chunks thrown in. And hey, the potato tied right in with the chip topping…

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seared Wreckfish with Mushroom Ragout

I love the concept of “Sunday night dinner,” that dinner where there has been more time during the day to prepare so it’s perhaps the nicest meal of the week, it is with family and/or friends, and it’s relaxed and unrushed.

For our Sunday night dinner this week, I made a new recipe out of my beautiful Farmer’s Market cookbook from Williams-Sonoma. It was called "Seared Halibut with Mushroom Ragout," and was a lovely seared fish fillet topped with a creamy blend of simmered mushrooms. I didn’t actually use halibut – too expensive. I substituted another white fish called wreckfish that I found at the fish counter of Wegman’s grocery store and thought it worked just as well. Conveniently, wreckfish, according to NOAA's FishWatch site, was a good seafood choice environmentally because it is "highly regulated and is a fishery management success story." I also didn’t get my mushrooms from a farmer’s market. They didn’t have mushrooms at our market this week, so I picked up a “gourmet blend” of baby bella, shitake, and oyster mushrooms at Wegman’s as well. I did, however, serve all of it over a bed of freshly steamed green beans and next to roasted halves of sweet acorn squash, all of which I did get at the farmer’s market.

It is very likely that this ideal of the “Sunday night dinner” does not actually happen on Sundays. Maybe it is a Friday night dinner or a Tuesday night dinner. Regardless of which night of the week, and even if it is not every week at all, I do hope that each of you gets the time once in a while to really enjoy a meal together. A meal like ours this evening: seared wreckfish with mushroom ragout atop a bed of green beans and served with acorn squash and garlic tuscan bread. And after all of that, we finished off the evening with another scoop of that homemade banana bourbon ice cream that I was raving about yesterday.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homemade Banana Bourbon Ice Cream

The first try at our Cuisinart Ice Cream and Sorbet maker was a complete success when I made ice cream! My husband, Chris, will tell you that he made ice cream. He didn’t make ice cream. I did. He did, however, come up with the flavor for our first creation and I will give him due props on that vision. The vision was for banana bourbon ice cream, so that was what I set out to make.

Cuisinart, in their ice cream maker instructions provides you with suggested recipes and their little booklet proved to be a very helpful place to begin. Included in the recipes was one for a banana walnut chip ice cream. One ingredient out of 3 seemed like a good start. Plus, in the initial preparations for the banana part, it called for rum. Perfect. Substitute: bourbon.

Banana Bourbon Ice Cream
Makes about 5 cups

1/2 cup 2% milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large bananas, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons, plus 1/2 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

1. In a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat, bring the milk, cream, vanilla extract, and salt just to a boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes.

2. While the cream mixture is steeping, heat the sugar with water in a large skillet until it begins to sizzle. Stir in the butter and heat until melted. Add the bananas; cook for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Carefully stir in the rum and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, strain the banana/sugar mixture, reserving the sugar syrup and bananas in separate bowls.

3. Stir lemon juice into the bananas and then mix the bananas into the steeped cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate mixture 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.

4. After refrigeration is complete, set up the Cuisinart ice cream maker. Turn on the ice cream maker. Pour the banana mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, almost 15 minutes.

5. Nearing the 15 minute mark, gradually pour in the sugar mixture. Let the ice cream maker continue to churn for about another 2 minutes. Pour in the last 1/2 tablespoon of bourbon and let ice cream complete churning for about 2 minutes. Turn off ice cream maker and transfer ice cream to an air-tight container. Freeze until desired consistency and time to serve.