Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Smoked Mozzarella Meatballs

>> Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This is a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe and it was the best version of spaghetti and meatballs I have ever tried! I will make this recipe over and over, it really was that good! The meatballs had a very smooth texture and a great flavor that complimented the sauce really well. With every bite, I really felt like I was eating at a nice Italian restaurant. This is one of the rare recipes that I followed exactly and did not change anything and I'm so glad I did!



Matt's El Rancho's Cheese Enchiladas

Since the advent of the internet, I rarely use any of my many cookbooks, so I am on a mission to make at least one recpe from each of my cookbooks. This evening was our first foray and it was a success! My sweet husband made me cheese enchiladas with beef sauce from our Matt's El Rancho cookbook and they really were just as good - if not better! - than the ones at the restaurant. The recipe didn't look hard, and there weren't very many ingredients, but it was a little time-consuming to make since the sauce had to simmer for an hour. (Andrew wanted me to emphasize the importance of dipping the tortillas in the hot oil or else the tortillas fall apart.)

Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

2 cups enchilada sauce of your choice (the recipe for the sauce we used in below)
1 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped onion

Get your ingredients together and warm your sauce. In a skillet on medium, heat the oil. Dip tortillas in oil for 4 to 5 seconds until limp. Place on paper towels to drain.
After all the tortillas have been dipped in oil and drained, dip them in warm enchilada sauce and stack on a plate. Remove a tortilla from your stack, fill with 2 heaping tablespoons of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion. Roll up and place seam side down, side by side, in a casserole dish.

Evenly pour sauce over enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and they're ready to serve.

Beef Enchilada Sauce
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Tex-Mex spice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups water
1 can whole tomatoes, diced or crushed

Combine all ingredients except for water and tomatoes. Place in a cold skillet. On medium heat, cook for 6 to 8 minutes (until onion is translucent). Add water and tomatoes. Simmer gently for 1 hour; stir and scrape the pan occasionally to make sure the sauce doesn't stick.

Source: Matt Martinez - Mex Tex Cookbook


Proscuitto & Parmesan Pinwheels

>> Friday, November 20, 2009

Since I had an extra sheet of puff pastry leftover from my chicken pot pie, I decided to whip up one of my favorite appetizers - Proscuitto and Parmesan Pinwheels. They're basically like a glorified ham and cheese sandwich and just as easy to make. And did I mention they're awesome?!

Pinwheels - makes about 16-18:

2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
2 T dijon mustard
8 thin slices of proscuitto
parmesan cheese, grated or shaved

Unroll the puff pastry sheets. Brush each sheet with some dijon mustard. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan. Lay slices of proscuitto over parmesan. Roll up the pastry sheet jellyroll-style and press to seal edges together. Wrap logs in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to a day. Unwrap logs and slice each one into eight or nine slices, about 3/4th of an inch wide. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray and place pinwheels two inches apart. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until pastry dough is lightly browned and cooked through.

And then try not to eat all of them immediately! (Update: I think I jinxed myself since Andrew did just that. I walked into the kitchen to see Andrew finishing the last one! Good thing I ate one last night!)


Chicken Pot Pie

It was such a wet and dreary day that I decided some good comfort food was needed. I settled on this chicken pot pie recipe because - I'm a little embarassed about this - the word easy was in the title. In my defense, I didn't want a gourmet chicken pot pie so I thought the easy, traditional recipe would hit the stop. And it sure did! Here's the recipe I used: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Easy-Chicken-Pot-Pie-107707 I didn't do the bouquet of herbs because I didn't have any cheesecloth so I just added the herbs into the chicken stock. My only other change was to add carrots into the mix. It turned out really good, was fast to throw together and, as the title stated, it was easy!


Apricot & Almond Cream Cheese Bars

I had some odds and ends that I wanted to use up so I put together this little diddy. I imagined it as a dessert but it's divine for breakfast with a good cup of coffee. (When I got up this morning, I discovered that Andrew had eaten about 2/3 of the pan already - apparently they received his approval!)

For the bars:

2 cans crescent rolls
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
1 1/2 t almond extract
1/3 c sugar
8 oz apricot preserves, melted
1 t cinnamon
2 T sugar
3 T butter, melted
2 oz sliced almonds

Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Press one can of crescent dough into the bottom of the pan, pressing the seams together.

In a food processor or mixer, combine cream cheese, egg, extract and sugar. Process until smooth and creamy. Spread onto dough. Top with melted preserves followed by the second can of crescent rolls. Brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and almonds.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 - 30 minutes.


Bison Burgers with Bleu Cheese and Caramelized Onions

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recently I've started using ground bison in place of ground beef because it's so much healthier. Bison has half the saturated fat and half the cholesterol as beef so I feel much less guilty about eating a burger when it's made with bison. But I'm off my soapbox now!
I made this because I wanted a more gourmet burger and it turned out fantastically! The tang of the bleu cheese and the sweetness of the onions paired so well with the bison. Andrew and I both really liked it. A lot!

For the burger - serves 3:
3/4 lb ground bison
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T dijon mustard
1 t worcestershire sauce
bleu cheese crumbles
caramelized onions**
hamburger buns
mayo and/or mustard
romaine lettuce

In a mixing bowl, combine the bison, shallot, garlic, dijon, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Knead ingredients together until well combined. Divide the meat mixture into three round patties.

Heat grill pan to medium-high heat. Place the patties on the grill pan and cook about 4 minutes and flip burgers over. Cook another 4 minutes. Top burgers with bleu cheese crumbles and cook another 1-2 minutes until cheese is softened (but it probably won't look melted).

Toast hamburger buns in oven or on grill pan for 1-2 minutes. Spread mayo and/or mustard on buns. Place bleu cheese patties on buns and top with caramelized onions and lettuce. Serve with sweet potato fries (see previous post for recipe).

**To caramelize onions, heat 1-2 T butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Slice one large onion into rings. Separate the rings and place in the pan. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and caramel in color, about 30 minutes. You can salt and sugar them prior to cooking if you want to but it isn't a necessity.


Sweet Potato Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce

I love this recipe! It's easy and much healthier than "fried" fries because they're baked. While they never get as crunchy as fried fries, I love the flavor of the sweet potatoes so much that I don't mind that they're a little softer. I usually chop the potatoes, marinate them in the olive oil mixture and make the avocado dipping sauce early in the day and bake them right before dinner is served.

For the fries:

2 sweet potatoes, chopped into fries (this time I used one sweet potato and one white potato)
3 T olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, making sure all the fries are covered with oil. Spread onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.

For the avocado sauce:

1 avocado, mashed slightly
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 T sour cream
1 lime, juiced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and roughly chopped
handful of cilantro

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture is smooth. Taste and alter seasonings, if necessary. Refrigerate until serving.


Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

>> Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I found this recipe on my Epicurious iPhone app, which is where I've been finding loads of recipes lately - love it! Anyhoo, I've been wanting to make lamb shanks at home for years after having them in several restaurants, and I finally got around to doing it tonight. It was so delicious! The prep work is a little time-consuming because of all the chopping but it isn't difficult to do. The end result had the lamb literally falling off the bone tender - no knife was needed! And the white beans side dish were very flavorful and the perfect compliment to the lamb shanks. As I'm typing this post, my mouth is starting to water - I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Braised-Lamb-Shanks-with-White-Beans-11831


Arugula, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad

I love using fruit in green salads - probably because I love mixing sweet and savory things, but Andrew hates anything sweet in his food except if it's a dessert. So this salad provided a good compromise as I got to put fruit in my salad but it wasn't sweet. I topped organic arugula with grapefruit segments and chopped avocado. For the dressing I used the juice from the left-over grapefruit membranes, one shallot chopped, a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Easy, yummy and just a little different!


Basic Crepes

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

One of Andrew's family traditions is to have crepes for breakfast on special occasions. Last night we were craving them and decided they'd be on today's menu, especially since my parents brought us back some Canadian maple syrup. Crepes really aren't much more time consuming than making pancakes so I'm not sure why we don't make them more often. Sweet Andrew surprised me and made them for me - I love walking into the kitchen to see someone else cooking!


Easy Apple Dumplings

First off, the picture does not do this dish justice! My mom has been raving about this simple apple dumpling recipe and has already made it at least four times in the past month. She took it to a meeting at church and someone stopped the meeting to ask who made it and could she get the recipe. It's that good! The ingredients are a bit odd (i.e. a can of Mountain Dew?!) but they marry to make the most delicious of unions!


Roast Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce

For Thursday night's dinner I tried a new recipe from epicurious, Roast Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roast-Pork-Tenderloin-with-Mustard-Tarragon-Sauce-240141). I served it with a medley of roasted and seasoned baking potatoes and sweet potatoes (olive oil, melted butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sea salt) and asparagus. Have I mentioned how much I adore sweet potatoes? Andrew's not a big fan so that's why I included the white potatoes too. Anyway, back to the pork recipe. It was delish! I really loved the sauce - which is a good thing since it didn't really ever thicken up so it spread all around my plate and got up close and personal with the potatoes and asparagus. Since I'm a big condiment/sauce fan, I didn't mind at all! I followed the recipe exactly right up until the end. I saw the worcestershire sauce on the refrigerator door looking so lonely so I added a few dashes in the sauce. I thought it was a good addition!


Chicken and Orzo Frittata

>> Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tonight I was excited to try Giada De Laurentiis' Chicken and Orzo Frittata. We love quiches so I thought I'd try a slightly different twist of a dinner egg dish. We were sadly disappointed. It was very easy to make but the flavors just didn't deliver for me. It was really bland and I'm not sure what alterations could have saved it. Also, the frittata took a lot longer to cook than the recipe stated. Andrew and I finally got too hungry to wait for the frittata to finish cooking and went ahead and ate our salads and rolls because the frittata still wasn't cooked completely. I usually love Giada's recipes but this is one that I'll be trashing...just like I did with the left-overs.


Quick Chicken and Chorizo Paella

For my birthday Andrew got me an iPhone and I have such fun playing some with of the apps. My favorite is the epicurious.com application that lets you search recipes and create shopping lists from your saved recipes. Love it! Now when I'm at the grocery store and I see that there are lamb shanks on sale or some other random protein, I can whip out the iPhone and literally have thousands of recipes at my fingertips! But I digress...

Anyway, the Quick Chicken and Chorizo Paella recipe is from epicurious - here's the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Quick-Chicken-and-Chorizo-Paella-105696 I ran into a slight problem when HEB didn't have chorizo sausage in its casings. They only carried ground pork with chorizo seasonings, which is what I ended up going with. It definitely effected the authenticity of the dish but it still tasted really great. Next time I'll just have to remember that its a recipe that requires a trip to Central Market for the correct ingredients. I served it with a simple salad of avocadoes, tomatoes, green onions and cilantro dressed in lime juice.


My Birthday Pasta

Monday was my birthday - my thirty-first, which for some reason sounds so much older than thirty - and to celebrate, Andrew made me dinner. I picked out a recipe I'd been wanting to try and that looked like it'd be fairly quick to make. It was wonderful to just sit in the kitchen with a glass of wine and watch Andrew make the meal. The recipe is from Williams Sonoma's Bride and Groom cookbook and it's basically a pasta with peas and asparagus in a light lemony-cream sauce. We threw some crisped proscuitto in it too for a little extra protein and crunch. It was pretty good and did come together very quickly, which makes it a keeper in my book!
Fettucini with Peas and Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus (about 8 spears)
1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
minced zest and juice of 1 or 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper
3/4 cup peas
1 lb fettucini (we used rigatoni because that's what we had on hand)
fresh basil
shaved parmesan cheese
To prepare the asparagus, snap off the tough woody ends of the spears. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into pieces about 1/8-inch thick. In a small saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add asparagus and saute for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream, and heat until warm. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste. Do not allow the mixture to boil.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender. Stir occasionally so that the noodles cook evenly. Drain the pasta and peas, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water.
Return pasta and peas to the pot and season with salt. Pour the asparagus-cream mixture over the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly. Add the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Tear some of the basil leaves into pieces and add along with lemon juice to taste and additional salt to taste. Garnish with cheese.


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