Pigs in Sleeping Bags

Pigs in Sleeping Bags

I feel like pork is the new “in thing.”  For me, it has never lost it’s luster, but I really feel like it has been making a big comeback since this commercial: “Pork, the other white meat…”  When we were in NYC this summer we ate at Swine, definitely a place that was all about the Pig, and in Seattle they are hyping up another new restaurant focusing on that pink animal – Le Petit Cochon.  It always cracks me up when someone finds out that I am jewish, then assumes that I don’t eat pork.  I realize that my grandparents would probably not like this post very much – but I have to admit, it has a very fond place in my heart.  Come on, everything is better with bacon, even butter.

This recipe was in my pile for a very long time – after finding it in Bon Appetit.  It was one of those recipes that I knew I had to make, but I also had to find the right time to make it.  It called for Dufour puffed pastry, which just happens to be one of the most delicious puffed pastry that you can buy frozen.  I am sure that the ratio of butter to flour is ridiculous, but it is completely worth it.  So – how about some pig with that butter?  And that’s all she wrote.

This recipe is not for everyone – there are multiple steps, and you really much have a very large spatula in which to transfer these babies onto the cookie sheet – otherwise, think ahead, and place the puffed pastry on the cookie sheet before placing the filling on top.  If you do attempt this though – you will certainly not be disappointed – this was outstanding.  The girls really loved them as well – even though they were both very afraid when they saw the sauerkraut.  I served them for dinner – by cutting them in half – but you could easily slice these unto small pieces and serve them as an appetizer, as the recipe says below.

Ok – off to get rid of this headache I have had all week.  In fact, rolling up into a sleeping bag sounds just about perfect right now – I promise to come out for bacon.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 cup drained sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, lightly crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 14-ounce package Dufour Pastry Kitchens frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preparation

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed to prevent burning, until soft,  4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally,  until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

Combine panko and milk in  a small bowl; let stand until milk is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Squeeze any excess liquid from sauerkraut; coarsely chop and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add pork; using a fork or your hands, gently mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14×10-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 14×3 1/3-inch strips. Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet. Using one-third of sausage filling and leaving a 1-inch border at each end, pat sausage to form a thin log of filling down the center of 1 pastry strip. Fold pastry over sausage mixture to enclose, then press pastry together to seal. Fold seam under to ensure that sausage is tightly wrapped. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture.

Cut small diagonal slits at  1 inch intervals along top of pastries (to help release steam). Brush top and sides of pastry with beaten egg; chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Pastries can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and keep frozen.

Preheat oven to 425°. Bake pastries (if frozen, no need  to thaw) until puffed and light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°; continue baking until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden and completely puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut sausage rolls crosswise  into 1 inch pieces. Serve with a bowl of Dijon mustard for dipping.

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Chicken-Spinach Sliders

Chicken Sliders with Spinach

We are in the second week of school (the first full week), and I get a phone call from the nurse today.  My younger daughter is not feeling well and needs to be picked up.  Ugh.  There’s nothing like getting thrown right into the fire.  Fortunately our college babysitter hasn’t started back at school yet and was able to go get her, so my entire work day was not gone – but still.  Just the stress of knowing you have a sick child at school is not fun.  We are also just in the beginning of the after school activities, and trying to come up with a good rhythm for everything.  I basically come home frazzled every night not knowing where to turn.  There is still paperwork to be filled out, homework to help with, bills to pay, lunches to make – and oh, there is dinner…  Now more than ever I am looking for really healthy and delicious meals to serve and are quick and easy.

Once I get into the groove, I will get back to my recipe planning on the weekends, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  It is really funny how quickly you forget once you get out of the routine.  In August – I was determined to cook during my time off from work – and I definitely did just that.  I can’t wait to repeat some of the dishes I made, they would be perfect for a healthy weeknight dinner – like this one (which I adapted) from Bon Appetit.  My younger daughter has decided that she doesn’t like chicken.  Basically she is just sick of it – we make it so often – mostly because I love it – but it is easy, versatile, and very healthy.  So lately I have been looking for interesting chicken recipes that I can make, where she doesn’t really know it is chicken.  This was definitely a winner – for so many reasons.  Not only was the chicken a big hit – they both loved the spinach – in fact, they hardly knew it was in there.  I served these with the zucchini fritters, and actually used the soy dipping sauce with these as well – what an awesome meal.

So I hope that everyone else is easing into the new school year – I know I will get there, I just need a little more time.  I guess I am still in denial – we finally had the nicest summer on record, and it is still going strong.  A real sunny and hot summer that is unlike anything I have seen in Seattle for 17 years.  The silver lining?  There will be a lot more grilling during the week, and maybe I don’t need to get organized so quickly…it is a perfect excuse to pass this off to my husband the grill master.  If he cooks, it is definitely quick and easy for me…

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf spinach, thick stems removed, leaves chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 slider buns or small dinner rolls, split, lightly toasted (for serving)
  • Mayonnaise, sliced red onion, and pickle slices (for serving)

Preparation

Combine spinach, scallions, garlic, chicken, and cumin in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix gently just to combine. Form chicken mixture into twelve 1/2-inch-thick patties.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook patties until golden brown and cooked through (resist the temptation to press down on patties with your spatula while cooking), about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Serve chicken -spinach patties on buns with mayonnaise, onion, and pickles.

DO AHEAD: Patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

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Cucumber Mint Tequila Cooler

Cucumber Mint Tequilla Cooler

I swear, the summer keeps getting better and better.  I feel horrible about saying this when there are so many places not having a good summer, but we deserve it.  It is not every year that we actually see temperatures above 80 degrees, and I swear at this point we have seen more days like that than I can count.  Tonight I did something a little out of the ordinary for me – almost decadent – I went to a class at Book Larder on making cocktails.  I sat there for 90 minutes basically listening to a lecture on different flavor combinations, spices and ways to infuse alcohol.  It was amazing in so many ways…first of all, to take a break from work, or the chaos of coming home after a long day – just to sit there and be able to think about all the different creations available – it is almost a little overwhelming.  There is so much I want to do, and so little time.

This weekend when our friends were visiting, they really got to see what we have been working on for the past couple of years.  They were shocked.  They actually called us adults, and I just laughed.  They wanted to know how we even know what types of alcohol to buy – and I explained that we have basically been doing research for the past couple of years – and this year in particular we really made a lot of progress getting to know a bartender at our favorite restaurant.  He is so knowledgeable, we just sit there and drill him every time we go there.  It is amazing how much we have learned.  Between jam and cocktails, there has got to be a business in there somewhere – or for now, a really fun hobby.

I also decided that from now on, whenever I post a cocktail here, I will explain how to turn it into a mocktail – in case you don’t drink alcohol, you are pregnant – or you want to make your kids something really fun to drink.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I was sold after the first ingredient.  I am a sucker for anything with cucumbers.  I also thought, why not get your vitamins in as well?  This cocktail was just perfect for a hot summer night.  It was so refreshing, and earthy – the flavors were incredible.  If you are making this alcohol free – just leave out the tequila and add a little extra tonic water – it is that easy.  Your kids will never believe they are actually drinking something good for them.  Here’s to summer!!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1  lime, sectioned and juiced
  •  Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup tequila blanco (optional)
  • 3/4 cup chilled tonic water

Preparation

Combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor; pulse until smooth. Scrape mixture into a bowl; stir in tequila. Chill. Strain. Stir in tonic water. Serve over ice.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cucumber Mint Tequila Cooler

Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce

Turkey Lettuce Wraps 2

I am a little under the weather…it doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, it is almost impossible for me to slow down, but I am trying.  I am actually waiting for my kids to finish reading so I can go to bed – they hate it when I got to bed before them – and they don’t really understand the concept of their mom being “sick.”

In my last post, I lamented on making lunches…and now isn’t it ironic that my older daughter just entered a “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” that Michele Obama and Epicurious.com sponsored?  Our dear friend Arla won this last year – she was the representative from Washington State that got to fly to the White House and meet Michele Obama!!!  We are still so proud of her – and it inspired my daughter to enter this year.  I know her chances are not great, but I was proud that she tried.  I wish I saved the essay she wrote for the contest – but I will try and explain it the best I can.  Basically she used to buy hot lunch every once in a while – that was until she realized how horrible the lunches actually were.  One time she ordered Chicken Teriyaki, and she said it had no flavor, and no color – other than brown and white (rice).  She wanted to create something healthy and colorful, that would be fun to eat.

I made lettuce wraps a while ago for dinner one night – and the girls were both skeptic, but they tried them, and LOVED them!!  So that was her inspiration.  She changed the recipe to meet her flavor needs (nothing spicy), and made sure it was made with lean ground turkey and brown rice.  She also mentioned if her cafeteria could serve food like this everyday – she would be running to be first in line.

So – here’s to school lunch of the future…and I think the girls are done reading – so off to bed for me!

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Filling

  • 1  pound of ground turkey breast
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 6  thinly sliced green onions (about 2/3 cup), divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup thin sliced red peppers
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • 8  Bibb lettuce leaves

Preparation

To prepare sauce, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup water, peanut-butter and hoisin, and stir with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lime juice.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1/3 cup green onions; sauté 1 minute. Add ground turkey; sauté until browned, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, sugar; sauté 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Spoon 1/4 cup rice into each lettuce leaf. Top with about 1/2 cup meat mixture; sprinkle with green onions, peppers and carrots. Serve with sauce.

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Tomato Mozzerella Risotto

Did you ever feel just a little too comfortable for your own good?  For example, in cooking.  I do so much cooking and baking, every once in a while I let my guard down, and I have a failure that definitely could have been avoided, with a little more vigilance.  It is definitely a hard concept, and one that often needs constant reminding.  Then I think about my children…and how it is best to start young with that lesson.

My older daughter plays softball – and her team is really good this year.  They are actually undefeated, if you can believe it.  At this point, with their 8+ wins, I can see they are starting to be a little over-confident.  The other night they really got a scare – a team that they had beat 19 to 0, came back in their next game to tie it at 5 runs.  I could tell they were a little nervous – and it was a good thing.  I still cheer loudly at every game – but I worry about them heading to the play-offs if they stay undefeated.  Aside from the expectations they will have – the other teams will be playing their hearts out.

Obviously though, it is a hard lesson to learn.  The other weekend I made some more rhubarb jelly – and I had some pectin left over from last season.  I was feeling pretty confident with my jelly making abilities – and would you believe the jelly never really set?  It is fine if you stick it in the refrigerator, but it is not my normal product.  I should have known better than to use that pectin, and that if it failed the plate test at over 220 degrees, there was probably something wrong.

Fortunately this risotto from Cooking Light is kind of dummy proof.  I made this for the girls after a long day, when my husband was away.  I was definitely not all there when I was making this, and it took me by surprise how good it actually was.  I had to run and grab my camera and take a shot of it – which I had no intention of doing.  It was also a big hit with the girls, even with the spinach – score.  So – the next time you are not feeling completely on top of your game – don’t worry about pulling this out for dinner.  Even if you are over-confident – the results will not disappoint.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces chopped fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups torn fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Preparation

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add rice to pan; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth to rice mixture; cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add cheese, pepper, and salt to rice mixture, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/3 cup broth, spinach, and basil. Place 1 cup risotto in each of 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over each serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

Frascatelli with Pecorino and Broccolini

My husband has been away this week, which means we have been stuffing our faces with gluten and dairy.  I am so sick of pasta right now, I never thought I would see the day.  We had three nights of pasta dishes, and one night of pizza…boy could I use a big hunk of meat right about now.  I have to say, the meals have been delicious, but thank goodness he is coming home tonight.  So, what did I make?  Well, I definitely plan on sharing two recipes with you – with this one being the first.  Of course each night we had to discuss whether the dishes were “blogworthy” and this one got a resounding “YES,” which I really wasn’t expecting…

I used to make homemade pasta quite often – that was before I had children, and I could be in the kitchen for hours on end, with no interruptions.  My husband bought me this really awesome pasta machine – and drying rack.  It has all sorts of attachments, and I would try many different varieties.  This of course was before he realized that pasta was not his friend – although the strange thing is he actually does ok with homemade pasta, figure that?  The pasta making stopped years ago – and now when I am craving that delicious bite – I go to one of my favorite Italian restaurants, where they really do it right – Spinasse is definitely on top – and their pasta is to die for…seriously.  Months and months ago – I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and the cooking and hands-on time was only 30 minutes.  Basically the caption was – “the one homemade pasta suited for weeknight dinners.”  Well, that had me right there.  So, I finally tried it out – of course I made a few changes of my own – and it took me a little longer than 30 minutes – but not much.  The kids LOVED this – and I did too.  The dumplings were a little more all-dente than I would have wanted, but they had a wonderful taste and bite to them.  I thought they were perfect with the broccolini (since I didn’t have any mustard greens in the house that the original recipe called for).  Also – I added half the amount of butter (reflected below), and thought that was plenty – after all, it was a weeknight dinner.

So, if you are itching for some homemade pasta – but know you don’t have the time to do it justice – give this recipe a try.  It would be great with a delicate tomato sauce as well (that we had two nights ago with meatballs).  There is a lot you could do with these beauties.  It’s been a fun food week – but I can’t wait for tomorrow!!!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups  semolina flour (pasta flour)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch broccolini (baby broccoli)
  • Freshly ground black  pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan

Preparation

Spread semolina flour in an even layer in an 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Fill a small bowl with 1 cup water and set next to dish. Working in 4-5  batches, gather your fingertips and thumb of 1 hand together and, working  quickly, dip into bowl of water, lift hand from bowl, and splatter water over  semolina. Repeat several times until surface of semolina is dotted with ragged  wet patches about the size of a nickel. Let stand until water is absorbed,  forming individual dumplings, about 5 seconds. Using a fish spatula or slotted  spoon, turn dumplings over to coat with semolina, then transfer to a sieve.  Shake gently over same baking dish to remove excess semolina; transfer dumplings  to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining semolina and water until  all of the water or all of the semolina has been used (there may be some water  or semolina left over).

Working in 3-4 batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of  slowly boiling salted water (if the water is boiling too rapidly, it may break  up the dumplings), gently swirling water once or twice to prevent sticking,  until al dente, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer frascatelli to  another large rimmed baking sheet.

Steam the broccolini so it is crisp tender.  Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until  butter is foamy and browned bits form on the bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add  cooked frascatelli and toss gently to coat. Add broccolini and fold gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper  and divide among bowls. Top frascatelli with grated Pecorino.

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Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Babies, babies, babies!!  Years ago when I was in my 20s, I remember when my friends starting getting married.  It was viral – one friend started, then everyone was dropping like flies.   It was a similar experience a few years later, when the babies started.  Even though I was right in there with the whole marriage thing, we waited a while to have kids.  I was definitely one of the last of my friends to have a baby, but I was glad I waited.  I was so ready when she finally came.  It has been many years since the baby boom, and our children are now starting to grow up – in fact, a few will be in high school starting next year.  Wow!

About a year ago, something happened.  In this day, when women are waiting longer and longer to have children, it is not a surprise that many have trouble getting pregnant.  This was not a rare occurrence with my circle of friends, in fact I was one of the few that was lucky enough not to have to deal with that.  It had been a while since any of my friends were pregnant, and I really thought we were done with that phase…not so quick.  When I got the first call, I was extremely surprised.  The doctor told her she would never have more children, and she believed it.  All of a sudden, her world was turned upside down – she had a 10-year-old, and a baby on the way.  A few months later, I found out about another good friend (and neighbor down the street) – same story, but this time with two kids – 9 and 6.  Again, she was told she would never have any more children.  The last one was quite a surprise – even though I had suspected – she has 2-year old twins.  It was amazing she got pregnant the first time, there was no way she would ever get pregnant again – at least that’s what the doctor told her.  Ok, so there has got to be something in the water now right?  I have stopped drinking it, this is just crazy.

Well – as it turns out, another good friend (our neighbor from behind) announced she was pregnant in the midst of all this craziness – she was my only pregnant friend with three kids already, but she is young with tons of energy, and always wanted four.  Both of the neighbor’s babies came last week, and the street is a very happy place.  Their babies are just perfect – I have never been much of a baby person (until I met my own), but these babies are something else.  They are just little magical beings.

I wanted to make them both some food – the only way I can really help them right now.  I wanted something comforting, and something that their other kids would like as well.  I went to the pantry where I store the recipes, and this is what I found – I knew that Cook’s Illustrated wouldn’t steer me wrong.  I thought it would be perfect – they could keep it in the refrigerator or freezer until they needed something to eat – as it turns out, this never made it to the freezer for either of them, and from what they tell me, it was the right choice.  I doubled the recipe below, and made enough for both their families, with some leftover for the girls and I – and it was the best shepherd’s pie I have ever made.

So – here’s to the new babies – but especially to their mommies…who are not getting a lot of sleep right now.  Don’t worry…if you read this blog, you know they grow up quickly!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef no less than 93% lean
  • 2 TB  plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 c beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparations

Prep the ground beef by adding the water, salt, pepper and baking soda.  Mix well!  Let rest 20 minutes.

Place the potatoes into a pot with water to cover.  Salt the water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and place pot back on the stove over low heat to evaporate excess water.  Off heat, add the melted butter and mash well.  Beat the egg yolk and milk together and mix into the potatoes.  Season to taste, then cover and set aside.

In a sauté pan, cook olive oil over medium high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sauté until vegetables are soft, and beginning to leave brown bits on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking until paste turns brown and covers the bottom of the pan.  Add the Marsala, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the flour and cook briefly, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the broth, Worcestershire, thyme and bay leaf.  Continue to scrape up bottom of the pan and then add the carrots.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any remaining bits on the bottom.  Reduce the heat and add beef in 2-inch chunks over the sauce.  Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  About half-way through, break up the beef chunks with two forks.  When meat is cooked through, mix 2 teaspoons water with the cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat.

Pour the meat into a casserole dish and spread the mashed potatoes over the top, using an off-set spatula.  Using a dinner fork, create ridges across the potatoes.  At this point you can either wrap with foil and refrigerate for another day or put right into the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the pan on a rimmed cooking sheet to catch any spillover and 30-60 minutes until juices are bubbling. If you would like the top to get brown and crusty, broil for a few minutes before serving.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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No-Boil Mac and Cheese

No Boil Mac and Cheese

I actually remember when I first found no-boil lasagna sheets.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I was probably jumping up and down in the super market, making a spectacle of myself.  The first time I made lasagna, I thought it would be easy.  Little did I know that those noodles were the death of me.  They were impossible to lay out in one piece, even if they were al dente.  Every other part of the lasagna was easy – except those dang noodles.  I quickly bought a batch and couldn’t wait to go home and try them out.  Making lasagna couldn’t get any easier – and I swear, you would have never known they were not pre-boiled.  It was magical.

Years ago, when I was really into making casseroles, I made a lot with un-boiled rice – that I baked in the oven until the rice was cooked.  There always had to be enough sauce, but it was super easy, and always tasted good.  For some reason I never thought to do that with noodles though.  I think because I found those no-boil labeled noodles, I assumed they had to be a certain type in order for the noodles to get soft in the oven.  I guess I was wrong…

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and immediately cut it out.  I knew they were onto something big.  This recipe sat in my pantry for what felt like an eternity.  I had to wait for the right time – this made a lot of mac and cheese, and I had to make sure I had enough kids to eat it.  This past weekend we had some friends over, the oldest boy in middle school.  Here was my opportunity.  It was super easy to put together, and baked up perfectly.  The sauce was nice and thick, the noodles were just the right consistency – not too soft, and not too chewy.  Everyone loved it – in fact, my girls are still eating the leftovers, and loving every bite.  I have to say – that garlic breadcrumb topping is something else….as you can see, I will definitely be making this again.  And the best part?  No noodles to boil, and one less pot to clean.  Here comes the jumping again!  Double bonus points!!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 3  cups  whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon kosher  salt plus more
  • 1/2 teaspoon  freshly  ground black pepper plus more
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar, divided
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped  flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan  over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk  in milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook,  whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Stir in  1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from  heat.

Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other  shallow 3-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not  stir) and cover with foil. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet  over medium heat. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season  with salt and pepper.

Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese,  then panko mixture. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is  golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  No-Boil Mac and Cheese

Tortilla Chip Casserole

Tortilla Chip Casserole

What a week – can I say that again?  WHAT A WEEK.  There is only a part of me that is scared that tomorrow is Friday – because I know that things are exactly the way they should be yet, and that means more fun this weekend.  It’s ok, I am ready for it – and isn’t that half the battle?

It’s a good thing my husband doesn’t read my blog, because he won’t like what I am about to write about…he has some allergies that we have been dealing with.  Ok, not just some – a lot.  He found out recently that he is allergic to Soy, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, and (wait for it…) Garlic.  Yes, all of those.  He loves protein though, so aside from the eggs, it is not that difficult for him.  It is difficult for the rest of the family though – who actually likes gluten, dairy and eggs – all mixed together.  For the most part we have been eating meat and vegetables for dinner – and boy am I lucky my girls love meat as well.  I haven’t given up baking, and really have no plans to do so – it is not fair to deprive my kids because my husband can no longer indulge.  When he only thought he was allergic to dairy, I would actually attempt dairy-free desserts – now I have basically given up – even the gluten is doable, but add eggs in there as a no-no, and it’s just that – a no-no.

So – my kids have been looking forward to when my husband travels – only at dinner time.  He was away last week for a couple of days, and we went nuts on gluten, dairy and eggs.  I was saving this casserole from Cooking Light to make – which to tell you the truth, I could have modified to try and make it safe for him, but it wouldn’t have tasted nearly as good.  I adapted the recipe slightly (substituted corn for beans) – just in case you would rather make it with beans.  The girls loved it – they had seconds, and ate it as leftovers!!  They are already planning for his next trip…poor Daddy!!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup organic frozen corn, thawed
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 4 ounces baked tortilla chips, crushed
  • 1  roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounces lower-sodium green chile enchilada sauce (such as Frontera)
  • 2.5 ounces shredded cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; cook 6 minutes. Add garlic and flour; cook 2 minutes. ­Gradually add milk and stock, stirring constantly; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and cream cheese.

Spread 1/2 cup milk mixture over bottom of a broiler-safe 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Layer corn, 1 1/2 cups chicken, and 2 ounces chips. Top with 1/2 cup milk mixture. Layer 1 1/2 cups chicken, bell pepper, and 2 ounces chips; top with 1 cup milk mixture and enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tortilla Chip Casserole

Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Proscuitto and Basil

I know this is not a typical pre-Thanksgiving post – but it is around 4:00pm here, and it is almost dark.  It has been raining for most of the day, and the forecast says rain for the next ten days.  Secretly, this is my favorite time of year, when all you want to do is stay inside and bake – but sometimes you need to make something that just gets you into a different mindset – something fun that the entire family craves.  Pizza.

My husband and I are pizza snobs.  I became one when I started dating him, over 20 years ago.  We spent a lot of time in New York City then, and pizza was affordable.  Our favorite place to go with John’s Pizza on Bleecker Street.  It is brick oven pizza.  The crust is so thin that it gets completely crisp on the bottom – there is no soggy dough in this place.  I love the toppings, and the fresh mozzarella cheese.  In fact, we still try to go there every summer when we visit.  Last summer my father convinced us to try a different place – it was August – it was hot – and it was more convenient for us to go to this new place than head all the way downtown to go to John’s.  Even though this new place was better than any pizza we can find in Seattle – it was not John’s.

We have been talking for years about how we can recreate John’s pizza at home – but until we got the Big Green Egg, it was a fantasy.  We put off pizza for quite a while – waiting for just the time – but the time had come.  We had mastered so many other things on the Egg, it was time attempt pizza.  At first I was all set to make my own dough – but we decided that if it was a big failure, that would just add salt to the wound – so I settled on using Trader Joe’s dough.  If the pizza came out good using TJ’s, just imagine what it would be like with homemade dough.  Well – we were jumping up and down – this pizza was the best we had ever made.  The bottom was crispy and delicious, and the bubbles in the crust, just made us want to cry.  It was the brick oven pizza we dreamed about.  Now I just need to get a new pizza stone (mine wasn’t made to withstand temperatures as high as 600 degrees), and make my own dough – and people will start lining up in front of our house.  Well – maybe if it stops raining.

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (I used Trader Joes)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (not pre-shredded)
  • Assorted Cherry Tomatoes
  • Prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • Basil

Preparation

Prepare your Big Green Egg by preheating it to around 600 degrees – with a place setter for indirect cooking.  If you do not have an Egg, your pizza will not be as crisp on the bottom, but preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  You must use a pizza stone for this, and it helps to have a holder and a wooden pizza peel as well.  Place the pizza stone on top of the place setter, so it is nice and hot.

Roll your dough out to whatever size pizza you would like to make.  We made 4 small pizzas with the dough.  Lightly dust the pizza peel with cornmeal, and place the rolled dough circle on the peel.  Take some olive oil and minced garlic, and put into a bowl.  Brush your pizza dough with the olive oil garlic mixture.  Slice some mozzarella cheese and place on top of the dough.  Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and sprinkle around.  Do the same with some cut up prosciutto and fresh basil leaves.

Using the pizza peel, slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the dough is lightly brown and crisp.  Repeat for the remaining dough disks.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes, Prosciutto and Basil