Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spicy Thai Noodles

Here’s the perfect lunch that can be made the night before. It tastes especially good served cold. The dish is called spicy Thai noodles so if you use two tablespoons of crushed red pepper, it will be spicy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But mark my words; this dish is absolutely dee-licious!

Spicy Thai Noodles
Serves 4

1 box linguini or angel hair pasta
1 – 2 tbsp. crushed red pepper
¼ vegetable oil
½ cup sesame oil
6 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. soy sauce
Green onions, cilantro, peanuts and toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Boil noodle; drain.

Chop green onions, cilantro and peanuts.

Heat both oils and crushed red pepper over medium heat in a small pan. (Note: 2 tbsp. makes the dish very spicy.)

Strain out pepper and reserve oil.

To oil, whisk in honey and soy sauce.

Toss mixture with noodles.

Refrigerate overnight or until cold.

Before serving, top each individual serving with green onions, cilantro, peanuts and toasted sesame seeds.

Serve cold. 

Mashed Potato Cake

If you've never had mashed potato cakes, you're in for a treat. Though simple to make, there are a few tips: Use real mashed potatoes instead of boxed; take them cold from the refrigerator before cooking, and if your mashed potatoes have a lot of moisture, say from heavy cream or milk, then you may need to add more cornstarch. When forming the cakes, make sure they're not too soft or too thin, or they'll spread when cooking. When cooking in the hot oil, resist the temptation to flip them too early, otherwise a crunchy golden crust won't form. I gently season my mashed potato cakes, but feel free to add your own favorite seasonings and herbs such as minced garlic, chives, sage or rosemary.

Mashed Potato Cake
Makes 7 cakes

Canola oil
2 cups cold leftover mashed potatoes
4 to 5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 scallions, finely chopped, both green and white parts
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with canola oil and place over medium-high heat.

Place 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, starting with 4 tablespoons of cornstarch, and gently blend with your hands. Feel it. It should be somewhat heavy and smooth. If it's soft and sticky, then add a little more cornstarch.

To make equal size pancakes, use an ice cream scoop. Then gently flatten the ball into a thick pancake. If you don't have an ice cream scoop, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup or your hands.

Make sure the oil is very hot before placing the pancakes in the skillet. Once ready, cook 3 to 4 at a time, making sure to not overcrowd them. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until a golden crust forms, then flip once. Cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes until golden. If they're getting too dark, lower the heat. Place on a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat. Serve with sour cream, applesauce, leftover cranberry sauce, maple syrup, salsa or hot sauce.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Simple Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

There’s a dish at Olive Garden that I love. I know Olive Garden right? I love their Chianti Braised Short Ribs. While this recipe is not from Olive Garden (it’s far better in my opinion), you will fall in love with these tender short ribs that are slow-cooked to perfection. Now, I don’t have to drive to Olive Garden to get one of my favorite dishes. Yeah me.

Simple Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
Serves 6

12 short ribs (about 3 ½ pounds)
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
3 tbsp. flour
1 ½ cups each red wine and chicken broth
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes

Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss short ribs with oil and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Meanwhile heat a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in two batches to avoid overcrowding, add short ribs to hot pan. Cook each batch, turning only once, until well browned on each side, 5 to 6 minutes.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Add onion; sauté until lightly brown and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme; sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Stir in flour, then wine, followed by chicken broth and tomatoes. Return short ribs to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Place a sheet of heavy-duty foil over pot. Use a potholder to press down foil so that it touches stew. Seal foil completely around edges. Place lid snugly on pot. Place pot in oven and cook until ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

My new favorite thing to do is roast vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms… you name it, I’ve probably roasted it. I especially love roasting green beans.

I’ve never been a big fan of the green bean casserole and its soft, mushy green beans. Instead, this year I’m going to roast them and you are going to love them. This is the easiest way to prepare the best tasting green beans, picky-kid approved!

Roasted Parmesan Green Beans
Serves 4

12 oz. green beans, trimmed
2 tsp. olive oil
Kosher salt plus fresh cracked pepper to taste
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tbsp. shredded Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Lay green beans out on the baking sheet and drizzle oil over them. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and toss to evenly coat.

Spread them out on the sheet so that they all lay flat and place on the lower third section of your oven. Bake 10 minutes, shake the pan to turn; bake 5 additional minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish usually made with Arborio rice. It can be a little time consuming but it’s worth it. This is a dish that will impress guests. This recipe uses Baby Bella mushrooms, but you can use crimini, Portobello, porcini or a combination of all three.

Mushroom Risotto
Serves 6

2 cups Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tsp. olive oil
3 tsp. butter
2 shallots, minced
1 cup white wine
8 cups fat free chicken stock
Salt and pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. chopped parsley

In a medium size heavy sauce pan, sauté garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute. Add ½ cup of the chicken stock and let the mushrooms cook about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Add butter to the pan on set flame to medium-low heat. Add shallots, sauté about 1 minute. Add rice mixing well until well coated and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add wine, salt and pepper and mix well until it is absorbed into the rice. Ladle 1 cup stock into rice and mix until all stock is absorbed, add another ladle, and continue adding and stirring until all broth is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes. Add mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and parsley, mix well and serve.

Creamed Spinach

A creamy blend of spinach, shallots, Parmesan cheese and Boursin Light makes a rich and flavorful side dish. This is a low-fat version of a steakhouse favorite. Your family and friends will love this and you won’t feel guilty eating this.

Creamed Spinach
Makes 6 ½ cups

2 tsp. butter
½ cup shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. flour
1 ½ cups fat free milk
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. fresh pepper
Salt to taste
1.4 oz. Boursin Light
16 oz. bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of moisture

In a large sauté pan melt butter.

Add shallots and garlic and cook on medium about 5 minutes. Add flour to shallots, mix well and cook one more minute.

Reduce heat to low and slowly add milk, whisking well.

Add Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well.

Add Boursin Light and mix until smooth.

Add spinach and combine well with sauce, cook one minute, until heated through. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

I’ve decided that my next couple of recipes will be dedicated to lightened-up Thanksgiving recipes. We all know Thanksgiving is about gorging, splurging and indulging. But, hopefully these recipes will show you that dishes can be healthy, yet still be awfully tasty.

First up, Brussels sprouts – everyone’s favorite vegetable (not!). You’ll quickly change your mind when you taste them sautéed with pancetta, garlic and oil. And it doesn't get any easier than this - prepare this the night before and warm it up when you are ready to serve if you decide to make it for Thanksgiving.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Makes about 7 cups

2 ounces pancetta, minced
2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1 ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

With a large knife finely shred the Brussels sprouts after thoroughly washing.
In a deep, heavy sauté pan, sauté pancetta on medium-low heat until fat melts and pancetta becomes golden, about 5 minutes.

Add olive oil and garlic and sauté until golden.

Add shredded Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper to taste and sauté on medium-low heat for about 4 to 5 minutes until tender crisp.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Braised Beef with Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce

What do think about Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce over Braised Beef? Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? This is the ultimate comfort food on a cool fall or winter day. Perfect for serving any day of the week, this dinner is also fancy enough to serve guests. Made with both crimini and button mushrooms, the Marsala Cream sauce is what makes this dish special.

Braised Beef with Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce

For the Braised Beef:
1 (2-1/2 pound boneless beef chuck roast
Kosher salt and ground pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 (12 ounces) bottles lager beer, like Budweiser
3 beef bouillon cubes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 6-inch sprig rosemary

Preheat the oven to 300 degree.

Cut the beef in large 2 or-inch chunks. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Place the beef in a Ziploc bag and add the flour. Seal the bag and shake the beef until each piece is dredged and coated in flout.

Add three tablespoons vegetable oil to a large heavy duty pot and heat over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, and then transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pot and add the onions for 20 minutes until they are soft and slight caramelized. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, beer and bouillon cubes. Bring the mixture to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Add the beef and the juices from the plate back to the pot and give everything a good stir. Cover the pot with a lid and place it in the oven for 2 ½ hours.

Marsala Mushroom Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil.
8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
¾ cup Marsala wine
½ cup heavy cream
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms are barely cooked through. Add the Marsala wine and cook for 5 minutes allowing the wine to slightly reduce. Stir in the heavy cream and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the mushroom sauce for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rosemary Garlic Parmesan Biscuits

The scent of garlic + rosemary + baked bread = total intoxication. I’m equal parts savory and sweet but if you put a dozen cupcakes in front of me along with a dozen biscuits, I’d probably go for the biscuits, hands down. These would be perfect as a side dish for Thanksgiving. The Pillsbury doughboy would be oh-so-jealous.

Rosemary Garlic Parmesan Biscuits
Makes 14 biscuits

2 tbsp salted butter, melted
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick
3 oz shredded parmesan cheese
2/3 cup fat free milk

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt butter in a small pan, add oil and half the garlic; sauté on low heat about 1 minute.Remove from heat and add chopped rosemary.

In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, parmesan cheese, and remaining garlic. Stir in milk and mix (do not over mix). Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls (about 1.5 oz each) onto prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Brush or drizzle biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 5 more minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Chocolate Chips

I’m on a baking kick and this past weekend I made these pumpkin oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries and chocolate chips. Can you say yummy? They are super scrumptious and perfect for sharing. And they’re indescribably delicious when they’re right out of the oven! After all, who doesn’t like a freshly baked cookie?

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Chocolate Chips
Makes 3 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon all ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until ingredients are incorporated.

Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back November 15

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

No, you’re not dreaming. That’s right, it’s chocolate chip...cookie dough... fudge. And let me tell you, it’s delicious. It’s quite delectable. You’ll be hard pressed to resist the temptation to pop these little morsels of confectionary delight into your mouth every minute of every day. Well, you get the picture. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself making a whole new batch just to satisfy your sweet tooth. Consider yourself warned.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

Oil for the pan
1 and ¾ cup sugar
¾ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup cream
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon corn syrup
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Oil an 8x8" pan.

Bring the sugar, dark brown sugar, cream, milk, syrup and salt to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a heatproof spatula.
Don't forget your candy thermometer.

Boil to 242 degrees, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and flour.

Pour the syrup into a 9x13 pan and let sit undisturbed at room temperature about 20 minutes, or until it reaches 110 degrees.

Scrape the syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Beat on medium speed with a paddle attachment until the fudges thickens and holds its shape, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape into the prepared 8x8" pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top, lightly pressing them into the fudge.

Let the fudge cool and set, at least 2 hours. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes if the chocolate chips are still soft.

Store in an airtight container or in the fridge. I found the fudge was even better after a day or two.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes, Pancetta & Basil

You’ve probably noticed that my new go-to ingredient is pancetta. What is pancetta? Its Italian bacon that is salt cured and pairs well with soups, salads, pasta. Yum! Sometimes the best recipes are born in an instant. This is one of those times. When hunger and inspiration collide, you get this – bucatini with cherry tomatoes, pancetta and basil. Yum!

Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes, Pancetta & Basil
Serves 2 to 3

½ pound bucatini (or other dried strand pasta)
2 thick slices of pancetta
Olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes (left whole if small; halved or quartered if large)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon basil, minced, for serving
Parmigiano reggiano, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, drain and reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta, as well as a glug of oil, if the pancetta is sticking to the pan. Cook until the pancetta is crisp, and add the garlic and pepper flakes (I used a couple big pinches). Stir and cook for 30 seconds or so, until the garlic is fragrant and lightly golden. Add the tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes have softened and begun to burst. Add the lemon juice and wine, lower the heat and simmer until the pasta is drained. Salt to taste, if necessary (my pancetta was nice and salty, so I didn’t need it).

Add the drained pasta to the tomato mixture and toss to coat the pasta. If the sauce is on the dry side, add some of the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Transfer the pasta to a large platter or bowl, top with basil and cheese, and serve.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Baby, it's cold outside and there’s only one thing that would make this day perfect – soup! With an assortment of curious ingredients – cauliflower, chicken stock, thyme, and pancetta – this actually turned out to be a hearty, rustic, awesome-tasting soup.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Serves 3 to 4

1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and chopped into florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea or kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
several thyme sprigs, whole, plus 2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled, plus 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ounce pancetta, finely diced
1/2 cup minced shallot
1 quart chicken stock
sour cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On the lined baking sheet, toss the florets with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the whole thyme sprigs and garlic cloves to the pan. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the florets are tender and browned in spots. Discard the thyme sprigs.

While the cauliflower roasts, heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta to the warmed pot and cook until the pancetta is crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta from the pot and reserve. In the pancetta drippings, sauté the minced shallot, garlic and thyme leaves for several minutes, until the shallot has softened. Add the stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the roasted cauliflower and garlic to the stock and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the soup from heat and, in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream (if desired) and the reserved pancetta.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Baked Ziti

This dish was invented in a pinch. Once we tried it (and loved it), I kicked myself for not writing down an approximation of the recipe. I finally cobbled a recipe from memory.

This is basically a hybrid of lasagna and baked mac. This recipe takes the best traits from its predecessors (baked mac’s tubular pasta, perfect for its sauce-trapping crevices and lasagna’s lovely marriage of zingy tomato sauce and creamy, rich cheeses). Yeah, I know... You’re welcome.

Baked Ziti
Serves 4 to 6 hearty helpings

1 pound of ziti, rigatoni or other tubular pasta
1 thick-cut slice of pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 box/bag of fresh baby spinach
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (approximately 8 to 10 ounces), thinly sliced or torn into shredded-like pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking dish (a 9 x 13-inch pan, 2 quart baking dish or similarly-sized dish will work).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a couple big pinches of salt to the water, add the ziti and boil until the pasta is still shy of al dente. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large, deep skillet (or sauce pan) over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook until the pancetta is browned and has let off some grease, about five minutes. If the pancetta sticks to the pan, add a little olive oil. Add the diced onions and minced garlic; cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes to the onion/pancetta mixture and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the mascarpone and vinegar to the tomato sauce, stirring until the cheese has completely melted. Add the spinach to the pan (you may need to do this a little at a time, depending on the size of your skillet), stirring until the spinach has wilted. Salt the sauce to taste, if necessary.
Pour the tomato-spinach sauce over the reserved/cooked pasta. Stir to coat all the pasta with tomato sauce. Transfer the pasta to the prepared lasagna pan, spreading the pasta evenly in the pan. Top with the mozzarella, scattering the mozzarella evenly over the pasta.
Bake the pasta, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling a bit at the edges and the cheese is golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes or so before serving.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

Yay! It’s soup weather! This is a make-at-home version of Olive Garden’s “Zuppa Toscana.” If you have an Olive Garden nearby, you may choose not to make this. You may choose instead to drive to Olive Garden, get out of your car, go inside, order Zuppa Toscana, and then eat Zuppa Toscana. But if you’re like me and don’t leave your house, making it at home is the next best thing.

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup
Serves 12

2 bunches kale, picked over, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
12 whole red potatoes, sliced thin
1 whole onion, chopped
1 ½ pound Italian sausage
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more to taste)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
4 cups half-and-half
Splash of heavy cream
Fresh or dried oregano
Black pepper to taste

Prepare the kale and set it aside.

In a medium pot, boil sliced potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, crumble and brown the Italian sausage. Drain as much as the fat as you can. Stir in the red pepper flakes, oregano, chicken broth, milk, and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Give it a taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add the potatoes, a splash of heavy cream for richness, then stir in the kale. Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes, and then serve.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I love broccoli cheese soup. There’s something about it that triggers a happy, peaceful memory. I just don’t know what the memory is. Tee hee! So, technically, it isn’t a memory at all. There are so many great broccoli cheese soup recipes out there. I don’t think I’ve ever met one I didn’t like. Anyhow, here’s a great recipe for it. Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Serves 10

1 whole onion, diced
1 stick ½ cup butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
4 heads broccoli cut into florets
1 pinch nutmeg
3 cups grated cheese (mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, jack, etc.)
Small dash of salt (more if needed)
Freshly ground black pepper
Splash of chicken broth if needed for thinning

Melt butter in a pot over medium heat, then add the onions. Cook the onions for 3 to 4 minutes, and then sprinkle the flour over the top. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute or so, then pour in milk and half-and-half. Add nutmeg, and then add broccoli, a small dash of salt, and plenty of black pepper.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Stir in cheese and allow to melt.

Taste seasonings and adjust if needed. Then either serve as is, or mash it with a potato masher to break up the broccoli a bit, or transfer to a blender in two batches and puree completely. (If you puree it in a blender, return it to the heat and allow to heat up. Splash in chicken broth if needed for thinning.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Corn and Cheese Chowder

Today’s recipe is a scrumptious, thick, delicious corn chowder made extra luscious with cheese. Go ahead and serve it in a bread bowl because corn chowder in a bread bowl is one of life’s great extravagances.

Corn and Cheese Chowder
Serves 12

4 tablespoons ½ stick butter
1 whole onion, chopped
3 slices bacon, cut into pieces
3 whole bell peppers, finely diced (red, yellow, orange)
5 ears corn, kernels sliced off
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (heaping) grated Monterey jack
1 cup (heaping) pepper jack
1/3 cup sliced green onions
Bread bowls

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook onions for a couple of minutes. Add bacon and cook for another minute or so, then add diced bell peppers and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally, add corn and cook for a minute.

Sprinkle flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in broth and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in half-and-half, then cover and allow to simmer/thicken for 15 minutes or so.

Stir in cheeses and green onions. When cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle into hollowed out boules and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caramel Pumpkin Blondies

This recipe is ooey gooey deliciousness. You know it’s good when it’s ooey and gooey. The caramel definitely makes these blondies ooey and gooey in the most amazing way and the way the caramel and chocolate melt together.... ooh! They create such a divine filling to these pumpkin spiced blondies. Serve with vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in heaven. Addictive. Festive. Total heaven in your mouth.

Caramel Pumpkin Blondies
Makes 16 blondies

For the Blondies:
¾ cups butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoons nutmeg
1-¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt

For the Filling:
½ cups chopped walnuts
¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 ounces, weight caramels, unwrapped (1 bag)
¼ cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in eggs, vanilla and pumpkin until combined. Slowly incorporate the remaining ‘blondies’ ingredients into the batter. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly to ensure a smooth batter. Spread about 2/3 of the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

For the filling: Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips over top of the batter.

Place caramels and cream into a heat-proof bowl. Microwave on high until caramel is smooth and completely melted, being sure to stir every 20 seconds. Stop as soon as it’s melted and smooth.

Pour melted caramel over chocolate and nuts. Spread around evenly with a butter knife or spoon. Place dollops of the remaining batter over the top of the caramel layer. Spread those dollops out to try and get a smooth layer of batter over top. (It’s fine if some of the caramel layer is peeking through.)

Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. (It might come out with a little caramel on it which is fine. You don’t want batter on the toothpick.)
Cool completely before serving. Or be prepared to get a whole lot of oozing caramel if you serve it warm.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.