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Monday, February 28, 2011

A quick comfort food fix

March is almost here, but we've got some cold weather to contend with before the springtime sunshine and temps (!!!!) come upon us.  So, comfort foods are still a necessity for lots of people.  Many of these dishes take time, which is fine, but sometimes you want that warm feeling in your belly without spending hours in the kitchen.  I found an easy and delicious stovetop mac-n-cheese recipe that will solve the problem!

This took about 10 minutes to make and definitely doesn't taste like it.  I added broccoli (would have added bacon too but didn't have time to cook it - it would be fantastic in this!)...of course, you can sub any veggies or proteins you like.  It's hearty enough to be served as a main dish, but doable as a side, too.  Kids will love it too...the hot sauce can easily be omitted if need be.

Stovetop Mac-n-Cheese with Broccoli
adapted from Alton Brown

1/2 box elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon hot sauce
6 ounces evaporated milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 steamer bag frozen broccoli, cooked

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Return to the pot and melt in butter. Stir to combine.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until combined.  Add broccoli and stir to coat.  
Serves 2-3 as a main dish, 4 or more as a side dish.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Expanding my horizons

There aren't many "extras" that I made myself before starting this blog...they were just never on my radar, for whatever reason.  Some things just seemed easier to grab at the store, rather than taking the time to make them myself and tailor them to our taste.

One of them is granola.  I thought it would be nice to make my own to put on top of greek yogurt or even eat by the handful.  Delicious, and so easy to make!  It definitely beats buying premade granola mixes.

This recipe caught my eye - it seemed interesting, plus I already had almost all of the ingredients at home.  I was looking for something that worked with quick oats, since I wanted to use up the open container I had.  I've really been enjoying it...it'll be a keeper.

Vanilla Granola
adapted from ifood

6 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup craisins
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Cook oil, honey, sugar, water and vanilla over medium heat until mixed.  In a bowl, combine oats, almonds, craisins and coconut.  Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture and stir so everything is coated.

Spread granola on 2 baking pans (9x13).  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes.

Cool and stir occasionally.  Store in an airtight container.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipe Swap - Week #2

I was happy with the recipe I received for our first week, so I was excited to see what I'd get this time around.  The theme was lunch, and I was lucky enough to land a recipe from my friend Patrizia, who also recently started a food blog of her own.  The recipe is originally from Giada, but Patrizia made some changes, as did I.

I made this for myself while home alone (well, Bella was napping).  Frank's not a fan of chick peas so I knew it would be a weekday recipe for me.  I had some ciabatta bread that was getting pretty stale, so I popped it in the toaster oven and of course, forgot it was in there until I started smelling smoke...oops!  It was edible, but it wasn't "flexible", so it didn't make for the best picture.

My other adaptations are reflected in the recipe below, based on what I had in the house.  I added the mayo to the tuna instead of the chick pea spread, because that's my preference :)  Plus, I had to chop some onion into it...can't have tuna salad without onion!

It was really good, but not a surprise, coming from Giada.  Thanks, Patrizia!

Tuna and Artichoke Panini
adapted from Mangia! My Family Table by way of Giada De Laurentis

1/2 can chick peas, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 can tuna (I used Bumblebee solid white tuna packed in water)
6 frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
Ciabatta bread
Arugula and spinach leaves
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

In a small food processor combine chick peas, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest until smooth. If you find it to be too thick, add a little more olive oil.  

In a small bowl, combine tuna, artichokes, onion and mayonnaise.  Add juice of 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper.  

Cut ciabatta lengthwise and spread chick pea mixture on both sides.  Add tomato and greens to one side, then tuna mixture.  Close up your sandwich and enjoy!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

When you know, you know.

Have I discussed the courtship that Frank and I had?  Well, simply put - it was quick.  We met, moved in together 4 weeks later, and got engaged 7 weeks after that.  Crazy kids, we were.

It happened so fast that he actually fell in love with me for ME, not my cooking.  I didn't even get a chance to cook for him before he told me he loved me.  Crazy Frank, he was.

One of the first things I remember making him was chicken marsala, which I knew was one of his favorites.  It has since always been his most requested meal.  It's evolved since I first started making it...I've made several changes through the years.  My version doesn't look like what you'd order in a restaurant, because this is the way Frank likes it.  Chicken cut into bite size pieces, served over pasta.

His preference actually works out well for those who need quicker weeknight meals...the chicken doesn't take long at all to cook this way, and the pasta cooks at the same time as the chicken (and yes, you are seeing two different shapes of pasta in there...we had two open boxes so I used them both up...use whatever type you like).

And please, buy Marsala wine...NOT Marsala cooking wine.  Go to the liquor store.  I know you know where it is.  It makes a huge difference.  Pick up a nice bottle of Merlot while you're at it...it goes well with the dish.

Give it a try - it'll impress someone special to love you (more), too :)

Chicken Marsala
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup marsala wine
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
grated pecorino romano cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add butter and oil.  At the same time, place water in a pot to boil for pasta, and cook according to package directions.

Put flour in a bowl with salt and pepper.  Toss chicken into flour, shake off excess and add to skillet once butter has melted.  Saute chicken until brown on all sides.

Add mushrooms, chicken broth, marsala, and oregano.  Also, add more salt and pepper to taste.  Stir together.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low.  Cook for approximately 10-12  minutes, or until sauce thickens (if it doesn't look like it's getting thick, add a bit more butter, or make a small slurry of cornstarch and water in a separate bowl and add slowly to the pan).

Drain pasta and add to skillet.  Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste.  Combine so that all the pasta is covered in sauce.

Take off the heat and add parsley, as well as some grated cheese, if you like.  Serve immediately.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Calling all Moms...

Teeny time, Gymboree, school, park, playground, playdates, sports, parties, music class, gymnastics, karate, dance class...go ahead, Moms - add your child's activity of the day to this list.  It's endless, right?

Well, whatever it is, don't forget to pack that snack!  One more thing to add to that list...

As a Mom (Dads too - shouldn't leave them out!), it's important to have a list of go-to food items that you can make in advance.  I've found that muffins are perfect - not only are they delicious, but they're a nutritious snack that can be frozen and taken out easily to defrost in individual portions.  They're great for breakfast, too.

Bella is a big fan of "cupcakes", as she calls them, so I like to change it up and create different varieties.  As always, I go by my mood as well as what's available in my kitchen.

I wasn't sure what to call these, but based on the ingredients I used, and where my head is at these days, I thought the name I chose was the most fitting.  Even Bella said yesterday, "I need to go sit on the beach.  I need the sun on my face."  We're soooo OVER winter in this house!

Tropical Muffins
largely adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons clementine juice
2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil and juice; add to the dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in the mango, banana, coconut and nuts.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

National Chocolate Mint Day?? (What's Baking Challenge)

Who knew that February 19th was National Chocolate Mint Day?  I didn't, until the 20th.  How about that.  Well, it just so happens that I had this recipe on deck to blog this week (I made it on Valentine's Day), so I guess as they say, better late than never.

This is the first month I'm participating in What's Baking, an online group of bloggers who focus on a different baking theme each month.  February's challenge was hosted by Dunne' from With A Cherry On Top, and she chose "Baked With Love" as the theme.  Technically, I didn't bake...but I did make a decadent dessert with love in mind :)

One of Frank's favorite flavor combos is cookies and cream.  On Valentine's Day, I wanted to make a little something special for him, and thought incorporating those flavors would be perfect, along with mint (since I'm a fan of it).

This would be amazing with Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joe's...if only they were in season!  I think Oreo makes a mint flavored cookie, too...but I had the regular ones in the house, so I used those.

Soooo good...and super easy to make.  And it lasts a while in the fridge, so don't go giving it all away :)

Mint Oreo Fudge
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
dash of salt
approximately 20 Oreo cookies, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

  • In heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in cookies, mint and vanilla.

  • Spread evenly into wax paper lined 8or 9 inch square pan. Chill 2 hours (or until firm) in the refrigerator.

  • Lift fudge out of pan, peel off paper and cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fennel is fantastic.

I always get excited when I see recipes that include fennel.  Fennel makes me happy.  I love when it's roasted or baked, but my all time favorite is eating it SUPER cold all by itself, with some olives.  YUM.

This recipe caught my eye for many reasons, not just because of the fennel.  It's comforting, rustic, EASY (seriously, it doesn't get much easier!), delicious and would even be suitable for company.  Simply put - it's Italian.  That's what it's all about.

Another wonderful one-pot meal :)

Umbrian Sausage Bake
adapted from Italian Food Forever

8 sausage links, hot or mild 
4 medium potatoes, cut into 2 inch chunks
2 fresh fennel bulbs, top & core removed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into thick wedges
2 red bell peppers, core & seeds removed and cut into 2 inch chunks
6 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & cracked black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
zest from 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together all the ingredients apart from the sausages in an oven-proof large casserole dish and toss well to coat the vegetables with the oil and seasonings. Place the sausages on top and place in the oven. 

After 20 minutes, pierce the sausages with a fork and turn over. Gently move the vegetables around to ensure they both cook and brown evenly. 

Continue to cook until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender when pierced with a fork, and the sausages are browned, about another 25 minutes or so. To serve, scoop a hearty helping of the vegetables onto each plate, and top with the sausages cut in half. Serve immediately.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Nicky!

We celebrated this little love's birthday this past weekend.

He looked a little different at his party, though.  You know - the way you're supposed to look at your first birthday party.

My sister-in-law asked me to make cupcakes for all the kids who would be there.  She gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to make, but as soon as she told me she was doing a primary color theme, I knew exactly what I'd be baking.

Yep...the famous rainbow cupcakes.  What else screams "birthday" and "bright colors"?

I saw a few recipes online but went with this one from The Girl Who Ate Everything.  I used the cake recipe and the frosting recipe, too...both were terrific.  I threw some Skittles on top, for good measure.

My brother wanted every kid there to have a chance to blow out their own candle...

Super messy to make, but definitely worth it - so pretty!

Happy birthday to my adorable nephew.  Keep on rockin', buddy!  Love, Aunt Miss.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spicing it up

I noticed that I had a few bagels that were getting close to past their prime.  I thought about making thin bagel chips, then thought, why not keep them more chunky...this way we can use them in soups, salads, or even for popping straight into our mouths :)

So, I took a look in my spice cabinet and was about to pull out all the ol' reliables...when I saw something I hadn't seen in a while - Dried Tomato and Garlic Pesto Mix from Tastefully Simple.  It got buried waaaaaay back there...so much so that the jar was still unopened.  After reading the ingredients I thought it would be a nice way to flavor up the "bagel chunks", as I've decided to name them.

Obviously, you can use whatever combination of spices you like and have on hand, but if you have this mix I recommend giving it a try.  It worked really well.

Bagel Chunks
Stale, or soon to be stale bagels
extra virgin olive oil
Tastefully Simple Tomato & Pesto Mix
garlic powder
sea salt

Cut bagels into chunks.  In a bowl, combine EVOO, spice mix and garlic powder.  Make enough to dip your bagel chunks - it'll depend on how many you have.

Dip chunks into bowl and place on foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle sea salt over them, and bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 11-13 minutes (again, baking time will depend on how many you have, and how "chunky" they are).

Store in an airtight container.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crunch, crunch

I LOVE fresh, raw green beans.  Love the taste, the texture, the look of them...everything.  Definitely one of my favorite veggies.

I had some leftover toasted pecans, along with green beans that I bought for my tempura, so I came up with this quick and easy salad.  It takes just a few minutes to prepare and is perfect for any time of year...although I think it would be really nice at barbecues.  It's easy to transport, too.

Toasted Pecan & Green Bean Salad with Dijon Dressing
1 lb. green beans, washed, ends trimmed
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
Dijon Dressing:
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put green beans and pecans in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Taste along the way to be sure the seasonings are to your liking.

Pour dressing on top of beans and mix together.  Serve, or keep in refrigerator until ready to eat.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Make these this weekend.

Your kids/significant other/roomie/self will thank you.

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes
adapted from The Hungry Wife

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats

Wet Ingredients:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
confectioners' sugar

Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg.  Add the oats and mix well.  In a separate bowl, stir together all of the wet ingredients.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients just to combine.
Lightly oil a skillet or griddle and place on medium-high heat.  Use about ¼ cup of batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the top, about 1 to 1 ½ minutes.  Cook on the second side until golden brown, about 1 minute.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and confectioners' sugar.  Serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.
Linked to:  What's On Your Plate hosted by Good Cheap Eats

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

So what if it isn't pretty?

When I noticed I had some extra stuffing from the braciole I made the other day, I started thinking of a way to use it up.  Remember, waste not, want not!  Originally, I was going to use the portobello mushrooms I have by stuffing them, but midway through cooking I decided to save them for another time.

I cut up some zucchini, whipped up some polenta and this was the result.  Yum.

That's right, I said yum, even though it isn't the most attractive dish.  These types of creations rarely are, but they're usually the best tasting :)  LOVE rustic cooking.

Sausage and Polenta with Sauteed Zucchini
3/4 lb. Italian sausage, not in casing (I used spicy, but you can use mild if you want to be wimpy)
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
stuffing from braciole (click here for the ingredients.  This can be omitted, or you can use bread crumbs with whatever seasonings you like)
1 zucchini, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
polenta (see link above on how to make it)
mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oil and garlic in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausage and cook until no longer pink, then add stuffing.  Stir together and cook for another few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.

Put a little more oil and the other garlic clove into the skillet.  Add zucchini, salt and pepper and saute until cooked through.  Take off heat and cover to keep warm.

Follow instructions for polenta.  When almost finished, add cheese and continue stirring.  Spoon polenta onto plate and add sausage on top, with zucchini on the side.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Instant gratification

Sometimes I'll see a recipe and think, "damn, I need that NOW!"  Or at least, SOON.  Such was the case when I saw this recipe from Pam at For the Love of Cooking yesterday.  I already had all the ingredients so it was easy enough to satisfy my craving ASAP.

This will definitely be a staple in our house.  Normally we have burritos but this was a nice switch.  I didn't warm the tortillas beforehand like Pam suggested, and they turned out fine.  I served them with my Mexican rice (see recipe below), my spicy guacamole, salsa and sour cream.  And for me, a big pile of jalapenos :)

The onions and cheese were a perfect compliment to the pork.  SO good!  Thanks again, Pam!

Mexican Rice
1 boil-in bag brown rice (I think it's 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt, to taste
cumin, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a medium size pot over medium heat, then add rice.  Season with salt, cumin and garlic powder and stir constantly.  Once rice browns, add onion, and cook until translucent.

Add tomato sauce and chicken broth, and more spices to taste.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low and cover.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.  Sprinkle cilantro over rice and serve.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Curing the artichoke blues

I was majorly craving stuffed artichokes and planned on making them for our Valentine's dinner app (they're also one of Frank's favorites).  Yes, I know they're out of season, but as long as something looks good and doesn't cost as much as it does to fill my gas tank, I'll buy it...regardless of what time of year it is.

Well, it didn't happen, since the few artichokes I saw were nasty looking...and the day before our dinner, Frank went to the local market and they didn't have any at all.  Sigh.  I was soooo bummed and was really looking forward to them, which led to a serious "artichoke on the brain" situation, so I had to come up with a substitute that would cure my ail.

This was as close as I could get, and it was really good!  Not awesome in a stuffed artichoke kind of way, but really good when you have to settle for a substitute.  Plus, it's very easy to make - just be sure to serve it fairly quickly after cooking, since the artichokes might get a little mushy if they sit around long.

Fried Artichoke Hearts with Garlic Aioli
1/2 bag frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (Trader Joe's has great ones!)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
juice of 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon paprika
lemon slices for garnish

Add oil to a hot skillet.  Put egg in a shallow bowl, and bread crumbs combined with cheese in another.  Dip artichoke hearts in egg, then bread/cheese, then place in pan over medium-high heat.  Fry on both sides until cooked, remove and put on paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil, then place on serving platter.  Sprinkle with salt while warm.  If desired, squeeze lemon over them once plated.  Serve immediately.

For the aioli:  Combine mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and paprika.  Mix together.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve in separate bowl as a dipping sauce.

Linked to: Potluck Sunday hosted by Mommy's Kitchen
                 Fried Food Blog Hop

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

Part of the reason I started this blog two months ago was to push myself out of my comfort zone by preparing dishes I wouldn't normally even consider.  That's the main reason I joined Daring Cooks, and this month was the first challenge I was eligible to participate in.  Mission accomplished - the assignment was one that I've never attempted before...

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.

I couldn't believe how easy it was to prepare everything!  First was the buckwheat soba noodles and spicy dipping sauce (which is served on the side).  I topped the noodles with some sliced scallions.  There were other things that were suggested to add on top (ham, sliced scrambled egg, cucumber to name a few) but this was just fine.  The sauce was delicious (and actually not that spicy!) and gave the noodles all the taste they needed.

For more details, check out the recipes, courtesy of Globetrotter Diaries and about. com.  

And then, the tempura.  Again, I was very happy to see how easy it was to make tempura batter and will definitely be making it again soon!  I was also surprised to see how thin the batter was - I thought maybe I did something wrong - but it all worked out just fine.  

I used all vegetables - yams, mushrooms, onions, asparagus and green beans.  Next time I'll include shrimp, lobster, scallops, and other proteins.Delicious, light, and fun to make.

The recipes for the tempura can be found on Pink Bites and itsy bitsy foodies.  Lisa also influenced the tempura a bit with things she learned from her Japanese grandmother.

I had SO MUCH FUN with this challenge, and can't wait for the next one!  :)

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fancy cheap eats

Times are tough right now for a lot of people, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice good taste, or even something "special" for dinner at home.  As I've said before, I do a lot of my grocery shopping based on not only what looks good, but what's on sale.  Just about every week, you can get chicken on the bone for around 69 cents a pound, so make it a habit to integrate it into your meal planning every week if sticking to a budget is important to you.  It's so versatile - it's almost impossible to get tired of it.

Ina does it again, with a wonderful Coq Au Vin recipe that's delicious and easy to follow.  Pair it with some mashed potatoes and you've got a comforting, tasty meal that's good enough for company.  You could even look like a rock star and pull this together tomorrow for your Valentine :)

Coq Au Vin
adapted from Ina Garten (she says the recipe serves 3, but it definitely could serve 5-6)

4 oz. bacon, cut into chunks
5 chicken leg quarters
4 chicken legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. carrots, cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac
1 cup red wine
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 pound frozen pearl onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
10 medium potatoes
1/2 stick butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 tablespoons heavy cream
salt & pepper

Peel the potatoes, place in a pot and boil until they are soft enough to stick a fork in them, about 20 minutes.  Drain potatoes and put them back in the pot.  Break them up a bit, then add remaining ingredients (season to taste) and beat with a hand mixer until smooth, or leave chunky if you prefer more texture.

Serves 8.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Per mio marito.

My sister's father-in-law owns an awesome restaurant that represents exactly what Italian food is.  No frills, rustic, AMAZING tasting food.  I could seriously eat there every day, and so could Frank...the difference is, Frank would order the same thing every day.  Braciole.

When I was deciding on what to cook for Valentine's Day, I thought, why go fancy...why not just make what my husband LOVES.  Isn't that what the holiday is all about, anyway?  Loooove, love, love...

A tattoo would probably be even better.

Braciole may look intimidating, but it's not.  Just make sure your meat (which can also be pork, by the way) is thinly cut and pounded down, and that you have some butcher's twine or toothpicks.  I used toothpicks but I don't recommend them for a braciole "virgin"...twine will keep your meat intact and your filling inside.

As Frank said, "put the knives back".  The meat gets SUPER tender after cooking in the sauce for hours...so much so that a knife isn't necessary.  Good stuff.

Raisins are a common ingredient but my pickier than a child husband isn't a fan, so I omitted them.  I LOVE them in braciole...I think they add a nice, sweet undertone...so please, include them in yours!

Again, quality ingredients are of utmost importance when it comes to Italian cooking.  Don't skimp out on anything!  It's all about simplicity and quality for the best tasting food.

The instructions are easy - just follow along and I guarantee your husband will fall in love all over again :)

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 tablespoons whole milk (you can also use a mix of heavy cream and lowfat milk)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons pignoli nuts, toasted
1/4 cup pecorino romano, grated
2 eggs, hard boiled, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3 large slices (about 1 lb.) beef bottom round, already cut into braciole slices by butcher, or cut and pounded thin
Prosciutto, thinly sliced
Imported provolone
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
tomato paste
small amounts of basil, garlic powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

Place bread crumbs in a bowl and add milk a little at a time.  Make it so the bread becomes damp but not too wet.  Stir in the eggs, parsley, cheese, pignoli nuts and garlic. Mix well and set aside. 

***If your meat isn't already pounded thin*** With a meat mallet, pound each slice of beef round to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. 

Arrange one of the pounded meat slices in front of you and top with prosciutto.  Spread some of the stuffing over the prosciutto, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges. Place a stick of provolone crosswise over the edge of the stuffing closest to you. Fold the border closest to you over the provolone, then fold the side borders in to overlap the edges of the stuffing. Roll into a compact roll. 

Secure the end flap with twine or toothpicks. Finish all the rolls, then season with salt and pepper.

Put oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat with chopped garlic and add rolls.  Turn after first side is seared.  After second side is seared, turn again, then add tomatoes, seasonings, and tomato paste.  Stir together carefully (work your spoon around the meat), turn heat down to low, and cover.  Cook for at least 2 hours (the longer, the better), stirring occasionally.  Serve with pasta.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

A Valentine's Day dessert - and the winner of my latest giveaway!

Frank and I aren't big on Valentine's Day.  I've always made a more "special" meal at home, we exchange cards...that's about it.  The few times I've been out on the Hallmark holiday have resulted in rushed service, overpaying for mediocre food, or something equally as dreadful.  Just not worth it.

I'm not sure exactly when I'll be serving our Valentine's meal this time around - probably over the weekend - but it'll include a few of Frank's very favorite dishes (stay tuned!).  In the meantime, check out this decadent dessert that I made in advance...there's plenty of time for you to run out and get the ingredients, if you don't already have them in your pantry.

The star of the show - Nutella.  Drool.

Before I give you the recipe, I need to announce the winner of my latest giveaway!  Congratulations to Harriet!  She wins the prize :)  Harriet, you have 48 hours to respond to my email, otherwise I will conduct another random selection.

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harrietk said...
Red Velvet, without a doubt!

February 10, 2011 3:54 PM

Smooth the cheesecake carefully and completely over the brownie layer with a spatula.  Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 50-55 minutes.  The center of the brownies will be set, but if you poke a toothpick into them, it won’t come out dry.  It's okay...the cheesecake layer needs to cool completely to set up.

Linked to:  This Week's Cravings - Chocolate, hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking

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