Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tomato Bruschetta

To make up for such a late dinner, Joey and I whipped up some tomato bruschetta for Katie's visit

2 small tomatoes
2 T minced onion
4 basil leaves
2 T olive oil
black pepper
1/2 clove garlic
8 1/3 inch thick baguette slices

-Dice tomatoes int 1/4" cubes, removing seeds.
-Cut basil into thin strips
-Toast the baguette slices on a grill or toaster oven until golden. We used tongs and held them over the gas burners--we didn't make them golden enough.
-Rub the cut end of garlic over the toasted bread
-Put the tomato, onion and basil into a mixing bowl. Add 2 T olive oil.
-Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir ingredients together. Let sit for 3 minutes.
-Top the toasted baguette slices with the mixture and eat!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Spinach Cannelloni

For Christmas, Joey got me Personal Trainer Cooking for the Nintendo DS. It is a program that gives step by step cooking instructions and over 250 recipes from around the world for aspiring chefs. The dinner for Katie was our first chance to try it out, and it was a positive experience. We had to turn off the voice activation though because of the noise in the kitchen the man would constantly jump ahead.

A couple of weeks ago Katie came over for dinner and Joey and I decided to make something special (using the game). Unfortunately, due to work complications, we started a little bit late so it took a little bit long. In fact it took really long. We anticipated that dinner would be ready a lot earlier. Even our appetizer took longer than expected (be ready for another post!).

We made Spinach Cannelloni for Katie. Cannelloni and Manicotti are similar dishes and I had recently made a failed manicotti so I was really worried about the cannelloni. This recipe also called for ham and I am well aware of Katie's loathing of the pork product, so we omitted that and instead added some Italian sausage to flavor up the recipe.

As it turned out, the dish was really flavorful. The cheese sauce didn't thicken. The pasta didn't cook all the way...but the flavors were all there. Katie loved it and Joey and I would try it again IF we par-boiled the pasta. I'll share with you the recipe, but you won't enjoy all the helpful tips from the Nintendo chef.

Spinach Cannelloni

11 oz ground beef
4 slices of ham (or 2 mild Italian sausages, casing removed)
11oz spinach
1 beaten egg
4 T flour
1/4 c butter
3 1/3 cus milk
1 clove garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary (I uesd mostly dried)
4 T white wine
4 T Parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil
12 cannelloni tubes
salt and pepper

1. Boil water for spinach. While boiling wash the spinach carefully. Add spinach to boiling water until it wilts. Remove spinach and put into a bowl of cold water. Once the spinach has cooled squeeze out the excess water. Set aside.
1A. Using the same water (or new if you insist), boil water anxd then add cannelloni noodles and cook for half the time listed on the box.
2. Finely chop the ham (or sausage). Finely chop the garlic.
3. Put the spinach into a mini food processer and pulse until it forms a paste.
4. Preheat the oven to 350
5. Put 2 T oil in a frying pan over moderate heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the rosemary and saute.
6. Add the ground beef and brown breaking up--be sure to break it up well.
7. Add wine and boil briefly. Add salt and pepper to taste and turn off the heat.
8. Transfer beef to a mixing bowl and allow to cool. Remove rosemary and discard. Add 2/3 of the spinach paste, the ham (sausages), egg, and 4 T of Parmesan cheese. Mix well.
9. Fill a pastry bag (or a zip top plastic bag--and cut off the tip) with the filling mix.
10. Use the pastry bag to fill the cannelloni and lay them in a greased 9x13 baking dish. You may need more than 1 baking dish.
11. In a saucepan over medium heat melt the butter.
12. Add flour and cook until smooth - don't burn the flour!
13. Slowly pour in the milk and stir until smooth. Add the remaining spinach and salt and pepper and stir. (I imagine the sauce should thicken sometime soon, but it didn't for us).
14. Pour the sauce over the the cannelloni. Grate Parmesan on top. Bake in the ove for 20 minutes or until pasta is soft.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

I was browsing the food network last week for new baked chicken recipes. I came across this one and was excited by the use of white beans. As luck would have it, I had 3 cans of white beans lingering on top of my microwave purchased for some forgotten recipe.

I had trouble finding chicken thighs so I bought chicken drumsticks. In hindsight, I think this dish would be better with boneless skinless chicken thighs (which were a hot item in the store I went to) or even cut up pieces of chicken.

I didn't have an ovenproof skillet, so I transferred it after the simmering and it still worked perfectly.

This dish ended up being pretty good. The dish was flavorful and filling. We had it with some roasted corn and salad and that was so much food that I was only able to eat one drumstick!

Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes
adapted from the Food Network

6 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 t salt + 1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 15oz cans stewed tomatoes with juice
2 cans small white beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook and brown bacon in a fry pan over medium heat until browned and crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain, reserve fat in skillet.

While bacon is browning, season chicken with 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper. Brown chicken in fat over medium high heat, turning once. (I didn't really brown the chicken enough and it made a big difference in the look of the final product but not the taste). Brown for about 8 minutes and then transfer to a plate of towels.

Reserve fat and brown onions and garlic. When onions are golden brown, add tomatoes and boil for 3 minutes, uncovered. Add beans and bacon and bring to a simmer.

Pour tomato mixture into an oven-proof dish. Nestle chicken into tomatoes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookie Perfection

I have been on a constant mission to create a chocolate chip cookie that is chewy and delicious and more similar to Mrs. Field's Famous. Even after obtaining the supposed recipe that Mrs. Field's uses, I was unable to conquer my dream.

Until today.

Today I decided to whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was going to use the regular recipe on the back of the Nestle Chocolate Chips package until I noticed something peeking out of the inside of the Land o' Lakes butter carton. I ripped the carton open, perhaps a little too zealously, and discovered a new recipe for a Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookie.

I compared the ingredients and discovered that the differences were the use of both baking powder and soda as well as 1/2 C more butter and 2 cups more flour. So, after discovering that these were indeed a healthier cookie, I decided to test out the recipe.

I whipped up a batch in no time at all and was soon putting 14 gigantic balls of dough into the oven. A friend gave me a tip recently on the art of the chewy cookie warning me that when the cookies are ever so slightly brown, but look still kind of raw, they should be removed from the oven. This tip agreed with the butter carton warning telling me not to overbake (in capital letters).

This cookie and recipe has helped me to achieve cookie perfection.

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookie Perfection
via Land O' Lakes
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups LAND O LAKES® Butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 (12-ounce) package (2 cups) real semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°F. Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda in medium bowl; set aside.

Combine butter, sugar and brown sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.

Reduce speed to low. Beat, gradually adding flour mixture, until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks by hand.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. (DO NOT OVERBAKE.) Let stand 1 to 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets. .

TIP: For 2 1/2-inch cookies, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. 4 dozen cookies.

***UPDATE**** I made these cookies again but used only 3 1/2 cups of flour and they were still delicious. Also, I have a sneaking suspision that I forgot the white sugar and only used the brown. Still good. Also I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips which are ginormous (and therefore better)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Homemade Marshmallows

This Christmas, I was looking for a quicker than cookie cutter dessert recipe that I could share with friends in gift form. I came across this recipe for Homemade Marshmallows and I knew that is what I had to do.

Once I bought the ingredients (mostly I had them all), I put off the task forever. The recipe isn't time consuming at all--it is basically hands off, but to me, it seemed like it might be one of those things that once you make it, you never want to eat again. So, I was worried that I would be turned off from marshmallows and was putting off.

The recipe is very easy to make. I LOVED the gelatan with the water and the goo it made. I highly recommend just making the geletan goo for your children and then playing with it. SO COOL. Then I added the rest of the ingredients and read a book for the 12 minutes it took to whip together.

I let the marshmallows sit overnight because it was so late by the time I started, but I think it only takes about two hours. The next day I used Bakers Dipping Chocolate to dip the marshmallows. I let them dry on a cooling rack and a lot of the chocolate stuck. However, the effort was worth it, the chocolate hardened and the marshmallows tasted even better than the plain.

In an effort to use the marshmallows a third way, I brought them to my sister's house and we dipped them in melted chocolate with fondoue forks. The marshmallows alone are rich and airy with a strong vanilla flavor. Some say they taste like the regular marshmallows, others agree that they are richer and more delicious.

It is time for you to try them yourself.

Recipe, here.

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