Friday, November 26, 2010

French Silk Pie

My husband's other favorite pie (see previous Pecan pie post) is French Silk. I knew others at Thanksgiving would like this one as well and since it was also my husband's birthday, I made this one as well. The recipe comes from Paula Deen's Best Desserts magazine.

Ingredients:
2 and 1/2 cups crushed Oreo cookies (about a sleeve and half to 2 sleeves of Oreos from the package)
6 Tbsps butter, melted
1 and 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
10 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used two 4 ounce bars of Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate)
2 cups miniature marshmallows
Garnish: Oreos, whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make cookie crumbs, just add the Oreos to a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form. In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter, stirring until combined. Press mixture into bottom of and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/4 cup cream, chocolate and marshmallows. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, and let stand for 20 minutes. I actually like to let it stand longer, about 30 minutes or so.

In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1 cup whipping cream at medium-high speed with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. This takes a few minutes. You want the consistency to be slightly stiffer than whipped cream. Gently fold the cream into chocolate mixture. (Be patient, this may take a few minutes. You'll think the cream is melting into the chocolate, but it will firm up once placed to set in the fridge.) Spoon into prepared crust; chill for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best. Garnish with cookies and whipped cream, if desired.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Traditional Pecan Pie

I made this classic pecan pie two Thanksgivings ago and my husband, a huge pecan pie fan, loved it. I even loved it with my limited pecan pie experience. I believe I found it on Cooks.com. This year, seeing as my husband's birthday falls on Thanksgiving, I am going to make it for him again. I like to serve it with a little fresh whipped cream.

Ingredients:
1 (9 inch) Pie Shell, pre-baked 10-12 minutes
3/4 cup White Sugar
3/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
3 Eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 pinch Salt
1 cup chopped Pecans

Preparation:
1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.
2. Add pecans and coat nuts well.
3. Pour pecan pie filling into pie shell.
4. Bake 45 minutes in 350 degree oven. After 30 minutes, check to see if piecrust is getting too brown, if so cover edges with foil.
5. Do not overbake. Remove when pie filling is firm around edges, slightly soft but set in center.

Cooking Tip: Pre-Baked Pie Crust
Preheat oven to 350 F. With a fork, prick pastry piecrust shell in several places. Place foil over pie crust, allowing pie crust edges to be exposed. Fill with dried beans or rice to keep pie pastry flat while baking. Bake 10-12 minutes, remove and cool.

Giving Thanks

On Friday evening I volunteered at Metropolitan Ministries with the women's group I'm in, High Hopes in High Heels. We were stationed in the food tent helping those in need "shop" for their Thanksgiving. The tent has these aisles with all different canned goods and boxed food placed on shelves. Those who came in had a list of items they were able to choose from. And we were there to assist them through the aisles and to restock the shelves.

It was a very humbling experience. No matter how much I complain about being broke or not having money to do this or that, I can't imagine what it must be like to not be able to afford to give your family a proper Thanksgiving dinner. Metropolitan Ministries does a lot of good things for our community and I was proud to help them out even if it was for only a couple of hours. The experience was heartbreaking at times, but I also enjoyed myself. Everyone was very nice and thankful for the help they were receiving. I would definitely like to go back for Christmas

If you'd like to help, you can for just $10. Text the word WINGS to 20222 to donate $10 and be someone's angel this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pasta Primavera

Here is another good recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. This one leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Use the pasta of your choice, your favorite vegetables and you can add chicken or leave it vegetarian. I used mostly bell pepper, onion and carrot because my husband isn't a fan of the squash family, but if you are less discriminatory, use the zucchini and summer squash that the recipe calls for. I also found a tri-color penne pasta that was a great fit in this dish.

What You'll Need:
3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 medium zucchini or 1 large zucchini, cut into thin strips
2 yellow squash, cut into thin strips
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
1 pound farfalle (bowtie pasta)
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

How to Make It:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a large heavy baking sheet, toss all of the vegetables with the oil, salt, pepper, and dried herbs to coat. Transfer half of the vegetable mixture to another heavy large baking sheet and arrange evenly over the baking sheets. Bake until the carrots are tender and the vegetables begin to brown, stirring after the first 10 minutes, about 20 minutes total.

(I don't think I need to mention how awesome the veggies are in this dish. Those of you have followed this blog for some time, know what a fan I am of roasting vegetables. It adds so much flavor and allows the natural sweetness to come out of the veggies.)

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the pasta with the vegetable mixtures in a large bowl to combine. Add a little drizzle of olive oil if you're so inclinded. Toss with the cherry tomatoes and enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Lentil Soup with Beef

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis.

I am trying to be more adventurous by using ingredients that I don't have much experience with, and one of those ingredients would be lentils. I had bought some French green lentils at Whole Foods a little while back, so I finally used them when I made this soup a week ago. It was a big hit with my husband and I am so glad he likes lentils. They are a versatile, healthy ingredient that I will definitely be using more of. My next new ingredient to experiment with is quinoa. Stay tuned!

What You'll Need:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 and 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

How to Make It:
Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef. Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Polenta Crostini with Tapenade

Here is another appetizer that I made for my jewelry party. This one also inspired by Sara Moulton, but I used my own tapenade recipe.

What You'll Need:
1 log of cooked plain polenta (I have seen this at Sweetbay Supermarket in both the pasta and produce sections. I don't remember seeing it at Publix, but some may carry it.)
a batch of tapenade

How to Make it:
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Tirm off and discard the crinkled ends of the polenta log; cut the remaining polenta crosswise into 16 slices. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add as many polenta slices as will fit in one layer and saute, turning once, for about 5 minutes per side, or until crisp and browned. Remove the polenta slices to the baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat, adding another tablespoon olive oil or butter as needed, until all the slices have been browned.

Meanwhile make the tapenade, but it is much easier to make this in advanced.

To serve, divide the tapenade among the polenta rounds.

Sorry I don't have a picture of the finished product, but there was so much going on and my guests were arriving that I totally forgot to take a pic.

Marinated White Bean Toasts

On Saturday I hosted a Lia Shophia jewelry party. I of course had to have a few good snacks for everyone to enjoy. This one was a huge hit with my friends and is courtesy of my new Sara Moulton cookbook.

What you'll need:
1 small red onion (I suggest using less onion, unless you really like onion)
1 12-inch baguette
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 (15-ounce) can small white beans
1 Tbsp, plus 1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsps fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

How to make it:
Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finely chop the onion (about 1/2 cup) and transfer it to a small bowl; add ice and water to cover and set it aside for 10 minutes.

Trim off and discard the ends of the baguette; cut the remaining baguette diagonally to make 24 slices. Brush both sides of the slices with 2 Tbsps of olive oil (you may need more) and arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast them for 8-10 minutes, turning once until they are golden. Remove the toasts from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. Split the garlic lengthwise. Rub the toast slices with the cut sides of the garlic.

Rinse and thoroughly drain the beans. Chop the oregano (about 2 tsps). Combine the beans, the remaining 2 Tbsps olive oil, the lemon juice, and oregano in a medium bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving some larger pieces.

Drain the onion, pat it dry, and stir it into the bean mixture along with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the bean mixture among the toast slices and spread the mixture to the edges. (I didn't do this last part. I just put the bean mixture into a bowl with the toasts surrounding it and let my guests top the toast on their own.)


Friday, November 5, 2010

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Artichokes and Peppers

This dish was adapted from a Food Network Kitchens recipe. I really liked this and it is pretty healthy. As you can tell from the picture below, I served it with roasted asparagus and roasted potatoes.

What You'll Need:
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each )
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1 and 1/2 cups jarred marinated artichokes, drained and patted dry
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, sliced into strips (I actually roasted my own. Learn how to roast your own here.)
2 tablespoons dry white wine like pinot grigio
1 cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

How to make it:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the olive oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Lay the chicken down in the skillet and cook, turning once, until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish or roasting pan and bake just until firm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

(If you are going to roast potatoes. Put them in the oven at the same time you transfer the chicken to the oven. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and dried herbs like oregano, rosemary or basil. Once you remove the chicken from the oven put the asparagus in, if serving, for 10 minutes. Leave the potatoes in. They should be done when the asparagus is done.)

While the chicken is finishing in the oven, add the onion, garlic, thyme to the skillet and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 5 minutes. Add the artichokes and peppers and cook until brown as well, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is syrupy and almost disolved, then add the broth and bring the mixture to a full boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens, and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the butter and add the parsley. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Snickerdoodle Ice Cream

I was so excited to see this new flavor of Blue Bell in the store tonight. Snickerdoodles are one of my favorite cookies and this little find just made my day. In fact, I think I'll go have a bowl now.

How to Roast Peppers

My new favorite thing to do is roast my own peppers. I have done it a few times lately with all types of peppers, red bell and poblano, mostly. It sounds complicated, but is actually quite easy. Next time a recipe calls for a jar of roasted peppers, try roasting some fresh peppers yourself. The flavor is so much better. Roasted peppers are great to make sauces with, put on paninis or burgers, mix into casseroles or soups and chili.

If you have a grill or gas stove you can do this directly over the flame, but if you're like me and most people, you don't. No worries, an oven broiler works just fine.

Here is how to do it:

1. Lay clean peppers on a baking sheet. (Don't judge my old, crusty baking sheets. It happens after a lot of use.)

2. Preheat the broiler (to high, if you have a choice)

3. Place the oven rack about 4 inches from the flame. I like to put mine on the second shelf.Lay clean peppers on a baking sheet.

4. Now you must keep an eye on these. Don't walk away. The skin of the pepper will start to roast and turn black. You'll hear it pop from the heat. Turn often until all sides are charred. I like to use tongs to turn.

5. Once charred all around, remove the peppers from the oven. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.


6. Once cooled the charred skins should easily peel off. Cut the tops off, cut in half, remove the seeds and the charred skin. The peppers are then ready to be added to your dish according to the recipe.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup

This dish was adapted from a Food Network Kitchens recipe. My husband and I are on a big soup kick, and it hasn't even really cooled off that much here. I have a whole list of soups that I plan to make this fall and winter season. This one will definitely make a reappearance.

What You'll Need:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish

How to make it:
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you'll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli. Return to the pot. (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)

Add the cheese in batches to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick. (I didn't need to do this.) Ladle into the bowls and garnish with cheese. Serve with some crusty bread.

More New Gadgets

Having a Bed, Bath and Beyond three miles from house sounds like it would be pretty cool, but I really need to get these compulsive, before-dinner trips under control. This week I ran up there not once, but twice right before dinner to pick up items that I needed, or thought I needed, to make my dish.

The first trip was on Tuesday when I was making a cheesy corn souffle with poblano peppers and black beans. The recipe called for a shallow, 3-dish, which I wasn't sure what that was or if I had it. I have 1 and half quart dishes and 9x13 pans, but I didn't have anyting that said 3 quart. So I run up to BBB looking for this mysterious dish, which it turns out I already have. I didn't waste the trip, however. I left with a set of Pyrex glass storage bowls, which I have been wanting anyway. I am so sick of plastic storage containers that get all gross and warped in the microwave and dishwasher.
The second compulsive trip was on Saturday when I was making cream of broccoli and cheddar soup. It was the third time in about two weeks that I made a soup that needed to be blended. Usually I just transfer it to my food processor and blend in batches, but that is kind of pain, so I told my husband I wanted to go get an immersion blender and I got him to agree to buy. Score! I got this handy, dandy Cuisinart stick blender that is going to be very useful when I make marinara sauce, soups and even milkshakes or smoothies.

Even though these trips were spontaneous, they weren't wasteful. I got items that I have been wanting for awhile and will use over and over. Plus it's BBB so you know I had 20 percent off coupons that I used.