Fall Favorite

September 25, 2011

Per the calendar and football frenzy, fall has arrived, but as a few girlfriends of mine and I were discussing on a walk this morning in the mid-80 degree weather, it certainly doesn’t feel like it has yet.  As we watched groups water-skiing and wake-boarding next to us in the lake, we talked about how conflicting it is when it is still so warm outside, yet there is so much great football on TV inside—both Saturday with college games and Sunday with NFL and more importantly, your own personal fantasy games.

I found this same conflict in my grocery shopping this week. Given that this weekend is the last free weekend without a wedding pretty much until December, I decided I would spend some time making some nice autumn dishes since we will be mostly enjoying such foods on the road in the coming months.  However, it was hard to envision making and enjoying these typical fall dishes when it feels like nothing but summer.  In the end, my desire to cook a fall dish before Christmas won out, so we enjoyed my favorite butternut squash dish last night (an open homemade ravioli that I will share below) and currently have red beans, rice and andouille sausage in the slow cooker now, the recipe for which you can see in a previous entry.

The ravioli recipe is from one of my favorite Italian cookbooks, and is a nice dish for a fall dinner.  It is relatively easy to make and has an incredible mix of flavors.  There is also some room for creativity, so if you have a hard time following a recipe step-by-step and ingredient by ingredient, you can switch it up to your preference.

Three Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash

Ingredients

For squash:

2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 – 1 inch cubes

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 stick of butter, melted

For raviolis:

8 sheets of pasta (homemade or you could lasagna noodles-make extra in case they break)

1.5 cups of ricotta

1/2 cup  mascarpone cheese (or fresh buffalo mozzarella works too)

1 cup grated parmesan

3 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2.5 – 3 tablespoons of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Bring pot of water to boil

Combine squash, salt, pepper, brown sugar and melted butter in a mixing bowl

Spread out on baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until tender

Meanwhile, make your homemade pasta sheets or cook lasagna noodles as directed

While pasta is cooking, combine cheeses in a mixing bowl and salt & pepper to taste

When noodles are almost al dente, drain and cut them in half creating 16 tops/bottoms

Place 8 noodles in bottom of greased casserole dish

Top each noodle with cheese mixture, spreading evenly across each one

Cover the cheese layer with another noodle, almost forming a sandwich (don’t press)

Top each open ravioli with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of sage

Finally, spread an equal amount of butternut squash on each open ravioli

Bake the raviolis topped with the squash at 375 for 10 minutes or until cheese bubbles

Top with fresh parsley & serve with a fresh salad and bread

Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients: Medium

Serves: 4

Total Time: 60 minutes including prep and cook time

Goes With: Salad, Garlic Ciabatta Bread & Cabernet Sauvignon

I love cooking Mexican food.  It’s delicious, generally fairly easy to make and makes great leftovers!  Thus, I am often trying to find various types of Mexican dishes so I am not making the same tacos every time.

I came across this recipe in a cookbook I referenced in this blog once before, which contains lighter and healthier recipes with organic ingredients recommended.  Although there are a lot of ingredients, this is very easy to make and can be on the table 40 minutes after you open your cabinet or fridge to start including a 25 minute bake time.  I also like the cornbread topping as a part of the casserole.  It would almost be like a garlic bread baguette getting baked into a lasagna, and I love it!  This would also make a great side to bring to a potluck or to serve alongside with a more traditional Mexican dish such as tacos.  You could also mix up the ingredients to this recipe, which I intend to try out next time, such as adding meat or  using/adding different beans and/or vegetables. I also plan to make the cornbread part of this recipe on its own next time I want to make cornbread.

Bean and Cornbread Casserole

Ingredients

1 teaspoon of cannola oil (vegetable or olive oil would work too)

Cooking spray

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 can of creamed corn

1 tiny can of green chiles, drained

1/2 cup salsa (mild, medium or hot to your liking)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of cumin

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

2 cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 can of stewed or diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup (or more if you like cheese like me) of shredded cheddar

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup canola oil

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Coat large sauce or saute pan with cooking spray

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat

Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes

Add 1/2 can of corn, 1/2 can of chiles, salsa, and next 5 ingredients (3 spices, beans and tomatoes)

Bring to boil

Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes

Meanwhile, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl

In a separate smaller bowl, combine remaining corn and chiles, 1/2 the cheese, buttermilk, 1/4 cup oil and egg whites

Once mixed, add to the cornmeal mixture in the other bowl

Once the bean mixture is done simmering, pour mixture into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the bean mixture

Now, spread the cornbread batter evenly on top

Bake for 25 minutes or until cornbread is done

Serve with chips and salsa

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: A lot

Serves: 6 as entree, 10 as side

Goes With: Mexican beer

Easy and Excellent Enchiladas

February 24, 2011

I have recently started a new job and have been enjoying it very much.  The change has been energizing from the start, and now I am wrapping up my 3rd week and really starting to get in a groove.  I am beginning to add my own personal touch to various tasks and taking on new ones without hesitation.   There is something nerve-wracking, yet more so empowering about taking more initiative and trying new things.  So, although adding a bit of “you” to a new job or a tried and true recipe can be scary at first, I find that we are truly best at being ourselves.  Sure, there is the risk of finding out just why there wasn’t more salt or this or that included in the recipe, but sometimes your touch could be just the thing that your guests compliment.  And, if it tastes the same as the tried and true, no better or worse, then why not create it while being yourself?

Well, this week I added a little bit of my own touch to a tried and true recipe that time and again I and many others have enjoyed.  I don’t even know where I got the original recipe from to be honest, but I think my version is much tastier and will become more of a go-to dinner in our rotation than a fall-back meal.

Cheese (and Chicken) Enchiladas

Ingredients

8 flour or whole wheat tortillas, medium to large size

*optional* – 1 lb of boneless chicken breast, boiled and shredded

1 jar of a green chile mild salsa (usually 16 oz)

1/2 small can of mild fire-roasted diced green chiles (whole can is usually 4 oz)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

8 oz cream cheese

10 oz of shredded cheese, preferably a Monterey jack and cheddar mix

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup green onions, diced

2 teaspoons of cumin, separated

Salt and pepper to taste

4 oz of sharp white cheddar cheese, freshly grated from a block

White rice

Tortilla chips

Extra salsa for dipping

Directions

If making chicken enchiladas, cook the chicken as follows:

Bring a small pot of water to boil

Boil chicken until cooked through over medium-high heat

Remove chicken and shred using two forks

Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of cumin and salt and pepper to taste

With or without chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Combine the beans, cream cheese,  jack and cheddar cheese mix, bell pepper, chile peppers, green onions, 3/4 cup of the salsa and 1 teaspoon of cumin

Spoon mixture evenly into 8 tortillas to form enchiladas

Spread 3/4 cup of the salsa (or more if you’d like) evenly atop the enchiladas

Top with freshly grated sharp white cheddar

Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until warmed throughout

Serve with white rice, chips and salsa

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Medium

Serves: 4

Goes With: Mexican beer or wine

This is something I threw together the other week after having a craving for sun dried tomatoes.  It is a quick and easy recipe that can be perfect for an appetizer or a way to spice up a sandwich.  Served cold or warm, as bruschetta or as a dip, you can make a bunch and use it for various things throughout the week.  If you are a fan of olives, I imagine you could include them as well.

Ingredients

Baguette (if making bruschetta)

Olive oil (if making bruschetta)

2 cans artichokes, (drained, rinsed and chopped)

1 package of sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)

1 package of crumbled feta cheese

2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced or finely chopped

Pinch of  cayenne pepper to taste

Pinch of paprika to taste

Salt and pepper to taste                            

Crackers & vegetables for dipping                                                                                         

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degress (if making bruschetta)

Slice baguette into thin slices and brush with olive oil

Place slices on cookie sheet and put in oven

In a food processor, mix artichokes, tomatoes, cheese, garlic and spices

Remove bread from oven and evenly spread mixture on slices

Place cookie sheet back in oven until spread is warmed and bread is toasted

Or, serve the spread as a dip, either cold or warmed in the microwave

Serve with crackers and/or fresh vegetables for dipping

Or, use the spread on a sandwich, either cold or warmed in the microwave

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Few

Serves: 6-10 people as an appetizer or sandwich spread

Goes With: Wine

“Best of” Thanksgiving

December 13, 2010

Every year for Thanksgiving, as well as a few times throughout the year, I try a new mashed potato recipe in search of the perfect, undisputable taste that I easily find at fine dining restaurants at any time of year, every single time.   I have tried more sour cream, less heavy cream, more butter, or less salt.  You name it, I have tried it.  I have yielded delicious potatoes that I have devoured for days on end, but never one that has sold me to never try another one again.  Well, this year, I have found it, and will most likely not look back again.  I decided to try the recipe out of a Morton’s Steakhouse cookbook I got last year.  Who better to turn to than one of these establishments where I am never let down by the quality of such sides?  I also have never been great at gravy, and this year tried a recipe from Williams Sonoma that went with the turkey I prepared, and I must say, the combo of these potatoes and this gravy is really top notch and by far and away my favorite dish of the big feast this year.   

Best Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients

5 lbs russet potatoes, rinsed and peeled

2 sticks of unsalted butter

1 cup of heavy cream

1 cup of sour cream

1 tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of ground white pepper (I used black pepper)

Instructions:

Cut potatoes into 1.5″ cubes

Transfer to a large pot

Add enough cold water to cover them by 1″

Bring to boil over high heat

Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 20 25 minutes until fork tender

Cook butter and cream in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts (do not boil)

Drain potatoes in colander

Transfer potatoes to electric mixer and mix on low for 2-3 minutes

Gradually add the sour cream, salt and pepper while mixing on low 

Once sour cream is mixed in, slowly add the butter/cream mixture, while continuing to mix on low

Once butter/cream mixture mixed, increase speed to medium for 30 – 45 seconds

Serve immediately

Serves: 8 – 10

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Few

Goes With: Gravy, meat and a green vegetable

Shallot Gravy

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2 shallots depending on size

1 teaspoons of ground thyme

4 tablespoons of flour

Pan drippings with fat removed from a 20+ lb bird

1- 2 cups chicken stock, depending upon desired consistency

Instructions:

Melt butter in saute pan

Add shallots and thyme and cook for 5 minutes

Add the flour and cook, stirring rapidly for 2 minutes

Add pan drippings and stock, stirring until gravy is thickened

Add salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 8 -10

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Few

Goes With: Mashed potatoes and poultry

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving with family on Friday, so in the spirit of football and beers, I decided to make a nice hearty slow cooker meal to provide a wonderful aroma throughout the day and a delicious late afternoon meal just as a traditional Thanksgiving meal would.  I have not made a lot of Red Beans and Rice recipes, but have tasted a variety of them at potlucks I’ve attended, all of which were tasted different.  It appears everyone has their own take on the “must-have” ingredient to meet some sort of traditional standard, and in trying to find the best fit for our Thanksgiving, I learned that there really are a million ways to make this dish.  I found an incredibly easy recipe  to make that required few ingredients, took no time to prep time, and used canned beans versus dry beans.  I really enjoyed this recipe and hope you do too!  It takes a lot of garlic, smells like a lot of garlic, but turns out just right.  I will include the recipe for 12, but I halved it, and it tasted fine and easily made enough for 8 people.

Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Sausage

Ingredients

8 large fresh andouille sausage links

8 cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 onion, diced

6 tablespoons of garlic, minced

1 can diced tomatoes with juices

2 cups of water

2 tablespoons of Cajun Seasoning

4 dashes of hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf

4 cups of rice and ingredients needed to prepare

2 -3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips

Instructions

Bring large pot of water to boil

Cook sausage in boiling water until cooked through

Remove from water and cut into 1/4″ slices

In your slow cooker, combine sausage, garlic, beans, tomatoes, onion and water.

Add seasoning, hot pepper sauce, salt and bay leaf

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours

Serve with 4 cups of white rice, cheddar cheese for topping and tortilla chips for dipping

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Medium

Goes With: Tortilla Chips, Pale Ales

Serves: 12 – 16 (but can easily be halved)

Thanksgiving Recipes

November 21, 2010

It has been awhile since I’ve posted any recipes, and really, this is strictly because I have been very busy.  I have managed to continue cooking as often as ever, and with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I thought I would share some recipes ideas for the big day of thanks.   This year, I am hosting family for Thanksgiving at my place, and the menu consists of the following: All Natural turkey that I will prepare with a dry brine and roasting glaze from Williams Sonoma, a traditional bread stuffing with celery and dried fruit, pumpkin bread, maple-glazed carrots, creamed corn, sour cream mashed potatoes, a green bean and squash casserole, an apple-mallow yambake, Brussel sprouts and squash with a bacon vinaigrette, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls and then pies for dessert.

As a cook, I am very excited about preparing so much food for family and enjoying a day of football, feasting,  and naps.   However, in preparing for the feast, I’ve come to realize that one draw back to Thanksgiving is the repetitive and often set menu.  In the spirit of tradition and honoring family favorites, we often cook the same things, the same way, year after year.  In an effort to change things up, yet still honor family traditions, I am incorporating a few new recipes this year, altering a few others, and then preparing a few as they have always been served.  I will share a several here today to help you change things up in your kitchen this year should you desire.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Apple-Mallow Yambake  

Ingredients

2 apples, sliced

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

34 oz can of yams, drained and sliced

1/4 cup butter

2 cups of mini marshmallows

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon

Toss with apples and nuts

Grease a 1.5 quart casserole dish (approximately 8″ x 8″)

Alternate layers of yams and apple mixture

Dot with butter

Cover and bake for 35-40 minutes

Remove and sprinkle with marshmallows

Broil until lightly browned (ONLY ABOUT 30 – 60 SECONDS)

Serves: 6 -8

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Few

Goes With: Thanksgiving!

 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Butter

Ingredients

 2 lbs sweet potatoes

6 tablespoons milk

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of pecans

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Directions

Pierce potatoes with fork and place on paper towel in microwave

Microwave on HIGH for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes

Wrap potatoes in a towel and let stand for 5 minutes

When cooled, scoop out pulp and discard skins

Combine pulp, milk, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and salt and mash

Combine remaining brown sugar, butter, pecans and cinnamon in a bowl

Top each serving with pecan mixture

Serves: 4-6

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Medium

Goes With: Thanksgiving

 

Corn Pudding

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 cup whole kernel corn, fresh from the cob or canned

1 teaspoon of sugar

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat butter and oil

Add onion and saute over medium heat for 3 -5 minutes

Add corn and sugar

Lower heat

Beat egg yokes

Add cheese and yokes to corn mixture

Pour into 1.5 quart (8″ x 8″) casserole dish

Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold into mixture

Bake uncovered for 1 hour

Serves: 4 -6

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: Medium

Goes With: Thanksgiving

 

Green Bean Casserole

3 lbs frozen green beans

Hot water

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 1/2 cups fine bread crumbs, divided

2 large eggs, beaten

4 cups mild cheddar cheese

2 (10.75 oz ) cans of cream of celery soup

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish

Thaw green beans in hot water

Rinse and drain thoroughly and set aside

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and saute onion for 5 minutes

Combine green beans, onion, 1/2 cup bread crumbs and all other ingredients

Mix well in a bowl and then transfer to casserole dish

Melt remaining butter and mix with remaining bread crumbs

Spread bread crumb mixture evenly over casserole

Bake for 1 hour or until green beans in center are tender and topping is browned

Serves: 10 -12

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: A lot

Goes With: Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

2 – 2 1/2 cups sugar

3 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

2 teaspoons of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ginger

1 cup of vegetable oil

2/3 cup water

1 can pumpkin

4 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix all ingredients together with a mixer

Divide into 3 1 lb loaf cans (or 4 small loaf pans)

Bake 1 hour

Serves: 4-6 per loaf

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients: A lot

Goes With: Thanksgiving appetizer or gift