Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quick n Easy Canneloni

Hate is such a strong word but I have to use it in my next sentence. 
Mr. Betty Martha hates pasta!  I know, how can the carb queen marry such a man??  Side note: Mr. Ugh is now known as Mr. Betty Martha - he wanted a new name.
He was forced to eat Kraft Dinner as a child and despised it even back then - I've been told the story numerous times and will spare you the "upchucking" details but needless to say he wont eat the stuff. 
In our house we have what I like to call "I'm eating pasta so do whatever you want" nights but for some strange reason when I make this dish he wants to ensure there is enough to bring for lunch the next day!!
It's a quick and easy recipe, and tastes great. 

Funny story, I was watching the Food Network the other day and the chef was going to make cannelloni.  I found myself glued to the tv to see if, or what other things they might add or take away in case I wanted to change mine up (even though its the best already). Ok ok that wasn't really funny.  They didn't use anything different for the filling, if anything, mine sounded as if it might have a better "taste".  Only difference is I didn't make my own pasta. *fellow blog readers I would like to own a pasta machine, maybe for Christmas? Just sayin*

Cheese n Spinach Stuffed Cannelloni

14 ready to bake cannelloni shells
1 pkg light ricotta
5 c. spinach
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

For the filling - wilt the spinach in a pan or pot (which you can cover) with a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tbsp. butter. This should only take a few minutes. Remove, let cool and drain to remove most of the excess water.

In a bowl, add ricotta, chopped garlic, spices and egg and mix well - but do not over mix. Chop spinach to a rough chop and fold in. Since we used the ready to bake shells it can be difficult sometimes to get the filling in. You can use a pastry bag or the trusty Ziploc bag with the tip cut to fill the shells.
Sauces below
*once your sauces are made place a thin layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of your pan and place the filled shells on top. Dollop the bechamel sauce over the shells and then top with the remainder of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parm cheese and mozzarella. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes*

1 can diced tomatoes
8-10 fresh basil leaves lightly torn
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 - 2 tsp. olive oil
Empty contents of can into blender and pulse to a smooth consistency.  Heat oil and add garlic for a few seconds, pour in tomato puree, add garlic, basil and stir.  Heat for 10 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce (optional)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (whole tastes better)
1 1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
Making a basic roux, melt the butter, sprinkle in the flour and nutmeg and stir.  Cook for a 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the milk in stages, whisking each time to smooth out.  Don't worry if you see lumps, they will disappear.  Sauce will thicken as you cook it.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A is for Apple P is for Pie Y is for YUM

What happens when you go apple picking with your immediate family, your in-laws, and the in-laws family?
You end up with a whack load of apples, AGAIN!! 
It seems like deja vu considering about a month ago I was inundated with the little buggers and I JUST finished using them.
I love my family so I would never trade the time that I can spend with them.  They are all quirky in their own way and it makes little outings a barrel of laughs to say the least!  So when they decided that we'd all get together and go for Thanksgiving how could I say no?? 

Uncle Gary finding a use for the rotting apples

Then....the cold from "HE double hockey sticks" came and all I wanted to do was sleep and DIE. Sadly apple picking waits for no one and so we headed out, kleenex stuffed into pockets, Vick's on the chest and a warm cup of apple cider in hand.  They do say "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" so who was I to argue?
So, ok, I do have to admit that we went for the company, the sunshine, and the picturesque scenery NOT to pick any more apples.  My mother-in-law however picked with our son and  since I have been a resident baker the last little while I think she was assuming I needed more and more and more apples. AH well....lets make pies!

Apple Pie
Filling -
5-6 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. butter diced into small pieces
pinch of salt

Wash, peel, core and slice apples and place in a bowl.  sprinkle the lemon juice over apples and toss to coat (this stops the apples from browning).  Place cinnamon, sugars, flour and salt over top and mix.  Pour into unbaked pie shell (homemade or store bought - recipe below). 
Take the butter and place around the apples sporadically.  Cover with second pie crust, pinching the sides or using one of those fancy dancy pastry cutters which I don't own - hint hint and cut a few slits for steam.
Some people like to brush a little water/egg mixture over top of crust and use some rock sugar but I am not that fancy.
Bake at 400 for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 and continue to bake another 35-45 minutes.  My test is the top of the crust should be slightly browning

Homemade Crust - if you aren't lazy or strapped for time
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
2 tbsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp to 8 tbsp cold water as needed

Combine flour with salt. Using a pastry knife or fork, cut in butter and shortening until mixture is a crumbly texture. Add lemon juice and water and mix just until dough comes together. Shape into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.  Roll out to 2 10 in circles (so that it will overhang the 9 in pie plate)  Lightly flour the pie plate, place one sheet and fill with apple mixture, place second over top and pinch the two to form a seal.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Cake - Just in time for Thanksgiving

Pumpkins...Odd shaped and orange. (not always tho)
What else can you say about them?  Great for so many things really....such versatile fruits - or is it a vegetable?  No, has seeds.
You eat the flesh, sweet or savory, you can bake the seeds and the outside can be carved for Hallowe'en.  OR you could simply paint the outsides and use them as decorations. (That's my Martha coming out)  But really, how many other fruits can you do that with?
Do you know what the largest pumpkin last year weighed in at?  A whopping 1725lbs!!  RIDICULOUS!!!
I doubt you could use that to make pies, but if you could, how many pies do you think it could make??

Every year I am in charge of 2 things for Thanksgiving dinner....gravy and pumpkin pies.
This year I thought it would be nice for a change but there was some resistance when I said I was making a pumpkin cake.  WHAT ABOUT THE PIES???  Don't worry, I am still making those too but we should welcome a change once in a while folks.
I found this recipe on and it just sounded so tantalizing.  I read some of the reviews and decided to add a touch of oil as I like moist cakes and I couldn't afford to have a dry cake.  I might be banished from the kitchen if it didn't turn out well.
It looks great - tomorrow will be the true test.  I hope I don't have nightmares

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Nonstick cooking spray
3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 15-oz can pure pumpkin
1/3 c milk
1/4 c. oil

Preheat to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch cake pans or spring form pans. Line bottoms with parchment; spray parchment. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in another large bowl until smooth. Beat in brown sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in pumpkin. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions alternately with milk and oil in 2 additions, beating to blend between additions. Divide batter between pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pans on rack 15 minutes. Remove outer ring and invert cakes onto racks. Remove parchment
Once cool, slice each cake in half.

1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp finely grated orange peel
2 c powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. orange juice
Chopped walnuts or walnut halves, toasted

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add cream cheese and orange peel; beat until smooth. Add powdered sugar and juice and beat on low speed until smooth.
Trim rounded tops from cakes. Place 1 cake layer, cut side up, on your serving dish. Spoon some frosting onto the layer; spread to edges. Repeat 2 more times with cake and frosting; top with remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake (layer will be thin).
Take chopped walnuts and press them onto the side of the cake and if you like some on the top.

Thanks Epicurious...I'm looking forward to devouring this tomorrow :)
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Drumroll Please....Drumsticks, Chorizo 'n Kale Creation

Alright, my turn....KALE!  That's my pick this week.
I seem to be watching an obscene amount of the Food Network lately and I happen to really enjoy "Chuck's Day Off" a lot.
It could be his cute little French accent or the fact that he is adorable but mostly because he can really cook!!
So this week I turned to kale (which I have never had before) because of him.  He made it seem so easy and the dish looked AMAZING.
I did however manage to remove the clams that he used in this dish and a few other ingredients so its sort of like I made it up myself no? Or should I say "non"?
I normally don't like to eat meat from a bone, (I know, I have some strange eating habits) but I couldn't resist this one.
This will definitely be another dinner to add to the revolving monthly list as it is quick and tasty not to mention it uses 1 dish to make - less cleanup for this lady!!
I hope you will enjoy this as much as my family did. 

Chicken Drumsticks, Chorizo with Kale

6-8 chicken drumsticks
2 large potatoes diced
1 medium red onion sliced
3 cloves smashed garlic
2-3 chorizo sausages sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. paprika (smoky is best)
3 leaves and stalks of kale julienned
2 tbsp. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl mix chicken, chorizo and paprika.
Remove to an oven proof skillet and brown the chicken on all sides in the oil (about 5 minutes)
Add chorizo and brown another 2-3 minutes.  Layer diced potatoes, onions and garlic over top the chicken mixture.  Season with salt and pepper lightly.  Place in preheated oven (350) for 25 minutes or until the chicken is fork tender.  Finally, place kale on top and add the chicken stock, cook another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven, stir and serve.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

"¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!" Enchiladas! Enchiladas!

Have you ever been to Mexico? You should really go if you haven't been.
I've been a few times and every time I return home I step on the scale and find out that I have gained a minimum of 8 pounds.  I'm not kidding!
I would wake up, go to the buffet, swim a bit, do some activities, go to the buffet, more activities, more food.  And usually squeak in some more food just before bed!  And I always tried to eat the most authentic of dishes just to get my fix.
I swear I have Mexican blood in me - I love the food, the spices, the creative way of making simple dishes taste so wonderful!
We often have tacos and fajitas at home but enchiladas, not so much...which I am really not quite sure why.  They are healthy, tasty, and really not that difficult to prepare and I eat them when I am in Mexico so???
I have no excuse...
BUT last week I was in a Mexican mood and decided that it was time for some more authentic flavors.
This recipe is not a tomato based like you would find in North American restaurants - just warning you now, don't expect a Taco Bell experience here.

Chicken Enchiladas
2 chicken breasts - skinless (doesn't need to be boneless)
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 small can green chilies
2-3 tomatoes diced
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cumin
salt n pepper to taste
1 c. sour cream
2 c. cheese (I used Tex Mex blend but Queso Fresco would be the best)
8-10 tortillas - I used flour because that was available

First, boil the chicken for about 15 minutes - I threw in a bay leaf, some Mexican oregano to the water.
While the chicken is boiling prepare the sauce.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, cook the onions on med heat until golden, add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour, cumin, salt and pepper to the onion mixture and stir until combined.  Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Pour in the chicken stock slowly and continue to stir - it will thicken because of the roux (this is the term used for a thickening agent for sauces) you made with the flour and oil/butter.  Stir in the can of chilies and sour cream and 1/2 the cheese.  Sauce is done!
Now that the sauce is ready you are almost ready to eat - still need to shred your chicken (or you can cube it if you like but then its not really authentic - just sayin)

Take your tortillas, a spoonful of chicken a touch of shredded cheese and roll them up - place in a dish.
Pour the sauce all over the enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
Throw in the oven for about 10 minutes just to melt and brown the cheese.
Serve with Mexican rice and refried beans - trust me, you're gonna LOVE it!
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