Monday, March 30, 2009


I love this dish. Jonathan hasn't liked it when I've made it before because the original recipe calls for pepperoni, and he's apparently not keen on pepperoni when it's not on a pizza. (Yeah, I know... I don't know what's wrong with him...) So I'm trying it without the pepperoni. I'll let you know what I think of it after I try it tonight. I have a feeling it's going to taste just as wonderful. It certainly smelled that way.

Edited to add: Jonathan did like this version better but suggested maybe I try adding sausage next time. I'm not sure I've met a sausage dish I don't like, so I think it's a good suggestion.

Edited to add again: The photo I've added is the dish with 1 pound of mild sausage added (I cooked it separately, let it drain a bit on a paper-towel-lined plate, and then added it to the vegetable mixture before putting it in the oven). YUM.

A variation on this recipe by Rachael Ray


1 pound pasta curls (recommended: campagnelle by Barilla; short fusilli or cavatappi twists may be substituted)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Handful parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, seeded, quartered and thinly sliced
1 onion, quartered then thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
12 cremini mushrooms (baby portabellos), thinly sliced
Black pepper
1 (28 ounces) can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat broiler.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, add pasta and salt the water.

While the water boils combine ricotta, Parmesan and parsley in a large bowl and reserve.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the peppers, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté 6 to 8 minutes until tender and mushrooms are dark. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes and reduce heat to low.

Add a ladle of starchy cooking water to the ricotta just before you drain the pasta. Drain pasta then toss with ricotta and pepperoni mixture. Pour pasta into a baking dish and top evenly with peppers, onion and mushroom sauce. Top with a layer of mozzarella, oregano and red pepper flakes. Place under hot broiler and melt cheese until golden and bubbly.

Roasted Chicken and Brussels Sprouts

So I thought it would be fun to do a roasted chicken for Sunday dinner. I thought it would be especially tasty to roast some of the veggies that I use whenever I make chicken stock after doing a full roasted chicken. Now, not only do I have roasted veggies to add to my chicken broth mixture, but the chicken came out extra flavorful! It was moist and wonderful! Here's what I did:

4 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic heads
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 4- to 5-pound chicken, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 lemon, quartered
A couple sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Arrange oven rack so that it is in center of oven.

Put chopped celery, onion, and carrots in bottom of roasting pan. Take one of the garlic heads, separate the cloves, smash and peel them. Put them in the bottom of the roasting pan with the other vegetables. Add water or chicken broth.

Place rinsed and dried chicken on roasting pan rack. Rub salt and pepper on the inside of the cavity. Take other garlic head and slice it horizontally through the cloves. Stuff the chicken with the garlic, lemon, thyme, and bay leaves. Rub outside of chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper.

Roast chicken until it is deeply browned and juices run clear when thigh is pricked with a knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.


I served this chicken with those delicious Roasted Brussels Sprouts that I've made before. I added a little fresh thyme, and I added it to the oven toward the end of roasting the chicken.

I also made some cheesy garlic bread. It's just sliced Italian bread, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic salt, and topped with a shredded Italian cheese blend. I added it to the oven during the last 5 minutes of roasting the Brussels sprouts (the chicken was out by that time and resting).

The best thing about this meal? I was able to get everything out of the oven and on the table at the same time. It has taken me a lot of practice to get this right. So for any of you who think this looks good, especially for a potential meal for company, here was my meal timeline:

*Set up oven so that one rack is in the middle and one rack is all the way at the bottom.
*Put chicken in on middle rack. Set timer for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
*Set up Brussels sprouts and put on aluminum-foil-covered cookie sheet. 45 minutes into roasting chicken, put Brussels sprouts on bottom rack. Set timer for 45 minutes.
*Once chicken is ready to come out of the oven, pull it out, and move Brussels sprouts to middle rack. Move bottom rack up to the very top.
*5 minutes before Brussels sprouts are done, put cheesy garlic bread in on top rack.

Voilà! Everything's done at the same time, and you have a delicious meal to show for it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Orange Tofu Rice Bowl

Eh. It's not a bad dish, it's just not very exciting. I definitely had to double the sauce part of the recipe to have it taste like anything at all. And after looking at the reviews on the Kraft Foods website, it looks like I wasn't the only one.

I wonder if maybe using tofu instead of chicken (which is what the original recipe calls for) affected the taste. I'm not sure I care to compare, but if you do try the chicken, let me know what you think.

By all means, try this recipe if you're looking for a simple Asian recipe. But don't be expected to be blown away.

Orange Tofu Rice Bowl
A variation on this recipe from Kraft Foods

14 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
1/2 cup orange juice
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables (I think fresh veggies may actually work better)
3 cups hot cooked brown rice
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add tofu; stir-fry until starting to brown.

Stir in dressing and juice. Bring to boil. Add vegetables; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice. Sprinkle with nuts.

Fettuccine with Fennel and Sausage

When I made this, I wasn't expecting Benjamin to try it. He rarely tries anything I make because it's either "too spicy" or "too messy". But when he saw what I was making, he was convinced it was spaghetti and meatballs and announced that he loves spaghetti and meatballs. I don't remember the last time he ate spaghetti and meatballs, so I'm not entirely sure where that came from. But I wasn't about to argue. He ate it and he liked it, despite its definite messy nature. I knew I was going to like this, but finding something that even Benjamin likes makes this dish an enormous success.

I substituted the spicy Italian sausage for a sweet Italian sausage. This obviously helped in getting Benjamin to eat it. I also took out the oil altogether. After browning the sausage, the veggies had plenty of fat to sauté them properly.

The only other change was that I doubled the amount of sausage and fettuccine that the original recipe calls for. I didn't want to only use half a package of sausage, but I should have used only half of the fettuccine. I now have a container of plain fettuccine in my fridge since it just would have been way too much pasta to have added it all. At least I know for next time.

I'll add the recipe as I think it should be, though not necessarily how I did it or how it was originally. So yours will come out even better than mine did.

Fettuccine with Fennel and Sausage
A variation on this recipe from

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 pound bulk Italian pork sausage
1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium fennel bulb, cut into thin wedges
1 medium yellow or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes with basil, undrained
1/2 cup shredded fresh Parmesan cheese

Cook and drain pasta as directed on box. Return to saucepan; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium heat, stirring frequently, until no longer pink. Drain; remove sausage from skillet.

In same skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, fennel, bell pepper and garlic in oil 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Add tomatoes and cooked sausage to vegetables. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Stir in pasta; heat until hot. Sprinkle individual servings with cheese.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roasted Chicken, Green Beans, and "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes

We had some dear friends visit us over the weekend. I wanted to make them something homey and delicious for dinner, so I thought a roasted chicken would hit the spot. My mom passed on a new recipe that she found on the New York Times website. It was moist and really flavorful. I ended up not reading the recipe note though, so my "crispy drippings" were pretty much burned to oblivion. I'll definitely be making it again since it was really really really tasty, and I'm anxious to see how the crispy drippings are supposed to come out.

In an effort to keep things healthy, especially since I knew we'd be enjoying some of my Nutella ice cream for dessert and some beer after the kids went to sleep, I decided to serve some roasted green beans and "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes on the side. It's really amazing how much you can make cauliflower taste like potatoes. And though the green beans didn't look terribly pretty when they came out of the oven, they tasted awesome.

Overall, I think it was a successful meal. And our visit was definitely a great one. It was really relaxing and a lot of fun at the same time. I'm looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken With Crispy Drippings Croutons
Courtesy of The New York Times

Country bread, ciabatta or other sturdy bread, preferably stale, sliced at least 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more as needed
1 4- to 5-pound chicken, patted dry
1 garlic head, sliced in half horizontally, through the cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 lemon
1/2 bunch thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Arrange oven rack so that it is in center of oven. Lay bread slices in a thick, heavy-duty metal roasting pan in one layer. (Try not to use a thin or dark colored pan, which may cause bread to burn: see note.) Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Rub 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper inside cavity of chicken. Stuff cavity with garlic, bay leaf, lemon and thyme. Rub outside of chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle all over with remaining salt and pepper. Place it breast side up on bread.

Roast chicken until it is deeply browned and juices run clear when thigh is pricked with a knife, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve chicken with bread from pan.

Note: If you use a thin or dark roasting pan, you might consider lowering the oven temperature to 375ºF to prevent the bread from getting too dark. Check the pan periodically during cooking and lower the temperature as necessary (you can open the oven door for a minute to reduce heat quickly.) It may take longer for the chicken to cook through at a lower temperature.


Roasted Green Beans

1 bag frozen green beans, defrosted
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line rimmed cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easier clean-up.

Place defrosted beans in a bowl and toss with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on cookie sheet in a single layer.

Roast beans for 35-45 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Serve immediately.


"Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes
A variation on this recipe by George Stella

1 large head cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh or dry chives, for garnish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the hot cauliflower with the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper until almost smooth.

Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sugar Cookies

I thought it was comical that Benjamin's class was having a St Patrick's Day party. I figure it was just an excuse to have a party. And why not? We're all getting tired of winter and need a pick-me-up. Why not get dressed up in green and eat green-colored treats?

I was a bit silly and volunteered to make cookies for the party... Not like I didn't have enough party preparation recently, right? I made this sugar cookies recipe that had been posted on my May Mommies board 2 Christmases ago. Yes, I'm on a board with all of the women with whom I was pregnant with Benjamin, and we're still all (mostly) together. It's been such a lovely experience getting to know these women. We have our differences, but we also have each other's backs. I never knew I'd be able to make such good friends on the internet.

So here's my friend Linda's niece's sugar cookie recipe. I'm not a giant fan of sugar cookies, but this is definitely a tasty recipe. With or without the icing.

Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375ºF. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutter. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

3/4 cups shortening (Crisco)
1/2 stick butter, softened.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)

Mix the butter and shortening together with electric mixer, then add the extracts and mix. Then add 1-2 cups of the powdered sugar then mix very well. If stiff, add some milk. Then add 1 cup powdered sugar and mix, then the rest of the powdered sugar and mix. The more milk you add, the thinner the icing will become, so that's just whatever your preference is.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Vegetarian Curry

A lovely and easy curry.

Vegetarian Curry
Courtesy of


2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 diced red pepper
4 tiny potatoes, or 1 regular-sized
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
2 tablespoons curry
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes (and juice)
2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup frozen peas (to add later)
Brown rice

Add garbanzo beans to your crockpot. Cover with diced vegetables. Add spices. Dump in tomatoes, yogurt and broth. Stir to mix flavors.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or longer.

20 minutes before serving, stir in the frozen peas. Turn to high.

Serve over hot brown rice.

Pesto Pasta

A tasty and simple pasta dish.

Pesto Pasta
A variation on this recipe by Taste of Home

1 package (16 ounces) bow tie pasta
1 cup cut fresh asparagus (1-inch pieces)
1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium red pepper, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 container (7 ounces) prepared pesto
1 jar (7 ounces) oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
14-16 ounces cubed baked tofu, recipe follows
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding asparagus during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms, red pepper and garlic in oil until tender. Reduce heat; stir in the artichokes, pesto, tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes. Cook 2-3 minutes longer or until heated through.

Drain pasta; toss with veggie mixture and tofu. Sprinkle with cheese and pine nuts.

Baked Tofu

1 container (14-16 ounces) firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cube the tofu into 1-inch pieces. Toss in food storage bag with bread crumbs and salt. Arrange in a single layer on cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Nutella Ice Cream

This ice cream is, I'm proud to say, my own creation... I decided that Nutella sounded like a good flavor to try, so I tried it a couple of months ago... And it became my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream ever.

Nutella Ice Cream

1 jar (13 ounces) Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Using a hand or standing mixer, mix the Nutella and sugar until smooth. Add the milk and mix on low speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.

Turn the ice cream machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 35 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Pulled Pork and Slaw

So I threw Jonathan a surprise birthday party yesterday. It was his 30th birthday, so how could I let it pass without throwing him a party? And what better way to do so than a surprise? He's never had a surprise party before, and he was very surprised. I think everyone had a wonderful time.

And, of course, how could I have a party without food? My mom made some really delicious appetizers. The shrimp toast was the real hit amongst the guests. A good friend of ours, who's pretty much like an aunt to me, made her to-die-for chicken pot pie. And my mother-in-law provided some of Jonathan's favorite desserts -- oatmeal scotchies and one-bowl chocolate cake.

I made the main dishes and supplemented the dessert table. I made a new pulled pork recipe with coleslaw and barbecue sauce on the side. I made Jonathan's favorite pasta dish, vegetarian-style (baked tofu in place of the chicken the original recipe calls for). And I made a vegetarian curry that's one of Jonathan's and my favorites. To go with the cakes (in addition to my mother-in-law's cake, we also had a sheet cake from a local deli), I made vanilla ice cream and, my favorite, Nutella ice cream.

Oh... We also played a couple of games at the party (my husband is a bit of a game nut), and one of the prizes was a box of those wonderful peanut butter-hazelnut brownies I made before. And what a shame... One of the winners left her portion here... Awwww... *insert evil grin here*

Everyone seemed really happy with the spread. I'm thrilled, not only with how much people seemed to like it, but also with how much we have left over! I don't think I'm going to have to go grocery shopping for another 2 weeks.

So here are my new additions to my recipe collection... The pulled pork was done in the oven rather than in the crockpot, and, as far as texture, I'm not sure I liked it as much. The flavor was awesome though, so I think I'll just keep the recipe and put it in the crockpot the next time. I also halved the amount of vinegar and mustard called for in the original recipe for the barbecue sauce, as recommended by the reviewers on the Food Network website. It came out really tangy but not overwhelmingly so.

Happy 30th birthday, Love. I hope you had a birthday that you'll never forget.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwich
A variation on this recipe by Tyler Florence

Dry Rub:
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) pork roast, preferably shoulder or Boston butt

Cider-Vinegar Barbecue Sauce:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup yellow or brown mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pan drippings from the pork
Hamburger buns
Coleslaw, recipe follows
Pickle spears, for serving

Mix the paprika, garlic power, brown sugar, dry mustard, and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register 170ºF, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it's falling apart.

While the pork is roasting, make the barbecue sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne, and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you're ready for it.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While it's resting, deglaze the pan over medium heat with 3/4 cup water, scraping with a wooden spoon to pick up all of the browned bits. Reduce by about half. Pour that into the saucepan with the sauce and cook 5 minutes.

While the pork is still warm, you want to "pull" the meat: Grab 2 forks. Using 1 to steady the meat, use the other to "pull" shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir it all up well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon the pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of each hamburger bun, and top with some slaw. Serve with pickle spears and the remaining sauce on the side.

1 head green cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, grated
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions (white and green parts), chopped
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
Pinch sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Several dashes hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cabbage, carrots, red onion, and green onions in a large bowl. In another bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss gently to mix. Season the coleslaw with the celery seed, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper. Chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Big Bird Burger

Yes, that's right. I made Big Bird Burgers this week... No, they're not really made from Big Bird. If I was going to eat any children's show character, it would probably be Barney. Not because I think he'd be particularly tasty, but because I think he's incredibly annoying.

These burgers are easy to make and easy to freeze for later use. Rachael Ray is a little on the crazy side in terms of portion sizes. So while she claims this recipe makes 4 burgers, I've found the couple of times I've made it that it really makes 8.

I imagine this recipe could be a good way to try to sneak vegetables into your children... Unless your children are like my children in that they won't eat anything that looks even slightly different than a chicken nugget or a sandwich that includes cheese, peanut butter, or jelly. Maybe some day they'll enjoy my cooking...

Edited to add (1/16/12):
Dear self from almost 3 years ago,
Both of your kids ate this tonight. And one of them snuggled up to you afterward and told you how much he loves your cooking. Woooooooooo!

Big Bird Burger
A variation on this recipe by Rachael Ray


1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
2 pounds ground turkey
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, plus some for slathering on the rolls
10 leaves of fresh basil, shredded or torn
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley (a handful), chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
20 white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
Sliced cheese (whichever kind strikes your fancy, I've used Provolone and American)
Kaiser rolls or sandwich-size sourdough English muffins, split and toasted
Any other topping of your choice (i.e. lettuce, tomatoes, etc.)

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Put the spinach in a mixing bowl and combine with the turkey, shallots, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Make 8 patties of equal size. Drizzle the patties with oil and place them in the hot skillet. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, until the turkey is cooked through.

Preheat a second medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are nice and brown. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add the broth and cook until the pan is almost dry, about 2 minutes.

Top the burgers with the mushroom topping and the cheese. Cover loosely with aluminum foil. Turn off the pan and let the cheese melt, about 2 minutes.

Slather the tops of the buns or English muffins with a little mustard. Place the burgers on the bun bottoms and top with any other toppings. Put the bun or muffin tops in place.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Homemade Marinara

I was watching Giada (again) the other day, and she was doing a whole show on vegetarian meals. I'm trying to make at least one vegetarian meal a week to save some money... and because I'm a bit of a frustrated wanna-be vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian (really, a lacto-ovo pescatarian) for several months before getting pregnant with Benjamin. It felt good and was pretty easy, partly since we were living in San Francisco at the time (good fish, a lot of vegetarian options on menus). But I found that I got kind of bored with the lack of recipes I was finding. Of course, at the time I wasn't nearly as good at finding recipes.

And although I feel like it would be fun to try going back to my lacto-ovo pescatarian diet, I feel like now's not necessarily the time to do so. I don't want to raise my kids vegetarian. And I know Jonathan doesn't really want all vegetarian meals, all the time. So I'm going the occasional vegetarian route. And this meal is a perfect addition to that approach.

I was so excited to eat this while I was making it because it smelled so good! And I wasn't disappointed. It's filling and has a wonderfully complex flavor. As I've mentioned before, roasted vegetables simply rock and definitely add a lot to this dish.

I'm going to fiddle with the recipe a bit next time since I think it could have used more mushrooms and maybe a bit less squash. The only thing I did switch up this time was the cheese... The original recipe called for fontina and smoked mozzarella, but since both of them are pretty expensive, I went with an Italian cheese blend.

I also used homemade marinara. I really love making marinara. It makes the house smell really good and makes me feel all cozy.

Edited to add: In making this recipe again, I used the ratio of zucchini/squash to mushrooms that I've included below (which is different from the original recipe), and I really liked it better. And the picture I've included uses cavatappi instead of penne (which is also different from the original recipe). The pasta doesn't really make much of a difference, but I prefer cavatappi.

The only other thing that we noticed this time around was that the leftovers aren't as good as when it's fresh. The depth of flavor and smokiness kind of get lost over time.

Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
A variation on this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis


2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on the size)
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound pasta (penne, rigatoni, cavatappi, whatever you prefer)
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Reduce the oven to 400ºF.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.


Marinara Sauce
A variation on this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
5 basil leaves, chopped
A small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and herbs, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Layered Enchilada Bake

We have a few very busy weekends coming up, so I'm cooking during the week. *GASP!* It's a bit harder since the kids are running around while I'm trying to do something productive (a near-impossible feat, indeed), so I'm going with easier meals... Such as this really yummy one.

I've made this several times before and am switching things up a bit. I've always substituted ground turkey for the ground beef since we're not big beef-eaters. I tried it before with homemade Italian dressing, and it was good (I'm using store-bought this time). And I used to put the sour cream in, like the original recipe calls for, but it made it kind of goopy. So, upon my husband's request, I'm just going to use the sour cream as garnish.

This is also really good to make ahead of time. Once assembled, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. When you're ready to eat it, you just bake it at 400ºF, covered, for 1 hour. Then, remove foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Layered Enchilada Bake
A variation on this recipe from Kraft Foods

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups salsa
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
1/4 cup Zesty Italian Dressing
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
6 flour tortillas (8-inch)
1 cup sour cream
1 package (8 ounces) Mexican-style finely shredded cheese

Heat oven to 400ºF. Brown meat with onions in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Add salsa, beans, dressing and seasoning mix; mix well.

Arrange 3 tortillas in single layer on bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; cover with layers of 1/2 each of the meat mixture and cheese. Repeat all layers. Cover with foil.

Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until casserole is heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Creamy Broccoli-Stuffed Chicken Breasts and Coffee Ice Cream

Today is my husband's 30th birthday. We were away last weekend, celebrating with our friends in the Poconos, so tonight's dinner was going to be a bit modified anyway... But Mother Nature decided to give my husband a giant snowstorm for his birthday, so the meal has become even more modified. I had the makings for a meal that I didn't get to a couple of weeks ago -- Creamy Broccoli-Stuffed Chicken Breasts. And for dessert, a non-egg-based coffee ice cream to go with the delicious One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes that my mother-in-law made for him while caring for our son last weekend.

I will be back to comment on the chicken after we've had it, but the little taste I had of the coffee ice cream as I was putting it away in the freezer was really good. Definitely less intense than the other coffee ice cream I've made. And I'm definitely going to try topping it with the chocolate sauce I still have in my fridge. Or may use some of those extra chocolate-covered espresso beans I still have somewhere in my pantry.

Edited to add: The chicken was really tasty. Definitely a good meal to make when you're having guests who like simple, non-spicy food.

The ice cream was a different story... It tasted too much like Kahlua. I'm either going to omit it or use less the next time.

Edited to add (4/7/12): I took the Kahlua out of the ice cream, which helped, but I think I should also cut down on the almond extract. It tastes more like almond extract than coffee with the 2 teaspoons. I've adjusted the amount in the recipe below. Here's hoping that's better.

Creamy Broccoli-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Courtesy of Kraft Foods

1 package (6 ounces) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 cup water
6 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pounds)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, drained
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) 98% fat-free condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Combine stuffing mix and water in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pound chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Add broccoli to stuffing; mix lightly. Spread onto chicken to within 1/2 inch of edges; roll up starting at one short end of each.

Place, seam-sides down, in 13x9-inch baking dish. Mix soup and milk; pour over chicken. Top with paprika and cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until chicken is done (165ºF).


Coffee Ice Cream
A variation on this recipe by Cuisinart

1 1/2 cups whole milk, chilled
1 1/8 cups granulated sugar
3-5 tablespoons instant espresso powder (to taste)
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk, granulated sugar and espresso powder until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and extracts.

Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.