Thursday, September 24, 2009

A new version of roast chicken

So we've started having my brother-in-law over for dinner every Monday night, and the first night we had him over, I decided to make Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken. And it was pretty perfect. It made the house smell great, the vegetables were fantastic, the chicken was moist. She really does know how to make a mean roast chicken.

I had watched her make this on her show, and she used slightly different vegetables than she puts in her recipe. So I added the parsnips that I saw her add on the show and then added some potatoes that I had. She also put the vegetables back in the oven to crisp them up a bit while the chicken rested. I felt like the potatoes definitely made it a full meal, all in one pan. Yum!

Perfect Roast Chicken
A variation on this recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)



1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks (peeling is optional)
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Place the onions, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Put the vegetables back in the oven while chicken rests to crisp them up a bit. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

This dish has sneaky protein. The tofu takes on a very similar texture as the cottage cheese, so you don't even notice it in there. And with all the veggies and other cheese, it's a pretty wonderful dish. And very kid-friendly. I couldn't believe how easily we got Benjamin to eat this! And he wanted it night after night until it was all gone. Woo!

Cheesy Stuffed Shells
Courtesy of Melissa d'Arabian


For the Sauce:
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper

For the Shells:
1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
8 ounces silken tofu, mashed
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and celery and sauté until soft but not brown, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, oregano, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the shells: Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes; drain. Mix the tofu, spinach, cottage cheese, Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, the egg and garlic in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the dish. Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells and place in the baking dish, open-side up. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

We've been dealing with some very un-Fall-like weather. Humid and warm. I'm refusing to put on my capris again, so to cope with the rise in temperature and still have a little taste of Fall, I made some pumpkin pie ice cream.

This recipe has the traditional pumpkin pie spices. Jonathan thinks the spices take away from the pumpkin flavor a bit, but it's still really good. I think the first time we had this ice cream, we paired it with some angel food cake, which is definitely a fabulous combination.

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Courtesy of Nick Holcomb 2002 for's Ice Cream Cook-Off Competition

4 cups half and half
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 vanilla beans
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
7.5 ounces canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all dairy into a saucepan along with the sugar. Split and scrape the vanilla beans into the dairy and sugar mixture. Bring to 170ºF to dissolve sugar, then let cool at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.

While dairy is heating, grate nutmeg into pumpkin and add the other spices. Mix in a bowl to combine and chill overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, take pumpkin and dairy mixture out. Filter dairy mixture to remove large vanilla bean pieces. Add some of the dairy mixture to the pumpkin and mix well to loosen it up. Then mix both the dairy and pumpkin together.

Freeze in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's instructions (about 25 minutes). Let the ice cream harden for at least two hours unless serving all immediately.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Great Pumpkin Cookies

Fall is right around the corner, so I had to make these cookies. They're some of my favorites. Hearty, soft, and delicious. And definitely a must for my favorite time of year to cook and bake.

Great Pumpkin Cookies
Courtesy of Jean Rock (my grandmother-in-law)


2 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

Cream butter, gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.

Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Mix well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using ice cream scoop or 1/4-cup measuring cup, drop dough onto baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet; cool on racks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Almost Like Thanksgiving" Soup

It's getting cooler outside, so I'm starting to look at my soup recipes again. And I couldn't be happier. I love to make soup. And this soup is particularly cozy and homey and awesome. My mom found this great soup cookbook last year from Cuisine At Home Magazine. I looked through it, found the recipes I wanted to try, and she photocopied them for me. Looking at the website, it looks like they seem to put out several different kinds of cookbooks on a yearly basis.

So I've made this soup once before and used all the called-for ingredients. This time, I thought I'd see if leaving out the turkey would make a huge difference. But I waited a little too long to make the recipe and found that my mushrooms had gone bad. So while I didn't miss the turkey, I did miss the mushrooms. Still a fabulous soup. So very satisfying. And a very good after Thanksgiving option.

"Almost Like Thanksgiving" Soup
A variation on the recipe from the 2008 Cuisine At Home Soups, Stews, & Chilies


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups leeks, sliced
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sherry
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
(2 cups cooked turkey, cubed, if using)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
Minced fresh parsley

Stuffing dumplings:
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups bread, diced, staled
2 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

To make soup: Sweat leeks, carrot, and celery in butter in large saucepan over medium heat until soft, 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high.

Add mushrooms and garlic, and sauté 3 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle flour, thyme, nutmeg, and pepper over vegetables; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Deglaze with sherry, simmer until nearly evaporated, then stir in broth and cream (and turkey, if using). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 5 minutes; season with salt. Garnish with parsley.

To make stuffing dumplings: Preheat oven to 425ºF; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.

Combine milk and eggs in a large bowl. Add bread and soak until nearly all liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally; set aside.

Sauté bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, 5 minutes; drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Sauté onion and celery in drippings until soft, 3 minutes, then fold into bread mixture with reserved bacon and remaining ingredients. Form dumplings on prepared baking sheet using an ice cream scoop or spoon, squeezing out excess moisture if necessary. Bake until dumplings brown, 20 minutes, then serve in soup.

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

Okay, so I haven't actually tried this yet, but Jonathan says it's very tasty. And it smells wonderful. I'll be back later to give my verdict, but until then, here's the recipe... Can I just say how very happy I am that it's starting to get cool enough again for these hearty, warm meals? Woo!

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine


6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 bunch baby turnips, halved or quartered if large (I used a medium turnip that I peeled and diced)
6 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped (stems reserved)
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup chopped veggie burgers or vegetarian protein crumbles
2/3 cup milk or half-and-half
Grated Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional -- but I highly recommend it)

Preheat the broiler. Cover the potatoes with water in a pot; season with salt, cover and boil until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a stovetop casserole dish or shallow enamel pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, turnips and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables brown, 8 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid from the potatoes to the casserole dish. Lower the heat and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Tie the parsley stems with twine and add to the casserole. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 8 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons butter and the chopped veggie burgers and warm through, 5 minutes. Remove the parsley stems and stir in the chopped parsley. Keep warm.

Drain the potatoes and mash with the remaining 3 tablespoons butter and the milk; season with salt and pepper and spoon over the casserole. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired. Broil until golden brown, 5 minutes.

Noodles with Peanut Sauce

We'd tried a noodles with peanut sauce recipe before (though I don't think I put it on here), but it was way too peanut buttery. It felt like we were having a little noodles with our peanut butter. But this recipe is a lot more mild. I think it could use a few more vegetables, but I suppose that's why they suggest serving it with steamed broccoli. I ended up roasting our broccoli, which was a very lovely side dish.

The original recipe calls for chicken and chicken broth, but I vegetarianized it by leaving it out and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Noodles with Peanut Sauce
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


5 ounces uncooked Japanese curly noodles (chucka soba)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, divided
1 1/2 cups red bell pepper strips
1 tablespoon bottled ground fresh ginger
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped green onions, divided

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.

Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (broth through crushed red pepper) in a bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Combine peppers and noodles in a large bowl.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; cook 15 seconds. Stir in broth mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the broth mixture and 1/4 cup green onions to noodle mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup green onions.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Beans and Rice

I must be on a beans and rice kick... Though this is a vegetarian variation on a chicken dish, so I wasn't sure what else to call it.

This is very good and very easy. Good leftovers too.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Beans and Rice
A variation on this recipe from Kraft Foods


2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
2 tablespoons flour
1 each green and red pepper, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup frozen corn
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups salsa
3 cups cooked rice
1 cup Mexican-style finely shredded cheese
Green onions, sliced

Combine first 6 ingredients in crock pot. Cover with lid.

Cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours (or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours).

Stir just before serving over rice; top with shredded cheese and green onions.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Eh. Not wonderful. It just doesn't have a lot of flavor beyond the spiciness of the sausage. So if I had used a milder sausage (I used Andouille), it pretty much wouldn't have tasted like much of anything. Oh well. You can't win them all.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Courtesy of Cooking Light


3 cups water
1 cup dried red kidney beans
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 (14-ounce) package turkey, pork, and beef smoked sausage, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Combine first 12 ingredients in an electric slow cooker. Cover with lid; cook on high heat for 5 hours. Discard bay leaf; stir in salt. Serve over rice; sprinkle servings evenly with green onions.