30 November, 2012

Tomato Braised Kale

I love kale.

But some people don't.  

I had a feeling the Boyfriend was one of those haters, since he doesn't really like spinach if I don't somehow disguise it.  Spinach quiche? He's into it.  Spinach lasagna? Sure.  Spinach by itself on a plate?  No good.  

So I disguised this kale with some deliciousness.  I've had tomato braised kale in a restaurant before,  loved it, and tried to duplicate it here.  I really wanted a tomato flavor, the kale cooking in the tomato juices, so I used larger tomatoes (versus using grape tomatoes).  I had Campari tomatoes on hand, and I used all 2 lbs of them, as well as homemade chicken stock, of course.  

It turned out fabulous, with just a little kick from the red pepper flakes, and the tomato cooked down nicely and disguised the bitterness of the greens a bit.  

This is hands down, my new favorite kale recipe.  

Tomato Braised Kale

2 lbs kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
2 lbs Campari tomatoes (or 2 pints grape tomatoes), large diced
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
5 or 6 shakes red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute about a minute.  Add the kale, in two batches if needed, letting it cook down and wilt a minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir to combine.  Add 1/2 cup chicken stock, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally.  If the kale looks dry, or is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add the rest of the chicken stock. Continue cooking about 10 to 15 minutes, until kale is wilted and tender.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  

A couple other favorite recipes:
Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Fennel Orange Puree
Gorgonzola Sage Popovers

28 November, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Sage

 I asked The Boyfriend to describe this dish for me, and he said it was good.  I pressed him for more details, and he said 'I dunno.. it was cheesy?'

In his defense I'm asking him while he's half asleep on the couch.

I pressed him a bit further... he said it didn't feel like he 'rubbed it all over his face.' 

Yes, that's a direct quote.  
'It wasn't greasy and overly heavy, it was lighter and healthier than traditional lasagna. Therefore I did not feel like I rubbed it all over my face.' 

I get what he's saying.  It wasn't so loaded with cheese that I felt like I gained 110 lbs just by eating it.  The butternut squash and sage combination gave it a really delicate flavor, and sausage pairs beautifully with the squash, complementing it's sweetness.  
The white sauce made with mascarpone, parmigiana, mozzarella, and ricotta was not heavy or overbearing.  It really lets the flavors shine through. 

This recipe is a winner, and a really nice option for a make-ahead meal.  I made this for an upcoming ski weekend and froze it.  
Then I just took it out of the freezer, let it thaw all day while skiing, and popped it in the oven at night.  
Also a nice vegetarian option- simply skip the sausage and replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.  Don't skip the stock though, it thins out the cheese a bit so you don't feel like you 'rubbed it on your face.'

18 November, 2012

Wensleydale Apple Cranberry Tartlets with Thyme Shortbread Crust and Bourbon Glaze

Be the star of a holiday party- bring these delectable little tartlets.  
They're like little mini-apple pies, made with Wensleydale cheese with cranberries. 
Wensleydale is an English crumbly cheese that is supple and moist with a flavor of wild honey.

Wild Honey!

This Wensleydale has cranberries mixed in- adding just a bit of... tartness... to these tarts! 
An unexpected, but incredible herb-y thyme shortbread crust that balances out the sweetness of the apples. 

I found this Wensleydale with Cranberries at Whole Foods.  
It would be AMAZING on a leftover turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving.  
So as I'm baking these, The Boyfriend keeps asking me when he can have one.
Finally I give him one.  I turn around, turn back around, and it's gone.  GONE.  

He looks at me wide-eyed, like he doesn't know what happened. 
And takes another.   

Wensleydale Apple Cranberry Tartlets with Thyme Shortbread Crust and Bourbon Glaze

The Crust:
1 1/4 cup bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup thyme, leaves only, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp ice water

The Tart:
4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
2 McIntosh Apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 lb Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries
3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp bourbon

*You'll also need some kind of little tart baking pans. I found mine at either Kitchen Kapers or ACMoore, I can't recall..

Make the Crust:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, vanilla, and thyme. Cut in the old butter using a pastry blender or a knife until dough is crumbly.
2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp cold water over dough.  Quickly form into a ball, adding a few more drops of water if you need more moisture to hold it together. Do as quickly as possible, you don't want to handle the dough to long or the warmth from your hands will melt the butter, resulting in a less flaky crust.
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, or a day or two.
4. Remove from fridge and roll out to about 1/4' thickness.
5. Cut out approximate shape of your tart pan, and lay dough over top.  Press into pan gently.  Use a rolling pin to roll over the TOP of the tart pan, giving you a nice even crust.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Make the Tart:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Bring contents to just a boil.
2. Reduce heat immediately and add all apples.  Cook until tender but not falling apart.  If it looks like the liquid is evaporating to quickly, add a bit of water to keep it moist.
3. Remove the apples, and lay out on parchment paper in one layer to cool off.  Reserve the poaching liquid.
4. Slice the Wensleydale cheese thinly.  Don't worry if it crumbles. 

1. Remove the crust from fridge.  Add a few of the apple slices that did not keep their perfect shape (the unsightly ones).  Top with a few slices (or crumbles) or cheese.  Pour 1 tsp of heavy cream over, letting it sink down (this is how much I used for tarts that were 3 inches across.  If you are making larger tarts, you may need to add a tbsp or two of heavy cream.  The cream shouldn't reach the top of the tart, rather just cover the bottom layers of apples and beginning to seep into the cheese layer).
2. Add the pretty, intact sliced apples on top, fanning them out decoratively.  At the base of the 'fan' add a crumble of cheese with cranberry for contrast in color.
3. Repeat with remaining tarts.
4. Bake in the preheated oven about 10 minutes, until edges of apples begin to darken and shortbread crust begins to turn golden.
5. Cool on a wire rack.

1. When tarts are cool, remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the reserved poaching liquid. Add the bourbon.  Head the liquid medium high heat, reducing by half.  Liquid will get a bit sticky.
2. Brush the glaze over the tarts immediately. Let dry, and brush another layer over. 

Sweet Potato Bisque

I'm feeling a little under the weather.

Of course I still made dinner!  
The Boyfriend offered to pick up something, but oh no, you can't keep me out of the kitchen!

What's a better solution for the sniffles than a nice hot bowl of homemade soup and some crusty bread anyway?!
This soup was a culmination of ingredients on hand. 
It's a creamy medley of sweet potato and carrot, with some added rich sweetness from the caramelized onions. 

Ever the critic (which I greatly appreciate, do not get me wrong), 
The Boyfriend says to me..'It's good, but I don't taste any butternut squash..'

To which I replied 'That's cause it's Sweet Potato!!  =)
In his defense, I have been in a bit of a butternut squash rage lately.  
In fact, I garnished this soup with toasted butternut squash seeds for a nice salty crunch. 

13 November, 2012

Butternut Squash Quinoa 'Alfredo' with Toasted Pine Nuts

Here's a perfect fall side dish.  

And it's quick and easy.  Can you believe it?

Protein-packed quinoa is the star of this dish, combined with plentiful butternut squash, an prepared Alfredo-style.  

How could you go wrong?!

Butternut Squash Quinoa 'Alfredo' with Toasted Pine Nuts

1 cup butternut squash, roasted, peeled, and diced (roast in oven at 400 degrees for 45 min)
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (toast in toaster oven at 325 for 3- 5min, or in a dry skillet)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, leaves only
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat water over med high heat.  When just boiling, add quinoa and stir.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover,  and simmer for 10 minutes.
2, Remove lid and add a few drizzles of the heavy cream.  Let in soak in a minute, and add a few shakes of the Parmesan.  Continue until all cream and Parmesan is added.  Add the butternut squash, thyme, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix gently, allowing butternut squash to fall apart a bit but mostly retaining it's shape.  
3. Stir in pine nuts and serve!

Drunk Filet Mignon with Bourbon Cream Sauce

I am no photographer! 
I love to cook and I love to eat, but patience with taking photos of food is not my strong point. 

I want to eat it, not look at it!

So I must apologize for these clearly lazy, last second pictures of this truly amazing Filet Mignon.

This is one of those meals that just steals the spotlight away from EVERYTHING else on the plate.    One of those sauces that makes you want to lick the plate.  
It's deeply flavorful, just a bit sweet, and everything I've ever dreamed of to accompany a beautiful  cut of Filet Mignon.  

Unfortunately I did not have a beautiful cut of Filet Mignon, but the one I had did just fine, and the Bourbon Cream Sauce made everything wrong with it.. just seem so right. 

Pair this sauce with any red meat- Rack of Lamb, a standing Rib Roast- for a super-impressive main dish.  

I served it with Butternut Squash Quinoa Alfredo, caramelized brussel sprouts and a couple glasses of red wine. 

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake

The perfect midafternoon snack- 
coffee and cake!

This Dark Chocolate Coconut cake is not overly sweet or decadent. 
It's sophisticated. 
Deep, dark, and chocolaty. 

The yogurt and coconut add another layer of sweet moistness.
And the glaze adds gives it a sheen chocolate crust.  
The perfect ending to a holiday brunch,
or perhaps a slice during teatime...
this cake will sooth the winter blues away.

You'll note instructions say to bake in a bundt pan.
You'll also notice in the pictures I did not bake mine in a bundt pan. 

A tragedy of moving- lost, forgotten kitchen supplies.
Like Toy Story, only it's my bundt pan and spatulas dancing around my room.

I encourage you to reconnect with your bundt pan though.  

Dark Chocolate Coconut Cake

 7 oz bag sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg white
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
scant 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs
3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Make the sweet coconut/yogurt filling. In a small bowl, combine the chopped coconut, egg white, and condensed milk.  Using your hands, form this mixture into an 18' long rope, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, until slightly firm.

2. Make the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour an 8-cup bundt pan.  In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate, large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, and add the eggs one at a time.  Once combined, add in the melted chocolate and the vanilla.  Finally, add the flour mixture and the yogurt in batches- add a bit of flour, mix, add a bit of yogurt, mix, flour, mix, yogurt, mix, etc until all of the flour mixture and yogurt is gone and batter is smooth. 

3.  Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.  Remove the coconut rope from the fridge, unwrap, and place on top of the batter, following the circle of the pan.  Let the rope sink into the batter a bit (give it a few pokes to help it sink in) until the rope is beneath the surface and fully covered by about an inch of batter.  

4. Bake for one hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 minutes, and invert to cool completely.

5. Make the Glaze. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar.  Once dissolved, remove from heat and immediately whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla.  Let cool.  Do not attempt to pour the hot glaze on a hot cake.  That has disaster written all over it!

6. Once cake is cooled, and the glaze is cooled to lukewarm, brush the glaze over the cake.  Let this layer dry slightly (about 5-10 minutes).  Brush another layer on, let dry, brush, etc until glaze is gone.  Refrigerate the cake- the glaze will set and harden.  

09 November, 2012

Sweet Potato Croqettes

I love sweet potatoes. 

Sweet potato fries, casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, pie....

I took my love one step further and make these Sweet Potato Croquettes.  
This is a Southern recipe, though I've also seen 'Fried Yam Balls' in African cooking.
They are reminiscent of hush puppies, though hush puppies contain much more breading.
And if you don't know what a hush puppie is, you need to take a trip down south and find out. 

Anyways, these  are delicately crispy on the outside, soft sweet potatoes on the inside.
These would be perfect for an appetizer for a party, or served as a side to dinner for a little added fun-n-crunch.  I could see them being added to a brunch menu too.
I made these the day before- I roasted the sweet potatoes and added all the ingredients but bread crumbs and eggs.  The next day, I simply added the crumbs and eggs, and fried.  

I fried these in extra-virgin olive oil.  No they weren't slimy at all, as you may think would happen from frying in olive oil.  The fact is, olive oil's smoke point is 410 degrees.  When deep frying, oil is  somewhere between 250-350 degrees.  That means you most certainly CAN fry with olive oil- in fact it is healthier, and frys things a bit more delicately if you ask me.
You can use peanut oil or even vegetable oil if that's what you have on hand.

I'm pretty sure using leftover mashed sweet potatoes, adding the bread crumbs and egg, would work just great too!

07 November, 2012

Old Fashioned Pork Chop and Thyme Apple Bake

This is my mom's recipe.  Having moved across the country from her last month, I was craving some comfort food from my childhood.  And I came across this recipe she gave me.

This is one of my favorite things she made. 
It's a wonderful recipe to incorporate those beautiful apples that are so in season right now.  

Pork does exceptionally well with almost any kind of fruit- oranges, apples, apricots, etc.  Often pork is marinated in apple juice or cider, or orange juice.  In this recipe, I didn't have time to marinate, and I'm not sure the pork needed a marinade.  The chops really soak up some of the flavor and moistness of both the apples and the baked beans.
And pork and beans is just a combination you don't question!  

For the beans, I added a few ingredients to spice them up a bit.  If short on time, you could definitely just use a can of beans without any additions (in fact my mom's original recipe used a can of beans with no additions and it was so so good).  

The bean recipe comes loosely from my future mother-in-law.  The Boyfriend loves her baked beans, and I've never been able to replicate her recipe to his approval.  Some things your mother makes, no one else can make the same, you know?  

But I tried to replicate here again today, only I didn't really remember exactly what she adds, of course.  These may not be Debbie's beans, but they turned out pretty darn good.  

So this recipe is a merging of mothers.  Home-cooked comfort food at it's finest. 
The best part is you can make this ahead of time, refrigerate, and pop it in the oven.  

05 November, 2012

Pumpkin Pie In-A-Flash

Not everyone has time to be baking for hours! 
This pumpkin pie recipe is fast, easy, and delicious.  

To be perfectly honest, I had leftover empanada dough I used as the crust, but I've written the recipe using store-bought crust.  
I used sweetened condensed milk, but have heard of people replacing that with eggnog.  Sounds pretty interesting, I might have to try that! If you do, let me know how that works out. 

03 November, 2012

Sage and Maple Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Good morning America!

How about a healthier (yet delicious) breakfast meat this morning?  

I made these Turkey Breakfast Sausage patties last night, and this morning flung them in a pan and served with scrambled eggs and english muffins.  You could use ground beef or chicken if you so desired.

As we've previously discussed, I must make breakfast items the night before, due to The Boyfriend declaring war on anybody standing in the way of his immediate need for breakfast sustenance. 


We went out to breakfast once and had to wait about 40 minutes being seated.  
He didn't speak.  He didn't move.  

He just gripped his stomach in agony, muttering.. 'why...?   WHY...??'
So I sauteed these bad breakfast boys up real quick, and we had a delicious, healthy, and quick breakfast.  I drizzled some syrup on mine.  Yum.
Would be great to have these patties in the fridge for nights when you may have company.  Or even in the freezer, and if unexpected company, pop them out the night before, defrost in fridge, and voila!

01 November, 2012

Easy Chicken Stock

Non-cookers think homemade chicken stock is the most amazing thing.  They think it takes, I don't know, weeks to make! And you have to be some professional chef or something...

Let's put this to rest right now.  

It's so easy.  All you need is time.  

So do yourself a favor on a rainy or lazy day.  Make some chicken stock.  Then freeze some in an ice cube tray.  Freeze some more in larger containers for larger meals, like soups, stews.  

But what do I DO with all this chicken stock?

2. Cook your veggies (like peas, asparagus, brussel sprouts) in chicken stock for added flavor.  I  add some oil to a pan, saute veggie for a few minutes, add 3 or 4 chicken stock ice cubes to pan, and let cook until tender.

3. When cooking rice, couscous, quinoa, etc, you can use chicken stock in place of water.  

4. Use to make sauces, like marinara or alfredo.

5. Use in mashed potatoes as a partial replacement for butter and cream.

Creole Shrimp Risotto

'Restaurant quality'

'One of the best things you've ever made.'

These are the Boyfriend's quotes.  Personally, I think this is THE BEST thing I've ever made.  It is just another level of deliciousness.

Need to impress someone?  
This is is.  I'm telling you.

It's warm and creamy, has great depth.
The risotto is kicked up with a little creole seasoning, cooled down with the tomato herb sauce...  
There's just no other words.  

Now I'll be honest, you're going to need to set aside some time to chop all these veggies.  This recipe takes time.  Good things come to those who wait. 

I beg you.  Take the time to make chicken stock. Your dish will be so much more flavorful.
Make a huge amount, and freeze some.  I pour extra stock into tupperware containers and freeze, and I also pour into ice cube trays.  It's super convenient to pop a couple out of the ice cube tray for a recipe.