Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beef Kabobs

So this is not fully homemade but it was a wonderful dinner for us tonight! This afternoon in our Sunday Whole Foods run, we decided to have steak kabobs, and the man behind the counter told us to pick what we wanted and they would assemble as we continued shopping. We picked our veggies (red and yellow bell peppers, red onion) and they prepared the kabobs for us with our chosen teryaki marinade. I think of it as our "food processor" dinner. No we didn't spend the time chopping it ourselves, but we had something (or someone) take care of it for us, as we continued our grocery shopping.

I made simple steamed baby carrots and my creamed spinach recipe, this time adding a little more Tony's Creole. We stuck these on the E-Grill for 20 minutes and then had a wonderful little Sunday night dinner!

Gorgonzola Mashed Potatoes with Fried Onions

Well, I can't seem to get my picture to cooperate so this is going to remain at the top of the post, rather than below. Are you salivating yet?

This recipe was an amazing twist on mashed potatoes and all credit due to fellow blogger, Anne, at AnnieBakes. I made this version and my regular potatoes with chives, horseradish and sour cream for Thanksgiving. They were both very well received, completely demolished by the family. I look forward to making these again and highly recommend them for you to try!

Grocery List:
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped (don't mince, keep thick and in full slices for flavor)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 3/4 cup light milk
  • 1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese, or to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

In a skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter on medium heat then add the onions. I decided to add slivers of garlic to this recipe. Add garlic to onions and fry until golden brown.

By the time I got to my aunt's she had already peeled and boiled the potatoes so I'll skip that step but go ahead and do that part. Drain the potatoes and put in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and the milk, mix together using electric beaters. Stir in the Gorgonzola and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to your serving bowl and top with the fried onions, garlic and fresh chives, then ta-da, fantastic!

Now I will refer to the picture at the top: the one on the right is Gorgonzola and Fried Onion version, the one on the left is my signature sour cream, horseradish and chive potatoes. I placed them in the same aluminum casserole dish and kept warm in a buffet warmer.

Holiday Baked Brie

A delicious appetizer contribution to our big family Thanksgiving! I found this recipe in my Cooking Light Holiday Recipe Special magazine and made a few changes after seeing a few other versions of this on other sites - here is my version of a wonderful baked brie that you can take to holiday parties this season!

Grocery List:
  • 1 large sheet of puff pastry dough or 1 tube of refrigerated seamless crescent dinner rolls
  • 1 round of Brie cheese (do not remove rind)
  • 1/2 cup raspberry preserves, or other sweet jam (another recipe used apricot)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, softened
  • Toasted almond slivers (optional)
  • Brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

On a stick-free cookie sheet, spread flour and lay out the puff pastry or the crescent rolls flat.

Next, spread the preserves on the middle of the pastry, leaving about 2 inches from each side.

To soften the cranberries, put them in a bowl with 1/4 cup of water and microwave for 45 seconds - 1 minutes, then drain water. Place the cranberries over the preserves.

Now, place the brie on top and fold up the edges of the dough, cutting off excess, or leaving it on.

I flipped the brie over at this point and drizzled 1/4 cup of maple syrup over it, followed by crumbling brown sugar over the pastry.

Now, put in the oven for 25 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Take out of the oven and enjoy with crackers! We put it back in the oven when reaching my aunt and uncle's just to get it nice and hot again. We forgot to set the timer and the top got a little too brown, but it was still wonderful! This picture was taken when it was halfway demolished.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Buttermilk Chess Pie

Well, not only am I posting my first dessert tonight, I'M POSTING TWO! Okay, it's a big deal to me and this is my all time favorite pie.

Growing up, my best friend's mom would make the most amazing sweet treat I had/have ever tasted: a buttermilk chess pie. She would make them on Sunday and we would race over to indulge after church. She would make them for the bake sales and I would save my allowance/beg my parents for money so I can be the one to buy them. My dad and I have always loved these and at family dinner last Sunday, we had the idea to make a buttermilk chess pie for Thanksgiving. I happened to have Mrs. Wainscott's infamous recipe and dad insisted on having it as well, which then led to the idea of a bake-off to see who can make the better pie. From the same recipe. Hmm.

My best attempts of luring my younger brothers to sabotage the oven aside, we both ended up having issues - I thought it was the curse I felt I had of being a horrible baker, but when I called mom early Thursday morning, the dialogue was as follows:
Mom: "so, how's your pie?" (hesitation in her voice)
Katie: "Mine is fantastic.... how is your pie?" (trying to bluff and disguise my hesitation)
Mom: "Ours is great. Are you sure yours is fantastic?"
Katie: "Is it normal for it to be kinda.... jiggly?"
Mom: "Well, we are on our third attempt!"

I'm so glad we had 2 pie crusts because that's when we tried it again, this time trying a different method that I think is essential in the baking of a chess pie. I give you the best buttermilk chess pie recipe! For those of you who have not had it before, it's a little slice of southern hospitality meets sweet gooey heaven.

Grocery List:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablspoons of flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs slighty beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 9" or 10" unbaked pie shell
This was really quite simple. Start by beating your eggs, then combining the butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Then add the sugar (I did 1/2 cup at a time) and then the flour. Combine all of the ingredients together, beating well, then pour in the pie shell. I couldn't help myself, it was competition so I added a splash more buttermilk and a itty bitty more vanilla. Finger taste test and it was divine!

our attempt at "healthy" pie shells - it was really good!

Now, here is the part that I felt made a difference between pie attempt 1 and pie attempt 2 - our original recipe instructed to bake the pie for about 45 minutes at 325 degrees. Googling different recipes, we found that many called for the pie to bake at a high heat for certain amount of time, then on a lower heat for the remaining time. So, we baked at 450 for 10 minutes, and then turned it down to 350 to bake for an additional 40 minutes. This made a huge difference and our pie set properly the second time. When there were about 15 minutes left to bake, I noticed the top was looking pretty brown so I tented aluminum foil and put that over top so that the top of the pie did not burn, but it would continue to cook.

Once done, give it a jiggle. If you can see it move underneath the top layer, it is not ready and needs to go back in. If it is firm, you can let cool on a wire rack then eat it either hot or cold. We let cool for about an hour then put it in a carrier to transport the hour to my aunt and uncle's house, then set it in their cooling drawer until we were ready for dessert.

The pie on the left is dad's pie, pie on the right is mine - mine was damaged in the transport, the foil I had put over it took off the top. Dad's did not set completely the third time around and had a pudding consistency, still very good, but I think I took the prize on this one!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Let me begin this by saying this is my first dessert to post and the reason for that is simple: I am not a baker. My past attempts have not fared so well. There was this one time I accidentally tripled a recipe because I didn't pay attention to the measuring cup (it held 3 cups, not just one, total ditz moment...), then another time I tried to make Max some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from scratch and they came out flatter than crepes, though I swear, I did everything the recipe said. Baking to me is so precise, there is no room for spontaneity, if you add one teaspoon more, it's ruined (in most cases). I love to cook because I can add a pinch of this, a dash of that, over flowing scoops or simply leave something out, whatever I want, and it works - no such luck in the baking world.

The last time I baked something was last year before Thanksgiving, Mr. Max and I made a pumpkin cheesecake. I swear, without his help, it would have been a disaster - he is wired the right way to bake, very accurate on everything. Makes sense for my finance guy.

The pumpkin cheesecake was a hit and so tonight on this Thanksgiving's Eve, we revive the recipe from Paula Deen and hope for yet another triumph!

Grocery List:
For the crust
- 1 and 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 stick melted butter

For the cheesecake
- 3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
- 3 eggs plus 1 yolk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start by pre-heating your oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine together the crumbs, sugar and cinnamon, then add the melted butter.

Press it down in a 9-in springform pan. Bake in the oven for 7 minutes.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla, beat until well combined.

I don't have one of the fancy KitchenAid mixers so my beaters will have to work!

Pour into pan on top of crust, spread out evenly and place in the oven for one hour.

To prevent cracking, place an oven safe bowl filled 1/2 way with water in the oven with your cheesecake, otherwise known as a water bath. You can place the springform pan in this dish, or place it on the oven rack below your baking cheesecake. I did the latter method because my pan didn't fit into any of the dishes that I could put in the oven.

Once finished, remove from oven and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. I meant to get a picture of this with the homemade whipped cream my aunt made, but I got distracted and didn't get the single slice picture! I had some issues with the transport to my Aunt's house so the cover slightly removed part of the top... oops.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Greek Chicken Pasta

I found this recipe last week on This meal was light tasting, quick to make and perfect as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner for only 384 calories. I took out the artichokes but feel free to add in a 14 oz. can of marinated artichoke hearts or olives for more "Greek" influence.

Grocery List:

- Penne or Fusilli pasta
- 1 cup of penne
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. chicken, chopped into 1 inch thick cubes
- Grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/3 cup Half & Half or cream
- 1/3 tbsp. fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bot, cook your pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, add the olive oil, then red onion followed by the garlic.

Once fragrant, add the chicken and cook until golden brown. Next add the tomatoes, feta, parsley, lemon juice, oregano and stir until well combined.

Put the noodles in a pot and add the Half & Half to coat the noodles and provide a creamy base for the rest of the ingredients.

Add the feta, onion and tomato mixture to the noodles and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and serve!

Gruyere Potato Gratin

Potatoes... cheese... cream....baked heavenly goodness.....

I am torn about how I feel about this recipe - while it was really good, I feel like the cheese "sweats" too much, causing a very runny consistency and inability for the cheese to fully blend with the cream. Or maybe it was too much chicken stock. I took this recipe from my America's Test kitchen cookbook, for 330 calories. If I did it over again, I would decrease the chicken stock by at least half and possibly 1/4 cup of the white wine, though this recipe is posted based on the exact way I made it.

Grocery List:
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, minced
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
- 3 bay leves
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled
- 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- Fresh cut chives (for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice your potatoes 1/8-inch thick.

As I had mentioned previously, I've been in the market for a dutch oven. Well, another sale at World Market and I caved to purchase my new 5-quart dutch oven, ta-da!

The recipe just so happened to call for one, so this worked out quite nice. Melt the butter in a pot or a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions are softened, lightly browned. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the wine, scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the wine is evaporated, 3-5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, cream and bay leaves. Stir in half of the gruyere cheese.

Line the baking dish with 3 layers of potato, discard the bay leaves, then pour 3/4 of the cheese-cream mixture over top. Add an additional layer of potato slices and top with the additional sauce.

You can see how runny the mixture is, but it does help cook and soften the potato slices.

Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and cover with aluminum foil. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take the aluminum foil off and add the chives to the top, bake for another 10 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes for sauce to thicken, then serve.

Served with maple-cider glazed pork tenderloin.

Glazed Maple-Cider Pork Tenderloin

Tonight's meal comes from a Cook's Illustrated recipe but slightly adapted. The original recipe was for chicken but we haven't done pork tenderloin in a while so I decided to make this with pork cut into medallions and pan-seared. The result was tender slices of meat glazed in a sweet syrup.

Grocery List:
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- 1 lb. pork tenderloin, cut in medallions
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the apple cider, corn syrup, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, corn starch, salt and pepper to taste, then add the red pepper flakes.

thought I got a picture of this step, but I guess I only got as far as the smiley face spout on the syrup bottle!

Cut the tenderloin into 1 inch thick medallions.

Add the minced shallot to vegetable oil in a medium-large sized skillet on medium heat. Saute for 6 minutes, then add the apple cider/syrup mix to the skillet and let stand for 2 minutes. Add the pork medallions to pan-sear. As you cook, the syrup will become more of a glaze. If you have a top to your skillet, use it to help cook.

Flip the pork medallions and scrape any of the browning syrup bits.

Once cooked through (about 15 minutes total), remove from plate and spoon additional glaze over top to serve.

Served with gruyere potato gratin.
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