Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Baked Camembert

Do you remember when food blogs weren't nearly as plentiful as they are today? Back when I started blogging (August 2006!) the Internet was a much quieter place. One of the first food blogs I stumbled on was The Food Pornographer. She rarely posts recipes - her focus is on restaurants and photos of food - but she did post this one for Baked Camembert, which her extended family likes to make for special occasions.

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I made the same tweaks that they did - more garlic, no nuts or cranberries - and served it with crackers as our first course on Mother's Day.

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The smell of the garlic and rosemary baking in the oven was downright intoxicating. As soon as it came out of the oven we all descended like vultures and it was quickly devoured. Poor Steve is lactose intolerant so he took a Lactaid pill to enjoy the cheesy deliciousness. And then Katie proceeded to all but elbow him out of the way to get to the cheese. I had to restrain her so Daddy could have a few bites. That girl loves cheese, just like her parents.

Baked Camembert
Modified from Jamie Oliver

8oz Camembert cheese
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
olive oil
crackers or bread for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut off the rind from one side of the cheese. Put the cheese into an oven-safe ramekin. Press the sliced garlic into the top of the cheese, then sprinkle with the minced rosemary. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is soft and gooey.

Allow to cool slightly, then serve with crackers or bread cubes for dipping.
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Monday, May 09, 2016

Buttermilk Pie

Whenever I buy a quart of buttermilk to make my homemade chicken nuggets, I end up with quite a lot leftover. I've heard about powdered buttermilk, but I've never seen it in our supermarket. I've also tried a homemade version using milk and lemon juice, but I didn't think it tasted the same. I have an amazing recipe for IHOP pancakes that uses buttermilk, so we usually have pancakes a few weekends in a row. But this time I wanted to try something different, especially after my friend, Kylee, posted this recipe for Buttermilk Pie.

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From what I understand, this is a Southern staple, which means I'd never heard of it before Kylee posted the recipe. I went into this with zero expectations, just excited to try something new.

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The recipe couldn't be easier - you just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a pie crust. This actually makes two pies, so it's perfect for a family get together or to bring into the office. We gave the second one away to a friend and he said the pie was gone the next morning.

The consistency is almost like a custard, but denser. It's impossible to describe - there's a hint of vanilla, a slight tang from the buttermilk and a mellow sweetness. I chose a ready-made shortbread pie crust because I didn't want to futz with making my own crust, but next time I might try to find a traditional pie crust instead. I did over bake my pies (the tops are very brown) so make sure you start with 50 minutes and check it often.

Buttermilk Pie
As seen on Kylee Cooks

6 eggs, beaten
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 unbaked 9-inch pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla together with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and melted butter. Mix until well combined. Add the sugar mixture to the eggs and stir together, using a wooden spoon, until just combined.

Put the pie crusts (in pie plates) onto a large baking sheet. Divide the filling between the two crusts.

Bake for 50-55 minutes. You want the filling to be loose/wobbly (kind of like a thick custard) when you tap it, but not runny and the top to be lightly browned.

Let the pies cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
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Friday, May 06, 2016

Banana Crumb Coffee Cake

What do you do when you have overripe bananas sitting on your counter? You bake with them, of course. As luck would have it, I saw this recipe for Banana Crumb Coffee Cake just as my bananas were starting to go from edible to mush. A quick check of the pantry and fridge showed I had all the ingredients on hand, so I set to baking.

Banana crumb coffee cake

What a cake. I loved the subtle banana flavor mixed with the traditional coffee cake. This was moist and delicious, just perfect to have with your morning coffee or tea (I don't drink either, by the way) or as a sweet treat.

A few notes:

1. I don't like using my stand mixer so I used my hand mixer. It worked fine.
2. I don't own a pastry cutter, so I attempted to break up the butter for the streusel topping by hand. It didn't work. I ended up just mixing it together as best I could and sprinkling it on top of the cake. The butter melts as the cake cooks, so it didn't matter.
3. I tried to divide the batter in half, sprinkling some of the streusel in the middle before topping with the remaining batter. It didn't work. It also didn't matter.
4. Steve is lactose intolerant, so he asked me not to glaze the cake (since the glaze contains milk). And, let's be honest, this is sugary enough without adding more sugar on top. You won't miss it. We certainly didn't.
5. This makes a TON of food, which makes it great if you're having a party or know people who will take a few slices off your hands. We kept four pieces for ourselves and gave away the other 12 (3 sets of 4 pieces each). We had some very thankful friends and family, let me tell you.

Banana Crumb Coffee Cake
As seen on Tide and Thyme

2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the streusel:
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), mash bananas until they become liquified. Mix in butter until combined and then mix in sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla.

With mixer running on low, carefully add flour and mix until just combined.

Prepare streusel by combining all the ingredients in a medium bowl, cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until a coarse crumb forms.

Pour 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Top with 1/3 of the crumb mixture. Cover the filling with the remaining batter and top with remaining crumb mixture. Don't worry if this doesn't work - it didn't for me and it still tasted great.

Bake for 50-55 minutes until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 1 hour.

Mix together the glaze ingredients and drizzle over the cake before serving.
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Shrimp Carbonara

We love a good carbonara around here. It's been a while since I made a new variation, so when I was reading a book that mentioned pasta carbonara I knew it was a sign. And thus, Shrimp Carbonara was born.

Shrimp carbonara

I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to make this before but now that I have, it will definitely become a regular thing. All I did was add shrimp to my standard carbonara recipe. I mean, what's not to love about shrimp cooked in bacon fat? Positively delicious.

Shrimp Carbonara
Based on Nigella Lawson's carbonara recipe

1 pound spaghetti
6 slices bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 pound shrimp, any size you like, peeled and deveined
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup half and half cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet that will fit the pasta later, cook the bacon until crispy but not crunchy. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.

While the bacon is cooking, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. After you've removed the bacon from the pan, add the shrimp in an even layer. Cook the shrimp until they're pink on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to the plate with the bacon.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and cook until softened and starting to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the vermouth and let it bubble so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of thick syrup left.

While the vermouth is reducing, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl.

Once you have a nice syrup, add the pasta to the pan, tossing well to coat with the sauce. Take the pan off the heat (remove from the stove completely, don't just turn off the burner) and add the egg and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything with tongs to mix well. Add the bacon and shrimp and toss again. Taste and season with some more pepper and grated cheese, if desired.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lemon Chicken Risotto

Last night was one of those nights where I felt frazzled by the thought of making dinner. I was making this recipe for Lemon Chicken Risotto, so I should have been walkin' on easy street. I love risotto and don't know why it has a reputation for being complicated. Maybe it's because a lot of recipes claim you have to stand at the stove, constantly stirring the rice, for upwards of 20 minutes. Let me tell you this - I've been making risotto for years and I never babysit it like that. True, I don't leave the kitchen so I can keep an eye on it, but I just make sure the pan never gets too dry and give everything a quick stir every few minutes.

Lemon chicken risotto

Anyway. I was frazzled, which meant by the time dinner was done I forgot all about photographing the gorgeous skillet full of deliciousness. As Steve and Katie made oohing and ahhing noises over the bright, lemony flavors and the perfectly cooked chicken, I realized my mistake. I quickly gathered the leftover risotto to one side of the pan and tried to strategically photograph it so it didn't look like 3/4 of the pan was missing. Ha!

Guys. This is some seriously good risotto. We all love risotto, but this was a real showstopper. The fresh herbs and the punch from the lemon were utter perfection. I don't have lemon pepper seasoning, but I did have some free samples of Mrs. Dash, so I used that last night. I should probably put lemon pepper seasoning on the shopping list, though, since I plan to make this one often.

Lemon Chicken Risotto
Slightly modified from How Sweet It Is

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
lemon wedges for serving

Season the chicken with the salt, garlic powder and lemon pepper seasoning on both sides. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken. Cook on both sides until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate. Once cool, cut into bite-size pieces.

Heat the stock over medium heat.

If the pan looks dry, add a little more oil, then add the onion. Cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes, then add the rice. Stir to toast the rice until it's somewhat translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the white wine and wait until the rice absorbs it before starting to add the stock, stirring until the rice absorbs the liquid like it did with the wine. Repeat this until all stock has been added and the rice is al dente. This process should take about 20 minutes.

Stir in the scallions, lemon zest, parmesan, basil and parsley. Taste and season with more salt or pepper, if needed. Add the tablespoon of butter along with the chicken, and toss to melt the butter. Serve immediately with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top of each serving.
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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

I've been on a serious kale kick lately. If I see it on a restaurant menu, there's a good chance I'll order it. But I very rarely (read: never) cook with it at home. I think I've purchased kale only once for this Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup. I'm also really into one-pot meals, specifically when they involve cooking pasta in a flavorful broth. This One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale combines my two latest obsessions into one delicious meal.

Orrecchiette with sausage and kale

Looking at the pictures of this meal made my mouth water and the end result did not disappoint. I made a few minor adjustments to the cooking method but otherwise I followed the recipe. Katie and I both cleaned our plates in record time. I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were sensational, dare I say better than the first day. I needed to add a smidge of water just to loosen the sauce a bit, but this reheated beautifully.

Not that I have any nutrition background whatsoever, but as far as our personal eating habits, this is a pretty awesome meal. You've got grains, protein and veggies covered. The pasta is minimal (less than half a pound, thankyouverymuch) and plenty of healthy kale. And a bonus - the Italian sausage we buy is actually made from turkey instead of pork. The best part is, you can't taste the difference. We've served this sausage to countless people who had no clue they were eating turkey instead of pork.

One Pan Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale
As seen on For the Love of Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 lb mild ground Italian sausage (if you buy links, remove casings)
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed well
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
6oz (weight) orecchiette pasta
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4oz (weight) kale, chopped
Parmesan, shaved or grated

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 5-6 minutes. Stir sausage into the onions along with the Italian seasoning, oregano, crushed fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook and stir until sausage is broken up and just browned, about 3-4 minutes.

Pour the chicken broth into the sausage mixture and bring to a boil. Be sure to scrape up the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan. Once the broth is boiling, add the orecchiette pasta. Cook, stirring every so often to prevent the pasta from sticking together or to the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Be sure to taste before adding any salt since the chicken broth will be salty.

Stir the kale into sausage mixture until it wilts, about 1-2 minutes. Ladle pasta into bowls and top with Parmesan.
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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

Every Easter my mom makes a ham and sends us home with leftovers. This year I had my eye on a new recipe for Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. I liked that Ree added onions and cheese so I was excited to give it a try.

Scalloped ham and potatoes

When I made this I followed her recipe exactly save for one thing - precooking the potatoes. I made the mistake years ago of attempting to make scalloped potatoes using raw potatoes. It simply does. not. work. Do NOT make that mistake. You must always parboil the potatoes, otherwise you'll be waiting forever for the potatoes to cook through (or eating crunchy potatoes). I also splurged and used heavy cream, something I haven't purchased in years. And you know what, this was way too rich. Our tastes have certainly changed so feel free to use equal parts half-and-half and heavy cream, if that's what floats your boat. Next time I'm switching to all half-and-half or maybe even equal parts half-and-half and milk.

Another tip - use more cheese. I upped the amount below. And do yourself a favor and use extra sharp Cheddar. Steve didn't even realize there was cheese in the dish until he was setting aside his lunch portion.

It may sound like we didn't enjoy this but that's definitely not the case. And I wanted to share it with you now because I'm confident these small tweaks will make all the difference.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

3 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 yellow or sweet onion
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups diced ham
3 cups half-and-half (or 1 1/2 cups each half-and-half and milk OR heavy cream)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8oz grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4oz grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large, deep casserole dish (at least 2 1/2-quarts, preferably larger).

Peel the potatoes, rinse under cold water, then pat dry. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice potatoes into very thin slices (1/8-inch). Put the slices into a large pot of cold water. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Once all the potatoes are sliced, bring to a boil then continuing boiling for 3 minutes. Drain well and set aside to cool slightly.

Cut the onion in half then cut each half into thin slices. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until they start to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine the half-and-half and milk OR heavy cream (if using) then whisk in the flour, salt and black pepper until totally combined. Set aside. Combine the two grated cheeses. Set aside.

Layer 1/3 of the potato slices in the buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the ham and onions, then 1/3 of the cheese, then pour on 1/3 of the cream mixture. Repeat this twice more, ending with a sprinkling of cheese before pouring on the rest of the cream mixture.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes at least, or until bubbly and hot.
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