Friday, April 24, 2009

Carrot Cake

At my office, we celebrate birthdays with a potluck-style meal or a group lunch at a restaurant, and someone always brings cake for dessert. Sometimes that cake is store-bought, and sometimes someone volunteers to make it. For our recent April birthday, I volunteered to make a carrot cake -- mostly for my own benefit, since I've been craving carrot cake pretty much ever since I was pregnant, more than a year ago. The only problem was, I'd never made a carrot cake before, so I didn't have a reliable recipe to turn to. So of course I turned to the Pioneer Woman. She has never steered me wrong before, and she came through for me once again.

This cake is amazing. What I love about it is its simplicity; the only spice it contains is cinnamon, it doesn't have any raisins in it -- but it's still the most delicious carrot cake I've ever had, without question. It simply doesn't need anything to fancy it up. It's moist and rich, and can we talk about the icing for a moment? I would like to rub the icing all over my face so it would be within easy reach whenever I wanted a lick. It is that good.

I can't recommend this cake highly enough. Everyone at work loved it, including the birthday girl, and I was even able to sneak a few pieces home for Joe. He has since informed me that I have to make another cake, just for us, as soon as I possibly can. And I have no objections to that whatsoever.

Carrot Cake
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups grated carrots

For the icing:
1 stick (1/4 pound) regular butter, softened
1 package (8 ounce) cream cheese
1 pound powdered sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped finely (I chopped mine coarsely because I like the texture)
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Mix sugar, oil, and eggs. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to first mixture and combine. Add carrots and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured pan (Bundt, sheet cake, 9 x 13 Pyrex) and bake until done, 25 to 50 minutes, depending on the pan you use (I used a dark 9 x 13 pan, and mine was ready in about 40 minutes). Cool completely.

2. For the icing, cream butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and blend, then mix in the nuts. Spread on cooled carrot cake.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cheesy Casseravioli

I've been in a bit of a cooking slump lately. I haven't had the time, energy, or really the desire to make anything too involved. So when I saw this recipe pop up in my Google Reader, it sounded too simple to resist. To be honest, I didn't expect a lot out of this taste-wise -- since it uses frozen ravioli, frozen broccoli, jarred Alfredo sauce, and pre-cooked chicken -- but this was actually really tasty. The picture doesn't do it justice. It was delicious.

I love the idea of a "casseravioli," and the ingredients can be mixed up in a thousand different ways. This was such a simple weeknight dinner, and the whole family -- Andrew included -- loved it. I'll definitely be making this, and many variations of it, in the future!

Cheesy Casseravioli
Source: adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking, who got it from Lauren's Kitchen, who got it from i [heart] food 4 thought

1 package frozen cheese ravioli, cooked and drained
2 cups frozen broccoli florets, defrosted
2 cups pre-cooked chicken strips, diced (I bought a rotisserie chicken and used the breasts)
1 jar alfredo sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Coat the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish with a thin layer of alfredo sauce. In a medium bowl, gently mix the ravioli, broccoli, chicken, garlic, alfredo sauce, butter, and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese until combined.

3. Place mixture into baking dish and top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is hot and bubbly. Set to broil for additional 5 minutes if you want the top blistery.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chicken with Chile Cream Sauce

This is one of those recipes that I printed out ages ago and kept meaning to make, and then just never got around to it. I was looking for something quick and easy to make for dinner recently, and this dish came immediately to mind. I made a few changes to the recipe -- I used Emeril's Southwest Seasoning blend instead of creole seasoning, since the rest of the flavors in the dish were distinctly Mexican, I increased the amount of sour cream, and I finished it off with some shredded Jack cheese -- but if I were to make this again, I'd make even more changes to it.

I would definitely remove the chicken from the skillet before I started heating the sauce, because the chicken lost all of its crispy texture as it cooked in the sauce. It completely defeated the purpose of browning the chicken separately first. I'd also use less cream of chicken soup, because while it's a great ingredient to cook with, it doesn't necessarily taste all that great on its own -- and that flavor was definitely prominent in the sauce. I'd add more lime juice to the sauce, too, because I couldn't taste the lime at all in this dish. Some cilantro stirred in at the end would have given this the fresh component I felt it was missing.

I served this over rice that I jazzed up with some frozen corn kernels and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. This meal was just okay -- not something I'll rush to make again, but not horrible either.

Chicken with Chile Cream Sauce
Source: adapted from Campbell's Kitchen

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons Southwest seasoning blend
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup water
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
1 teaspoon lime juice
3/4 cup sour cream
shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Season chicken with Southwest seasoning blend.

2. Heat oil in skillet. Add chicken and cook until browned.

3. Add soup, water, chiles and lime juice. Heat to a boil. Cook over low heat 5 min. or until done.

4. Stir in sour cream and heat through. Top with Monterey Jack cheese and serve over rice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Smothered Chicken

I've been making this smothered chicken dish for years, and I'm ridiculously proud of it because it's one of the first recipes I thought up all on my own. (And I'm sure there are other recipes like this floating around out there, but please: Don't burst my bubble. Let me believe that this is my original creation. Okay? Thanks. Moving on, then.)

When I first started making this, I used a frozen pepper and onion stir-fry blend and a can of sliced mushrooms, but now I use fresh vegetables. But that is the only way I've changed this recipe since I first made it, probably about six years ago. We always eat this with a box of Rice-a-Roni rice pilaf, and any vegetables that aren't eaten with the chicken are scooped up on slices of crusty bread. This is one of Joe's most-requested meals, and one of only a handful of recipes I come back to again and again. We love it!

Smothered Chicken
Source: Cassie

Olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 small green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 small red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 small yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet (or electric skillet) over medium-high heat. Season both sides of chicken with salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Brown chicken in skillet until cooked through; remove from skillet and cover to keep warm.

2. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to the same skillet. Once butter is melted, add bell peppers, mushrooms and onions. Once mushrooms begin to brown, season vegetables with salt and pepper.

3. Return chicken to skillet, nestling it among the vegetables. Top with shredded cheeses and cover. Let stand over low heat for 5 minutes or until cheeses are melted.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy

My version of sausage gravy -- the one I've been making for years -- is not a traditional version. Sausage gravy purists may say it's not even technically sausage gravy at all, because it's missing the flour component. But I would like those people to try making sausage gravy my way, and then tell me if they really care if it's traditional or not. Because this version is so good, it just doesn't matter.

I've been making sausage gravy like this ever since I got a recipe for sausage dip from a friend -- a dip that consisted only of sausage and cream cheese, to be spread on mini slices of pumpernickel bread. It is absolutely delicious -- so good that I started spreading it on bagels, and so good that I eventually thought, "You know what? This would make a kick-ass sausage gravy base." If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know how much I love cream cheese, so I decided to try it out. And I've never looked back.

My experience with sausage gravy in restaurants is that it's oftentimes way too bland, and my version definitely isn't. The cream cheese adds such a nice tang to the background of the gravy. I always, always use maple sausage, and that flavor really comes through too and balances out the pepper nicely. This is one of my go-to meals when I want something quick, comforting, and delicious.

Biscuits with Sausage GravySource: Cassie

1 package refrigerated biscuits (we use Grands butter-flavored)
1 pound ground maple-flavored sausage
2 tablespoons butter
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, cubed
1/2 to 1 cup milk
Salt to taste
At least 1 tablespoon black pepper

1. Prepare biscuits according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, brown sausage in 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.

3. When sausage is cooked through, reduce heat to medium and add cream cheese, stirring to melt and combine. Add milk to desired thickness (I like a thick gravy, so I usually only use about 1/2 cup). Add salt and pepper and heat until bubbly.

4. Serve over open-faced buttered biscuits.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Devil's Food White-Out Cake

Last week was Joe's birthday, so of course I wanted to bake a cake for him. And I wanted to let him pick his own cake, so I handed him a stack of baking cookbooks and told him I'd make whatever he wanted. The book at the top of the pile was Baking: From My Home to Yours, and he immediately pointed at the cake on the cover and said, "That. I want that cake." I pretty much knew that was going to happen.

I was incredibly nervous about making this cake for some reason. I think I was mostly concerned about the frosting, due to the whole candy thermometer/exact temperature thing. But the cake and the frosting both actually turned out okay, without any hitches, which was a surprise. Actually, this cake turned out better than okay: It was delicious. I served it cold, which gave it the fudgiest, richest texture of just about any cake I've ever made. This cake has a wonderfully decadent chocolate flavor, and the black and white layers make it look so dramatic.

I think this would be equally as delicious frosted with nothing other than sweetened whipped cream. Joe said it was just as good as he'd hoped it would be, and I thought so too.

Devil's Food White-Out Cake
Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

For the cake:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting:
1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

2. To make the cake, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

3. To make the filling and frosting, put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable -- don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting.

4. To assemble the cake, put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting -- it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.

5. Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)

Buttery Cheesy Garlic Bread

I knew I wanted some garlic bread to go with the baked ziti we had for dinner the other night, but I didn't have any of the frozen kind in the freezer, and I certainly didn't want to take my little one (who is currently suffering from a cold and a double ear infection, poor thing) out to get some. So, I improvised. I had some bolillo rolls in the freezer, so I thawed them on the countertop while I was preparing the ziti, then sliced them in half and topped them with a delicious flavored butter and lots of parmesan cheese and black pepper. These turned out so well, I don't know if I'll ever go back to frozen garlic bread again!

Buttery Cheesy Garlic Bread
Source: Cassie

3 bolillo rolls, sliced in half
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Shredded parmesan cheese to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, mix together butter, garlic powder, salt and parsley. Slather the flavored butter on roll halves. Top with parmesan cheese and black pepper.

3. Bake for about 5 minutes, until butter and cheese begin to melt. Turn broiler to high and broil for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until edges of bread begin to crisp.

Baked Ziti

Lately, Joe and I have been doing a lot of what I call "thrown-together" eating -- making random meals thrown together with the ingredients we have on hand. Most of these meals aren't very blog-worthy, which is why things have been kind of quiet around here lately. However, in response to a hearty Italian food craving that wouldn't leave me alone, I "threw together" this baked ziti, and I think it has become an instant family favorite. So I have to blog about it.

Before I made this, the only baked ziti I had actually ever eaten in my life was from Sbarro at the mall food court. I was initially going to make my own version vegetarian like that one, but Joe -- carnivore extraordinaire -- suggested that I add hot Italian sausage. I typically always use hot Italian sausage in my pasta sauce, so it seemed like a natural fit. So I agreed.

This really hit the spot for me; it's comforting, hearty and delicious. And I pretty much love anything topped with blistery cheese, so that was another added bonus.

Baked Ziti
Source: Cassie

1 pound ziti pasta
1 pound ground hot Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (I used roasted garlic tomato sauce)
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1 14.75-ounce can diced tomatoes
8 ounces ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook ziti in salted water according to package directions; drain. Add about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese directly to the noodles; stir until butter and cheese are melted.

3. Meanwhile, brown sausage in a small amount of olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet. Add onion and saute until onion is translucent and sausage is cooked through.

4. Add pasta sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, and diced tomatoes to the sausage mixture. When sauce is heated through, stir in ricotta cheese. Once the ricotta is incorporated, add the ziti to the sauce mixture.

5. Pour half of the ziti mixture into a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with 2 cups mozzarella cheese. Pour the rest of the ziti on top of the cheese layer, and top with remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan.

6. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes; remove foil and baked for an additional 20 minutes. Turn broiler to high and broil for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese begins to blister.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Tenders

I love buffalo wings. I mean, really, who doesn't? I love that spicy, buttery sauce and the way the breading and sauce on the chicken sticks to my fingers while I'm eating the wings. Wings are one food you just can't eat neatly. They're also not the healthiest thing to eat, which is why we don't have them very often. But when I saw this recipe pop up on A Taste of Home Cooking, I knew I had to make these buffalo chicken strips for dinner. They're made with chicken tenders, which makes them a little less unhealthy, and they're a lot less messy to eat.

I increased the amount of sauce since we like our wings saucy, and I served the chicken tenders with a store-bought buttermilk ranch dressing for dipping. Crispy French fries completed our casual dinner, but these delicious strips could easily be served in smaller portions as an appetizer. I'll definitely be making these again. Over and over again, if Joe has anything to say about it.

Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Source: adapted from Everyday Food; originally seen on A Taste of Home Cooking

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup hot sauce (I am a firm supporter of Frank's Red Hot; I believe it is superior to any other hot sauce, but by all means use whatever you want)
3 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, and transfer to oven.

2. Place flour and buttermilk in separate medium bowls; season flour with salt and pepper. Set out another rimmed baking sheet alongside. Dip chicken in buttermilk (allowing excess to drip off), then in flour (shaking off excess); place on sheet.

3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Working in batches, fry chicken until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to rack in oven to keep warm.

4. In a large bowl, stir together hot sauce and melted butter. Add chicken, and toss to coat. Serve tenders with blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sour Cream-Orange Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel

In celebration of the ASPCA's "Go Orange for Animals" day on April 7, my office held an orange-themed bake sale, with 100% of the proceeds going to the ASPCA as they work to prevent animal cruelty. Rather than making something that was actually orange-colored, I decided to make this orange-flavored coffee cake. This was an amazing coffee cake! The texture was dense but not heavy, and it had the perfect amount of orange flavor. I got lots of compliments and more than one request for the recipe, which I think is always a good sign.

The recipe listed below is my modified version of the original, which also called for chocolate in the streusel topping. I'm not a fan of the chocolate-orange combo, so I left it out. You could probably halve the streusel topping itself, because I had a lot left over, and I still felt like the cake had plenty. I really think you should make this right now. Seriously, why are you still reading? Go make this!

(Oh, one more thing before you go: You should really go read more about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month and maybe even organize something in your own community to raise awareness!)

Sour Cream-Orange Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel
Source: adapted from Epicurious

For the streusel:
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled salted butter, diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon grated orange peel

For the cake:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1. Whisk brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture holds together in small, moist clumps. Mix in pecans and orange peel and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

3. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended and smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then orange peel and vanilla extract. Mix in flour mixture in 4 additions alternately with sour cream in 3 additions. Mix in orange juice.

4. Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Drop remaining batter over by heaping tablespoonfuls; carefully spread batter to make even layer. Sprinkle with remaining streusel.

5. Bake cake 30 minutes. Lay sheet of foil loosely over pan to keep topping from browning too quickly. Continue baking until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes longer (mine only took an additional 25 minutes; I think it depends on your oven). Remove foil.

6. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chicken and Broccoli Risotto

A few weeks ago, I started craving risotto. I went to various cooking websites looking for risotto recipes, and I think I printed out four or five of them that sounded absolutely delicious. I found a recipe for broccoli risotto that I knew I wanted to try immediately, since I like to put one meat-free meal on our menu every week. But when Joe found out what we were having for dinner, he thought I should add some chicken to the risotto, which I agreed would probably work nicely with the other flavors. That's the great thing about risotto -- once you know the method, you can add practically any ingredients to the rice.

Joe and I both really liked this. The lemon flavor was very subtle, so if you like lemon I'd definitely increase the amount of lemon juice you use. This recipe serves about six people, but I made the whole batch so we'd have leftovers for our lunches -- and this actually worked very well as leftovers. Next time, I may omit the chicken against Joe's protests and stir in roasted asparagus instead of the broccoli; I think that would be equally as good!

Chicken and Broccoli Risotto
Source: adapted from Allrecipes

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 cups hot chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups cooked broccoli florets
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. Add some olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and pan-fry until browned and cooked through; remove from skillet.

2. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter to the same saucepan. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion begins to turn golden brown at the edges, about 2 minutes. Pour in the rice, and stir until the rice is coated in oil and has started to toast, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the white wine and lemon juice.

3. Cook and stir until the wine has mostly evaporated, then stir in one third of the chicken broth; continue stirring until incorporated. Repeat this process twice more, stirring constantly. Stirring in the broth should take 15 to 20 minutes in all. Stir in the cream, and cook 5 minutes before stirring in the broccoli, Parmesan cheese, and chicken. Cook and stir until the risotto is hot; season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pioneer Woman's BBQ Meatballs

I love Pioneer Woman. I read her blog daily, and I covet how user-friendly and attractive it is. I covet her cooking skills, her photography, her beautiful home, her life -- all of it. I adore her.

That being said, although I've printed out pretty much every single one of her recipes, I'd never actually made one of her dishes before. But when I saw the meatballs she posted last week, I knew I had to make them immediately. They sounded very similar to my grandma's vegetarian meatballs (well, not really meatballs, I guess -- what would you call them? Veggieballs?), which are my ultimate comfort food. I'm a sucker for that ketchup topping, no matter how old-fashioned it is.

To borrow a word from P-Widdy herself -- DADGUM, these were delicious! I was tempted to add a few more things to the meatball mixture -- garlic, some parsley -- but I'm soooo glad I didn't, because those ingredients are completely unnecessary. These taste just like little meatloaves. I served mine over mashed potatoes, which made them look like a hot mess, but also probably made them taste even better. Joe ate his in a sandwich, and even though he's not crazy about ketchup, he loved these. I brought myself a sandwich for lunch, and I hope 11:30 comes quickly because those delicious little meatballs are already calling my name.

Pioneer Woman's BBQ Meatballs
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

For the meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup oats
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons very finely minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Plenty of ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar (I used brown sugar)
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
4 to 6 tablespoons onion
Dash of hot sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all meatball ingredients. Roll into medium-small balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in freezer for five minutes.

3. Remove from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour.

4. Brown meatballs in canola oil until just brown. Place into a baking dish.

5. Combine all sauce ingredients. Pour over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or crusty french bread.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kung Po Chicken

I inherited Betty Crocker's Chinese Cookbook from my mom, and until I made this dish, I'd never cooked anything out of it before. Aside from stir fries, I don't typically make a lot of Chinese food at home. The ingredients lists are always so long, and there always seem to be so many steps required. To be honest, I was sort of dreading cooking from this cookbook during the Year of the Cookbook, just because I thought the recipes would be too complicated -- and also too dated, since this was initially published in 1981. I let Joe pick the recipe, and he chose kung po chicken (I always thought it was kung pao, but maybe that's an entirely different dish? I don't know).

Imagine my surprise when I ended up really, really enjoying this meal! The sauce was really tasty, and I loved the crunch of the crispy peanuts on top of the dish. When I'm making something like this, with lots of different steps and things that need to be added at certain times, I find it's best to organize everything I'm going to need before I even start cooking. That's what I did with this meal, and it came together flawlessly. This was a great MYOTO meal, MSG free, and it didn't taste "dated" at all -- just yummy. I definitely think I'll be using this cookbook more in the future.

Kung Po Chicken
Source: adapted from Betty Crocker's Chinese Cookbook

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper

1 large green pepper
1 medium onion

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped gingerroot
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth

1. Cut chicken into thin strips. Mix egg white, 1 teaspoon corn starch, the soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the white pepper in a bowl; stir in chicken. Cover and refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut green pepper and onion into bite-size pieces.

3. Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch, the water, wine, sugar, and sesame oil in a separate bowl.

4. Heat wok until 1 or 2 drops of water bubble and skitter when sprinkled in wok. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Fry peanuts until light brown, about 30 seconds. Remove peanuts from wok; drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.

5. Add onion, garlic and gingerroot to wok and stir-fry until onion is light brown, about 1 minute. Add chicken and green pepper; stir-fry until chicken turns white. Add Hoisin sauce and crushed red pepper flakes; cook and stir 30 seconds. Stir in chicken broth and heat to boiling. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook and stir until thickened. Serve over rice or noodles.