Yum Peaceful Cooking: April 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Mmmmmm....GARLIC! Mmmmmmm....CHEESE! 
Ya baby, thats what I'm talking about. 

Is there anyone out there who doesn't love a good piece or two (or three) of Cheesy Garlic Bread? No no...don't tell me who you are cuz then I'll just have to feel sorry for you. 

I got this really cool cookbook from a friend of mine for Christmas called "What Can I Bring? Cookbook". It says it has "over 200 great-tasting, easy-to-tote dishes for parties, picnics, potlucks, backyard barbecues, holiday dinners and any get-together!" (by Anne Byrn - The Cake Mix Doctor). I haven't used it much yet but that will change with the fast approaching summer season. The reason behind this gift (besides the knowledge of my love for cooking and all things kitchen related) is the fact that we love to cook together and do great in the kitchen together. We just sorta fall into place and it works wonderfully. We have very similar styles and have so much fun together.....so she bought the cookbook for me in anticipation of our future gatherings and kitchen adventures.

With that said, I just want to share with you one of the best garlic bread recipes I've had the pleasure of making. And yes, it came from my lovely cookbook gift. Over the years I've tried so many ways to make garlic bread and most have been good...but none have been great...until now :)

1 loaf (1 lb) Italian bread (I've used french bread with great results)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I've used Italian seasoning instead...yum)
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley (optional), for garnish

Just for the record...I double the recipe for my bread. I don't like to be skimpy with the butter mixture....and well, it just didn't seem like enough to do the job.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400' F. Place a piece of aluminum foil about 2 inches longer than the loaf of bread on a baking sheet.

Partially cut the bread into slices 1 to 2 inches thick; do not slice all the way through the loaf. Carefully transfer the cut loaf to the baking sheet (don't let it fall apart on you)

Place the butter, olive oil, garlic and oregano in a small bowl and stir to mix. 

Check out one of my new little fun gadgets (the R2D2 looking thing on wheels). That baby is full of garlic. You stuff a few cloves inside, roll it back and forth like a one of those toy wind up cars and it chops that stuff up and does it good! BTW...It came with my cookbook :)

Place the butter mixture evenly on both sides of each of the slices of bread. Scatter the mozzarella cheese over the top of the loaf and sprinkle red pepper flakes over it, if desired.

Pull the aluminum foil up around the loaf sides, folding it together at each end to secure them but leaving the top of the loaf exposed.
Bake the bread until the cheese melts and the loaf has browned, 10 - 12 minutes. If desired, garnish with parsley. Totally yum and totally garlic!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spryte's Stuffed Shells

I can't take credit for this recipe since I "borrowed" it from one of my BakeSpace buddies, Spryte. This is the second time I've made these...which tells you they're totally worth repeating. The whole family loves them. So when our monthly potluck at work came around I thought I'd bring these babies in to share. What I didn't expect was for my 19 yr old daughter to instantly switch over to 6 yr old mode when she found out they weren't for dinner. Nothing like a high pitched whine telling you that "it's not fair" that you're making the stuffed shells for people at work and not for her to eat for dinner...because we all know that its all about "her".... Ya, that was a scene that completely brought home the whole essence of the phrase Drama Queen. I did bring home a couple for her to eat, so all's right in her world....for now (give that about an hour or so, I'm sure it will change).

Click here if you'd like to see Spryte's recipe: Spryte's Stuffed Shells

I didn't change anything significant when I made them...other than using more cheese and more spaghetti sauce. I'm kind of a cheese hound so I'm always adding more than what recipes call for and since I made the shells the night before, I knew they'd soak up all the sauce and therefore I increased that amount as well.

Sooo, here's what I did:

1 box jumbo shells
1 lb turkey Italian sausage, skins removed
1 - 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz (or 16 oz) ricotta cheese 
1 egg
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded (plus a little more for topping)
1/2 plain bread crumbs
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Olive oil, as needed
1 - 25 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
1 - 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
2 cups (or more) shredded mozzarella cheese

Ok....before I get started...I have a beef: WHY do most recipes say 16 oz of ricotta cheese when the containers only come in 15 oz or 32 oz.? Ricotta cheese is too expensive to be buying more than you need therefore in most of my Italian recipes, I'm short an ounce of ricotta cheese....o'well, I make up for it in mozzarella). Also I just want to clarify: I was in a hurry and it was handy..... my favorite jar of spaghetti sauce is Prego Traditional with some garlic and Italian seasoning added to "Dr'" things up a bit. Even that wasn't really enough so thats why I added the can of tomatoes. I let the sauce simmer while I got everything else ready which also gave it time to cook away a lot of the liquid from the canned tomatoes.

Now...poor that whole box of shells into your boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Don't over cook them....you don't want soggy shells.

Once the shells are cooked, I suggest that you rinse them in cold water before you set them aside, separating the stubborn ones. This will accomplish 2 things.....it will stop the cooking process and it will rinse away a lot of the starch so you don't end up with a wad of pasta shells stuck together when you're ready to stuff them

Heat your pan and oil over medium heat and saute your onions, until tender. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add your sausage to the onions and continue cooking, separating the sausage until it's crumbly and brown. 

Once your sausage is fully cooked, carefully add the spinach. 

Don't worry....it's not too much. The first time I made this, I only added 1/2 of what the recipe called for. Then I saw how much it cooked down and added more...and more again...and again until I had indeed added the whole bag. 

Ready for the good stuff?

In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese and egg, mixing well. Add the parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, and bread crumbs:

Stir until combined, then stir in the meat mixture 

And the fun has just begun! Time to get dirty:

Put enough spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole pan to cover bottom. Stuff each shell with a heaping spoonful of your meat / cheese mixture. You probably have enough for about 24 shells. Since you have cooked the whole box of shells, you are able to pick and choose which ones to use (who wants a torn or broken shell, right?)

Line them all up, nice and neat....

Cover them with the remaining spaghetti sauce and bake them for about 20 - 30 minutes in a 350' oven.

Sprinkle all that mozzarella cheese on top....and some parmesan cheese too if you'd like and bake for an additional 5 - 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and begins to brown.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chicken Cutlets with Herb Butter Sauce and a side of Leeky Cauliflower

Basically...I can't stand reading magazines. Thumbing through them, glancing at pictures, reading short articles on things that barely interest me...it all irritates me. I'm a book person. I read a lot of books and always have a book I'm reading. Buuut....I do like my Everyday Food magazine. It's filled with recipes! I don't even know if it has "articles" (I ignore the ads). I have found plenty of really good recipes in that little tightly recipe-packed mini magazine. 

Tonight's dinner came from the latest issue (and I think the last issue from my subscription. I'll have to wait a while before I subscribe again...darn) of Everyday Food. What caught my attention was the simplicity (long day on my feet, cleaning the house requires simplicity in the kitchen)...and the use of fresh herbs. Oh...and probably the word "butter".

1/4 cup all purpose flour
8 thick chicken cutlets
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used 1/2 butter, and 1/2 olive oil)
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or mint (or a combination) Actually, I used parsley, basil and dill

Instead of paying huge amounts of money for those cutlets at the store, I just slice the chicken breast in half...butterfly style. I only did 3 breast, which gave me 6 "cutlets" and 3 chicken tenderloins (mmmm...those are the best part!). Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Dredge in flour:

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken until browned, 1 - 3 minutes per side, adding more oil to skillet as needed. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil.

Add wine to accumulated juices from chicken in skillet and boil until liquid has reduced by half, about 4 minutes. I forgot to take a picture of the liquid before it reduced. I think I was busy chopping up my herbs at that time. Just imagine a brownish liquid covering the bottom of your pan. Scrape up all those little crunchies that stuck to the bottom of your pan. They add great flavor!! The aroma was incredible!!!

Add chicken and turn to coat (oh look...I finally remembered to take a picture before I added all the chicken back into the pan!! LOL).

Remove skillet from heat and swirl in butter and herbs.

Season with salt and pepper.
Serve and enjoy!!

Oh ya...I had a side dish too. I had a head of cauliflower that was in serious need of being used soon. I also had a couple of leeks left over from the BakeSpace Challenge that I did a few days ago. Sooooo.....I decided to steam the cauliflower:

and caramelize the leeks in butter and garlic

Once again...it was an aroma thing!!

Then serve the cauliflower with the leeks sprinkled on top!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chicken Parmesan

When it comes to Italian cuisines...chicken parmesan is right up there with spaghetti w/ meatballs and lasagna. It doesn't really take that long to make and its pretty easy. Not to mention how good it is.  Lets face it, when you're dealing with breaded, fried chicken and melted cheese....you know you're talking about yummies for your tummies. 

I don't really have a "set" recipe. I did get some great ideas from watching Tyler Florence and following his recipe loosely. Tonight I didn't have time to make my own marinara sauce so I used 3 14.5 oz cans of that italian styled stewed tomatoes. It's really easy and tastes way better than even Prego! I just add a little garlic powder and some more italian seasoning and let it simmer while I make everything else. That way the extra "juice" cooks down some and you don't have this watery mess. Usually I get the "diced" kind, but for some reason I ended up with "sliced"...ooook Whatever.....I just got the ole potato masher out and smashed those suckers right up. As for the rest of the dish...here's whatcha do:

2 or 3 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
4 thick slices of mozzarella cheese

Get out 2 shallow dishes (I find that pie pans work great!). In one pan, mix the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese together. In the other pan, mix the egg and milk.

Here I have my marinara sauce simmering, and reducing while I get the chicken ready.

I butterfly the chicken breast so that I have twice as many slices. Its much easier than pounding the chicken into thin pieces. See that tiny piece at the top? mmmm....I think thats a "tenderloin" that had fallen off or something. Yep...I'll cook that too. Ok...now sprinkle your chicken with a bit of salt and pepper. 

Are you a single dipper or a double dipper? Nope, has nothing to do with chips and dip! Sometimes I dredge the chicken in the bread crumbs...dip it in the milk mixture and then coat it again with the bread crumbs. 

Put some oil in your pan and fry the chicken until golden brown over a medium heat. It helps if you can use an oven proof pan cuz pretty soon these babies are going to be baked!

Be careful cuz the parmesan cheese can burn quickly. I can't say exactly how long it will take...depends on the heat, the pan, the thickness....but Tyler says about 4 minutes on each side. Check out that little fried tenderloin!...YUM. Trust me...that baby didn't make it to the oven....muuuaaaa haa haaa

Now its time to make sure your spaghetti sauce is ready and your mozzarella cheese is sliced cuz we're going to put it all together. Is your oven preheated to 450'?

Now, spoon some sauce over the chicken and slap one of those cheese slices on top. If you'd like, you can sprinkle some more parmesan cheese on top as well. Put into the hot oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubble!

mmmm...talk about tender chicken!! Serve over your favorite pasta, maybe add a bit more sauce and enjoy!

If you want the crust to be crispier....get 3 pie pans out. Put some flour in one pan with salt, pepper and garlic. Plain bread crumbs in the other (no cheese) and then the milk and eggs in the last one. Coat with flour, then milk mixture then the bread crumbs. Save your parmesan cheese for the oven debut. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You Can't Beat BakeSpace!!

Have I ever told you about how I got involved with BakeSpace? No? Well....have a glass of wine, sit down and I'll tell you about it. Why? Because if you're going to Vote for BakeSpace to win the Webby....you really need to know why!

I have always been interested in cooking (not so much baking, but some). My grandmothers, mom, aunts, sisters....we're all very much into making good food and enjoying it. I was never afraid to try new things (within reason....no chocolate covered bugs, thank you very much). One morning, back in 2007, I was watching the news and Curt the Cyberguy did a feature on BakeSpace (click here to see the segment that got me hooked!) I thought it was the coolest thing ever.....to be able to connect with someone in another country and get an authentic recipe right from the source! OMG! I had to join.

Its kinda like a myspace for people who love to cook. You set up your home page, aka "kitchen", Post your recipes...browse around and see other peoples recipes. Make comments about the recipes.....become friends with others who have recipes you really like. What a thrill it was to have my first "comment" about one of my recipes! (ya..huge ego booster!!)

I played around with it for about a year and then decided to venture over to the "other" side of BakeSpace. (gasp!!!) Umm...if you're not ready for an addiction....do not enter! What is this "other" side? Well....it's a forum with several categories. Not all relating to food...but where all the people come together because of their relation to food. This is where BakeSpace is unique. There are a ton of great recipe sites out there....but not a single one can hold a candle to the "community" of BakeSpace. What a great group of people. Seriously. You have every range, every level, every personality type all intermingling at some level. If you feel intimidated, then its in your own mind...cuz there isn't a single person in there who would purposely make you feel inadequate. We have lots of smart asses (yours truely included)...but that's all in fun...and let me tell you...we have a whole lot fun!

Anyways...it didn't take me long to feel right at home and part of the community. If I have a question....someone has an answer. I swear...if I didn't know how to boil an egg, someone would help. If I need personal advice...they are right there to support and help, any way they can. If I need inspiration for dinner....oh man...that comes in abundance! Don't know how to bake a cupcake? Covered! Don't know how to bake bread? Choose a brain to pick! Don't know what to serve with your pork tenderloin? Get ready for lots of recipes and links coming your way. What better way to learn, then by someone who has been doing it all their lives and / or with a great passion! We have cooking babies and cooking grandmas (and grandpas)....and everything in between. I love it!

Now....quit himmin and hawin, get off your tush and vote for BakeSpace so "we" can win the Webby!! Whats a Webby? It's like the internet version of the Oscars! How great would it be for a grassroots, female owned and opporated, community oriented website to win?! Here's a little blurb about how its done, by our very own Babette (owner of BakeSpace):

Now we need your help to vote for us in the People's Choice Awards in our category of Social Networking.. Here's what you need to do:

Go to: http://pv.webbyawards.com/

Click on Grey button that says register now.. they need you to register so they can count your vote once. Click save and then confirm your email (they will send you an email message to make sure you're legit... it keeps us honest)

My validation email went into my JUNK folder so check that folder because it's almost immediate that you get your email. Click on the validation link and that will take you back to the website.

I had some trouble with the activation link (gave me an error message) but I could still log in if I went back to the site. You get a second email that says you're ready and validated and can vote.

Once in the system, we're in the first section of the page.. click on social networking and vote for BakeSpace - we're the top of the list. So far we're in the lead, but that's probably because of my vote. Smile YOU can keep us there. Voting ends April 30th so please do it today! Thanks!

GO BAKESPACE!!! my home within my home :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

BakeSpace Challenge 04/09

Not quite a success, but I wouldn't consider it a failure. I think it might even be worth perfecting.

Everyone month, BakeSpace.com has a "challenge". There are no winners or losers. It's a personal challenge with some fun rules that us members get to choose. Here are the guidelines for this months challenge: (here's the link for BakeSpace Challenge: April 09)

BakeSpace Challenge for April: 
Choose 4 of the following 5 ingredients to create a dish heralding in the Spring or 2009. 

Fava Beans 
 (As a hint: Rhubarb has some of the same flavor as the Herbs, Sorrel and Angelica.) 

Spring is here, 'Old Man' Winter has past. 
Till April's last day shall this challenge last. 
4 of 5 must be choosen and in your pot cast 
Create something incredible for your nightly repast. 

I'm not much of a Rhubarb fan so I chose the other four ingredients: Leeks, Asparagus, Artichokes and Fava Beans. Before this challenge I had never even heard of Fava Beans. So when I couldn't find fresh Fava Beans and canned Fava Beans were no where in sight, I was getting a little frustrated which just made me all the more determined to do this!  And find them I did....dried...argh. Well, better than nothing. Not exactly what I'd consider "spring fresh" though. Anyways...what I planned to make was a hummus type "dip" with the Fava Beans, Asparagus and Leeks for my grilled Artichokes. 

3 large artichokes
about 10 asparagus stalks
1 small leek
1 cup cooked fava beans
2 or 3 garlic cloves
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Because the beans were dried, I had to soak them...which took some time. I soaked about 1 cup of beans. There are 2 methods....the overnight 12 hour method and the quick soak method. Since I didn't leave myself much time (and had been counting on at least finding these beans in a can) I did the quick method (now that I think of it, even if I had lots of time I would've done the quick method). Cover beans in water, bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let soak for an hour. Rinse and measure 3 parts water to 1 part beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 2 hours. 

One of the main differences that I noticed about fava beans compared to other beans I've worked with was that after the beans have soak (and in my case cooked) you have to remove the "skins". A bit tedious but after messing with the skins, I imagine its very worth it...not a very good texture. 

I saved some of the water that the beans were cooked in, and put the beans in my little food processor, after I removed the skin. 

Meanwhile, I prepared the asparagus by pealing the tougher outer skins (these guys were a bit thicker than usual and I didn't want anything stringy or chewy in my dip) and steamed until tender. I also washed and chopped the leeks, and chopped up the garlic. These were sauteed together until tender.

I added the reserved cooking water from the beans, and some olive oil, to the beans in my food processor, blended until smooth. 

Then the leeks, garlic and asparagus were added, along with the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste....blend some more until creamy smooth. The dip is intended to be thinner than hummus. Add more olive oil as needed....drizzling in slowly.

(sorry for the sucky picture)

As for the artichokes, I boil mine with a few garlic cloves and some lemon juice, for about 45 minutes or until the bottoms are tender when pierced with a fork. 

For this meal, I cut off the stem, then pealed away the outer leaves. Sliced them in half, removed the fuzzy parts and purple leaves in the middle and then drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the hearts and inner leaves. I think next time I'll leave the out leaves intact. These sat for a bit (30 minutes) and then were grilled, face down, until browned. I drizzled a small amount of balsamic vinegar on the dip just before serving.

My husband balked when I told him I was going to grill the artichokes..."WHY!?" "umm...because I want to?" .oO(wtf?) So I left one whole artichoke intact for him.

I think another leek and more asparagus would've been good. The dip didn't have much flavor but then again, I like lots of flavor when I eat so maybe I'm just weird. We'll see what happens next time. Even if I don't go through the trouble to make the dip...I really want to grill the artichokes again! 

Country Style Pork.....?? I thought they were suppose to be Ribs

Usually when you get a bunch of meat that says Country Style Ribs (pork or beef) that means that you're getting these long, thick strips of boneless meat, that resemble ribs but you don't have to tackle the thing for 10 minutes trying to get a bite-full of meat. I like ribs. Sometimes. I mean...I love the flavor but I don't enjoy picking half the meat I struggled to get in the first place out of my teeth for the next several hours. It's a love hate thing....so when I discovered these Country Style (wanna be) Ribs...I was so excited!

But this last batch of Country Style Pork Ribs were not what I'm use to getting at all. They were in odd shapes and had some pretty intimidating, sharp, ancient weapon resembling bones in them. Hmm... O'well....meat is meat. They were already defrosted and it was too late to turn back now....so, if they wanted to pretend they were ribs, well then, I could play along with that game. Besides...when you add a bunch of BBQ Sauce....who cares, right?

I've made ribs a few different ways but since we didn't have the bbq set up for the summer yet, this was my go-to, general, easy method. I filled a big pot full of water, plopped in the meat and dumped a bunch of seasonings in the water. Can't say that I measured a single thing, but I will try and give you a guess-timate:

1 or 2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper?
2 or more tsp garlic powder (probably more...lots more)
1 tsp onion powder
and the newest addition to my spice cupboard....(drum roll please.....)
1 tsp or so of... BACON  SALT, Peppered (whistles, claps....standing ovation and lit lighters swaying through the air)


I brought the pot to a boil then lowered heat so that it simmered a good hour (as opposed to a bad hour? what the hell is a "good hour"?). When the meat was tender and just about falling apart, I removed it from the pot and put it into one of those aluminum roasting pans (dishes didn't appeal to me that day and I still had one left over from the Easter Prime Rib....the pans are sold in a set of two...for what ever reason). Then...I smothered those suckers with tons of BBQ sauce and stuck them in the oven.

I put the oven on a really high heat....450' F I think. I probably should've set it to broiling but I must not have been thinking. I kept an eye on the meat to make sure it didn't burn. Probably could've kept it in a bit longer but everyone was hungry and whining so I took them out sooner than I would've preferred. I tend to like them a little crispier but my husband doesn't..o'well. They were juicy, tender, and tasted great.

I did have some leftover and I wish I had had enough time this morning to show you what I made for lunch. But I was running late for work and had to rush. Just use your imagination :). I had bought some really good rolls over the weekend. I sliced one in half, sprayed it with butter flavored Pam and stuck the bread in a hot pan until it was crispy. I shredded some leftover "ribs" (? or whatever they were). I spread the roll with some mayo (I'm a mayo person. If you're not....thats ok, I won't feel too sorry for you. You're probably better off without it haha). Then I scooped up a lot of shredded meat and BBQ sauce...topped it with some shredded lettuce and had one of the best BBQ sandwiches ever!!