February 2, 2011

Busy Bee

If my entire semester is going to be as busy as these past two weeks; it's going to be a long one.
Six classes. Two four hour labs. Nightly/weekend meetings. Work shifts.
By the time I come home I just want to go for a long run- and by then it's usually cold. And dark.

I really just want some of this baked chicken with penne and sun-dried tomatoes; the type of comforting dish I would make at home to enjoy after a long day with my family at the dinner table.

After that settled in my stomach (preferably while I took a hot bubble bath and flipped through some magazines) I would throw on on flannel J Crew jammies, my over-sized and comfy Virgina sweatshirt, and nom on a big slice of my favorite Jewish Apple Cake with a big dollop (or two) of whipped cream. I had never seen our family recipe anywhere, let alone heard of it, until I stumbled upon it at Smitten Kitchen one day- crazy!

I'd say that would be the perfect solution to my "busy-semester-home-sick-syndrome..." and of course, a nice long run the next morning.

January 26, 2011

Rhymes with Wednesday

1. Woke up craving these brownies from Kitchen Corners. Still figuring out whether that's a good or bad thing..

2. On a dreary Wednesday morning like today, this blog is one of my first tabs to open up on my laptop.

Cute sayings. Adorable photos. And the occasional witty one-liner it's the perfect site to brighten up a morning that's full of winter weather warnings (even though I'm sure we'll just get rain) and the realization that, like yesterday, I won't be home until near 10 p.m. after I leave at 9 this morning.

& I could definitely go for some takeout when I get home tonight...I think this is perfect for a young, fun, and fashionable college student

3. I have a new found desire to live in Colorado/Utah at some point in my life.

I just want to spend the days enjoying snow, skiing, being outdoors, and then spend the nights cooking and baking for my family & friends...Here's a photo of what I imagine it like from one of my favorite blogs.

4. From my favorite Cupcakes and Cashmere comes Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies. One of my two favorite colors besides turquoise, you must go see these cute finds.

January 15, 2011

Banana Bread

Winter holiday has come and gone, and now I'm back in the Good Old Land of Wahoo-Wah. Sorority rush started yesterday, my work at Ragged Mountain Running Shop starts today, and classes start Wednesday; with everything so hectic already I'm so blessed to have had such a wonderful month-long break full of family, friends, fun, and of course delicious food.

Below is one of the last little goodies I made before heading back to school, our family's favorite banana bread. Made in one bowl with nothing more complex than a whisk and a spoon, it's not only super easy, but super delicious. Perfect slathered with cream cheese, butter, or just plain hot out of the oven.

Even though I'm back at school, I still might try to do a few posts here and there :)

Banana bread

For bread
3 ripe bananans
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips or nuts, optional

Make bread:
Preheat the oven to 325F and grease a loaf pan.

Mash bananas in a large bowl. Whisk in the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until well combined. Add in eggs one at a time. Whisk in the sugar, followed by the flour, baking soda and salt. Finally fold in the chocolate chips or nuts, if using. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy with a steaming cup of coffee or a refreshing glass of orange juice.

January 13, 2011

Mom's Brownies

Mom's famous brownies have always been a favorite in our house. Super dense, extra chocolately, and perfectly paired with a glass of cold milk (or vanilla ice cream...or whipped cream...the list is endless). I had to make them for my sister, pictured above, as a congratulatory surprise for her interview yesterday!

I was wracking my brain trying to think of something quick, easy, and delicious but would be ready in time for when she returned. Thinking back to the other day when she claimed she was craving mom's brownies, I whipped up these babies in no time. They're the epitome of easy: all in one bowl, and the mixer does all the work- well, other than measuring that is.

Mom's Brownies

For brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 cups flour
1 cup walnuts* optional

Make brownies:
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9x13 metal baking pan.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or a large bowl with a hand held, cream together the butter and sugar until light at fluffy or about 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla, followed by the eggs one at a time. Mix on medium for another 2-3 minutes. Slowly add in the cocoa, followed by the flour, scraping down the sides to ensure even mixing. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch in the middle.

January 11, 2011

All American Dinner

Don't get me wrong, I love Italian, French, Mexican, and now even Thai food. But sometimes, there's nothing better than some good old American Comfort food....

Comfort food has a different meaning to each cook. To some, it's gooey mac and cheese. To others, it's a steaming bowl soup with crusty bread, or some hearty chili and corn bread. To my mom, comfort food is meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and roasted veggies. Simple, delicious, and comforting.

Boy, this meatloaf is to die for. Honestly, you can't even tell it's turkey (aka, semi healthy) because the sweet flavor of the caramelized onions juxtaposed with the tangy horseradish flavor the dish so wonderfully. The soaked bread and added sour cream make the meatloaf so tender and delicate, a comforting texture to devour; which is exactly what we did.

And of course, I had to make my sister her favorite honey roasted carrots. Meatloaf and carrots, what's better than that? Adding the honey halfway through the cooking prevents it from turning bitter, and you're left with a sweet glaze to tantalize your tastebuds while you savor the sweet, soft carrots. We're permanently stocked up on a family friends honey; it's the best honey I've ever had, and it really makes a difference as opposed to Sue Bee or Honeymaid, but use what you've got! And, most importantly, enjoy this comfort food.

Carmelized Onion & Horseradish Meatloaf

For meatloaf
2 medium sized onions, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
a sprig of fresh thyme
2 cloves of garlic, crushed then chopped
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons horseradish
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Make meatloaf:
In a medium sized skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add onions and saute over low heat, stirring every so often until the onions are a rich golden brown and caramelized. This may take 30-40 minutes, so be sure to give yourself enough time. Once the onions are caramelized, add in the thyme and garlic and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a small bowl, soak the crust-less bread in the milk for about five minutes. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, and horseradish. Remove the bread from the milk bowl, and squeeze to get rid of excess moisture. Add the bread to the turkey mixture, along with the egg/horseradish mixture followed by the dried mustard, salt, and pepper. Work the mixture together with your hands gently, until it is all combined. Transfer the meat mixture to a greased 9x5 loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reads 170 on an instant thermometer.

*I served the meatloaf with a simple sauce: 1/3 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons mayo, and 2 tablespoons horseradish.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

For potatoes
3 pounds red-skinned potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, slightly warmed
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make potatoes:
Put potatoes in a large pot, filled 2 inches over the top with water. Bring to a boil, add the salt, and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain. Add in half of the buttermilk, butter, and sour cream. Mash, while adding in the remaining buttermilk, or as much needed to achieve your desired texture. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Honey Roasted Carrots

For carrots
6 large carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into small sections
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons good honey

Make carrots:
When the meatloaf is almost halfway done cooking, make the carrots. Line a metal baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place out carrots evenly. Drizzle with oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove, drizzle with honey, and bake for 5-10 minutes more or until the carrots are soft and tender.

*I also threw some asparagus on the baking sheet with about 10 minutes left with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Upon removal from the oven I then drizzled them with fresh lemon juice, delish!

January 10, 2011

Roman Chicken Cacciatore

I. Love. Chicken....thighs. There's something about dark meat that makes it so tender and delicate, juicy and oh so flavorful.

Chicken thighs are perfect in this dish; the quick searing of the thighs give them a nice outer crust. That, followed by a slow cooking in a bold, aromatic sauce makes a fork the only utensil needed for dining, as they just fall apart. To use a knife would just be blasphemous.

The anchovies, capers, and red wine really come together nicely to make an amazing sauce full of flavor from the searing of the chicken and the sweetness of the pepper/onion combination. Topped off with basil and oregano (unfortunately I didn't have fresh...really missing mom's summer herb garden) it has just the right amount of seasoning- I love it over egg noodles. A slightly untraditional combination, but absolutely fantastic and delicious.

Roman Chicken Cacciatore

For chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil

For sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 anchovy fillets
2 cups chopped bell pepper (about 11 or 12 mini, mixed color peppers)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed then chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

For serving/assembly
1 pound cooked egg noodles, or any of your choice
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Make chicken:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and oregano in a shallow dish ( I always use a pie plate, it's the perfect size and depth). Lightly coat the chicken thighs with the flour mixture and place in hot oil. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until a nice golden crust forms. Remove from pan and place on a paper-towel-lined plate while you prepare the sauce.

Make sauce:
Add another 2 tablespoons of oil and the anchovies to the skillet. Break up the anchovies to evenly distribute their flavor as you build up the sauce. After about a minute, add in the peppers and cook for a few minutes, about 5, before adding in the onions and garlic. Continue to cook the peppers and onions until they are soft, about 5 minutes.

De-glaze the pan with the red wine, scraping up browned bits as you stir it in. Then add the tomatoes, capers, and dried herbs. Give the sauce a few good stirs before adding the chicken thighs back in. Cover slightly and allow to simmer on medium low heat for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve over hot noodles with a grating of Parmesan cheese.

January 9, 2011

Bolognese Lasagna

When I was little, I hated melted cheese. So much, in fact, that when my mom made lasanga she would leave a corner just for me that was sans Ricotta cheese, which still today I do not like. Lasagna was just never my thing, I was never a happy camper when we had it for dinner.

Now that my taste buds have matured and I have become proficient in the kitchen I've done lots of experimenting with the enigma otherwise known as Lasanga. This summer I made a fresh tomato Lasanga, using a bechamel instead of Ricotta cheese; the combination of the fresh tomato sauce, the lightness of the bechamel, and a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese made it fabulous.

For winter thought, it's best to go a bit heartier; hence, Bolognese Lasagna. And, I kid you not or exaggerate one bit when I tell you, this really is the best Bolognese I've made, ever. Something about cooking the meat in the milk, a pinch of nutmeg, and the red wine make such a heart, warming, and flavorful sauce that you just can't seem to get enough of. That, plus a creamy bechamel, sweet Parmesan and Romano cheese, and gooey lasagna noodles make this the ultimate lasagna. To be honest, five of us ate the whole pan, and were disappointed there weren't any leftovers... but I guess that means I'll just have to make some more.

Bolognese Lasagna

For bolognese sauce
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt*
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes

For bechamel
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, slightly warmed
pinch of nutmeg

For assembly
butter, for greasing dish
1 package 'ready-to-bake' lasagna noodles
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese

Make Bolognese:
In a Dutch oven (or any large pot that retains heat well) melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions, carrot, and celery until very soft and almost translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the ground beef and pork, seasoning heavily with the salt and pepper followed by a pinch of nutmeg. Break up the meat into smaller chunks while it begins to cook, and then stir in the milk. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes or until almost all of the liquid evaporates and the meat is thoroughly cooked.

Work in the tomato paste until it is well distributed into the mixture, followed by the red wine, whole and diced tomatoes. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until the sauce is perfectly thick, meaty and delicious.

Make Bechamel:
In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and allow to cook with the butter for 1-2 minutes or until there is no smell of raw flour and the mixture is a light golden color. Slowly add in the milk, whisking constantly, followed by a small grating of fresh nutmeg. Continue to whisk over lower heat until the mixture has become thickened and bubbles slightly.

Assemble Lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 400F and grease a 9x13 glass or ceramic baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom of the pan. Cover with 1/4 of the Bechamel, 1/4 of the Bolognese sauce, and then a sprinkling of the cheese. Repeat layering process, ending with cheese on top of the two sauces. Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and increase the heat to 425F to finish baking for 10 additional minutes or until golden brown and bubbly on top. Serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan or Romano cheese.

*This may seem like a salt, but it's imperative to season the meat/sauce at this, and only this time, as the meat will absorb the salt as it cooks in the milk and give the entire dish an amazing flavor.