Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!


Sorry I haven't been posting lately. I've been so busy at work and kind of pooped.

I didn't get many kids tonight so I've been eating all the candy! YIKES, I better stop and get myself on the treadmill tommorrow or they'll have to roll me into work in the morning!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! (Hey put that Snickers down!)

Check in tommorrow for a healthy and quick weeknight dinner!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mom's Fish Dinner!

Baked Fish with Fennel, Onions and Potatoes
Not very photogenic, but the flavor shines through!


I don't really have an exact recipe to share with you because my mom just kind of throws this dish together. She saw it being made on a cooking show years ago and just makes it by memory- no exact measurements or ingredients for that matter. In fact, I'm not sure what kind of fish she used this time, but has used cod, scrod and haddack. I guess any white, fairly thick fish would do.

The first time she made this dish I was kind of leery. I couldn't imagine fennel and onions with fish and potatoes. But let me assure you, this is one of the tastiest fish dishes I have ever had. The onion and fennel flavors meld perfectly with the fish and potatoes.

I'll tell you as much as I know about the recipe.

The onion and fennel are sliced and sauteed in olive oil to start. The potatoes are partially cooked, sliced and added to the onion mixture.

The mixture is then added to a baking dish and the fish is placed on top and covered with lemon juice, breadcrumbs and I believe, melted butter. Then she tops it with a few lemon slices. It is baked in the oven (I'm not sure what temperature, maybe 350 degrees) for probably about 20 minutes.

How often do you use fennel?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Plenty of Apples...Not Plenty of time

Apple Pie without the hassle!

This weekend I was all about making an easy and delicious apple pie. I had a bag full of Macoun apples in the fridge that I have been eating daily with yogurt. But there was no way I was going to eat them all before they started to go bad.

I wanted to make a traditional apple pie with a crust, but I had limited time and I was getting tired, since it seems like all I did the entire weekend was cook.
So I decided to make an Apple Cobbler and I was not at all disappointed with the end result.
In fact, I was very pleased!


Easy Apple Cobbler


Ingredients

8-10 peeled and sliced Apples (I used Macoun)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
2 tablespoons tapioka

Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter or margarine (softened)
1 large egg and 1 egg white (beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 4oo degrees.

In a very large bowl, mix the apples and lemon juice. Add the sugar, cinnamon, apple pie spice and tapioka. Set aside for about 10 minutes.

To prepare topping, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and eggs.
Grease a pie plate with butter or margarine and fill with the apple mixture. Spoon topping over fruit.

Bake cobbler until topping is lightly golden and apple mixture is bubbling, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Have you ever made a cobbler?

Monday, October 23, 2006

And The Winner Is... Cinnamon!

Yummy Cinnamon Ricotta Roll Ups!

Yep, those are the Pillsbury refrigerated bread sticks that I couldn't decide what to do with. Thanks to all of your ideas, I finally made up my mind and decided to make these cute little roll-ups.

The inspiration for these roll ups came from a recipe on the Pillsbury website, in the Bake-Off Recipe Collection, called Apple Ricotta Brunch Biscuits. Other than the fact that it used Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk Biscuits, it called for most all of the other ingredients that I wanted to use for my roll-ups. So I modified the recipe a bit and the finished result was fantastic!

Cinnamon Ricotta Roll-Ups


1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 tsp. for topping (I cut the sugar in half, so if you like your cinnamon rolls sweet, use 1/2 cup)
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/8 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 can Pillsbury Low-Fat Bread Sticks

Icing


Mix 2 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon water or milk and a couple of drops of almond extract; adding more liquid if needed, until the sugar is smooth enough to drizzle on top of the roll ups.

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray glass baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cheese, egg and almond extract; beat at high speed for 1 minute.

In small bowl, combine almonds, teaspoon sugar and cinnamon; mix well. Separate dough into 12 separate strips and flatten with a rolling pin. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the ricotta mixture and sprinkle about 5 or 6 raisins onto each dough strip. (You will have extra ricotta mixture, see note below for a great way to use it).

Roll up each strip and carefully place them into the prepared baking pan. (The mixture will be a little thin and some will leak out). Once all of the roll-ups are arranged in the pan, sprinkle the top with the almond, cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 19-20 minutes or until roll-ups are deep golden brown. Drizzle with icing if desired. Serve warm. Store in refrigerator.

I was pleasantly surprised with the final product. Because the cheese was so liquidy, it sort of melted into the dough as the roll-ups baked. This was not a bad thing. It gave the dough a nice rich and sweet taste. Although they were not too sweet, as I don't usually like very sweet things in the morning. I could have used cream cheese for a firmer and slightly tangy result, but I really wanted to use up my leftover ricotta.

Note: I actually had enough of the ricotta mixture left from this recipe to make a...
Mini Ricotta Cheese Cake!

I made a quick graham cracker crust with 3 graham crackers (crushed), 1 tablespoon of margarine/spread (softened) and 2 teaspoons sugar. I pressed it into the bottom of a mini spring pan and poured in the remaining ricotta mixture.

It baked at the same temperature as the roll-ups (375 for about 25-27 minutes, or until it was firm in the center.)

Melted seedless raspberry jam and toasted almond slices seemed like the perfect way to dress it up! I was in heaven.

I hope you try this recipe because I think you will love it.

Do you eat breakfast every morning? If so, is it something sweet or savory?

Friday, October 20, 2006

TGIF!!!!!

Question of the Day...

"What is the superstition surrounding taking the last piece of pie?"


A: "That it will bring good health, prosperity, and if the person is single, they will remain as such.
"

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought I would share it with all of you. I always thought it was supposed to be bad luck so I tried looking it up online and got some similar answers and a lot of other wacky superstitions as well.

On one website it said:

If you take the last piece of anything, you will be an old maid unless you kiss the cook.

Eat the point of a pie first and you will be an old maid.

Another website had these:

Spilling salt
Spilling salt means bad luck, having a quarrel.
In order to avoid the bad luck or to prevent quarrel, one has to throw but a pinch of salt that was spilled over the shoulder.
Explanation: In earlier times salt used to be rare, and thus expensive.
Country: BG, UA, BY, RO.

Raising a glass
When drinking, it is good to have a toast.
Explanation: Originally when toasting, wine or beer would flow from one into the other glass. This showed that the wine was not poisoned and that the guest had nothing to fear from the host.
Country: Europe, Asia.

Tell me some that you have heard...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Weeknight Whip-Up!

Fill Em Up and Chow Em Down!

This was a quick way to make-over meatballs and sausage. With a can of Pilsbury Italian Loaf Bread in the fridge getting close to the expiration date, I was ready to create the perfect calzones. Or so I hoped.

There were plenty of fillings to choose from in my fridge to go with the meatballs and sausage but I narrowed it down to these: Ricotta Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Red Onion, Black & Green Olives and Fresh Parsely and Basil.

I had never tried using canned dough for anything but what it was meant for, so it was kind of an experiment. I cut the dough into 4 equal pieces, formed circles and stretched it as much as I could without tearing it.

I sliced the meatballs, sausage, onion, olives and red peppers, piled the fillings on one side, leaving enough dough to fold over and then crimped the edges. I also added just a little tomato sauce to keep it moist. For a nice brown crust, I brushed the calzones with a little milk before putting them in a 450 degree oven. I baked them for about 20 minutes or until they looked light brown and crispy.

For garnish, I served the calzones with tomato sauce which made it nice for dipping.

All in all, I would have to give them a rating of "pretty damn good". For a store bought loaf bread, the crust was decent and the meatball and sausage filling was even better the second time around. I guess anything would taste better if it was covered in cheese, peppers, onions and olives!

I have another can Pilsbury Breadsticks in the fridge that is getting close to the expiration date. I was thinking about making something like cinnamon sticks.
Does Anyone Have Any Suggestions or Ideas?

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, October 16, 2006

Calling All Cooks...

Not As Easy As it Looks!

This weekend I had a little get together for Sunday dinner. I served Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs and Italian Sausage, along with some Italian Green Beans, Mixed Veggies and a Fresh Salad.

My neice and her husband were sweet enough to bring along some delicious goodies from Whole Foods... Shiraz Wine, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Edam Loaf Cheese, Campo Montolbano Cheese, Thin Wafer Crackers, Mixed Olives, and an Artisan Loaf Bread. Everything was delicious! For dessert I had Marble Cupcakes with Butterscotch Chips and Butterscoth Frosting and my neice brought some Fresh Strawberries.

As soon as I saw the strawberries, I knew we had to melt some dark chocolate for dipping! Which brings me to my question...Why Did My Chocolate Seize?

I had a bag of Hershey's Dark Chocolate Chips, which we put into a glass bowl and microwaved on high for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring half way through. The first attempt, my neice added a little cold water because the chocolate didn't seem to be liquid enough. It immediately seized.

I knew this would happen because the water was cold. The second time, I heated the chocolate the same way and it was fine but I thought I would try adding a little heated fat-free half & half to thin it a little. The same thing happened! Within 20 seconds the chocolate turned hard.

I don't understand why it happened with the warm half & half. I thought that is how Ganache was made. I have seen chefs on TV add a little cream to chocolate to thin it before pouring it over a cake or tart.

Oh well, the third time was the charm. We just melted the chocolate and used it as is. And being the resourceful women that we are, we made Bon Bons with the hardened chocolate! Let me tell you, they were delicious!!

What did I do wrong? Is it because I used "fat-free" half & half?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Weeknight Whip-up!

Another Rotisserie Chicken Makeover
So Easy, So Quick...So Tasty!!


I would like to dedicate this post to Maltese Parakeet. A few posts back Maltese Parakeet suggested I change my name to Rotisserie Chicken Annie because it seems I have been eating a lot of it lately. Maybe she's right!

I love using rotisserie chicken in place of raw chicken when I'm in a hurry. There is no mess, less worry about raw chicken juices contaminating the kitchen, therefore less clean-up. Plus I don't particularly enjoy touching raw chicken. Don't get me wrong, some recipes just will not work unless you use fresh raw chicken, but when I'm looking for a quick, healthy and tastly meal; the rotisserie chicken always fills the bill. Hehehe! Pardon the pun!

Whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken, I never eat the whole thing in one meal. I usually end up with left over chicken from one of those birds almost every time. I could probably post a recipe every week on all the ways I use it as leftovers!

This week is no exception. I had a half of cooked breast left and felt like trying something different for a change. So the search began for some ideas online. I kind of felt like eating something with a little bit of tang and wanted to use broccoli and green beans in the mix. I found a recipe for Sesame Shrimp Stir Fry that used teriaki sauce, sesame seeds and sugar snap peas. Yum.

Voila, my inspiration for this week's rotisserie chicken makeover.

Sesame Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry

2 cups water and 1 cup uncooked white rice (or use microwave ready rice)
1 rotisserie chicken breast half, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or fresh grated ginger)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of pre-chopped garlic)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, plus 1 teaspoon more for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 tablespoons sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips (or1/4 cup jarred sliced roasted red pepper/pimentos)
1/2 small red onion, sliced (or 3 green onions, sliced)
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets & 1 1/2 cups green beans, steamed (or 1/2 pound sugar snap peas)
1/8 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt, if necessary

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. (I used Uncle Ben's Whole Grain Brown Ready Rice which cooks in 90 seconds in the microwave.)
While rice is simmering, combine chicken, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds and black pepper in a large bowl.
Heat a large wok or skillet and add the remaining teaspoon of sesame seeds. Watch carefully stirring often until light brown. Remove the seeds and set aside. Add the oil to the skillet. Add red bell pepper, onions and garlic; saute 3 to 4 minutes to soften slightly. Add teriyaki sauce. Add steamed broccoli, green beans and chicken with seasoning; saute 4 minutes or until everything is heated through. Stir cornstarch into chicken broth and add to wok; cook, stirring until mixture boils. Sprinkle with salt. Spoon chicken mixture over rice. Sprinkle with extra toasted sesame seeds.

This was one of the best left over dishes I've made yet. Maybe it is because I haven't had teriaki in a long time, but believe me it was good.

How often do you buy rotisserie chicken?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Q: Pepperoni is America’s favorite pizza topping.

Is Japan’s favorite pizza topping:

(a) eggs; (b) pickled ginger; or (c) squid?


A: Squid. Australians prefer eggs; pickled ginger is #1 in India. The French like fresh cream.
source: http://halife.com/trivia/food.html

What is your favorite pizza topping?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Guilt Free Baked Pasta

Reduced-Fat Manicotti
(and you'd never know it!)

It is "Flavors of Italy" week at my local IGA, so all my favorite Italian foods are on Sale!! And you know how I love a Sale!

I picked up some broccoli rabe, fresh Italian parsely, a red onion, garlic, proscuitto and ricotta. I really didn't have any particular recipe in mind while I was shopping, but as I stood in line at the register to pay, I thought about what I was going to make. The first thing that came to my mind was a baked pasta dish. But I didn't want anything too filling or fattening... So what kind?

When I got home, I went online and searched for a recipe with the above specified ingredients and came up with a couple for canneloni. I knew I didn't have canneloni (even in my overcrowded 'pasta' pantry closet). But I did have manicotti. This would do.

My inspiration came from a recipe on Epicurious for Spinach and Cheese Canelloni. I didn't use the sauce from that recipe though, I made a bechamel sauce adapted from Giada DI Laurentiis. Although I'm sure she would not approve, because I substituted fat-free half and half for the whole milk and used some smart balance spread in place of some of the butter.
This what I came up with.

Broccoli Rabe and Cheese Manicotti
Adapted from Gourmet -March 2003 "Spinach and Cheese Canelloni"
Makes 10 Manicotti


Low-Fat Bechamel Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon smart balance spread
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free half and half (warmed up in the microwave)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper


For manicotti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 of a large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
One large bunch of broccoli rabe, washed, trimmed, blanched and chopped
Half of a 15 oz container part-skim ricotta (I used Supreme, which is my favorite)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
3 slices of prosciutto (sliced a little thicker than usual), chopped
salt
black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (I used Parmigiano)
10 manicotti pasta

Special equipment: a 13- by 9- by 2-inch ceramic baking dish or other shallow 3-qt flameproof baking dish (not glass). *I used glass. Just cover all of the exposed top edges with foil before placing under the broiler.

Make bechamel sauce:
In a medium pot, melt the butter and spread over medium heat. When completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and chayenne pepper. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside.

Make manicotti:
Place oil, onion and garlic in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over low heat, allowing onion and garlic to heat up slowly in the oil, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and sauté, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. (At this point I put the broccoli rabe mixture in the food processor to ensure a smooth texture when mixed with the cheese. You could skip this step if the texture doesn't bother you.)

Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, prosciutto, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup cheese in a bowl, then stir in broccoli rabe mixture.

Boil pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, stirring to separate, until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and gently transfer to kitchen towels (not terry cloth).

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread 2/3 cup sauce in greased baking dish. Gently stuff ricotta filling into each manicotti dividing evenly for all 10. If some tear, just fill them and overlap the seams on the bottom. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Arrange snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over manicotti and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, covered with foil, in middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Turn on broiler.

Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side. Sprinkle with fresh Italian parsely.

Note:
• Manicottii can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before baking. Remaining sauce will need to be thinned slightly.

This recipe did take some time in the kitchen, but I made it a day ahead so that it would be easy to heat and serve. I really enjoyed the flavors in this dish. Everything mingled nicely together. Also, the white sauce was a nice change from the usual marinara and it wasn't too heavy because it was low-fat.

Have you ever used fat-free half and half in any your recipes?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Scents of Autumn!

The Quintessential Fall Cookie
(At least in my book)

When I think of a Hermit cookie several thoughts come to mind. I imagine cool weather, colorful foliage, and spicy flavors.

I don't think of anti-social people secluded in the deep woods. So I can't imagine why these cookies are called Hermits.


The dictionary'
s definition of a hermit is:

  1. A person who has withdrawn from society and lives a solitary existence; a recluse.
  2. A spiced cookie made with molasses, raisins, and nuts.
Quite a contrast in comparisons, isn't it?

O.k. enough about that and on with the recipe. Actually, I don't know where this recipe came from. I cut it out of the newspaper years ago and there was no credit given for the author. I included the recipe exactually as written and included my changes in red.

I decided to make them lower in fat by changing some of the ingredients, but I have to tell you that I did have a few problems with the baking time. I'm not sure if it has to do with the different ingredients or the recipe in general. In the end though, they did turn out good!


"Reduced-Fat" Hermits

1 cup sugar ( I used 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup butter (I used 2 Tablespoons Smart Balance Spread)
1/4 cup lard (I used 1/3 cup Dried Plum Puree, aka:Prune Puree)
3 cups sifted flour (I used 2 cups A.P Flour. and 1 cup WW Pastry Flour )
1 tsp.ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (I used fat-free buttermilk)
1egg, beaten (I used 2 egg whites)
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter-lard combination.( I creamed together the sugar and the spread, then added in the puree.) In another large bowl, sift together the flour, the spices, salt and baking soda.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients alternately with the molasses and milk. Add the beaten egg and raisins. Mix well.

Spread mixture on a greased baking sheet so that it is about 1/2 inch thick.( I did this free form in a cookie sheet on parment paper. The dough did not touch the sides of the pan.) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cookies. (After 12 minutes my cookies were still raw in the middle, so I left them in for another 10 minutes.)

When they are firm to the touch, they are done. Cut into oblong cookie shapes. If desired, you can sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the tops of the cookies while they are still warm.
Note: You can substitute Crisco or another shortening for the lard. Also, you can use 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and you can add 1 tsp. ginger and 1 cup of chopped walnuts, if desired. Makes 24 hermits.

Does Anyone Know Why Are They Called "Hermits"?

Weeknight Whip-up!

Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables

Nothing is easier to cook than couscous. In fact, you really don't even cook it. Boil the water or broth, take the pan off the heat, add the couscous and cover. Let it sit for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. It can't get much simplier than that!

It makes a great accompaniment to leftovers. In my case, I had leftover steamed mixed vegetables and store bought rotisserie chicken.

To jazz it up a bit, I sauted some red onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil, added the veggies and a little garlic powder.

Then I added a little Wondra flour, stirred it into the oil and cooked it a bit. Next, fresh squeezed lemon juice, low-sodium chicken broth and small pieces of the leftover chicken breast. I covered the pan and let it slowly simmer.

Once everything was heated through, I added just a dash of white wine vinegar for a little tangyness. And for some freshness, I added chopped fresh parsely and basil. To top it all off, I sprinkled on a little feta cheese and spooned it over the couscous.

Easy and satisfying for a mid-week meal!

How often do you eat Couscous?

Tuesday Trivia

EVERYONE LOVES COKE!

Q: How many Coca-Colas will be consumed worldwide during the next hour:
(a) 17-million; (b) 27-million; or (c) 37-million?


A:
About 27-million. That's over 600-million per day.
source: http://halife.com/trivia/food.html

How often do you drink soda? What is your favorite?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Scent of Autumn!

"Not Entirely Homemade But Close" Spicy Pumpkin Muffins!

Lately I've been trying to clear out my freezer, pantry cabinet and cabinets. While trying to take an inventory of what was in my cabinets, I came across a box of pumpkin loaf mix. I immediately imagined how wonderful it would make the house smell while baking. I was sold.

There was a recipe on the side of the box for pumpkin ginger cookies that sounded really good. The recipe called for cyrstalized ginger and raisins, yummy! I was tempted to make them, but I really wanted muffins, so I compromised. I made the pumpkin muffins, added in the crystalized ginger and made a few other adaptations to make them a little more homemade.

First off, I reduced the fat by replacing most of the oil with unsweetened apple sauce and cut one of the egg yolks out. Secondly, I used fat-free buttermilk in place of regular milk. It gives the crumb a better texture and flavor. And as I mentioned, added crystalized ginger. I only added a 1/8 cup because I wasn't sure how much of a spicy "bite" it would give to the flavor. I think it was just right, but 1/4 cup would be fine as well.

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins

1 box of Pillsbury Pumpkin Loaf Mix
1 egg and 1 egg white
1 T oil
1/8 - 1/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1 cup buttermilk

Follow the directions on the box. I baked mine for about 18 minutes at 375 degrees in a dark coated muffin pan.

These muffins turned out really tasty and were a pleasant change to my usual line-up of blueberry, cranberry-orange and corn. (Not that there's anything wrong with them!)

What recipe reminds you most of Autumn?