Friday, December 17, 2010

Recipes from "Heat n' Serve" blog

When I set out to make these recipes, the main idea was to do anything that would help heat the house, since we were not using our heat at the time, due to our air handler's odd behavior and fears of a possible fire. So I chose to bake chicken and potatoes in the oven to help generate some heat. So along with the extra warmth, we got a bonus of some delicious, roasted food that was quite simple to throw together!

Roast Chicken Thighs

*Since there is just my husband and I, we can cook in small amounts. A family of 4 will wish to either have 4-6 thighs or roast a whole chicken.

2-chicken thighs, with the bone and skin on
assorted seasonings (any you like. I used kosher salt, pepper, Lawry's Poultry Seasoning,
Thyme & a little granulated garlic)
Olive oil (and a drop of canola oil to "oil" the baking dish with)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken pieces dry and lay, skin-side up, in oiled baking dish. Rub a bit of olive oil around each piece then season as you like. Bake, uncovered, about 45-50 minutes.

Scalloped-Gratin Potatoes

2 medium-sized white potatoes, peeled and sliced (rather thin slices, like 1/8" wide)
small amount chicken broth
small amount half n' half or milk (if desired) *I did not use this, but it is common with scalloped
Grated cheese, your choice (suggested: Fontina or Mexican cheese blend, can also be cheddar...
your choice).
A couple pats butter, cut up
Assorted seasonings: Lawry's seasoning salt, white pepper, chives. (Whatever you like).
Drop of canola oil (to "oil" baking dish)

Place sliced potatoes in a small baking dish. (You can increase the potatoes, ingredients & dish, depending on how many people you are feeding). Pour in broth (and a bit of milk, if using), not too much, just till you can see it when you look down into the potatoes. Put in the cheeses and seasonings and toss around. Lay on the cut up pats of butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. You can either put this in the oven uncovered the whole time, or loosely cover it with foil at first, then remove part-way. This time I covered it loosely till partway ('cause I did not want to darken the cheese too much), but I'd added a little too much broth, and this would have probably completely boiled down nicely had I left it uncovered the whole time, allowing evaporation. You will have to be the judge. The other option is you leave it uncovered the whole time, then the last 15 minutes, sprinkle the cheeses on. Enjoy!

*We enjoyed this was some Smoking Loon Chardonnay.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crème Brûlée Cheesecake

To Make The Crust:

  • 2 cups of finely crushed Vanilla Wafer crumbs
  • 3 Tbs of Granulated Sugar
  • 7-8 Tbs of Unsalted Butter, melted
Place your oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F

Then in a medium bowl, stir together the vanilla wafer crumbs and 3 Tbs. granulated sugar. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moist and clump together slightly. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of the pan (to press, use plastic wrap or a flat-bottom measuring cup). Bake until the crust is  slightly darkened about 9 to 12 minutes. Let the pan cool on a rack.

Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

  • 3- 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 8 ounces of mascarpone
  • 2 Tbs of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs of pure vanilla abstract
  • 4 Large Eggs, @ room temperature
  • 2 Tbs granulated sugar
In a stand mixer beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, flour, and a pinch of table salt on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until very smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Make sure the cheese has no lumps.

Add the 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar and continue beating until well blended and smooth.

Add the vanilla and beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended. (Don’t overbeat once the eggs have been added or the cheesecake will puff too much and crack as it cools.) Pour the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

Bake at 300°F until the center jiggles like Jell-O when nudged, 55 to 65 minutes. The cake will be slightly puffed around the edges, and the center will still look moist. Set on a rack and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
Unclasp and remove the side of the springform pan and run a long, thin metal spatula under the bottom crust of the cheesecake. Carefully slide the cake onto a flat serving plate.

Sprinkle the 2 Tbs. granulated sugar evenly over the top of the cheesecake and slowly pass a hand-held kitchen torch over the sugar until melted and caramelized.

To cut, run a thin knife under hot water, wipe it dry, and cut the cake into slices, heating and wiping the knife after every slice.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Recipes for a "Leaner" Christmas!

Baked Tilapia with Sage-Butter Sauce (served with steamed blue potatoes & carrots and spinach salads)

for 2 people (multiply recipe as needed)

2-Tilapia filets
asst'd seasonings (such as lemon-pepper, Old Bay, Lawry's Seasoning Salt, etc.)
drizzle olive oil

Spray or coat a glass baking dish with canola oil. Lay fish filets in it and season (not too heavily, but don't be too "light", either). Drizzle with a little olive oil over each filet. Preheat oven to 350. Put, uncovered, in oven and bake till done (anywhere from 15-25 minutes--you be the judge!).

Butter sauce: Clip a few leaves of fresh sage. Chop them and add them to a few (3-4) pats of melted butter and stir around. Add a pinch of kosher salt and stir around. When ready to plate meal, spoon sage-butter sauce over both the fish and whole roasted potatoes.

Steamed Potatoes & carrots: *You should start steaming these before you bake the fish. You will have to be the judge of of when they are done to your liking. I used a large pot with a lid and put a steamer "basket" on the inside, filling water up to the basket. I steamed a total of 8 blue potatoes (4 apiece) along with some diagonal slivers of 1 peeled fresh carrot. Just steam until they are tender to your liking and a fork easily pierces them.

Spinach Salad: Put fresh baby spinach leaves in a bowl. Add slices of 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, diced/sliced tomato, bacon bits and croutons. *Of course, all of these toppings are optional, you can omit any of them and add what you like. Use the salad dressing of your choice.

*This meal paired with M'enage 'a Trois Chardonnay 2007.

"Moussaka Stacks" based on a recipe in "How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis

We had a hunk of pork in the freezer (a shoulder or ham). We seasoned it with kosher salt and black pepper and seared the pork in a pot with some olive oil. Take out the pork and put on a platter. To the pot, add: 4-5 cloves chopped garlic, 1-2 stalks chopped celery and a chopped carrot. Saute' till the veggies start to become soft. Add around 1/4 cup of tomato paste and stir around. Add a cup of dry red wine to the pan and stir around. Then add a couple Tbsp red wine vinegar. Allow the wine/vinegar to nearly cook away. Add about 2 tsp dried Oregano (preferably Greek), 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, a few sprigs of thyme, around 2 sprigs of rosemary and some water (a couple quarts?). You will have to adjust water and seasonings as you see fit...I never really cook specifically to a recipe. Return pork to the pot, bring to boil, reduce temp and simmer under a partly covered lid. Simmer till meat is tender. somewhere around 2 hours?... Transfer the meat and any veggies to a platter. Reduce pan juices over high heat till thickened and swirl in a garlic puree' with fresh herbs. Drizzle over pork, along with a drizzle of olive oil THIS is the pork I use to make the "Moussaka Stack".
Moussaka Stack: Peel & thinly slice (preferably on a mandoline) 1 white potato and 2 Japanese-style or a slimmer style eggplant (like "Hansel & Gretyl"). Blanch the potato disks in salted, boiling water for about a minute, then immediately remove and "shock" in an ice water bath. Season eggplant slices with salt & pepper and dust lightly with cinnamon. (I like to pour a small amount of cinnamon in my hand, then dump the cinnamon back in the container. Then "dust off" the residual cinnamon from my palm onto the eggplant slices). Saute' the eggplant in olive oil. Drain and set aside. Roll out fresh pasta sheets (made with about 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 room temp eggs and around 1 1/2 tbsp water) to their thinnest setting on a manual pasta machine roller. Cut out circles (anywhere from 3-4" across). Boil briefly in salted water till they rise to the surface. (*Using the above measurements, you will be left with a lot more pasta than needed for this recipe. You can use the remainder to make lasagna or cannelloni with fresh pasta, or you can use the "cutter" attachment to cut strands of spaghetti or fettucini from it for other dishes). Make a "bechamel sauce". Put a few pats of putter in a pan (3-4), melt down, add some flour (1/8 a cup?). Stir around a bit to get rid of any "raw flour" taste. Add some warmed milk (around 1 cup or more?) and stir well. Add in a pinch of ground nutmeg, a couple pinches ground white pepper, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a faint "dusting" of cinnamon (I'd suggest pouring some in your hand, pouring it back into the bottle, then "dusting" the remainder off your palm into the sauce).
Place a spoonful of bechamel sauce on each plate, speading into a circle around 3" in diameter. Top with a fresh pasta disk, some sliced eggplant & potato, and a spoonful of braised pork. Repeat with another layer just as the first. Repeat again with a third layer, finishing with a final spoonful of the bechamel sauce. Top with some fresh parsley leaves. Serve!
To go-with: Steamed asparagus spears and a bottle of Faustino VII Rioja. Also, I made some homemade goat cheese biscuits that paired very well!
Goat cheese biscuits: These are a "drop" style biscuit, not the kind you cut out. Go outside and clip a handful of fresh chives if you have them. Then cut them into 1/4" pieces to place in the dough. Mix your dry ingredients: About 2 cups Unbleached, All-Purpose flour, 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground white pepper, 1/8-1/4 tsp dried lemon peel (Or fresh lemon zest, your choice), and 1/8 tsp granulated garlic (or use 1/4 tsp minced garlic). Don't forget to add your freshly chopped chives. Now mix in your "fat". Normally you'd use shortening, but I did not have any, so I substituted regular butter. Usually you'd use 1/2 cup shortening (1/2 cup butter would be a full stick, 8 Tbsp). Since I was also incorporating goat cheese, I figured I could cut down on the amount of butter; after all, the goat cheese would provide additional fat. So I used about 6 Tbsp. butter. Then I mixed in about 3/4 cup or so of crumbled fresh goat cheese. I love Laura Chenel goat cheese, that is THE BEST!! Mild and luscious enough to spread thickly on bread and offensive odors or off-putting tastes. After opening, as it sits in the fridge a little while (a week or slightly longer), the odor/taste can become slightly THAT time, it is PERFECT for these biscuits! Anyhow, "cut" the butter and goat cheese into the flour mixture until very crumbly. Then add 1 cup of milk (skim is fine). Mix around. Grease a pan. Use an ice cream scoop to "scoop out" balls of the loose "drop" biscuit dough. Put on baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees (preheated oven) for around 10-12 minutes. I placed my biscuits on the lowest rack. After removing from the oven, push the biscuits off the baking pan onto a rack or counter and let cool. Yummy!

Chicken "Bryan" (serves 2; adjust as needed)

I've tried to "duplicate" this recipe from Carrabas. Theirs is grilled over oak wood, which I've done, and it is very tasty! This particular time, I opted to go the "easier" route and just 'bread' and sautee' it. I lightly pounded one skinless/boneless chicken breast and cut it in half. Then I lightly breaded each piece with a mix of cornmeal, Italian breadcrumbs and Lawry's Poultry Seasoning. Then I panfried them in olive oil. Once done, they were topped with rounds of goat cheese (Laura Chenel is the best!), some sliced, rehydrated sundried tomatoes, drizzled over with some lemon-butter sauce (lemon juice with some melted butter), then topped with freshly sliced basil leaves. They were served alongside an already-made lemon-herb risotto, using short-grain (or Aborio) rice. I used around 1/3 cup for us. You will need to adjust as needed. Sautee' the raw rice in a blend of olive oil and a pat of butter. Stir around. Add a splash of dry white wine and stir around. Have some chicken broth ready to go...add some freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste). Start pouring some of the broth/juice mix into the rice and stir around. Keep stirring and wait for it to absorb most, then add more. Keep stirring and adding till the rice is at the consistency you prefer. Add some kosher salt (if needed) and ground white pepper, along with various herbs such as thyme, tarragon & chives. Plate the dish along with some sweet sugar snap peas. Yum! These are great served with Meridian Chardonnay.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Easy Veggie-Goat Cheese Pasta

1 cup steamed/grilled/sautee'd veggies of your choice (in this case, I used grilled yellow summer squash and zucchini)
olive oil (1-2 tbsp)
minced garlic (1/2 -1 tsp)
dried minced onion (about 1/2-1 tsp)
dried basil (a couple dashes)
dried red pepper flakes (a couple dashes)
a pinch of kosher salt (if needed)
1/4 -1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
*optional: 1/2 cup tomato sauce with meat (beef and italian sausage)
Enough penne pasta for 2 people (about 1/2 box)

Heat olive oil in pan, then sautee' veggies, garlic, minced onion, basil, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt ( if needed). Stir in diced tomato and *optional tomato sauce with meat. You will need to increase/decrease diced tomatoes/tomato sauce with meat depending on your prefrence for sauce-to-pasta ratio. Boil enough pasta for 2 people (you will have to adjust recipe/other ingredients for more people). Add some salt to boiling pasta for flavor and to reduce stickiness. Drain and put hot-cooked pasta in with sauce, crumble on goat cheese and stir in. Serve with hot rolls or garlic toasts. Can also serve a salad to go along if you like. *Suggested wine: a semi-light Spanish red wine like Faustino VII Rioja. You can also try: Chianti, Zinfandel, Shiraz or Merlot. Light some candles and enjoy!

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