Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jalapeño, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid

I am not a "decorating" type of person. I don't pretend to be. The best I do when baking is to haphazardly throw some icing in circles on the top of a cupcake. My cakes lean and my frosting is never smooth. I just don't do pretty. I leave that up to my sister. :D

That said, I was a little hesitant to try this recipe simply because it involved making something look pretty. But it had sausage and eggs and cheeeeeese and jalapenos. I figured Adam was going to be the only other person to see it, so if it looked bad... no one else would have to know. Well, it didn't look horrible... just like loaf of bread wearing a straight jacket. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Jalapeño, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid
From: Cooking Light, January 2010

1 (13.8-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 ounces chicken sausage with jalapeño peppers, chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped seeded jalapeño peppers
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425°.

Unroll dough onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; pat into a 15 x 10–inch rectangle.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sausage; cook 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in eggs; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until set. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle Monterey Jack lengthwise down center of dough, leaving about a 2 1/2-inch border on each side. Spoon egg mixture evenly over cheese. Sprinkle cheddar over egg mixture; top with jalapeño peppers.

Make 2-inch-long diagonal cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of dough to within 1/2 inch of filling using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Arrange strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally over filling. Press ends under to seal. Brush with egg white. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut crosswise into slices.

Despite how it ended up looking, this actually was pretty good. I couldn't find the right kind of chicken sausage, however, so I ended up using chicken sausage with roasted peppers and asiago cheese instead -- which wasn't bad, I think I was just looking for something a little more spicy. Next time I'd probably use some pepper jack instead of the monteray cheese.

The other thing about this dish that surprised me was how quick it came together. Here I was thinking I would have plenty of time to roll out my pizza dough while the sausage cooked but after grating up the cheese and dicing the jalapeno... not so much. I don't think my egg/sausage mix was any worse for the wear sitting in the pan off the heat for a minute or two, but next time I would actually follow the directions the way they were written. Oops. :)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 474Calories from fat 305
% Daily Value
Total Fat 33.9g52%
Saturated Fat 10.4g52%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 100mg33%
Sodium 568mg24%
Total Carbs 28.5g10%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g10%
Sugars 0.7g
Protein 13.7g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 4%
Calcium 12%Iron 13%

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese with Apples

I know, I know, another mac and cheese recipe? Well, since it's been pretty hit or miss with the recipes I've come across, I decided to just go at it myself. I basically pulled from several recipes all the different things I liked about each and then gave it my own little twist.

You know it's good when Adam keeps going back for more and then claims it's the best mac 'n' cheese he's ever had. Or maybe he's just being nice... ;)

Three-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese with Apples
From: Original Recipe

1 pound cavatappi or other medium-sized pasta
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 shallot, diced
1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon white wine vinegar
water, if needed
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup 2% milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup white sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced (do this near the end so the apple doesn't brown)
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook to al dente according to instructions on the box. Drain, and cover with foil to keep warm (if necessary).

In a large saucepan (a wide, shallow 3 quart works well) melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add shallots, brown sugar, and vinegar. Sauté until shallots are soft and carmelized, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. If shallots begin to dry out and brown, add water 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Add garlic and allow to sweat, but not brown, for 5 minutes.

In the same saucepan as the shallot mixture, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add milk and cream. Whisk in flour, black pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, and salt. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.

In a medium saucepan, combine the mascarpone, cheddar, and parmesan over medium heat. Mix until completely melted and smooth. Add the cheese mixture to the béchamel sauce in the large saucepan and stir until combined. Add the crumbled bacon and noodles, mixing until all the noodles are covered with sauce. Stir in apple.

Pour noodle mixture into a 2 1/2 quart or larger baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake on top rack for 5 minutes or until breadcrumbs have turned golden. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes.

Now I know the whole apple part may be throwing you off a bit. But I promise -- PROMISE you will not be disappointed. Make sure you add them in right before you put this in the oven, you want them to remain crisp and juicy, not soft and mushy when you're eating this. And don't leave the nutmeg out of the sauce, it is absolute key to giving the sauce such a great flavor.

This is definitely not your throw-together-at-the-last-minute type of dish, but it makes enough that the leftovers will be. :) And it is so totally worth it. Adam told me I most definitely have to make this again. I think we finally found THE mac 'n' chee recipe. Yay!

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 565Calories from fat 237
% Daily Value
Total Fat 26.3g41%
Saturated Fat 14.3g71%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 79mg26%
Sodium 803mg33%
Total Carbs 58.3g19%
Dietary Fiber 3.0g12%
Sugars 5.7g
Protein 24.6g
Vitamin A 14%Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 30%Iron 20%

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Khubz Maghrebi (Moroccan Country Bread)

Every time I get a new food magazine I flip through and put a star next to recipes that sound interesting. Eventually I will go back through these magazines and cut these recipes out and move them to a binder. After that, it's kind of up in the air when I will get around to making said recipes. As for this recipe, it has been tucked away in my binder (hiding out on the front page) for almost a year. While trying to make my list of meals for the week, I knew both Adam and I had Friday off and had nothing planned so I figured it might be a good time to make a meal that was a little more involved than my quick and easy recipes.

This bread takes just shy of 2 hours to mix, allow to rise, and bake. It's kind of nice to have fresh bread with dinner and not have it take all day.

Khubz Maghrebi (Moroccan Country Bread)
From: Cooking Light, February 2009

1 1/2 packages dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
2 1/2 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
31.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 7 cups) plus 2 teaspoons, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Dissolve yeast in 2 1/2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Stir salt into yeast mixture. Gradually stir in 7 cups flour, one cup at a time; beat with a mixer at medium speed until dough forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; shape dough into a 12-inch log. Divide dough into 3 pieces; shape each piece into a (4-inch) dome-shaped loaf. Place loaves on a baking sheet lightly covered with flour; dust tops lightly with 2 teaspoons flour, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Position oven rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover loaves, and brush each with 1 teaspoon oil. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until sounds hollow when tapped (bread doesn't brown). Remove from oven; cool on wire racks.

*You can also freeze the bread for up to one month; thaw at room temperature, wrap in foil, and reheat at 300° for 15 minutes.

Makes: 24 slices

First off, I would highly recommend the use of a stand mixer for this recipe, I'm not sure a hand mixer would be able to handle the job. And make sure you add the flour very very slowly. Even so, you may still end up with flour all over your kitchen. I did have a slight problem with getting all the flour incoporated. I had a small amount of dough flakes/powder in the bottom of the bowl I just could not get to blend in with the rest of the dough, so I gave up. And my bread turned out just fine.

This bread is denser than normal, so don't expect a light and fluffy loaf from this recipe. However, it still had a nice soft crumb with a crunchy crust. Perfect with the pork tenderloin we had, or better yet -- with any kind of soup or chili.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 140Calories from fat 9
% Daily Value
Total Fat 1.0g1%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 195mg8%
Total Carbs 28.2g9%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g4%
Protein 4.0g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 10%

Friday, January 15, 2010

Green Monster Smoothies

Now I'm sure you can tell by my posts I'm not super focused on crazy healthy eating. No, I don't actively go out of my way to eat bad things, but I'm more of a believer of eating things in moderation. I think there is definitely a time and place for everything. Take... a slice of cake. Every day? Bad idea. For your birthday? Probably not such a horrible thing, as long as you're not celebrating a birthday every other day.

However, every once in a while some health-fad food item comes across my path that catches my eye. Such as these Green Monster Smoothies. The core of these smoothies is based on a handful or two of spinach (hence the green color) blended with an array of various fruits, veggies, and other things (such as chocolate and peanut butter). I had heard that these were pretty good -- you couldn't even taste the spinach. Hmmm, now that was one I had to investigate... I know I don't get enough veggies in my diet, so maybe this was a way to trick myself into doing it?

Below is the smoothie mixture I put together, but feel free to check out Green Monster Smoothies for more recipes.

Green Monster Smoothie

1 handful fresh baby spinach
1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 banana, sliced
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup 2% milk
several ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Adjust milk or ice cube amount until desired consistency.

Serves: 2

So could I taste the spinach? Actually, surprisingly, no. Although I have to admit the green color was slightly off-putting when I was drinking it. And the skin of the apple didn't quite puree all the way so it was still a little bit chunky.

Would I try it again? Probably, with maybe with less apple and possibly some chocolate milk. (Eh, so much for the healthy part, ha.)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 216Calories from fat 87
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9.6g15%
Saturated Fat 2.5g13%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 113mg5%
Total Carbs 29.5g10%
Dietary Fiber 4.5g18%
Sugars 19.0g
Protein 7.3g
Vitamin A 32%Vitamin C 21%
Calcium 10%Iron 5%

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year's Eve-ie Series: Ugly Dip

And last but not least in the New Year's Eve-ie Series, is the Ugly Dip. Rightfully named, I think, as it's a hodge-podge of gound beef, gooey cheese, salsa, and soup all mixed into a delightfully messy concoction.

I also got this recipe from a nurse from work a couple months back. And yes, this is actually like the 5th time I've made this, I just keep forgetting to take pictures. It's not easy to try and make something look half way appetizing that has Ugly in it's name to begin with. So don't discriminate just because it's not pretty... this is usually always one of the first things gone when I make it.

Ugly Dip
From: Christina Strueve

1 - 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
12 ounces Velveeta cheese
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 jar salsa

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, brown and crumble ground beef, drain fat.

Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan. Allow the cheese to melt, stirring occasionally.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves: 12 (about 2 tbsp per serving)

My mom was in absolute shock this year when an hour to two before dinner she asked what all we needed to do to get started on dinner, and we told her nothing really could be made ahead and it all took about 5-10 minutes to throw together. (We had already thrown the kielbasa in the crockpot and had started draining the cucumber and yogurt for the tzatziki at this point.) She really didn't know what to do with herself. So she frosted my sister's cake for me. :)

Honestly though, this was one of the easiest and quickest New Year's Eve-ie meals we've ever thrown together. Each appetizer/dip only took maybe 10 minutes max of work time, although a few had some considerable rest time involved as well. I highly recommend trying this style of eating next time you have a special occasion or get-together!

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 172Calories from fat 84
% Daily Value
Total Fat 9.3g14%
Saturated Fat 5.2g26%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 56mg19%
Sodium 659mg27%
Total Carbs 5.0g2%
Sugars 3.1g
Protein 16.6g
Vitamin A 8%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 14%Iron 9%

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year's Eve-ie Series: Tzatziki

For years now, my sister and I have been saying how we need to make a dictionary of our dad's vocabulary. For example:
"Can you rub a little of that sauce on my back?" Where sauce = sunscreen
"Bo-jangles" = Brangelina (during a game of Taboo)

Needless to say, I knew going into making tzatziki that we were going to have some doozies. And of course, he didn't let us down. After several attempts, I believe he settled on tetrazzini. Close enough.

The first time I had this wonderful dip was with my friend Neish at a winery when she came up to visit me back in August. Now, I'm not usually a huge fan of cucumber, but this stuff had me hooked. It's traditionally used as the sauce in gyros and in other Greek dishes. Soo good that I just had to replicate it... even if it WAS 4 months later.

From: Ina Garten

1 pound (1 pint) plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. (Or coffee filters in a strainer will also work.) Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt; place it in another sieve, and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain. Greek yougurt can also be used here, no draining necessary.

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves: 40 (2 tbsp per serving)

This was very close to what I had tasted in restaurants (and wineries). Next time I make this (and there will definitely be a next time) I might back off about 1/2 tablespoon on the lemon juice. It wasn't bad, just a little bit stronger of a lemon flavor than I preferred.

Of ALL people to love this dip... little 20 month old Michael. He was so cute dipping his piece of pita bread in the tzatziki, sucking off the dip, and then using the same piece of pita to go back for more. I swear that kid likes the strangest things...

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 19Calories from fat 10
% Daily Value
Total Fat 1.1g2%
Saturated Fat 0.6g3%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 2mg1%
Sodium 216mg9%
Total Carbs 1.4g0%
Sugars 1.0g
Protein 0.8g
Vitamin A 1%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 3%Iron 0%

New Year's Eve-ie Series: Sweet & Spicy Kielbasa

A couple weeks ago I had my last day at work. :( Come to find out though, not only was my unit having their Christmas party, but the "powers that be" suddenly decided they wanted to open a new unit at a different hospital and wanted our telemetry monitors -- hence, they shut down our unit. (They are completely closing the entire hospital by the end of the month, so it wasn't such a HUGE shock.)

Anyway, as usual there was all kinds of fun and new things for me to try. Pittsburgh has strong eastern European roots, which means lots of new ethnic dishes I have never heard of much less know how to pronounce. Kielbasa, while not totally unusual, is not something I've really ever tried before coming to Pittsburgh. One of the nurses had brought in a tasty Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa dish, and after hearing how easy it was to make, decided I had to try it myself.

Sweet and Spicy Kielbasa
From: Malissa Guzik

1 package of Polish Kielbasa
1 cup brown sugar
1 can of crushed pineapple
1 can of chili sauce

Slice the kielbasa into 1 - 1 1/2" pieces.

Combine sugar, pineapple, and chili sauce in crockpot. Add kielbasa. Turn crockpot on Low for 5+ hours (it keeps well sitting all day for people to munch on).

Serves: 20 (1" pieces)

Talk about an easy meal. Slice, mix, and forget about it until you're ready to eat.

(I have to apologize for my lack of and crappy pictures. I don't have a light box at my parents' and the lighting wasn't the best.)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 87Calories from fat 37
% Daily Value
Total Fat 4.1g6%
Saturated Fat 1.4g7%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 16mg5%
Sodium 874mg36%
Total Carbs 9.9g3%
Dietary Fiber 7.9g32%
Sugars 8.4g
Protein 3.2g
Vitamin A 1%Vitamin C 43%
Calcium 1%Iron 3%

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's Eve-ie Series

Every year that I am home for New Year's Eve, we always have what my mom has affectionately termed a "New Year's Eve-ie" dinner. For the life of me I can not remember how it was christened so, but I'm sure it was a few years ago when she deemed that vanilla rum "goes down reeeaalll smooth." (Which of course, we have never let her live down.)

A New Year's Eve-ie dinner always consists of basically a hodge-podge of various munchies and appetizers put together and called a meal. I love it. Everyone gets what they want and there's always a wide variety of things to choose from.

This year we opted for:
Sweet & Spicy Kielbasa*
Brie with Maple Syrup and Almonds
Ugly Dip*
Pepperoni Roll-Ups

Needless to say, this type of meal is super easy to throw together, and every other meal we have in this fashion is affectionately referred to as a New Year's Eve-ie meal.

Look for the starred dishes (*) in the next 3 upcoming posts!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Amaretto & Bailey's Chocolate Cake

First and foremost, I have to wish an extremely HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sister. After all, that was the whole brainchild behind this recipe.

Near the end of November I was just starting to get into the holiday baking mood and trying to come up with Christmas presents for people. And birthday presents for both Marion and Jennifer (I mean seriously, some people just like getting their gifts all at once...). On top of that I was trying to figure out with my sister what all we were going to be making once we got home for our "cookie plate".

Baked goods... presents... birthdays... all of a sudden it hit me. I knew what kind of cake I was going to make my sister for her birthday. Back when I was living with my sister (before she was pregnant with Michael) one of her favorite drinks was an amaretto and Bailey's on the rocks. It never sounded too appealing to me, but to each their own. After making my Dark Chocolate Cake with a Raspberry Mascarpone Filling I knew that was the cake base I was going to use. And I had made a Bailey's frosting before, for my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes which went over really well. Bingo.

I did cheat and made this in a cupcake form when my parents came up to visit in mid-December (hence the pictures). However, we had a beautiful 3-layer-leaning-tower-of-cake that my mom so graciously decorated for my sister for when we actually celebrated her birthday.

Amaretto and Bailey's Chocolate Cake
Cake based on this recipe

For Cake:
1 cup boiling water
1 cup amaretto
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3+ teaspoons almond extract (to taste)

For Frosting:
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons Bailey's (to taste)
2+ tablespoons milk (for consistency)

For Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease (well) 3 - 9 inch round cake pans. In medium bowl, whisk together cocoa and amaretto. Pour boiling water over cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, then stir in vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool.

For Frosting:
In a large bowl, cream together butter and Bailey's until smooth. Slowly mix in sugar, one cup at a time. If consistency is too thick, add milk until spreadable. Add more Bailey's if desired.

Now, I am not the biggest fan of Bailey's, so I thought this cake was just "okay". Wait, I take it back, I LOVED the chocolate cake, but the frosting to me was ho-hum. However, everyone else raved about the cake, and even one person who doesn't really care for chocolate cake had this gone within seconds, commenting how good it was.

The cake itself was soft and moist, definitely chocolate with a nice hint of almond flavor coming through. When making this, don't be shy about adding the almond extract. It has to be fairly prominent to be able to come through the chocolate and Bailey's.

Despite celebrating a little early, I think the birthday girl liked the cake pretty well. :)

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 585Calories from fat 226
% Daily Value
Total Fat 25.1g39%
Saturated Fat 15.4g77%
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 1585mg66%
Total Carbs 77.7g26%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g9%
Sugars 70.0g
Protein 5.0g
Vitamin A 15%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3%Iron 11%


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