Tuesday, May 31, 2011

KC Masterpiece Pulled Pork Sandwiches

May must have been my lucky month with the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. Not only did I get to try out Eggland's Best eggs, but I was also sent a full-sized bottle of KC Masterpiece's new Southern Style barbecue sauce. Adam is from Kansas City and a die-hard KC-style barbecue fan. So, signing up for this opportunity was a no-brainer.

Yet, even though I knew Adam would be thrilled we were having barbecue, I really wasn't sure what I wanted to make with it. Go for straight barbecued ribs or other kind of pork, or try to incorporate it in a recipe of some sort? Seeing as this was one of their new flavors, I opted go for the pure "barbecue sauce only" approach. I wanted the flavors of the sauce to really sing.

Not to mention I like easy. See, meat and I don't always get along in the kitchen when I'm trying to cook it, thus the easiest preparation is usually the best for me. And what could be easier than throwing some pork in a crockpot, smothering and covering it with barbecue sauce and just walking away? Nothing. That's what.

KC Masterpiece Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Original Recipe

2 pounds pork butt (pork shoulder)
1/2 cup club soda
1 (17 ounce) bottle KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce
6 hamburger buns

Slice the pork lengthwise and place both halves in a large crockpot. Add the club soda. Pour the barbecue sauce into the crockpot, flipping the pork to ensure it is covered in sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Using two forks, pull the pork apart, breaking up any large chunks. Serve on top of hamburger buns.

Serves: 6

Despite such a simple and hands-free recipe, it really turned out so good. The pork was just falling apart and juicy. The KC Masterpiece Southern Style sauce is a little thinner-bodied than I'm used to, as it has more of a vinegar base flavored with red and black pepper (which is typical of a southern BBQ sauce). I'm not sure it was our favorite sauce ever, but like I said, Adam is more partial to a true KC-style sauce rather than one that's more Carolina-style.

You could easily use any type of barbecue sauce you want for this cooking method, or even make your own. You can also substitute the club soda for regular soda (such as Coke/Pepsi) or root beer to give it that extra layer of flavor. I simply chose not to do so this go around as I was primarily focused on the flavor of the sauce.

Note: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received one bottle of KC Masterpiece Southern Style sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 546Calories from fat 108
% Daily Value
Total Fat 11.9g18%
Saturated Fat 3.8g19%
Cholesterol 139mg46%
Sodium 830mg35%
Total Carbs 54.7g18%
Fiber 0.9g4%
Sugars 29.5g
Protein 51.2g
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 9%Iron 18%

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tomatillo Huevos Rancheros

Let's talk eggs. I've never been a big egg person. When I was younger, the most you could get me to eat was a hard-boiled egg. Not scrambled, or poached, or fried. And heaven forbid the yolk was runny. Then there was for sure no way I was going near it. Although if it was mixed into a cookie dough, all the better. (Yes, I eat raw cookie dough, judge all you want.)

Over the years I have slowly branched out with my egg eating and can now eat eggs cooked pretty much any way, though I still have a slight aversion to methods with a runny yolk. So why would I, with my so-so love of eggs, sign up for a Foodbuzz Tastemaker opportunity in which I have to create an original recipe featuring their eggs? I'm not sure what exactly I was thinking when I hit the "opt-in" button, but I did.

While waiting for my coupon for a free dozen, I had flashes of quiches and tarts dancing through my head. Then the coupon arrived and I really didn't feel like either of those. Been there, done that. What else could I make that would highlight the egg, without just being cooked and served all by its lonesome? I was in the mood for Mexican, so that's where we're going.

Huevos Rancheros are a simple Mexican/Native American/Southwestern breakfast food typically comprised of corn tortillas topped with a fried egg and a tomato-chile sauce served with refried beans, avacados, or guacamole on the side. As you can tell, these are no where close to authentic. I kept the corn tortilla, but topped that with some refried beans and pepper jack cheese, followed by an egg and drizzled with salsa verde with the optional ancho chile powder mixed in. All I can say is "yum", and I just might be changing my tune about this whole runny yolk business.

Huevos Rancheros

Original Recipe

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup refried beans
1/2 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
4 eggs
1/2 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1/2 tablespoon ancho chile powder (optional)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once warm, cook 2 tortillas at a time until lightly browned on the bottom. Flip over. Spread 2 tablespoons refried beans on each tortilla, and top with 2 tablespoons cheese. Let the tortilla cook until the cheese has melted, then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, crack one egg into a small non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray. Fry the egg until the white have started to firm up, and the edges are just starting to brown. Flip, being careful not to break the yolk, and cook an additional few minutes until the whites have completely set. Transfer the egg to the top of a finished tortilla and repeat with the remaining 3 eggs.

In a small bowl, combine the salsa verde and ancho chile powder, stirring to mix well. Serve tortillas topped with 2 tablespoons salsa mixture and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Serves: 2 (2 tortillas each)

A different method of cooking, which I tried in the picture above, presents a very ugly looking, but equally tasty Huevos Rancheros. Follow the steps through melting the cheese on top of the tortilla. Then crack the egg on top of the cheese and continue cooking until the whites have partially set. Then flip the entire tortilla over and finish cooking.

The goal is to keep the yolks runny to help give the dish a little more moisture to the tortilla and beans. Not to mention how much fun it is to break the yolk and watch it run all over the place. :)

While you can use any egg you want for this recipe, Eggland's Best's eggs do contain less saturated fat and more vitamins and folic acid than regular eggs. You say healthier eggs, I say magic chickens. Adam says, delicious, may I have another?

Note: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received one coupon for Eggland's Best eggs.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 532Calories from fat 265
% Daily Value
Total Fat 29.4g45%
Saturated Fat 15.3g77%
Cholesterol 437mg146%
Sodium 1038mg43%
Total Carbs 35.6g12%
Fiber 7.3g7%
Sugars 2.3g
Protein 32.3g
Vitamin A 41%Vitamin C 23%
Calcium 52%Iron 23%

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hot Dogs with Poblanos, Pepper Jack, & Tomatillos

Memorial day is coming up, which means summer is just around the corner. We all know what summer entails -- long warm nights, grilling out, and pool parties or lake trips. Okay, maybe scratch that last one, there's no way I'm ready for swimsuit season.

Hot dogs, brats, and burgers are summer's standard party fare, but there's no reason they have to be your plain jane meat on bun smothered and covered in ketchup and/or mustard. Maybe topped with cheese. If you're lucky.

Next time you decide to throw a cookout, break out of tradition and switch things up with a hot dog bar. Start with the basics -- a good quality hot dog and some buns, then add additional fixin's for some fancy-pants hot dogs like Cheddar Dogs with Cider-Braised Leeks and Apples, Manchego Cheese and Garlic Dogs, or these Hot Dogs with Poblanos, Pepper Jack, & Tomatillos all grouped together and labeled. (Think about those suggestion lists you see at Mongolian Barbecue restaurants.) Trust me, your guests with thank you.

Hot Dogs with Poblanos, Pepper Jack, and Tomatillos

Adapted from: Bon Appétit, January 2011

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 poblano chiles, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup onion, diced
6 all-beef hot dogs
1 cup salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
6 hot dog buns
4 ounces Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons crumbled Cotija or Feta cheese

In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add poblanos and onion, sautéing until soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl.

In the same skillet, add hot dogs and 1 cup water. Cover and boil until hot dogs are heat through, about 5 minutes.

Preheat broiler. In a small bowl, stir together salsa verde and cilantro. Place 1 hot dog in each bun and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle each hot dog with 1 1/2 ounces of cheese. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 1/2 minutes. Serve topped with chile-onion mixture and sprinkled with 1/2 tablespoon Cotija cheese and salsa.

Serves: 6

Of all the different kinds of fancy hot dogs I've made, Adam has officially claimed these as his favorite. They have a nice kick from the poblanos which goes nicely with the milder salsa verde and the salty cheese (I used Feta, since it was about half the price and it was still delicious). Sigh. And now I want to have a party just to have a hot dog bar...

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 378Calories from fat 209
% Daily Value
Total Fat 23.2g36%
Saturated Fat 9.4g47%
Cholesterol 55mg18%
Sodium 964mg40%
Total Carbs 24.9g8%
Fiber 1.6g7%
Sugars 4.6g
Protein 18.2g
Vitamin A 13%Vitamin C 12%
Calcium 24%Iron 9%

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie Treats

Every once in a while it's nice to feel like a kid again. And let's face it, making Rice Krispie treats are so easy even a kid can do it. Well, maybe with a little help from mom or dad. :) Somehow, despite all its easiness, Rice Krispie treats often get lost in the shuffle between cookies and cupcakes and brownies. Even though there is no baking required and the original recipe can be put together in about 5 minutes.

While this spin on Rice Krispie treats takes a few more minutes than the original, they are still fairly easy to do and I am quite certain my 3 year old nephew would be more than capable of making these as well. Or, at least the whole smashing them into a pan then dipping them part. I mean, what could be more fun than having to clean up a sticky wriggling child afterwards?

Or maybe just skip the whole making these with a kid idea. Which might have been what I did. Followed by me promptly hoarding these and eating as many as I could throughout the day. Hey, it happens.

Cookies and Cream Rice Krispie Treats

Adapted from: Cast Sugar

3 tablespoons butter
1 (10.5 ounce) package miniature marshmallows
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups Cocoa Krispies cereal
15 Oreo cookies, quarted
10 ounces white chocolate chips
10 Oreo cookies, finely ground

Generously grease a 9x13 baking pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cereal and quartered Oreos. Toss to mix well.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add marshmallows to pan, stirring continuously until melted and combined with butter. Stir in the vanilla. Gently fold the cereal mixture into the melted marshmallows until all the cereal is evenly coated. Quickly turn out mixture into the baking pan, using a greased spatula to press down and level the top. Let cool completely.

Once the Rice Krispie treats have cooled, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Meanwhile, transfer the Oreo crumbs to a small wide bowl or plate. Cut the treats into 24 squares (6 x 4) and remove from pan. Dip the top of each treat into the white chocolate, followed by the Oreo crumbs. Set aside to allow the white chocolate to cool and harden. Store in an air tight container.

Serves: 24

While these are fantastically delicious, I will warn you they can be quite messy from the ground Oreos on top. Nothing a napkin can't fix. :)

If you would rather use regular Rice Krispie treats, you can always add 1/2 cup melted bittersweet chocolate to the melted marshmallows the same time you add the vanilla. Either way works just fine.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 205Calories from fat 68
% Daily Value
Total Fat 7.6g12%
Saturated Fat 3.8g19%
Trans Fat 0.6g
Cholesterol 6mg2%
Sodium 135mg6%
Total Carbs 33.3g11%
Sugars 21.0g
Protein 1.7g
Vitamin A 4%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 4%Iron 11%

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Beef Sauce

As a few of you may already know, Adam and I ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon this past weekend after many, many, many (seemingly endless) weeks of training. We had fairly crappy weather during our training and the day of the marathon proved no different -- nice and rainy. Although not quite as bad as last year. I think I'm doomed to have crappy weather during all my long races (if it's not raining, apparently it's going to be ridiculously cold).

Regardless, we made it. A little worse for wear and a bit slower than we were hoping for, but we crossed the finish line all the same. I think the both of us can agree that it's by and far the hardest thing, mentally and physically, we have ever done. (Although I will admit it was a tad bit easier than last year as I knew what to expect from those last 6 miles.)

Before all the chaffing in weird areas, sore feet, and painfully tired legs, we had to decide on a pre-race meal. The pre-race carb-loading dinner is definitely not a new concept (many races even host pasty parties the night before), although one singular high-carb dish isn't going to make all that big of a difference in the long run. (The whole carb-loading plan usually takes about a week to do correctly.) We didn't follow a strict diet during our training, even the week before, but it's always been a tradition with me to eat a nice pasta dinner the night before a big race, so I figured I would stick with it. I opted to go with a very traditional beef and tomato sauce with a little cream cheese added for that extra bit of creaminess -- nothing too out there or crazy, yet a nice little twist on the ol' spaghetti and meat sauce.

Pasta in a Creamy Tomato Beef Sauce

Adapted from: The Meat and Potatoes Foodie

1 pound rigatoni, or other medium-sized tube pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large cloves garlic
1 pound ground sirloin
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
4 ounces tomato paste
1 (15.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, lightly drained
2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Cook the rigatoni to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, reserving at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and tender. Increase the heat to medium and add the ground sirloin, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes. Use a wooden spoon to gently break up the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until just done.

Add the wine to the dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is almost dry. Lower the heat to low, then add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, cream cheese, and oregano. Stir well until the cream cheese has fully melted. Add the pasta to the beef mixture and toss with 1/3 cup of pasta water. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted.

Serves: 8

This dish is almost exactly what I expected -- simple and traditional with a little bit of extra nuance from the wine and cream cheese. Nothing you really haven't had before, but quite satisfying all the same.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 438Calories from fat 106
% Daily Value
Total Fat 11.8g18%
Saturated Fat 5.3g27%
Cholesterol 68mg23%
Sodium 365mg15%
Total Carbs 49.8g17%
Fiber 3.6g14%
Sugars 5.4g
Protein 28.9g
Vitamin A 17%Vitamin C 19%
Calcium 11%Iron 29%

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chicken & Brie with Candied Walnuts and Apples

Sometimes when I start working on a Recipe Re-Do it takes me a while to figure out which direction I want to go, how close I want to stay to the original recipe, and what new ingredients I'll be adding. This was not one of those times. As soon as I saw which recipe was up next, I knew right away what I wanted to do.

I started out with my Easy Baked Chicken and Brie recipe. I had complained that there just wasn't enough flavor from the dish and it just needed a little something extra. Way back when, I tried adding a bit of raspberry dressing to give it that extra little kick, but it just didn't work the way I wanted. This time around, I gave a little more thought to the change. I knew walnuts and Brie go together really well, and why not candy them while we're at it? And then throw some apples into the mix since as they work well with cheese and walnuts, too.

Done. I think I found the flavor boost I complained the dish was lacking before.

Chicken and Brie with Candied Walnuts and Apples

Original Recipe

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup white wine
4 (4 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 ounces Brie cheese
2 granny smith apples, thinly julienned (matchstick-cut)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Line a counter-top with parchment paper. Once the sugar starts to melt, begin to frequently stir with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar has completely melted, continue to stir for another 1-2 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized (a light brown color). Working quickly, stir in the walnuts, making sure each piece is coated. Pour nuts out onto the parchment paper, using a fork to separate the pieces. Allow to cool and harden before using.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pour wine into an un-greased 9x13 baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and oregano, mixing well. Season chicken well with oregano mix on both sides. Place chicken in baking dish with the wine. Bake for 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.

Meanwhile, slice round of Brie into quarters. Once chicken is done, top each piece with a slice of Brie, then return to the oven for another 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve over a bed of 1/2 a julienned apple and sprinkled with 2 tablespoons candied walnuts.

Serves: 4

While you don't have to use candied walnuts, I like the little extra bit of sweetness they bring to the dish. You can definitely try and hunt for them at the grocery store if you want to eliminate the step of making them yourself, I'm just not lucky enough to have mine sell them. I also recommend a mandolin for slicing the apples, but once again, it's more for convenience than necessity.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 648Calories from fat 302
% Daily Value
Total Fat 33.5g52%
Saturated Fat 12.7g64%
Cholesterol 158mg53%
Sodium 1187mg49%
Total Carbs 28.9g10%
Dietary Fiber 3.5g14%
Sugars 22.9
Protein 48.7
Vitamin A 10%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 15%Iron 15%

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ancho Chicken Tacos

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I don't normally celebrate Cinco de Mayo for two reasons: 1) It's a glorified Mexican "holiday" that only Americans celebrate, and 2) there just aren't awesome Mexican places here in Pittsburgh. (Trust me, they don't exist.) This isn't to say that enjoying a nice cold margarita is beyond me.

I actually had no intention of making anything special for Cinco de Mayo, my posting schedule just happened to line up so my chicken tacos fell on the 5th. How lucky is that? Well, that's about as lucky as I get, so I'm going to roll with it. :)

I suppose I could have renamed these Ancho Chicken Tacos with Sweet Slaw and Cilantro Lime Sour Cream, but let's face it, that's a mouthful. So for the sake of brevity, we're just going to go with Ancho Chicken Tacos, and have a mouthful of chicken taco instead.

The original recipe called for some kind of slaw with avocados in it, which neither Adam or I are big fans of, so I decided to go off and do my own thing. Like make my own version of Primanti's coleslaw (since I'm not a fan of mayo-based coleslaw either) and top it all off with some flavored sour cream. Hmm, maybe I just need to start liking more things. :) Well, I liked these, does that count?

Ancho Chicken Tacos

Inspired by: Cooking Light, May 2011

3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
Cooking spray
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 cup Amish coleslaw, recipe follows

Prepare coleslaw and allow to sit overnight.

In a small bowl, combine chile powder, garlic salt, and cumin. Sprinkle chicken strips evenly with spice mixture.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Coat liberally with cooking spray. Once hot, add chicken to pan. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until done. Remove chicken from pan.

Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave according to package instructions.

In another small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro.

Divide chicken strips evenly between the 8 tortillas, top each with 2 tablespoons coleslaw and 1 tablespoon cilantro lime sour cream.

Serves: 4 (2 tacos each)

Amish Slaw

Adapted from: Allrecipes.com

1 medium head cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup onion, finely diced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
3/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, onion, and 1 cup sugar. Toss well.

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the vinegar, salt, celery seed, 1 teaspoon sugar, mustard, and oil. Bring mixture to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely in the pan. Drizzle over cabbage mixture, tossing to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Serves: 8 (205g servings)

Note: This is not the serving size needed for the taco recipe. You will have lots of slaw left over.

Both Adam and I enjoyed these tacos, and aside from having to prep the coleslaw the night before, they were pretty easy to make. However, the sour cream and the coleslaw both have fairly strong flavors which I felt kind of hid the ancho chicken a bit. Maybe next time I'll add a bit of ancho chile powder to the sour cream as well to bring up the heat a bit.

Nutrition Facts - Ancho Chicken Tacos
Amount per serving
Calories 391Calories from fat 173
% Daily Value
Total Fat 19.3g30%
Saturated Fat 6.9g35%
Cholesterol 114mg38%
Sodium 189mg8%
Total Carbs 29.0g10%
Fiber 3.9g16%
Sugars 5.4g
Protein 37.0g
Vitamin A 8%Vitamin C 16%
Calcium 10%Iron 13%

Nutrition Facts - Amish Slaw
Amount per serving
Calories 321Calories from fat 186
% Daily Value
Total Fat 20.6g32%
Saturated Fat 4.1g20%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 341mg13%
Total Carbs 33.9g11%
Fiber 3.1g12%
Sugars 29.9g
Protein 1.7g
Vitamin A 2%Vitamin C 71%
Calcium 6%Iron 4%

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ice cream always makes me think of long summer days spent by the pool without a care in the world. Hot sun and flip flops. The smell of the ocean and wandering along the beach trying to pick up shells that aren't smashed into a thousand pieces.

Ice cream reminds me of church camp and soccer camp, and that soft serve machine that I always found in the cafeteria. Of course I would use every single topping imaginable to cover the soft serve, but the ice cream was still buried somewhere beneath.

Ice cream reminds me of when my sister was pregnant with my first nephew, and nightly trips to the Carvel down the road was almost a ritual. Then we discovered Fudgie the Whale. And Coldstone's Cake Batter Ice Cream. Our pants have never fit the same since.

So naturally, I wanted to make ice cream at home. The first time I made it, it was without an ice cream freezer. Lots of babysitting and mixing. Then I received the ice cream maker attachment for my stand mixer. I finally made room for it in my freezer, and after just one batch, I am in love. As is Adam. I honestly can't remember the last time he hoarded one of my desserts, and called it "the best ___________ ever", each time he ate it. Actually, I'm pretty sure the repeated "best ever" comment has never happened. So, I think I'm going to go with winner on this one.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Adapted from: Taste of Home, August/September 2003

1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant cheesecake pudding mix
1 quart heavy whipping cream
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in water until smooth. Turn burner on to high. Stir in blueberries and lemon juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Cover and place in refrigerator until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place graham crackers in a food processor and process until a fine crumb forms (may need to do in batches). Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Pour in butter, stirring until all dry ingredients are covered. Pat crumb mixture across a 15x10-inch baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Crumble into nickel-sized chunks.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar, pudding mix, cream, milk, and vanilla. Pour mixture into an ice cream freezer until two-thirds full. Freeze according to manufacturer's directions. If there is remaining mixture, refrigerate until ready to freeze (whisk before adding to the ice cream freezer; there may be lumps).

Fill ice cream freezer cylinder two-thirds full; freeze according to manufacturer's directions. Refrigerate remaining mixture until ready to freeze. Whisk before adding to ice cream freezer (mixture will have some lumps).

Once the ice cream is finished in the ice cream freezer, layer in a large container with the graham cracker crumble and blueberry sauce three times. Swirl. Place container in freezer for 2-4 hours before eating.

Makes: 2 quarts

I have to admit, despite using the pudding mix (which I was a little skeptical about at first), this ice cream completely lives up to its name. The cheesecake flavor is pronounced, dotted with a bit of blueberry and crumbled graham cracker crust (which might actually be my favorite part).

The actual ice cream turned out nice and creamy, not icy. This is mostly due to the use of heavy cream. If you've never made ice cream before, keep in mind that switching out the heavy cream for a lower fat dairy item, such as half and half or even milk, will drastically change the texture. The only thing I would change the use of fresh blueberries instead of frozen. The blueberry sauce gets slightly icy once the ice cream is firm, and I'm not sure if thawing the blueberries, then re-freezing them causes larger ice crystals to form. Either way, it's still delicious and still Adam's "favorite ice cream ever".

Disclaimer: if you are on a diet or whatnot, I do not recommend making this ice cream. If you are particular about how many calories you are eating per day, don't make this ice cream. If you even care a smidge about the nutrition facts, just don't scroll down. It will completely ruin this ice cream for you. I know it did for me. The original recipe claims that this is less than 500 calories per serving. After analyzing it with 2 separate programs, I can assure you, this ice cream is not under 500 calories per serving. Some things, are just better left unknown.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 923Calories from fat 536
% Daily Value
Total Fat 59.5g92%
Saturated Fat 35.8g179%
Cholesterol 200mg67%
Sodium 537mg22%
Total Carbs 94.6g32%
Fiber 2.1g9%
Sugars 74.5g
Protein 6.3g
Vitamin A 45%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 16%Iron 7%

Monday, May 2, 2011

Parmesan Polenta and Spicy Sausage Sauce

Sometimes when I get issues of food magazines in the mail, my excitement for new recipes turns listless and unimpressed with each flip of the page. Nothing stands out, nothing screams "make me!". Other times, though, I have to quickly hunt down a pen to mark all the recipes that I just can't wait to try. This month's edition of Cooking Light happened to be one of those issues which left me scrambling for a pen.

I have never made nor had polenta before, so I figured it was about time I try it out. It seemed simple enough -- add instant polenta to a boiling water/broth mixture and stir. Didn't seem too hard. And it wasn't. Definitely quick and easy to whip up while the sauce merrily bubbled away. I won't say I'm completely sold on polenta after this dish, but it's definitely a nice change in pace in starchy accompaniments, such as a rice or pasta.

Parmesan Polenta and Spicy Sausage Sauce

Adapted from: Cooking Light, May 2011

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces (2 links) jalapeño chicken sausage, sliced
1 cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
3/4 cup quick-cooking polenta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated and divided

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 3 minutes, or until browned. Add onion to pan, sautéing for 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in garlic, cooking for an additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add oregano, pepper, and tomatoes with juice. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over high heat, bring the broth and water to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in polenta. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking frequently, until thick and smooth. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Serve 2/3 cup polenta topped with 3/4 cup sauce. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Serves: 4

I wasn't sure what to expect with a tomato sauce mixed with polenta, but in the end, I think it worked for me. The polenta was thick and filling, which paired well with a bit thinner and lighter sauce. My favorite part of the dish, however, was actually the sausage. The original recipe called for a sun-dried tomato chicken sausage (which I couldn't find), but I think without a spicy sausage, the heat from the red pepper flakes just provide a very one dimensional level of flavor.

As a side note, the sauce heats up fairly well the next day. The polenta? Not so much, I'd pass on doing another re-heat of that part of the dish.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 253Calories from fat 72
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.0g12%
Saturated Fat 2.9g15%
Cholesterol 14mg5%
Sodium 467mg19%
Total Carbs 36.3g12%
Fiber 6.2g25%
Sugars 6.8g
Protein 11.0g
Vitamin A 38%Vitamin C 49%
Calcium 18%Iron 6%


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