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Tag Archives: recipe

Honey Baked Ham

21 Mar

I’ll be the first to admit that our family isn’t usually crazy over ham.  During the holidays, we opt for turkey over ham; a big ol’ ham isn’t something we gravitate to.  However, years ago, my girlfriend showed up at a holiday party with a standout Honey Baked Ham that got my attention.  The only homemade ham I’ve ever liked!

Honey Ham

That was neons ago.  These days, I’ll do baked ham about once a year, usually for big gatherings.  Perfect for Easter, coming right up.  This ham is always the one and only recipe that I use, adapted from my friend’s original recipe.  It never fails to impress, and I usually get hit up for the recipe as well.

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Just look at the golden brown goodness.  Courtesy of brown sugar, country style mustard, all dripping with honey.  Non-ham eaters may think twice, with this guy on the table.

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I’m convinced one reason for ham’s popularity is that it’s super easy to prepare and can feed a crowd.  This Honey Baked Ham tastes like you’ve spent much more time on it than you really did.  Be sure to get the spiral sliced ham if you want ease of slicing; plus, the juices really sink in with the pre-sliced ham cooking in the oven.  Enjoy it!

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RECIPE (12-15)

INGREDIENTS

Fully cooked, spiral-sliced ham (4-5 lbs)
1 cup good apple cider
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup coarse ground mustard (the kind with whole mustard seeds in it)
1/4 cup honey

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350F with rack on lower position.

Mix together apple cider, brown sugar, mustard, and honey in a bowl.  Mix well to fully incorporate basting sauce.

Place ham in a 13×9 baking dish.  Coat ham with a generous amount of sauce.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, basting thoroughly  every 15 minutes.

To serve pre-cut slices, arrange slices neatly on a serving dish and brush leftover sauce all over ham slices and serve.  If serving ham whole, be sure to have leftover sauce available for drizzling.  The sauce is what makes this ham so great!

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from my old friend Janice.

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Lemony Lemon Bars

19 Mar

Spring officially debuts on March 20, like right now.  If you’re living it up in a warm climate, you’re feelin’ the spring.  If you live where the snow is still knee-deep, well… we can surely pretend, right?  It stretches the imagination when I walk into a Target store and see the beach shorts and flip flops front and center.  Because just beyond the doors is a snow storm.  I’m all for letting the imagination fly.

Luscious Lemon Bars

Even though winter is citrus time in much of the country, fresh lemons seem to scream spring.  The pretty bright yellow just makes you happy.  These super lemony lemon bars are like spring’s mascot.  If it doesn’t feel springy, at least it will taste like it!

Luscious Lemon Bars 3

Both Hubby’s parents and my parents live in sunny So. Cal., and they are blessed with all sorts of lush fruit trees thriving in their backyard.  Whenever I get my hands on a bunch of fresh lemons, I think of my father in law’s lemon tree on steroids.  It produces lemons that resemble little grapefruits.  Wish I had a picture of those for you.

Luscious Lemon Bars 2

These lemon bars are ultra lemony.  Superbly lemonish.  The juice of three big lemons plus lotsa zest creates an amazingly tangy + sweet filling that is a burst of happiness in your mouth.  The smooth lemon filling rests atop a tender yet crisp butter crust that is a taste of perfection.  My family adores lemon bars.  My kids beg me not to give them all away when I make them.  Hubby used to buy them from a gourmet pastry shop for me when we were dating.  These are by far the most perfect lemon bars we’ve inhaled, and we think you’ll love ’em too.

Enjoy a little flavor of spring, wherever you happen to be!

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RECIPE (one 9×13 pan)

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
12 TB regular butter, chilled and cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Filling:
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup white sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
Juice of 3 large lemons (2/3 cup)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp table salt

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:  Preheat oven to 350F with oven rack at middle position.  Press a long piece of foil into 13×9 baking dish, so that the ends hang over the dish (helps with removal of bars.)  Grease the foil and set aside.

Blend flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Add butter and process to blend, about 10 seconds.  Then pulse until the mixture looks pale yellow, resembling a coarse meal.  (If you’re doing it by hand, mix the dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of a grater, into the bowl and toss pieces to coat with flour mixture.  Rub the bits with fingers until flour turns pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.)  Sprinkle crust mixture into prepared pan and firmly press into an even layer over bottom of pan.  Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes.  Then bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For the Filling:  Whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in large bowl.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to incorporate.  Reduce oven temp to 325F.  Stir filling mixture well, and pour into warm crust.  Bake until filling feels firm upon a very light touch, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely to room temp.  Tightly cover and  chill in fridge before serving.  Once chilled, remove entire dessert with foil sling, and cut into squares.

Dust with powdered sugar upon serving, if desired.  Bars will keep well in fridge, covered.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Hearty Sloppy Joes

14 Mar

This weekend marks the end of spring break for us.  The kiddos might not be ready for the end of their vacation from school, but let’s just say I’m good with resuming their school schedule.  The ongoing freeze has made it hard to spend time outside during spring break this year.  Three kids plus a new puppy under one roof equals one exhausted mommy.  Thus, I packed everyone in the car today (puppy included) for a good romp in the empty, snow-laden park fields.  Energy outlet galore!

Hearty Sloppy Joes

Days of chaos render little time for padding around in my kitchen.  Crazy days like these call for simple yet fool proof meals.  Meals that everyone will happily run to the dinner table for.  Meals that can be made ahead of time and easily served.

Hearty Sloppy Joes 2

These tasty sloppy joes are one of my favorite go-to recipes for crazy weeknights.  If I know the next day is going to be hectic, I like to prep the ingredients for sloppy joes the night before.  Then, all I have to do is put it on the stove the next day.  Easy.  Hugely flavorful.  Satisfying.

Hearty Sloppy Joes 3

I often use ground turkey for my sloppy joes, but ground beef works well.  My guys inhale this stuff, and it makes enough for leftovers, which taste amazing!    Be sure to have enough buns on hand, as it’s easy to polish off several of these at one sitting.

Enjoy something yummy for your chaotic days 🙂

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RECIPE (approx. 10 servings)

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs lean ground turkey (or beef)
1 chopped brown onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
2 TB olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 TB mustard
2 cups ketchup
1 cup tomato paste
2 TB brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
Shredded cheddar cheese for topping
Buns

DIRECTIONS

In a large pan, brown meat with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper over medium heat.  Drain and set aside.

In same pan over medium heat, stir together olive oil, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp pepper until veggies are soft.  Drain liquids.  Add back the browned meat to pan.

Stir in mustard, ketchup, tomato paste, and brown sugar.  Stir to incorporate well.  Bring to simmer.  Let simmer for 30 minutes, covered.  Can be made ahead of time, and reheated for serving.

Serve warm, with shredded cheddar cheese on hamburger buns.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread

28 Feb

Yogurt-Banana-Chocolate-Bread.  That’s quite a mouthful.  There’s no other way to describe this wholesome, rich, moist, thick bread!   This is a densely satisfying bread for breakfast, brunch, and snack.  It’s got everything I love in it, and more.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread 4

We just returned from our regular trip back to So. Cal., where we’re from.  It can be challenging to travel with kiddos, but the memory-making is important to us since our entire extended family is in CA.  Nobody wanted to relocate to the Arctic with us.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread 2

It wouldn’t have been a real trip without the usual visits to our favorite Cali eateries, being the silly foodies that we are.  Actually, any trip we take tends to revolve around food somehow.  Yet no amount of In ‘n Out can rival my mom and dad’s home cooking.  And they cooked up a storm.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chips Bread 3

I’m not sure what all that has to do with this Yogurt Banana Chocolate Bread, except that it’s obvious my parents’ love of cooking was passed down to me.  Hopefully, I’m passing it on with all the cooking/baking I do with my own family now.

Yogurt Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

Back to the banana bread.   This sweetie’s loaded with super ripe bananas, protein-rich yogurt, flax, and a healthy dose of chocolate.  So rich, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweetness!  I’d say this bread lasted about one day in our house.  We never have leftovers with this bread, but I’m guessing it would freeze beautifully.

Enjoy!

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RECIPE (1 9×5 loaf)

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup softened butter (room temp)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup dry flax meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup over-ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels (minis melt into the bread better)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F with rack on lower middle position.  Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In large bowl of stand mixer, mix the softened butter and sugar until fluffy and light, several minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In separate bowl, combine flour, flax, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter/egg mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand until fully incorporated.  Gently fold in the yogurt and mashed bananas with rubber spatula just until combined.  Gently fold in the mini chocolate chips, just until combined.

Spread batter evenly into greased loaf pan.  Bake about 60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out with tender crumbs attached (not totally clean.)  Cool loaf in pan 15 minutes and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely before slicing.

Source:  Chew Out Loud

Perfectly Creamy Mac ‘n Cheese

22 Feb

For many, mac ‘n cheese means warmth and comfort.  Many of us grew up on mac ‘n cheese and can recall random stories that involve this family friendly pasta dish.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 2

Back in junior high, I would come home famished, and cook myself some stovetop shells and cheese of the Velveeta variety.  That was my after-school snack.  Then, I’d venture on to eat a normal dinner later.  Those were the days.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 3

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve worked through what feels like a mountain of homemade mac ‘n cheese recipes, hoping to capture that rich and creamy texture using fresh ingredients.  No ingredients I can’t pronounce, please.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese

Needless to say, I’ve had my share of hits and misses.  One solid recipe almost made it to post-worthy status, but it was a teensy grainy, so it didn’t make the cut.  Another popular recipe was great right out of the oven, but the leftovers were kind of clumpy.

You know I’m here to share “the one.”  The one mac ‘n cheese made with whole ingredients that is worthy enough to have its own post.

Perfectly Creamy Mac 'n Cheese 4

This mac ‘n cheese is perfectly creamy, rich, superbly cheesy, and big on flavor.  It’s fabulous right out of the oven, and it manages to reheat surprisingly well.  Sharp white cheddar makes all the difference, with its super creamy texture.  Pecorino Romano puts this dish over the top.  It’s deliciously pungent, and lends toothsome flavor to the cheese sauce.  Grate your own fresh cheeses, as it makes a difference in the texture too.

With more winter days lying ahead, it’s the perfect time to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese.  Round your people up for a warming, comforting, satisfying meal.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (12 servings)

INGREDIENTS
6 TB regular butter
5 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 (18 oz) cups freshly grated sharp white cheddar
1 1/4 cups (5 oz) freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375F with rack in middle position.  Grease a large casserole dish and set aside.

Fill large pot with salted water.  Bring to boil, add macaroni and cook 2 minutes fewer than the package states for al dente.  You want the pasta just under al dente (outside of pasta cooked and inside is a bit underdone.)  Transfer cooked macaroni to colander, rinse well, and set aside to drain.

In saucepan, heat milk until hot and set aside.  In large pot, melt 6 TB butter over medium heat.  When butter starts bubbling, add flour and cook 1-2 minutes, constantly stirring.

Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and whisking on medium heat until mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 10 min.

Turn heat off.  Stir in garlic and onion powder, nutmeg, black pepper, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.  Add 3 cups of the white cheddar and 1 cup of the Pecorino Romano.  Mix thoroughly until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth and creamy.

Add cooked macaroni into cheese sauce and stir to combine well.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish, distributing evenly.  Sprinkle top with remaining 1 1/2 cups white cheddar and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano.  (To add breadcrumbs, see note below.)  Bake until top is golden brown, about 30 min.  If needed, broil a minute or two until desired browning.  Let casserole cool about 5 minutes and serve.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Note:  I didn’t use breadcrumbs for this recipe by preference.  If you want to include chunky bread crumbs:  Cube 6 slices of good quality (crust removed) bread into 1/4 in. pieces.  Place pieces in bowl and mix with 2 TB melted butter and toss well. Scatter breadcrumbs over top of casserole right before baking. 

Teriyaki Meatloaf

16 Feb

East has been meeting West in the foodie world for years.  Most of the time, dishes that are in the realm of Asian Fusion seem sophisticated and somewhat polished.  That said, I wonder where this Teriyaki Meatloaf fits in.  It’s more of an Asian Fusion comfort food.  Great grub.  Ordinary, yet extraordinary.

Teriyaki Meatloaf 5

This Teriyaki Meatloaf is soooo addicting once you’ve tried it.  It puts a fantastic spin on traditional meatloaf.  Not that traditional meatloaf isn’t totally yummy, but this just takes meatloaf to a whole new level.  It’s one of our favorite weeknight meals.

Teriyaki Meatloaf 4

I love that this teriyaki meatloaf is super easy to prepare, and the perfect solution to a busy weeknight.  It will feed the whole clan, and tastes like you spent way more time on it than you really did.

Teriyaki Meatloaf

Teriyaki meatloaf yields a tender, full-flavored dish.  It’s both savory and sweet.  The sauce is scrumptious.  It’s perfect with your favorite style of rice.  Leftovers reheat well, but we don’t tend to have much left over with this one.  Enjoy it!

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RECIPE (serves 6-8)

INGREDIENTS

For the Sauce:
3/4 cup light soy sauce
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

For the Meatloaf:
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 slices bread, torn into small pieces
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 cloves garlic, minced

DIRECTIONS

Set oven to 350F, with rack on middle or lower middle  position.

Mix together sauce ingredients with whisk until incorporated.  Set aside.  Mix together all Meatloaf ingredients.  Stir in the sauce, reserving 1/3 cup for later.  Mix thoroughly.

Press mixture into large loaf pan or shape your own loaf in a 13×9 pan.  If using loaf pan, be sure to have a large pan underneath to catch spillage.  Pour remaining sauce over top of meatloaf evenly.  Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours or until meat is cooked through.

Slice and serve with your favorite rice.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from my sweet friend Diana.  Because of you, Diana, we’ve enjoyed this scrumptious meatloaf for many years!

Deep Dish Pizza – Chicago Style

15 Feb

I know we’re in good company when I say our family is comprised of pizza lovers.  My kids literally jump for joy on occasions when I declare that it’s “pizza night.”  Thin crust, regular crust, stuffed crust… we love ’em all.  From Pepperoni to a yummy BBQ Chicken Pizza, the pies don’t last long here.  But nothing – nothing – beats a truly great Deep Dish Pizza.

Deep Dish Pizza 3

The last time we were in Chicago, we made a point of visiting well-known joints popular for their deep dish pizzas.  Perhaps it was the huge crowds of people waiting and maxing out the kitchen… or maybe we needed to manage our expectations, but we were left a bit in wanting.

Deep Dish Pizza

Of course, there have been moments we’ve experienced pizza heaven at certain little pizza joints, and those memories always made me wish I could make my own deep dish pizza at home so we could have it anytime the craving hit.

Deep Dish Pizza 4

Rolling up the dough, starting from the short side

One day I noticed this deep dish pizza recipe resting in my humungous Cook’s Illustrated cookbook.  Nothing I’ve ever made in that beloved cookbook has ever turned out wrong, so I had a feeling this deep dish pizza would not disappoint.  We have never looked back.

Deep Dish Pizza 5

Slice rolled dough in half

This Chicago-style deep dish pizza turns out deeply flavorful and delish, so much so that the guys proclaimed it “way better at home.”  Deep dish victory!  The crust is appropriately crusty and deep, chewy yet tender, and not greasy at all.  The filling is a-ma-zing.  Awesome.  Mouthwatering.  Enviable.  Because other pies get jealous of this one.

Deep Dish Pizza 6

Roll both dough halves into balls. Two pizza crusts, ready to press into pan!

If you decide to make this, definitely follow original order for placing of the toppings.  The cheese goes first, then toppings, followed by sauce.  The cheese on the bottom is what prevents the crust from getting soggy…genius!  Wish I came up with that on my own.  The cooked pizza will yield a beautiful deep dish with cheese that stays melty underneath all the toppings your tummy desires.

Deep Dish Pizza 2

This recipe is for an awesome cheese/sausage combo, which is what we were craving the day I made this.  What’s your tummy craving?

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RECIPE (two 9-inch round pizzas)

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough:
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 1/4 tsp instant (rapid rise) yeast
2 tsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/4 cups room temp water
3 TB melted butter
4 TB  softened butter
olive oil

For the Sauce:
3 TB olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes with juices
1/2 tsp white sugar
2 TB dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings:
1 lb (4 cups) freshly shredded mozzarella
1 lb bulk Italian sausage, browned and crumbled
4 TB freshly grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

For the dough:  Using stand mixer and dough hook, mix flour, cornmeal, yeast, sugar, and salt on low until combined.  Add water and 3 TB melted butter and mix 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.  Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Pliable dough should pull away from sides of bowl.

Coat large bowl with olive oil and place dough ball in bowl.  Turn dough around in the bowl to ensure all sides of dough are protected by oil.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temp until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

For the sauce:  Saute minced onion and garlic in 3 TB olive oil over medium heat until soft.  Add rest of sauce ingredients, except for salt/pepper.  Bring sauce to simmer and cook until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 25-30 min.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Heat oven to 425F with rack on lowest position.  Turn dough out onto large surface.  Roll into 15×12 inch rectangle.  Spread 4 TB softened butter evenly over top of dough, leaving 1/2 in border along edges.  At the short end, roll dough into a tight cylinder (see photo.)  With seam side down, flatten cylinder to 18×4 in. rectangle.  Slice rectangle in half crosswise.  Working with one half at a time, fold dough into thirds and pinch seams together into a dough ball.  Return dough balls to oiled bowl, ensure all sides of the dough are protected with oil, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let rise in fridge until doubled, 40-50 min.

Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 TB olive oil each.  Transfer one dough ball to large surface and roll into disk, 1/4 in. thick.  Transfer to cake pan and gently press into pan, working into corners and up sides.  Repeat with other dough ball.  (If dough resists stretching, let it sit for 5 min covered and try again.)

Divide the 4 cups mozzarella in half and sprinkle on top of each pizza dough.  Follow by browned sausage (plus any other toppings desired.)  Next, spread 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce per pizza.  Last, sprinkle 2 TB Parmesan cheese per pizza.  Bake until crust is golden brown about 20-25 min.  Remove and let sit for 10 min. before serving.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Cioppino – Seafood Stew

13 Feb

Happy Valentines Day tomorrow!  I meant to give you this succulent Cioppino earlier in case you were looking for a special dinner inspiration, but better now than never.  You’ll want to save this recipe for your seafood-loving friends and family; they’ll be hard pressed to find a dinner as enjoyable as this intensely mouthwatering seafood stew.  Your peeps will adore you for cooking up this Cioppino for any special dinner.

Cioppino 1

I’ve been a seafood fan all my life.  My parents are adept at dishing up delicious sea fare, and living near the ocean most of my life sure didn’t hurt our fresh seafood consumption.  If you enjoy seafood, you already know there are very few things that parallel the awesomeness of a deeply satisfying bowl of good Cioppino.

Cioppino

We were previously under the assumption that Cioppino originated in Italy, which I gather is a common assumption.  In reality, Cioppino is considered Italian-American, as it was originated in good ol’ San Fransisco.  Cioppino is a concoction that resulted from fishermen combining their catches, creating a hearty stew with whatever good stuff was in their boats.  Catch-of-the-day stew.

Cioppino 4

I personally am supremely thankful for those fishermen who helped propel this wonderfully hearty, satisfying, and healthy stew.  It’s the perfect solution for cold weather dinners, and scrumptiously satisfying with crusty bread.  The bread is a must-have, for soaking up every drop of the light yet full-flavored broth that’s way too delectable to be wasted.

Cioppino 2

I’ve eaten Cioppino in many places, and it’s always made a little differently, depending on where you get it at.  Typically, there is a variety of shelled seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, crab, etc.) combined with chunks of firm fish.  All swimming in an indescribably delicious warm broth.  If you can’t get certain shellfish but can get a hold of others, just sub with what is available to you.  Keep the shells on for cooking, as that is what lends the broth its amazing flavor.

Make it a date for two, or a dinner for eight.  My fave part – this phenomenal broth can be made the day before, and just add seafood the day of.  Enjoy!

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RECIPE (about 6 servings)

INGREDIENTS

2 medium onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup light olive oil
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
2 TB tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 can (28-32 oz) can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped.  Juices reserved.
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup chicken or fish broth
2 TB white sugar
20 hard shelled clams
20 shelled mussels
1 lb firm fish (ie., halibut, snapper, or salmon)
1 lb very large shrimp (16-20 count-size), deveined, shell-on
1 lb large sea scallops, muscles removed from side if attached
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, freshly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, freshly chopped
Crusty bread for serving


DIRECTIONS

Place first seven ingredients in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over moderate heat.  Cook until onions are soft, 5 min.  Stir in celery, bell pepper, and tomato paste, cooking 1 min.  Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5-6 min.  Stir in tomatoes, their juices, claim juice, broth, and sugar.  Simmer covered 30 min.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

(At this point, broth may be cooled and placed in fridge overnight.  When ready to serve, just bring broth back to simmer and continue with recipe.)

If ready to serve:  Bring stew to simmer.  Add clams and mussels until shells just open, checking every minute and transferring opened clams/mussels to a separate bowl with tongs immediately when they open.  Remaining unopened shellfish should be tossed out.  Lightly season fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops with salt/pepper.  Add them to the stew and simmer covered 3 minutes or just until shrimp turns opaque.  If shrimp turns opaque before the fish is done, remove shrimp to prevent overcooking.

Turn off heat and leave uncovered.  Discard bay leaves.  Return all cooked shellfish back into the stew.  Add parsley.  Serve warm stew in bowls, garnishing with fresh basil.  Serve with crusty bread.

By:  Chew Out Loud, adapted by Gourmet

Wine Pairing:  A good quality dry Sauvignon Blanc or crisp Rose will go beautifully here.

Notes:  Feel free to use whatever fresh/good quality seafood is available to you.  Many people like to include crab legs.  The most important thing is not to overcook the seafood.  If I have any leftovers, sometimes I pour it over al dente pasta the next day… amazing.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

9 Feb

There are two camps of eaters.  Those who love cheesecake seem to be in the majority camp.  Then there are the handful of people who say they don’t like cheesecake.  I obviously adore cheesecake and would eat it every day if I could.   This white chocolate raspberry version is my favorite cheesecake in the whole wide world, and it has singlehandedly converted a few of those non-cheesecake fans over to our side 🙂

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 2

The fact that I could eat cheesecake daily is what drives me to bake this dense, rich, indulgent New York style cheesecake every opportunity I get.  Birthdays:  it is the cheesecake lover’s dream cake.  Christmas:  the red and white swirls have that holiday covered.  Valentines Day:  this thick cheesecake with chocolate crust is the perfect sweetheart dessert.   In fact, February 14th  is coming up, and your loved ones would be so impressed.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

I’m bragging on the cheesecake (not myself) when I say this, but countless people have requested this  recipe, deeming it better than Cheesecake Factory’s.   I have to agree.  Years ago, I liked Cheesecake Factory’s white chocolate raspberry cheesecake for indulging my sweet tooth… but ever since this homemade one stole my tummy, I can’t order cheesecake at any restaurants anymore.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 4

White chocolate raspberry cheesecake is surprisingly easy to make.  The best part about this plush cheesecake is that it is made at least a day ahead of time!  Score!  If you come here often, you know I’m always looking for recipes that can be done ahead of time.  I can’t really cook well and socialize with a bunch of people at the same time.  I try to have most of my cooking done, so I can be fully in the moment with my friends.  It helps to use stabilized whipped cream so you can decorate the entire cheesecake the day before and it stays perfect in the fridge.  No runny or watery-ness!

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake 5

Next time you’re having dinner guests, try out this impressive cheesecake along with some good coffee.  Relish in the fact that it can be completely made up to 2 days beforehand.  You just might convert a non-cheesecake eater into a fan.

Bonus:  If you have leftovers and want to prevent yourself from eating it all, this cheesecake freezes beautifully.

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RECIPE (one 9 inch cheesecake)

INGREDIENTS
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

For the raspberry sauce:
1 (10 oz) package frozen raspberries
2 TB sugar
3 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup water

For the cheesecake:
1 bag (12 oz) pure white chocolate chips
1/2 cup half and half
3 (8 oz) packages good cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 TB vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Make the crust:  In a large bowl, mix fine cookie crumbs with butter until well incorporated.  Press into bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan.  Set aside.

Make raspberry sauce:  In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch/water mixture.  Mix well.  Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 215F.  Set rack to lower middle position.  Place a pan full of water in the lowest rack.    Using a small heavy saucepan, melt white chocolate chips with half and half, on low heat.  Stir often until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In large bowl, mix together softened cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and the melted white chocolate mixture.

Pour half of batter over the crust.  Spoon about a third of the raspberry sauce over batter in small chunks. Swirl with tip of butter knife.  Gently pour in the remaining cheesecake batter.  Spoon another third of the sauce over the top of batter.  Swirl with tip of butter knife to complete the desired marble effect.

Bake at 215F for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  Filling will still jiggle in the center and seem undone.  Edges should feel firm upon light touch.  Turn heat off and let cheesecake cool in the oven, with door ajar.

Once cool, cover springform pan tightly with foil and cool cheesecake in fridge overnight.  Carefully remove cheesecake from springform, and garnish with whipped cream, white chocolate shavings, or fresh raspberries.  Remaining third of raspberry sauce can be used for topping as well.

Source:  Chew Out Loud, inspired by allrecipes

Note:  If you are freezing leftovers, simply wrap cheesecake well with cling wrap.  Defrost in fridge or counter.  It tastes just as yummy after being frozen!  

The slow-bake method at room temp allows you to bake a cheesecake without cracks on top.  It takes longer to cook, but will give you a smooth cake without unsightly cracks.

 

French Beef Stew (Boeuf Bourguignon)

7 Feb

Don’t let the Boeuf fool you.  Boeuf Bourguignon became a household term after Julie and Julia in 2009.  Despite sounding delicious, the dish got a bit of a fussy reputation.  Admittedly, upon initial glance at the multi-step instructions, I almost felt a stumble in my stride.  To go forth or not?

Boeuf Bourguignon French beef stew

Ultimately, curiosity took over and Mr. Boeuf lost his intimidation factor.  Victory!  That was well over a year ago.  This succulent dish has since become one of my favorite entrees.  Whether we’re having dinner guests or craving something special for the fam, this French Beef Stew is consistently a no-fail crowd pleaser.  After all, ultimately it’s just a good beef stew.  Taken up a notch.

Boeuf Bourguignon French beef stew 2

The bit that takes some pre-planning is the browning of individual cubes of beef.   You’ll have to wear an apron, but the complex flavors are so worth it.  Browned chunks of beef are cooked down in red wine and savory broth, adorned with mushrooms and pearl onions.  Flavorful herbs are slow cooked in the broth. The result is the most tender, savory, richly flavorful beef stew ever experienced.

Hint:  Make this stew the night before and simply reheat when ready to seve.  Relax on the day of your dinner party…how great is that?!  Plus, the flavors in the stew infuse even further with time.  Indescribably delish.

Boeuf Bourguignon French beef stew 3

Serve up your boeuf Bourguignon with a rustic, crusty bread or egg noodles or carb of choice.  You really can’t go wrong here.  Break out a bottle of a  plush, fruit-forward Pinot Noir for a phenomenal pairing.

Seriously, make this for your next dinner party.  Or date night.  Valentines Day.  Family weekend.  Your loved ones will be singing your praises.  Enjoy! 🙂

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RECIPE (6 servings)

INGREDIENTS

Light olive oil or peanut oil
12 oz thick applewood smoked bacon, diced
3 lbs chuck beef, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into chunks or coins
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
10 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup Cognac
2 cups good Pinot Noir (or other good quality dry red)
2 1/2 – 3 cups low sodium beef broth
2 TB tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
4 TB room temp butter
3 TB flour
1 lb frozen pearl onions, whole
1 lb fresh button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 bay leaves
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Heat 2 TB oil in large Dutch oven (or heavy, oven-safe pot with tight fitting lid.)  Add bacon and cook over medium until evenly and lightly browned throughout.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a large plate.  Remaining oil and grease should stay in the pot.

Using paper towels, thoroughly dry uncooked beef and sprinkle the cubes evenly with a thin layer of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Reheat the oil/bacon grease in the Dutch oven and sear the beef cubes in a single layer, working in batches, until each cube is brown on all sides.  Do not over crowd the pan, making sure to leave some space between each piece of beef.  Add more oil as needed to finish browning.  Set beef aside in plate with the bacon.

If needed, add 2 TB to pot and heat oil.  Add carrots, onions, garlic, 1 TB kosher salt, 2 tsp black pepper and saute for 5 minutes until onions are lightly browned.  Deglaze bottom of pot, adding 1 TB oil as needed.  Add Cognac and cook another 10 minutes on medium.

Add beef and bacon back into Dutch oven with their juices.  Add the wine and enough beef broth to almost cover all the meat.  Add tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaves.  Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally.  Once liquid is reaches a simmer, cover the pot with tight fitting lid and place in oven for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until meat is very tender when pierced with fork.

Meanwhile, mix together 2 TB butter with 3 TB flour in small bowl and set aside.  Saute mushrooms with 2 TB butter in skillet just until mushrooms start to become soft.

Remove stew from oven.  Add the butter/flour mixture, frozen pearl onions, and mushrooms to the stew.  Bring to a boil on stovetop and immediately reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Skim off any fat off the top.  Remove bay leaves.  Season with additional kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread or egg noodles.

Source:  Chew Out Loud (adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Ina Garten)

Note:  If not serving immediately, let the stew cool to room temp and store in fridge.  Just before serving, bring stew to a simmer.  Cover and simmer 15 min, basting with its own sauce a few times while simmering.

Wine Pairing:  A good quality red, similar to the one you used in the recipe.  A jammy Pinot Noir recommended.

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