Monday, March 30, 2009

Absolute Comfort

My uncle has not been feeling well and that inspired me to cook up some comfort food.
I found this recipe through the Barilla Pasta website. It is involved but it is definitely worth the effort. This was my first time making this particular dish, but it is already a new favorite :)
My family had it for lunch yesterday and then I was able to take some to my aunt and uncle and even to my mom. If you need comfort food, this is a must!

Fresh Spinach..and of course onion

all chopped up

doing it's thing in extra virgin olive oil

pasta rolling...

sauce coming fantastic!


Baked Elbows with Fontina Cheese and Spinach
Ease of preparation: average
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4-6
Regions: Valle D'Aosta
Wine pairing: White
4 cups milk
1 stick (4 ounces)butter
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Fontina cheese, shredded
to taste salt
to taste white pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup small onion, chopped
1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 box (16 ounces)BARILLA Elbows
PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Bechamel Sauce:
HEAT milk until hot in a small saucepan. In a separate small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour with a wire whip and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
ADD hot milk gradually to butter and flour mixture, mixing with a wire whip until smooth and thickened.
ADD beaten egg, two-thirds of the cheese salt and pepper. Mix until cheese is melted; set aside.
HEAT olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
ADD onions and spinach. Saute 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Add spinach to bechemel sauce and set aside.
COOK pasta for 4 minutes. Drain and add to bechemel sauce; mix well.
POUR into a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish; sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Madness Square Off

There is a game happening here at my house...

Meet the players:
Ballsy Balsamic Vinegar co-starring Barnaby Bay Leaf

Ornery Onion

Indestructible Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Galloping garlic

Mighty Mushroom

They File in one by one to dance with the fire's music....

It is at this point they realize they have all been duped! They have all been defeated by the masterful cook! And now they will surrender their wonderful flavors...

Cheers explode from the cook's audience....

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar and Garlic
4 servings

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts **
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Rinse the mushrooms and pat dry. Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the chicken breasts in the flour mixture. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat and saute the chicken until it is nicely browned on one side (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic. Turn the chicken breasts and scatter the mushrooms over them. Continue frying, shaking the skillet and stirring the mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the vinegar, broth, bay leaf and thyme. Cover tightly and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer the chicken to a warm serving platter and cover with foil. Set aside. Continue simmering the sauce, uncovered, over medium high heat for about 7 minutes. Swirl in the butter or margarine and discard the bay leaf. Pour this mushroom sauce mixture over the chicken and serve.

**Next time I will use boneless thighs...they are more tender :)
EDIT:I also added a small chopped onion...I love onions :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Snow and Scones

Today is a beautiful day! Snow day!! I LOVE snow :)
(as long as I don't have to drive in it)

Watching snow, sipping coffee and baking! I love to bake while my world is sprinkled with big fluffy flakes. I feel like I am inside a snow globe :)

For breakfast I made scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins, malt o'meal (for hubby), and sliced up a cantaloupe. So yummy! While I was working on this, my family was enjoying the snow up close and personal. I had cocoa ready to warm cold bodies back up! They will undoubtedly have good memories from this day.

I decided to make some lemon scones....doesn't that sound good? I need something non-sweet to go with my favorite vanilla chai flavored tea this afternoon.

Lemon Scones
10 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
Additional sugar

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add buttermilk and lemon peel, stirring just until mixed.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead gently six times. Shape into a ball. On a greased baking sheet, pat dough into a circle about 1/2 in thick and 8-1/2 in. in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut wedges in the dough, being careful not to cut all the way through. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned

I had told SassEmum I would try Baklava this weekend, but that may have to wait a bit. I do not think I will attempt a trip to the market today :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Simply Delicious!

Yesterday was a jam packed day of errands and laundry. So when dinner time rolled around, I need something easy. Nothing complicated or involved, just food I could prepare on auto-pilot! So I made my baked chicken, baby sugar snap peas (yum!) and black-eyed peas flavored with bacon and garlic. Yummy!

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless chicken thighs placed in greased 11x7 baking dish. I drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the thighs and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, basil and parsley. Bake for 60-70 minutes on 350 degrees.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mom's Best Friend

I guess this is a bit dramatic, but seriously this appliance is a life saver!
The Slow Cooker :)

I love being able to throw dinner together in the morning and not have to worry about it the rest of my laundry filled day! Here is an excellent recipe from the Rival Crock Pot Cookbook:

Heavenly Harvest Pork Roast
makes 6-8 servings
1/4 cup pomegranate juice *
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pork roast, any type (4 to 5 pounds)
2 pears, cores, peeled and sliced thick
1/2 orange with peel, sliced thick

combine pomegranate juice and sugar in small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Pour into slow cooker.
Blend seasonings in small bowl and rub over mixture over roast. Place roast in slowcooker, turning to coat in juice mixture.
Top roast with pear and orange slices. Cover and cook on HIGH 6 to 8 hours or until tender. Serve with juice and fruit slices.

* I used the juice I had on hand...cran/pomegranate
Also, I left the peel on the pears, they seem to hold up better. I cooked mine on high for the first 5 hours and and then low for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Have A Ball Baby!

Here is one recipe the kids will enjoy to help make, as well as eat :)

Looks like Mr. Sunshine!

I served this dish with Mexican Rice, sour cream, olives, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa.

Taco Ball Ring
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons water
2 to 4 tablespoons taco seasoning
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
Sour cream and salsa, optional
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cheese, water and taco seasoning. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 16 balls.
Place meatballs on a greased rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 12 minutes or until meat is no longer pink. Drain meatballs on paper towels. Reduce heat to 375°.
Arrange crescent rolls on a greased 15-in. pizza pan, forming a ring with pointed ends facing the outer edge of the pan and wide ends overlapping.
Place a meatball on each roll; fold point over meatball and tuck under wide end of roll (meatball will be visible). Repeat. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.
Transfer to a serving platter. Fill the center of the ring with lettuce, tomato, onions, olives, jalapenos, remaining cheese, and sour cream and salsa if desired. Yield: 16 servings

**thank you for your kind emails everyone :)
I am doing well. This has been a busy year already! I hope you are all well and having fun on your Spring Break.....Can you believe it's that time already??