Hamburger Pasta Bake

DSC_0112 (1600x1060)This is an old family standby, we usually make it with egg noodles or elbow macaroni but these large tubular shaped pasta things worked really well.  I looked all over the package for the Italian common name to no avail but the handy pasta shapes dictionary tells me they are probably rigatoni.  Heh, I was in my 20s before I knew there were more shapes than elbows and spaghetti.

A lot of chin scratching went into the recipe for this dish, lots of false starts and pantry restocking but it finally came down to ground beef, a chopped onion, a bit of chopped green pepper, chopped celery, a can of tomato bits with green chilies, and a ton of cheese sauce made from a basic white sauce and several different cheeses: Cheddar, yellow American, provolone, and Parmesan – whatever a search of the fridge for opened bags turned up.  Put lots of milk in the white sauce because the pasta seems to soak up more than you’d think and this needs to be creamy.  This is a dish that’s better the first time but you can reheat it later and bring the creamy back with added milk stirred in as it comes back to temperature.

Parmesan Potato Soup with Bacon

DSC_9465 (1600x1060)This turned out pretty well.  The bacon made that a foregone conclusion but the Parmesan was an experiment gone good.  I simmered potato pieces in chicken broth until they were soft and then pureed everything in the pot with an immersion blender.  The bacon crisped up in a separate pan and was added after the blender did its job – save a little for garnishing at the table.  There’s some milk in there to thin it, lots of grated Parmesan and some cheddar I had leftover from burritos.  Seasonings include dried thyme, oregano, fresh ground black pepper and salt.  I used the same microplane grater I grated the Parm with on a little bit of carrot that you can see in the photo if you look hard.DSC_9462 (1600x1060)Since I am  lunatic I took the chance to add a little color to the plate with a healthy slug of my hot sauce.  It was good but I wouldn’t let the lack of it dissuade me from demolishing a future bowl of this soup.

Thanksgiving Files: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

In preparation for next week, I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite Thanksgiving ideas. Also, to see all of them, click on this link: Thanksgiving Files.

This is by far the most requested dessert I make.  This time of year every dinner I attend, this is what I am asked to bring. I’ll be making two tonight to take to various get-togethers  this week.  Easy, easy, easy and foolproof, but always a beautiful presentation.  If you’re looking to wow, try this one.  From 2009:

 

Cranberries are on sale!  Buy them now, because I’ve got some great cranberry recipes coming up.  I’m starting with this one, because if you’re going to be a guest at someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, this is the dish to take.  It’s pretty to look at and it’s both sweet and tangy, perfect after a big dinner.  You’ll wow everyone with it and it’s foolproof to make.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, chopped*
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp orange zest (rind)
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk

Topping

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp orange juice (more as needed)
  • 2 tsp butter, softened

8×8 glass baking dish & mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350°

Melt 3 tbsp of butter and pour into baking dish, spread to cover bottom and up the sides. Add ½ cup sugar, mix with butter on bottom of pan. Add cranberries & walnuts, spread over bottom of pan. Cream remaining butter & sugar, add vanilla, egg, orange zest, mix well. Add flour, baking powder & milk, mix until well blended, don’t over mix. Pour batter over cranberry mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and center bounces back at the touch. Invert on plate. Let cool.

Topping: Mix together butter, orange juice & powdered sugar, pour over cake and serve.

* if you don’t have a food processor, you can leave cranberries whole.

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Frozen Treats: Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

Hazelnut Gelato1

This first appeared May 2013. At the time I had borrowed my friend’s ice cream freezer to test drive it. I bought my own this past week or so and decided it was a good time to start making some sweet frozen treats again. And as luck would have it, LFern is back from Japan and coming over tomorrow to share stories of her adventure. I also need to ask her a big favor, so I thought a fresh batch of her favorite frozen treat couldn’t hurt my case.

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My friend LFern and I are not able to get together frequently. Family, work and other daily obligations, plus the fact we now live about 25 minutes apart, make it difficult to plan a lunch or coffee time. But this week I sent her an email that said this:

If you decide to come visit me this week I’ll make chocolate-hazelnut gelato (ok, I’m making it anyway, but why miss out?)

T.

That seemed to be incentive enough. Remember she’s my coffee and chocolate friend. I sweetened the deal with the promise of Lavazza coffee, too. When she arrived the ice cream maker was busy humming away. Fifteen minutes later, we had coffee and Gelato ready for a well-deserved girls’ afternoon.

I served up bowls and then proceeded to put the rest in the freezer. LFern mentioned I really didn’t need to do that, she’d be happy to finish it for me. I reminded her I still needed to take photos. She suggested this would be the only photo I would need:

empty bowl1

Needless to say, the recipe was a success. I had to agree with her, it was difficult to put enough away to photograph later. But luckily, once the photos were done, someone had to eat the bowl of goodness. Since I was the only one around at the time, I didn’t have to share.

So here is the next recipe in the Frozen Treats series. (A reminder, the first recipe is here and the second one is here. )

Hazelnut-Chocolate Gelato

  • Gelato plain base (recipe below)
  • 1 tbsp dark cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 13 oz chunky chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella style spread)
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped

bowl with cover, ice cream freezer

ETA: Two things I forgot to mention. I reduced the sugar in the plain base because the hazelnut spread has lots of sugar in it and I was afraid it would be overly sweet. When I tasted the mixture after the spread was added, it was still a little too sweet, so I decided to add the tablespoon of dark cocoa powder. That did it and gave the finished product a nice rich chocolate flavor.

Make gelato plain base. Remove mixture from the heat and sift dark cocoa into the mixture and then add vanilla and hazelnut spread, stirring until the spread has dissolved completely. Remove to bowl, cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Before covering with lid, I also cover with plastic wrap, pressed down onto the mixture to keep it from forming a ‘skin’. Next add to the ice cream freezer and freeze according to the machine’s directions.  It will be a soft serve consistency when done, freeze for at least an hour before serving. (Okay, we didn’t wait that long and it was yummy anyway). You can stir the chopped hazelnuts in before freezing or you can use as a garnish for each bowl.

This recipe is the base for most gelatos, it’s also good frozen by itself:

Gelato di Crema (Gelato Plain Base)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup sugar (for the Hazelnut Gelato, reduce to 1/2 cup)

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper* the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

*The best way to temper is to add a tablespoon at a time until you’ve added about 1/4 cup. Then you can add a full ladle at a time, slowly.

Recipe makes 1 to 1-1/2 quarts.

Side note: While I was typing this entry, late (last) night, I kept hearing this repetitive sound. It took a moment for it to register. It was our neighborhood Great Horned Owl, making quite the ruckus, hoot-hooting away in the rain. That was a pretty perfect moment.

I’ll conclude this series with the Friday Recipe Exchange, featuring the recipe idea that started the whole thing off. Until then…

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Frozen Treats: Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Creams

strawberry-ice-cream1 After friends  let me test drive their Cuisinart Ice Cream maker, I bought my own, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit a whole week of frozen treats, which will conclude with the Friday Recipe Exchange. I thought it would be good to start with the basics. The first recipe is for a cream only ice cream and I’ll link to a JeffreyW post that has an egg custard ice cream. Then I’ll add strawberries to it.  These recipes all make 1 to 1-1/2 quarts.

Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 2 cups half-and-halfP12738915
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 3 tsp high quality vanilla extract)

Combine all ingredients (including the bean and its pulp – if you’re using extract, DO NOT add yet) in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to barely simmering, about 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly – remove the hull of the vanilla bean or add extract at this point, stirring in completely. Pour mixture into lidded container and refrigerate mixture overnight to mellow flavors and texture. Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to unit’s instructions. The mixture will not freeze hard in the machine. It will reach a soft serve consistency. Then spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving.

Strawberry Ice Cream (or really Any Berry Ice Cream)

  • Make the vanilla base (above), cooled overnight
  • 2 cups of chopped frozen strawberries (or any quality frozen berry of your choice)
  • 1 tbsp vodka

ice cream maker Toss strawberries with vodka, stir into the cold vanilla cream mixture. Add to your ice cream maker and freeze according to unit’s instructions. Again it will be a soft serve consistency when done, remove to an airtight container and freeze for 1 hour before serving.

As promised: For an egg custard ice cream, go to JeffreyW’s post here.

JeffreyW makes strawberry ice cream, too

JeffreyW makes strawberry ice cream, too

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Originally posted May 2013

Dinner Menu: Crepes

Crepes front2

I love crepes and friend of blog, Kirk Spencer just did a posting on them, reminding me that I had a pretty decent recipe, too. Check out his link, he has some nice filling ideas. For this menu, we’re sticking with fruit.

Do the idea of crepes scare you?! They did me until I decided to brave the waters for this recipe.  They are unbelievably easy.  The only difference between this and making pancakes is how you manipulate the pan.  Make sure after you’ve lightly greased the pan and heated it, you remove it from the heat before adding the batter.  Then you need to swirl the batter thinly around the pan and up the sides, until it sets.  Return to the heat to let it cook.  Immediately begin to loosen the top edges with a butter knife, so when it’s time to flip, it’s easy to do.  I found flipping it by hand easiest.  Gently loosen the edges completely and gingerly pick up by the edge and flip it over when the bottom is golden.  You may need to loosen the bottom with a spatula before flipping.  If you’re feeling daring…you can try flipping them.  Just remember, they don’t have to look perfect or be paper thin to work!

It looks like we’re going to have another bumpy, rainy, flash flood warning weekend. No grilling. I’ll have to make do with some Buttered Potato Pie and nice Pan-Seared Strip Steaks. And a reminder, there won’t be a recipe exchange this week, but I’ll find something fun for later in the weekend.  Until then….TaMara

On the board tonight: Kids Night Crepes Dinner

  1. Fruit Crepes
  2. Raw Vegetable tray w/dips
  3. Popcorn

Crepes4a

Fruit Crepes

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 oz sliced strawberries
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 2 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • powdered sugar

10-inch skillet with sloped sides or a crepe pan

2 bowls, plate, parchment or wax paper

Whisk together eggs, flour, milk, butter, ¼ tsp cinnamon.  Mix well and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes while you prepare fruit.

In medium bowl, combine ¼ tsp cinnamon, berries, banana, kiwi, granola and yogurt. Cover and refrigerate

Crepes pan1

Lightly grease skillet and heat over medium heat.  Just before adding batter, remove from heat.  Add ½ cup of batter for each crepe.  Immediately after adding it, swirl pan until batter is spread completely around the pan and up the sides.  Return to heat and cook until golden on the bottom, flip and cook until other side is golden.  About 2 minutes each side, but watch carefully.  Remove to plate.  Repeat for each crepe.  Place parchment paper between crepes.

Crepes pan2a

To assemble, put ¼ fruit mixture in each crepe and roll up.  Top with garnish of powdered sugar. Makes 8 crepes.

Alternately you can prepare them on a griddle, using a ladle to spread the batter around into a 10” circle.

If this still sounds too difficult, you can always purchase pre-made crepes in your produce section, usually by the fresh berries.  Follow package instructions to heat.

 

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Full Dinner Menu:Cream of Potato Soup, Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad and Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

The deep chill set in last week and shows no sign of leaving, so it had to be soup tonight. I just made a big pot of potato soup from leftover mashed potatoes and a few whole potatoes I sliced on my new mandolin to help get me through the big freeze. I thought it should then be the theme for tonight’s menu.

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I’ve been eyeing mandolins for a while and settled on one that would be useful for how seldom I would use it. So far I really liked it. I did invest in a glove to prevent adding my fingertips to any meal prep. So between that and the new camera, I’m hoping to wow you with some pretty plates in the coming weeks.

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But until then, here is tonight’s full menu and shopping list:

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There’s nothing better on a cold night than Creamy Potato Cheese Soup.  I rarely peel potatoes, I scrub the skins thoroughly and that’s good enough for me. It also saves a lot of time and potato skins are full of good things. Yes, there is cheese, but milk instead of cream, and you can even use non-fat milk without noticing any loss. I threw the Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp in at the last minute, because to me, fall is all about fruit crisps.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cream of Potato Cheese Soup
  2. Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad
  3. Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

Cream of Potato Cheese Soup

  • 6 large potatoes, cubed (peeling opt)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp ea: sage, rosemary, basil
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt & pepper to taste

Lg. saucepan (2 to 4 qt)

In saucepan or Dutch oven, cover potatoes with water and boil until fork tender, drain all but 2 cups water. Add onions, garlic and spices to potatoes*. In a bowl mix together  milk, flour, salt & pepper. Mix well, no lumps, add melted butter. Add to potatoes and mix well.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, add cheese, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

*A great trick is to remove about ½ cup of the cooked potatoes and mash, then add back into soup, this gives you an extra creamy texture.

Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad

  • 10 oz spinach, washed
  • 2 oranges, peeled, remove white skin & cut into chunks (you can substitute equivalent canned mandarin orange slices)
  • ½ red onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing

large salad bowl

Tear spinach leaves. Layer in a large salad bowl. Top with orange chunks, onion, sprinkle blue cheese and walnuts. Add dressing & toss before serving.

Pears & Sour Cherry Crisp

Topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly

Filling:

  • 4 large fresh pears, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pitted cherries, thawed
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar

8×8 baking dish, greased

Combine pears, cherries, sugar, & cornstarch. Spread in baking dish. Top fruit mixture with flour topping. Bake at 375° for 25 to 34 minutes, topping should be golden & pears tender.

Shopping List:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 oz spinach
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 oz bleu cheese,
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing
  • 1 stick + 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 large fresh pears
  • 12 oz frozen pitted cherries

Also: cornstarch, sugar, brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, basil, garlic

Originally posted November 2009

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Full Dinner Menu: Spicy Potato Soup, Garlic Biscuits and Mocha Pudding Cake

Dad Uniform

It’s Veteran’s Day, so I thought I’d post photos of two of my favorite veterans. Although they are not the only two, they are the two closest to my heart. The above photo is of my dad when he first enlisted. A career Air Force man, he served in Vietnam when I was quite young and his service took me on many adventures during my youth.

2936_1082774828635_1750418_n

And my brother, who served in the National Guard and was stationed in Iraq/Kuwait during the Iraqi war.  So proud of both. Thanks to all who serve this country and the families that support them.

In recipe news, it was 60 degrees at noon today and by 3 pm it had dropped to a windy, cold 45 degrees, so soup seemed the best idea for the dinner menu tonight. I make several kinds of potato soups regularly, but spicy potato is by far my favorite.

For tonight:

It is all about comfort foods. When the cold weather hits, it is great to hunker down with some hot soup, buttery biscuits and finish with some melt-in-your-mouth cake warm from the oven. This is my go-to potato soup, over the traditional cream of potato soup; I like the spiciness and the sautéed onions add a deep, rich flavor. The garlic biscuits are a nice complement to the soup. I was going to find a healthy dessert for tonight, but then thought to heck with it, it’s cold and we need chocolate.  Rich, gooey, chocolaty goodness.

JeffW's awesome biscuit photo.  So beautiful I wouldn't even try to compete with my own.

JeffW’s awesome biscuit photo.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Potato Soup
  2. Garlic Biscuits
  3. Salad
  4. Mocha Cake

Spicy Potato Soup

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage, browned and drained
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, well scrubbed, unpeeled and cubed
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack

saucepan

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and lightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, garlic, broth, & potatoes. Mix milk & flour, add. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until potatoes are soft. If it’s too thick, add water. With a potato masher, slightly mash a few of the potatoes. Serve with cheese to garnish.

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.

Mocha Cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

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  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup very hot coffee**
  • 8×8 inch baking dish, lightly oiled

Preheat oven to 350°

This is a pudding style cake, so you don’t want to over bake it. You’ll serve it warm and directly from the pan. When you cut into it a thick, gooey chocolate center will be revealed.

From the top list: combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Combine milk, oil, & vanilla, mix well and add to flour mixture. Stir well. Pour batter into baking dish. From the bottom list: combine sugar & cocoa and sprinkle over batter. Pour hot coffee over batter – DO NOT stir. Bake for 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched, do not over bake.

** for a stronger coffee flavor, double the ground coffee to water ratio, or use espresso.

Shopping list:

  • Salad fixin’s
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ lb spicy ground sausage
  • 16 oz chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes (russets work best)
  • 5-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar or jack
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • Coffee or espresso to make 1 strong cup

Also: flour, sugar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, baking powder, oil, vanilla

Originally posted on February 2011

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