Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2 National Championships and a Recipe

Way to go UCONN!

Ok, enough of that.

As promised I have the recipe for my stuffed shells experiment. I found that these tasted better the second day. I am not sure if it was because I was just more hungry or because that is the way some things are. Anyway, I am happy to report these came out super yummy and are sure to please any of the ranch fans in your life. I do have picture too! Woo Hoo! However, my computer is being a jerk at the moment so I will have to add them in later. Hope you try them and like them as much as the Hubs and I did.

Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch Stuffed Shells

1 box Jumbo Shells
Shredded Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheese for topping

Filling Ingredients
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast (we get these mutant things at out local butcher that are almost 1lb a piece, so if using smaller breasts you want about that much)
1/2 lb bacon
1 small container ricotta cheese
1 Cup shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded Cheddar
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 envelopes Ranch dip/dressing mix

Sauce Ingredients
2 cups milk or 1/2 and 1/2 (or a combination of the 2)
8 oz (half a block) cream cheese, cubed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
S & P to taste

Cook bacon using preferred method until crisp and set aside to cool (I used oven so I could make the filling at the same time). Once cooled chop fine.

Boil chicken breast in a large pot of water until cooked through. Place in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment to shred meat (not burned fingers, yay). Add shells to now empty pot of boiling water and cook until al dente. drain.

A remaining filling ingredients to chicken and mix to incorporate evenly. At this point I would suggest tasting the filling to make sure it is "ranchy" enough for you. If not, you can add more of the mix until you get to a place that you like. Stuff filling into shells

For the Sauce - Mix ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat and whisk until smooth. Adjust cream/ milk or cream cheese to achieve desired consistency. Note: Sauce will tighten up upon cooling.

Place a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Add stuffed shells.

Pour remaining sauce over shells. Top with additional mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Having Some Fun!

So continuing on my stuffed shell explorations, tonights experiment will be chicken, bacon and ranch stuffed shells. The key will be to get them just ranchy enough without going overboard. It will either be a glorious triumph or and epic failure. Stay tuned to find out which!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sacre Bleu!

So last Friday night my Husband and his friends had a little get together. Earlier in the week (like an idiot) I had offered to make a dish for it. Come Thursday, I was so tired I was praying that he had forgotten my offer - he didn't (note to self: shut your damn mouth!). So, there I was Thursday afternoon, trying to come up with something that would be fairly easy and inexpensive to make yet not run of the mill - baked ziti was not even being considered! Now, I knew I had chicken thighs in the freezer that I had bought on sale just for these sorts of things so I knew it had to be chicken something or other. What I came up with was Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells. The dish came together remarkable easily and made enough to feed a crowd (not a huge crowd but a good number of people). The results got glowing reviews and they disappeared before I could take a picture. I call that a success! Here is the drill:

Chicken Cordon Bleu Stuffed Shells

6 Chicken thighs
16 oz Swiss cheese slices- divided
10 oz ham steaks (I used 4 sandwich sized ones) – chopped fine
8 oz container cottage cheese (I used the smallest individual container they had at the store – just estimating the size here but you could use more or none at all if you wanted to)
1 box Jumbo shells
2-3 cans cream of chicken soup
2 TBS Dijon mustard - divided

Boil chicken thighs in water for an hour or until tender and easily separated from bones. Remove from water and let cool. Add shells to chicken stock. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin, fat and bones and chop meat roughly. Add to a large mixing bowl.  Finely dice half of the cheese and add to chicken. Add ham, 1 TBS of mustard and cottage cheese. Add a tsp each salt and pepper and mix everything to combine. This is your filling.

When half cooked (Pliable but still al dente) remove shells from broth using a slotted spoon and let drain. Add soup to chicken/pasta water and 1 TBS mustard and stir until smooth. Coat bottom of roasting pan with soup. Stuff shells with filling and arrange in pan. Pour remaining soup over shells and top with remaining Swiss cheese. Bake 350 for 30 minutes (covered), then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Now, as I previously stated, I was tired and in a rush when making these so I opted to use canned soup for the sauce. You could certainly make a lovely Swiss cheese based cream sauce from scratch if you have the time and energy - I won't discourage you. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I LOVE New York!

I do, I do, I do! It's my favorite place to get away for a day. Typically, I have to bring luggage (or friends or both) to carry all of my goodies. A couple weeks ago two friends and I embarked on a food blitz of Little Italy, Chinatown and the West Village with a quick stop in the Garment District for bagels. So much fun! These are our must stops whenever we go to the City:

Di Palo's - one of the finest Italian delis around, Proscuitto Cotto and di San Danielle, Pecorino tartufola (Black truffle romano), they had the most delicious imported sheeps milk ricotta I have ever taste too. I also tried some of their Sunday Gravy - SO GOOD! The best part is you get to taste everything but you have to be patient, the line moves SLOWLY! I can't wait to go back an try more things!

Alleva Dairy - the best ricotta cheese on the planet! Good stromboli too!

Piemonte Ravioli - I love their manicotti - we did not stop in this trip but it is another favorite place to go when we are on a pasta mission.

La Bella Ferrara - Cannoli.

Fiacco's - Sweet Cacciatori, home made sopressata, proscuitto balls, top notch fresh sausage and the best meatball grinder EVER. The chicken cutlet with mozz and pesto is no slouch either! The Italian combo has a good reputation too - I will be trying that next!

Murray's - yes they have cheese but it's the marinated sun-dried and roasted tomatoes that stop me in my tracks. I also like their burrata the best and I make it a point to try EVERYONE's, lol! Not there is such a thing as a burrata that I do NOT like, theirs just has the right amount of creaminess for me. Di Palo's comes in second. LOL!

Best bagel and coffee - the Garment District best kept secret. Shhhh - keep it under your hat!

Chinatown we get produce - specifically Asian eggplant. It's the only place I can get it out of season - hell, even in season it's tough to find! Why do I care, because it really makes for the best eggplant Parmesan. Just ask Mamma Agata! This summer I am going to try growing some myself! that should be interesting, lol!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Saint Patty Melt!

I have become really disenchanted with Food network these days. They are going the way of MTV. Seriously, remember when they used to have cooking shows on that channel? I mean, I am as busy as the next person but I can get a meal on the table in 30 minutes without any help. However, when it comes to prepping an artichoke...... You see where I am going, right.  Fortunately we still have the original food network - PBS - to fall back on (and yes, I have personally learned to prep and artichoke via this channel).  Oh, how I love my weekends with PBS. Jacque Pepin, Sara Moulton, Lidia Bastianich, Cooks Country, even JULIA!!!! This past weekend it was Cooks Country that got me thinking about patty melts. Oh how I LOVE this sandwich! I hadn't made one in forever. Watching the episode on perfecting it had me thinking about it and salivating. As coincidence would have it, hubby decided to do some grocery shopping and comes home with a loaf of Rye bread. It was like kismet! I HAD to make this sandwich.....and I did! Now, let me tell you a little secret.....I am physically and mentally incapable of making a modest sized burger so I made the most monstrous patty melts EVER! Have a look for yourself:

Yeah Baby! This thing was so big that you actually needed to double up the bread to support it. Now, the Cooks Country recipe called for making a panade of rye bread and milk to keep the patty moist. I did follow their method but honestly, when you are working with patties this big you really don't need it. LOL! Just some well seasoned beef will do the trick. So here are the basics as I see them!

Monster Patty Melt

1/2 pound ground beef (80% lean is recommended)
1 large onion, sliced
4 slices Swiss cheese
Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper
4 slices rye bread

Add butter and sliced onions and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce to pan over medium heat and saute. When soft golden, remove onions and set to the side
Season ground beef generously with salt and pepper and form into 2 patties and add to the pan, turning when browned. Cook patties to medium rare.
Butter the rye bread and assemble sandwiches by placing sauteed onions and 2 cheese slice on each. Top with remaining rye bread slices keeping the buttered sides out. and sandwiches to the pan and grill as if grilled cheese - you may need to turn heat down and I recommend covering the pan to get a good met on the cheese. Turn when bread is grilled and repeat on other side. ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Here I am!!!!

I know it's been a while! I guess I just lost my mojo there for a while. I certainly have been cooking but just not feeling anything was "noteworthy". I am sure my husband would disagree. Plus, it has been a long, cold winter up here in New England that even has ME in a funk. Normally, I like the snow but I can honestly say that I have had my fill this season and am ready for some non-turtleneck weather. Anyway, on to the food. A few weeks back our little local market had their annual "truckload meat sale". I had gone in with the intention of buying a half pound of bacon for burgers and walked out with that PLUS the most beautiful looking chuck roast I had ever seen - all 6 pounds of it. I couldn't help it - I see a good piece of meat and I am compelled to buy it. So, I brought it home and invited some people over for dinner and had at it! First I rubbed the roast with some Chicago Seasoning from Penzey's and browned it in oil on all sides in my "Le Creuset" knockoff dutch oven  then I deglazed the pan with a decent Cabernet. Back in went the roast along with a box of good beef broth, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Finally, I added some thyme and some rosemary. I put that in the oven at 275 for 5 hours. It came out great! But even better were the French Dip Sandwiches that we had the next day. For that I pulled apart the leftover beef and put it in a saucepan with some of the leftover cooking liquid, a can of french onion soup and a few shakes of soy sauce. OH THE HORROR canned soup - What can I say, after a long day at work I don't have time to screw around - especially when my 4 year old grand daughter is tearing up the house. PLUS, I needed lots of extra liquid for dipping. You can certainly just use more beef broth seasoned up any way you like if you are one of those anti- canned soup people. Once all that was heated through I split some good crusty rolls and layered on the provolone cheese. I cannot stress enough the need for good rolls for these. Soft supermarket crap just will not do, so splurge a little here and go to a bonafide bakery and get the good stuff.   For my sandwich I even added some smooshed up cloves or roasted garlic (yum). Then on went the beef with a ramekin of the cooking liquid on the side. So good! Dip, bite, slurp and chew! Even the baby said it was delicious!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trying New Things

Last week I stumbled on a recipe blog that I REALLY like. It is called "The Cozy Apron". The recipes all sound SO good and are worth scrolling through the long narratives to get to them. Thankfully you can go right to a recipe index and zoom in on the things that really sound good to you.  I saw two that really spoke to me because I had nearly all of the ingredients on hand and begging to be used. I HIGHLY recommend these recipes. They are delicious, fairly easy to prepare and perfect for the Fall and Thanksgiving season. Click on the recipe titles to be magically transported to the full recipes! The first recipe I tried was Autumn Lasagna with Creamy Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic sauce with Sage Seasoned Ground Turkey, Spinach and Mozzarella Cheese. It's a mouthful I know but so delicious!

Actually, now that I think about it, I may have forgotten to add the sage. Oh well, it was still really good. The squash sauce was so good I ate the extra the next day like a really thick soup. MMMMM! husband, true to form and fearing that which is not familiar, poo-pooed it at first but was quickly converted to a lover of this dish in one bite. My only disappointment was that the fresh lasagna sheets that I bought during my last trip to NYC had molded so I had to use the dried boxed stuff for this preparation. Never fear for I shall return to Little Italy and make this again with the good fresh stuff. I

The second Recipe I tried was Golden Torn Bread Dressing with Four Cheeses and Spicy Italian Sausage. I was planning on roasting a chicken so it seemed like the perfect time to try it. Look how yummy this looks!

I pretty much stuck to the recipe as is but I did add a small finely chopped carrot to the vegetable mix. I like carrots. I also did not make the cream gravy, opting to make a simple pan gravy since, by than time, I had already been cooking for half of the day, LOL! WOW, it was good! So good that I have decided to make it again for Thanksgiving instead of the traditional boxed stuff that everyone loves so much. This recipe makes quite a lot so be sure to invite friends and family over to partake in it! Enjoy!