Monday, October 12, 2015

Bella Casseroli

So, this weekend I was hit with the cooking bug. The past few weeks have been so crazy busy that dinners have been haphazardly thrown together meals that I could get on the table in 30 minutes while still providing some basic nutritional needs. Sunday came around and I just wanted to have a nice traditional Sunday dinner at the table, once a regular occurrence at my house but not so much lately. I knew that I wanted a roast. I originally thought prime rib but forgot to set it out to thaw the night before so instead I opted for a much smaller eye round roast. To go with it we had mashed cauliflower, roasted potatoes (for hubs), and for the veggies I came up with this casserole to use up what was left from my CSA share. Now, I see a LOT of food blogs condemn the use of canned soups or other pre-made ingredients in recipes. To them I say, UP YOURS! Not all of us have the time, energy or desire to cook every fucking thing from scratch. Yes, it IS always better when it's homemade but it is NOT always convenient or economical, especially for people who are working very hard to make a living while simultaneously balancing work with family and personal lives.  I enjoy making things from scratch but certainly am not above using canned soups, broths or even an occasional jar of prepared spaghetti sauce if that is all that time and energy permits and that's perfectly OK! So go ahead and use those cans if you need/want to. Unless the man has holes in his hands, it ain't his place to judge!

Cheesy Fall Veggie Casserole
1 large head fresh broccoli, trimmed, peeled (stalks) and chopped
1 large handful fresh spinach, rinsed and rough chopped
1 leek sliced
1 can cheddar cheese soup
1 can cream of broccoli soup
3/4 cup half and half or milk
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat over to 350F

In a large bowl mix broccoli, spinach, leeks, soups, half and half, crackers and 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese until combined. Place in an ungreased casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheddar cheese. return to oven and bake another 15 minutes until cooked through and cheese is melted and bubbly.

Pie! Oh My!

If I am to be totally honest, I have to admit that I don't really like pie. Pie season is in full swing here in New England with apples and pumpkins at peak harvest. Even I, the pie hater, got caught up in the hoopla and made one this weekend. I figured it would be easy to resist and I would stay on my diet. Boy was I wrong. This pie, even though I didn't get the bottom crust quite right (soggy) has changed my opinion regarding pie. I love pie. Well THIS pie!

Maple Whiskey Caramel Apple Pie (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)

For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used Imperial)
3 TBSP dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 TBSP chilled butter, cut into pieces

For the filling:
6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced about ¼-inch thick
1/2 cup  butter
 3 TBSP ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Maple Whiskey (I used Cabin Fever)
1/2 cup half and half (can sub heavy cream)
1 tsp butter vanilla (can sub vanilla extract)

Preheat over to 400F

Prepare the topping:
In a bowl (or food processor) combine the both sugars, cinnamon, salt, and flour.
Cut in the butter (by hand, pastry cutter, or using the food processor) until crumbly and stir in the pecans.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the filling:
Melt the butter for the filling in a large pot over medium-high heat and sauté the apples for 5-8 minutes.
Transfer the apples to a bowl and set aside
Add the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and whiskey to the pot, simmering for at least 5 minutes until much of the alcohol burns off.
Add the cream and cook another 5-10 minutes more, until it is about as thick as pourable caramel. Turn off heat and return the apples to the pot and stir to coat. Let filling cool before preparing pie crust.

Assemble Pie:
Roll out the pie dough onto a lightly floured surface and then transfer it to a deep dish pie plate, crimping the edges.
Pour the filling into the pie plate, sprinkle the crumb topping over, and put in the oven on a baking sheet for 50-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the topping has browned.
Serve warm or room temperature.

I should probably mention that I used a combination of Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Granny Smith Apples to make this.

UPDATE - Sept 2017: I recently made this pie using a combination of McIntosh, Macoun, honeycrisp, golden delicious, and cortland apples (1 each). The combination made for a nice balance of flavors and textures. I also ran a little of short of Maple whiskey and subbed about 1/3 C with honey whiskey. Results were still delicious.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Falling for Fall

Yep, it's that time of year again. the mornings are crisp and the leaves are turning lovely hues of red and orange. Fall. I love it despite the winter that inevitably follows. Apples and pumpkins and squash abound. MMMM. While every one else posts recipes for Fall. I am going to hang on to summer just a tad longer. Today recipe is brought to you by my grocery store's olive bar.  I am obsessed with the olive bar at the grocery store. Not because I love olives. In fact, I don't really care for them at all. It's the other random stuff that shows up. The stuffed cherry peppers, the marinated mozzarella, the roasted red peppers, the roasted garlic cloves (YUM). This past week what did I find, ARTICHOKE HEARTS! I have never seen artichokes on the olive bar before so I felt compelled to buy them. I love artichokes although my husband does not. So now I had to figure out what to do with them so they would get eating quickly. Then I remembered that hubs LOVES spinach and artichoke dip. BINGO! I had a game plan and was ready to throw down. Here is what I did:

Chicken in a Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Sauce

2 Tbs oil
2 Chicken breast halves, filleted if very large
4-6 oz marinated artichoke hearts
1 box frozen, chopped spinach
2 medium carrots, shredded
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 C white wine
1 cup chicken stock
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet until shimmery
Add chicken breast pieces and brown on each side. Once browned, remove from skillet and set aside
Deglaze pan with white wine and allow to simmer down
Add artichokes, spinach, carrots, garlic and leeks to skillet and saute until soft.
Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.
Return chicken to skillet and let simmer until cooked through
Serve over pasta, rice or spaghetti squash.