Monday, February 29, 2016

Pressure Cooker Timing Charts

I think I have called this page up for reference about 500 times now.  Enough!  Now I know where to find it!!  Thank you, Cooking Giraffes - no more running up to the office to look this up, yet again!!!!

click below to bring up the ultimate reference page:
Pressure Cooker Timing Charts

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Chicken Penne "Casserole"

I had to laugh at the title of this dish when I found it online a couple of weeks ago.   While I've been laid up I've been watching "The Chew" - and one thing Mario Batalli has beaten into my brain is that a "casserole" is something that contains a can of soup.  HaHaHA!!!  No soup in this one - it was simple to make and good.

Chicken Penne Casserole

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup each chopped onion, green pepper and sweet red pepper
1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

Saute the chicken, onion, peppers and seasonings in oil until chicken is no longer pink. 

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Combine the tomatoes and tomato paste and add to the cooked chicken mixture. 

Stir in the broth  and bring to a boil. The reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. 

Drain the pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-qt. baking dish. 
Sprinkle with half of the cheeses. Repeat layers.

Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15-20 minutes longer or until heated through. 

Yield: 4 servings.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Insanely Easy Dinner - Squash Ravioli and Salad

I'm really trying to get back into cooking and eating healthy foods again.  (When you're sick and live alone, this really is HARD.  There really should be a 'personal chef' in times of need for people like me who are trying to manage life solo!!  Sometimes, when my one foot is screaming from the tendon issues and the other is swollen from the chronic junk, I just want SOMEONE to bring me a glass of orange juice!!  The cat is literally no help with this!!

While hobbling through the grocery store the other night, I came across this recipe on one of those little recipe cards you see posted here and there in the store above the shelves.  So I tried this one. And I loved it.  But what I really loved was it took almost NO time to prepare and got me off my feet FAST!!!!

Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter, Sage and Pumpkin Seeds 

- serves 2

1 package fresh squash ravioli (in the deli section with fresh pasta)
1/3 - 1/2 c butter
3 - 6 T torn FRESH sage leaves
3 T pumpkin seeds

1 pkg prepped salad
balsamic vinegar
Meyer lemon oil

Melt the butter in a small saucepan
Toss in the sage leaves that have been torn into small pieces and simmer until the butter JUST begins to brown.  Remove from the heat.

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Toss in the fresh ravioli and cook according to package directions (the ones I used were ready in less than 5 minutes).

Drain the ravioli, top with the browned butter and sprinkle on some pumpkins seeds.

If you wanted to add a little fresh grated parmesan to this, you certainly could.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

TOAST!!!!! Yummy Appetizer/Toasty Tapa Ideas

No, not wine!!  Toast!  Yeah, bread!!!  These ideas came across my feed today - I've written about how much I like "grazing" and tapas - I have to try these:


1. Peach and Ricotta
Grill ciabatta bread
Top with peach slices, a tablespoon of ricotta, pepper, a small slice of prosciutto and drizzle with honey  note: this was yummy!

2. Pepper and Pear
Mix room temp butter with cracked black pepper.  Spread on toasted whole grain bread and top with thin pear slices and a pinch of sea salt

3. NEW Avocado
Toast sourdough bread.  Spread with tahini and smashed avocado.  Top with THINly sliced cucumber that has been seasoned with lime juice, crushed red pepper, salt  and black pepper. Drizzle a little EVOO over the top

4. Sweet and Salty Fig
Spread toasted seeded bread with soft Neufchatel cheese.  Top with sliced figs and drizzle with ECOO and honey.  Season with a pinch of sea salt

5. Bresaola and Cheddar (dried, salted beef)
Spread toasted pumpernickel with whole grain mustard, torn bresaola, sliced sharp cheddar and sliced cornichons

6. Fig-Prosciutto Crostini (now I know what to do with that fig jam I bought!!)
top French bread slices with fig jam, chopped walnuts (toasted, if you want), a little prosciutto, some shredded cheddar, and a small pinch of finely chopped fresh rosemary.  Broil until the cheese is melted.  note: yumyumyumyum - lovd this one!

7. Bleu Cheese and Apple
Simmer 5 sage leaves in 1/2 c honey for 10 minutes (this can be done in advance). Slice a baguette into 1/2" thick slices.  Brush bread with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toast in over (400°) for 7 minutes or until brown.  Let cool.  Spread bleu cheese on slices and top with thin apple slices )Macs or Honeycrisp) and a sprinkle of walnuts.  Drizzle with the honey.  note: addicted - this may be my new lunch - every day!

8. (from Vanilla and Bean) Olive and Artichoke  - this one is a little more laborious - but looks so yummy:
1 can (14oz) artichoke hearts, drained
4 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 c kalamata olives, drained
2 T capers, drained
1/2 c fresh parsley
1 T lemon juice
sea salt
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1/4 c shredded parm

Heat oven to 350.  Line sheet pan with parchment
In food processor, chop artichokes.
Remove chokes and add garlic, olives, capers, 1/3 c parsley. to processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.
Whip juice and oil together, pour over chokes.  Add salt and pepper flakes. Add choke mixture.
Slice baguette into 1/2 slices on bias. Brush with oil.  Toast about 8-10 minutes, turning over halfway through timing.
Spread artichoke mixture on top and sprinkle with parm, remaining parsley, and a pinch of sea salt.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cheesy Pull Apart Sliders

For years, I've been eating "Funeral Sandwiches" - a ham and cheese sandwich with a buttery glaze that is made with King's Hawaiian bread and baked in the oven (I know they're easy to make for a crowd and all, but the NAME just slays me - sounds awful, doesn't it?)  I saw this version making the rounds on a news site in January and decided to give it a go - I'm still trying to tempt my tummy into food as I have no appetite - a lovely side effect from all the pills I had to take  (still can't figure out why I'm not losing weight like a champ considering how little I've eaten...).  I only baked 1/4 of these at a time (I knew the leftover would be absolutely awful so I saved the cooked mixture in the fridge and then just used a portion of it at each meal.)  Since I already LOVE sliders, I knew this stood a good chance at being a hit.  It WAS pretty good.  This would be a great kids' meal when Mom or Dad are traveling on business!!

Cheesy Pull-Apart Sliders

1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon mustard powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cups diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles, drained
12 slices cheddar cheese (cheddar holds up better than "american" cheese)
12 dinner rolls

½ cup (one stick) butter
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a large skillet on the stove top over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the beef and season with salt, pepper, mustard powder, and paprika. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned and onions are golden. 

While the beef is browning, make the glaze:  Mix all the ingredients for the glaze and microwave about 40 seconds. Mix until melted, smooth, and combined.

Stir in drained tomatoes into the browned beef mixture until combined.  (You might need to drain off most of the fat from the beef if you are not using lean beef.)

Slice dinner rolls in half and place bottom half of rolls in 9×13 baking dish. Top with beef mixture & sliced cheese. Finish off with the top half of the bun.

 Pour the glaze mixture evenly over the buns.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.

I served mine with a side of some cole slaw.  I was seriously thinking about adding a root beer float, but it got too cold here for me to consider ice cream!!!!  Maybe this summer......

This recipe would easily double or triple for a crowd.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Chocolate Pots de Creme (Blender version)

The best Valentine gift I can give you - my favorite chocolate dessert!!  This one is super fast (like 5 minutes fast!!!) and SO rich!!  Serve it in elegant little glasses or demitasse cups for a special dinner.  You can garnish the cups with a dusting of confectioners sugar OR a rosette of whipped cream (real whipped cream - PLEASE do not put Cool Whip on this!!) and a little candied flower or just a few decorative "jimmies" (sprinkles).  This is NOT chocolate pudding - it is VERY rich so the servings are small.

Chocolate Pots de Creme

1 heaping cup dark chocolate (or bittersweet) chocolate chips
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp espresso powder or instant espresso (I use 1 T Kahlua mixed with 1 t instant coffee crystals)
1/4 cup heavy cream
confectioners sugar
candied flowers or jimmies

Put the chocolate, the eggs, and the vanilla in a blender. Blend/pulse briefly to break down the chocolate.

Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan on the stove until it just comes to a boil 

Add the Kahlua/coffee mixture to the blender.  Put the lid without the centerpiece on the blender and turn it on.

While the blender is running, pour the hot cream in a slow steady stream into the hole in the top of the blender. The mixture will thicken and become creamy. Let the blender run until everything is smooth.

Pour the chocolate into small cups (you might need to let it cool a bit more before putting it into glasses - check the temperature!) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, whip the 1/4 cup cream with a little confectioners sugar and top each serving with a dollop (or pipe a rosette) and a few small colorful blossoms or a sprinkling of jimmies.

If you really want to up the "wow" factor, invest in some small demitasse spoons - the kids will think this is the coolest thing ever.   

I've also made this with Frangelico and with Raspberry and Creme deMenthe liqueurs.  You can leave the alcohol out entirely and just use strong coffee, too.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slow Cooker Texas Pot Roast

More snow coming in!!  Since I'm a one-person army in my neck of the woods, taking care of the outside of the house has to happen at the same time as inside chores.  I may move the snow a little slower when injured, but eventually I get it all from point A to point B!!! 

My slow cookers get a workout in the winter (well, frankly, I use them year round, but cold weather just lends itself to yummy smells bubbling away in the crock.)  This is a nice variation on a good ol' pot roast.  Sometimes, you just NEED a piece of beef.)

Texas Roadhouse Pot Roast

2 - 2.5 lb chuck roast
½ onion, chopped
½ bell pepper (any color), chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large potatoes, chopped into chunks*  see note
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup tomato sauce
½ cup BBQ sauce
2 beef bouillon cubes (I always use low-sodium better than bouillon paste - about 1/2 T here)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
½ cup water

Place roast in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Top with vegetables and potatoes (optional - I prefer to serve this with a side of mash and another side of peas.)
Top with BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, water and spices.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Thicken the gravy if you like with a roux made from a few T flour and water stirred together into a smooth paste and stir into the bubbling (reset the crock to HIGH) liquid while the meat "rests" before slicing.  I remove the veggies and keep warm while I thicken the gravy.

Any leftovers (when you're a party of one, there are ALWAYS leftovers) make a darn good pot pie!  Or chop the beef up fine and use as the base for a shepherd's pie.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Roasted Sweet Potato, Browned Butter and Bacon Risotto

Another risotto recipe! I had to try it - I LOVE risotto!!  You HAVE tried the others I posted earlier, right?  What? Really - get going - risotto is a bit of a pain 'cuz you can't just throw it in the pot - you have to keep stirring (but if you have kids, THAT is an excellent way to have them help get dinner on the table.) 

Remember - it's just about adding liquid slowly and stirring, then adding more liquid.  The next time you are roasting potatoes, throw an extra sweet potato in and save it for this recipe!  BTW, this was really yummy with a piece of roast chicken.  Next time, I think I'm going to do this with a steak.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Browned Butter and Bacon Risotto

1 medium sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, diced (or 2 T. onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (MUST be arborio. Other rices don't have the starch to make this work)
1 1/3 cups dry white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons browned butter
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 tablespoons (total) chopped fresh herbs: sage, parsley + rosemary (or 1 T dried)

Roast a sweet potato, scoop out all flesh and mash with 1 t olive oil, S/P, nutmeg and smoked paprika. Increase the oven heat to 400° after you remove your potato (you can peel it, cube it and toss with the mixture before roasting, but I found this was much easier!)

While the potato is roasting, cook the bacon, chop the herbs and shallots, brown 2 T of butter and heat the stock in a saucepan

Heat a large saucepan, or dutch oven (or my chicken fryer!  Love that pan!!) and add 2 T oil, 2 T butter (NOT the browned!!), shallots and a pinch of salt - stir and cook for 3 minutes

Add the garlic and cook and stir for 30 seconds

Increase the heat a bit and stir in the rice until it's coated.  Cook (stirring now and then) for 5 minutes - it will turn translucent and begin to toast a bit.

Reduce the heat and stir in the wine.  Cook and stir as the rice absorbs the wine.

When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add 1/3 of the stock.  Cook - stir - absorb.  Repeat.  Cook - stir - repeat.  (Process takes about 25 minutes (ish).  If the rice is still chewy, add a little more liquid.  You don't want the rice too mushy or too firm.

Once the rice is cooked, reduce heat to low and stir in about 3/4 cup the sweet potato puree. Take a few minutes and really stir so it is well-absorbed. Stir in the parmesan cheese and brown butter, mixing to combine.

To serve, place the risotto in a bowl and top with some additional cheese, a sprinkling of herbs, the crumbled bacon and then more herbs and cheese if desired. Serve immediately!

Serves 4