Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baked Apples with Strawberry Sauce

Baked Apples with Strawberry sauce - these are SO easy and wonderful for special dinners, like a romantic meal for two - or everyday dinners or even as healthy after school snacks.
I like to use Granny Smith apples because they hold their shape so well when cooked, but you can use any baking apple such as Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Fugi or Rome Beauty - don't use the wonderful eating apple, McIntosh (although they make great applesauce they fall apart when baked)
Baked Apples
  • 4 Granny Smith Apples
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rasins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

Core apples and make a well, leaving 1/2 inch on the bottom. Peel a strip from center of apple, around its equator so the apple skin doesn't burst while cooking. Combine sugar, rasins and nuts. Pack each apple with sugar mixture filling. Top each apple with 1 tbs softened butter. Place in a pie pan and add 1/2 cup water to pan (about 1/4 inch up sides of apples) Cover dish with buttered foil (buttered side down). Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 mins to an hour, or until apples are tender but still hold their shape. Remove foil after 20 mins. and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Apples can be made ahead and kept refrigerated for up to 4 days, reheat covered with foil in a 350 oven for 10 mins.

Strawberry Sauce
  • 1/4 lb strawberries, washed and stemmed
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tbs orange juice
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice

Puree strawberries in a blender or food processor. Press mixture through a fine strainer. Discared (or eat on yogurt) solids. Stir in confectioners sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Whisk in juices, and cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This sauce is also fabulous on ice cream, or with waffles or pancakes)

To serve: Spoon some sauce onto each of four dessert plates, place an apple on top. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired and garnish with fresh mint if available.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dinner with Friends

Last night we had a wonderful couple over for dinner. They are great people and I wanted to wow them with the meal, but I was stressed because my daughter had a major sports event that same day. I knew I would only have about 2 hours after getting home from the meet before company arrived, so I decided on a menu I could mostly prepare ahead. The dinner I came up with was focused on my 100 layer lasagna - the one with home made pasta. Once I decided on that, I built up the meal around it. So I made:
homemade ricotta crostini, a veggie platter with roasted red pepper dip, the lasagna, garlic bread, a simple salad and Italian cheesecake with a blueberry sauce for dessert - which I paired with high quality store bought cookies.

The cooking went like this - two days before the dinner I made the meat sauce for the lasagna, one day before I made the white sauce, the pasta and assembled the lasagna. The night before I made the cheesecake. The morning of the dinner I made the blueberry sauce, the ricotta cheese and the crostini. After my daughters meet I took the lasagna our of the fridge so it wouldn't take so long to cook and preheated the oven, I cut up veggies and used a store bought dip and made a pretty platter, plated up the crostini, spread on the cheese and drizzled with some olive oil. I preheated the oven - took a shower and got ready, set the table - popped the pasta in the oven and greeted my guests. We enjoyed drinks and appetizers and I made a simple salad. When the lasagna was done I took it out to rest a bit and popped the garlic bread in the oven. Got everything on the table, ate made coffee - enjoyed their company and then served dessert - it was awesome and very little work on the actual day of the meal!

All of the recipes mentioned are here in this blog and also on my youtube channel.

Happy Cooking - now its time to plan a kid friendly but good Valentines day meal

Thursday, January 10, 2013

White Chicken Chili

This is one easy and fast take on chicken chili - great for a quick weeknight dinner, but super good as well. You can add more heat to your liking, but this is how I make mine:

White Chicken Chili
  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cans 15.5 oz white beans (cannellini, great northern, navy etc)
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 cans chopped green chilies, or one diced jalapeno (seeds removed if you don't want it too hot)
  • salt
  • pepper

In a medium pot, cover chicken with water add peppercorns and some salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook 10-20 mins or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from water and let cool.
In a dutch oven, heat oil. Saute onion in oil until translucent. Add garlic (and jalapeno if using) and saute a minute more, sprinkle with cumin, chili powder and oregano. Add salt and pepper. Add 2 cups chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Drain and rinse beans, mash half of beans in a bowl with a potato masher or a fork. Shred chicken with your hands or two forks. Add chicken and all beans to simmering broth mixture. Add green chillies. Bring to a boil, add enough cup of broth if it looks too thick. Lower heat and cook for 10 mins. Serve with: sour cream, shredded Monteray jack, chopped black olives, corn chips or buttered flour tortillas.

Notes about the white beans - all three can be used interchangeably. Basically, Cannellini are larger, great northern a little smaller but still will hold their shape - navy are the smallest and best for dishes where the bean shape isn't so important, not for salads or ragouts, but great for stews, soups and of course baked beans.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Biscotti di Regina

Biscotti di Regina

These are for you, Mom! When I was growing up my mother always made these cookies after the Christmas goose - they use goose fat, pure white decadence - they are super easy and very rich. You can make them with butter, but its not quite the same thing. They taste incredible and pair very nicely with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or tea.

Biscotti di Regina (Queens Biscuits)

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 Tbs goose fat (the pure white part)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk 
  • 1 cup sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients, except milk and sesame seeds, to make a soft and crumbly dough. Gather 1 Tbs portions of dough with hands, press together into a small log. Roll logs in milk then seeds. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake in a 350 oven for about 10 mins or until bottoms are golden. Let cool on pan about 2 mins and carefully transfer to a wire rack (cookies are fragile while warm).