Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sausage & Peppers with 4-Cheese Ravioli

It's so easy (and affordable) to recreate your favorite restaurant meals at home. Mike loves to order Sausage & Peppers Rustica when we go to Olive Garden & I fix it a home using a similar recipe from Cooking Light. So when we saw the Olive Garden commercial showing the new sausage with cheese ravioli dish, we decided to give it a try. I don't think their new dish has the peppers & onions, but we kept them in. The meal actually came together pretty quickly. Our store has pre-cut fresh peppers & onions in the produce section (labeled fajita mix), so I didn't have to chop anything except garlic & I used Bertolli tomato & basil sauce; of all the jarred sauces available, it has the fewest ingredients & a very fresh taste.

Sausage & Peppers with 4-Cheese Ravioli
1 package Italian Sausage Links (Johnsonville)
1 package 4 cheese ravioli (20 oz)
1 clove garlic, minced
Peppers & Onions*
Pasta Sauce - 1 jar
1 Tablespoon EVOO

Remove casings from sausage; cut into 1" pieces. Preheat 1 Tablespoon of EVOO in large skillet. Add sausage and saute until brown & cooked through. Remove from skillet & drain all but 1 Tablespoon of grease. Saute garlic for about 20 seconds, add peppers & onions - saute until tender. Return sausage to skillet. Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain & return to pot. Add sauce & top with sausage & pepper mixture. Stir to combine, adding additional sauce if needed. Top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with salad & crusty bread.

*This mix equaled 1 each of a red, green & yellow pepper & one small onion.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blueberry Corn Muffins

I absolutely love cornbread. Last week I watched Bobby Flay grill corn muffins & top them with a homemade blueberry butter. They looked delicious & have been in the back of my mind ever since. So when I noticed a pint of blueberries in the refrigerator this evening, I decided to make corn muffins & add the blueberries right into the batter. I mixed up my regular cornbread recipe & folded the blueberries in at the very end. I was pleased with how they turned out & they are not quite as sweet as a regular muffin. Spread with a little butter or drizzled with honey, they make a great breakfast treat. Give these a try for Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays.

Blueberry Corn Muffins
Yields 12 muffins
1 package cornbread mix (6 ounces)
1 cup self-rising flour
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 pint of blueberries

Preheat oven to 425. Grease muffin tin - set aside. Combine all ingredients exept blueberries; mix well. Gently fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until muffins are golden on top.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Scampi on Couscous

Have you ever fixed what you thought you wanted for dinner only to find you wish you had fixed something else instead? That's exactly what happened to me today. I've fixed this meal several times before & really like it, but for some reason, as we were having dinner today, I found myself wishing I'd fixed a roast instead. Oh well...

That said, this is a great recipe for scampi. If you have an immersion blender, you can use it right in your pan & skip the food processor step. I got a cheap one at K-Mart (not the one I've had my eye on at Williams Sonoma) & it does a good job. I prepared my broth mixture earlier in the day then brought it to a boil & added the couscous right before I sauted the shrimp.

Scampi on Couscous
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed, plus 2 garlic cloves minced
2 (8 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes in their juice
1 (8ounce) bottle clam juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
2 cups plain couscous
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. When almost smoking, add onion, carrot and 1 clove smashed garlic and saute until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, clam juice and white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, uncovered. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Carefully pour tomato mixture in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Add a couple of tablespoons of water if needed - you want to end up with a broth. Check for seasoning.
Return broth to the pot. Add 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add 2 cups couscous. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let rest for 10 minutes, allowing the couscous to absorb all the liquid. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, add the remaining 1/4 cup oil and the 2 cloves of minced garlic. Heat the oil, making sure not to burn the garlic. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and stirring occasionally, cook the shrimp until they start to turn pink, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will become tough. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, red pepper and chopped parsley. Check for seasoning.

To serve, mound the couscous in the center of a platter and top with the shrimp.

Chocolate Truffles...yum

Chocolate was calling my name yesterday, so I headed into the kitchen to see what would inspire me. I had some good bittersweet chocolate on hand plus some heavy cream, so truffles seemed like an obvious choice. I also had some Kahlua to add, making them sound even better. I mixed up the ganache, spent the afternoon at the pool & dipped the truffles yesterday evening. They are absolutely delicious & so simple. Give them a try & let me know how yours turn out.

Chocolate Truffles
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons liqueur (I used Kahlua)

Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces. Place the chocolate & butter in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream & corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl, and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it's emulsified. Add the liqueur and stir to combine. Allow the ganache to cool at room temperature until it is firm. This should take at least 4 hours in a 65 degree F room or 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Once the ganache is cold & firm, roll into 1" balls using a spoon or mini-ice cream scoop. Dip in melted chocolate or roll in desired toppings - I used milk chocolate for dipping & rolled a few in some chocolate crumbs I had on hand from a cheeseball mix.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pan-Fried Onion Dip

We had an office party yesterday. A member of our staff was leaving for a new job in Michigan & we'll take any reason we can to bring in food. I decided to make Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) pan-fried onion dip, which I started making back in the fall. Of course I still love the french onion dip that you buy from the dairy section (don't tell anyone), but this is step above that & so simple to make. It's a thick dip, so you'll need to serve it with chips that can stand up to it - I usually go with kettle chips.


2 Large Yellow Onions
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter*
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil*
1 Teaspoon salt
½ Teaspoon pepper
½ Teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 oz. Cream Cheese (room temperature)
½ cup Sour Cream
½ cup Mayonnaise

Heat butter & vegetable oil over medium heat in large skillet. Cut onions into half rings (you will have about 3 cups of onion). Add to skillet, add salt & pepper. Sauté 10 minutes; reduce to low heat & cook 20 minutes, stirring often, until onions are caramelized. Once caramelized, drain on paper towels. Mix cream cheese, mayo & sour cream until smooth. Add onions. Add more salt & black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*The original recipe calls for 4 Tablespoons of both butter & oil but 3 Tablespoons of each works just fine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Smores Cheesecake

Coming tonight - yum!

Or not... This was to be my entry in the baking contest for our 7th annual Cook-Out on the Roof at work today. But sometimes things are not as easy as they seem. In my mind's eye, my cheesecake looked absolutely beautiful. In reality, it just ain't so. So it's back to the kitchen. I've already got another idea on how to achieve what I want this cheesecake to be. I'm going to give it a shot tomorrow evening & will post some pics then. Oh well, hopefully I'll have better luck at next years bash.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mozzarella Sticks

Oh, the joys of a summer head cold. I've been enjoying it since Saturday evening, so I didn't do much cooking yesterday or today (does Cup-A-Soup count?!) I did make some mozzarella sticks for our Canasta game on Saturday night. I've never made these before & was very happy with the way they turned out. The coating of breadcrumbs & cheese made the sticks lighter than the typical heavy batter used in restaurants.

You need to plan ahead for these. They need to freeze at least 2 hours before frying. You also don't want to use fresh mozzarella as it has to much moisture.

Mozzarella Sticks
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1 1/2 cups Italian-style dried breadcrumbs
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups Marinara Sauce, recipe follows

Stir the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the cheese in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and bread crumb mixture to coat a second time. Cover and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve with the Marinara Sauce.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Fried Green Tomatoes

I saw some beautiful green tomatoes at Capitol Market on Friday, which instantly put me in the mood to fry them up. Some people prepare these using a 3 step breading technique, but I use cornbread batter. It gives a nice thick coating & you can use the remaining batter* for mini corn muffins to serve for breakfast or freeze to use for cornbread stuffing. I love biting into these for the first time every season. At family dinners, the platter rarely makes it to the table full; my sister & I eat them as soon as they've cooled a bit.

Fried Green Tomatoes
2 Green Tomatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 package cornbread mix (I use Martha White)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
Vegetable Oil

Slice tomatoes. Mix remaining ingredients in large bowl (you may need a little more buttermilk - batter should resemble waffle or pancake batter). Heat about half an inch of vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat.

Dip tomato slices into batter, place gently into pan, frying 3-4 minutes on both sides until golden brown. Remove from skillet, placing on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt. Enjoy!

*I place 1 cup of batter into a separate bowl before dipping tomatoes.