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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kielbasa and Corn Chowder

This is a recipe I had cut out of EveryDay with Rachael Ray. We had what I thought was kielbasa in the freezer, leftover half & half and broth, and a rainy day coming up so I figured this would be a good way to use up some ingredients and stay warm. The kielbasa turned out to be a spicy chipotle beef sausage and the broth was beef instead of chicken, but I think it turned out just fine. Also, I left out the dill since neither of us like it. Because of the type of sausage this soup had a nice kick to it, and was delicious. It's a keeper!

Kielbasa and Corn Chowder
slightly adapted from EveryDay with Rachael Ray, February 2007

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 30 min

8 ounces kielbasa, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (I used a chipotle beef sausage.)
2 onions, finely chopped (I used half a large onion and thought it was more than enough.)
1 tablespoon butter
One 14.5-ounce can chicken broth (I used 2 cups beef broth.)
1 large baking potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used about 4 medium sized red potatoes.)
1 cup half-and-half
One 1-pound bag frozen corn, thawed
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish (Omitted)

  • Heat a deep skillet or a wide 4- to 6-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the onions and butter to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes.
  • Add the broth and potato and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the half-and-half and corn and cook, stirring, until heated through.
  • Using a blender or food processor, puree 1 cup chowder until smooth. (I used a stick blender; I just stuck it into the large pot and blended until it looked like a good consistency.)
  • Stir the puree back into the chowder along with the browned kielbasa and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the dill.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Homemade Bagels

These were so great! They were a little bit of work, but I'd say definitely worth it. I read on a few blogs about homemade bagels, but they all used the same source recipe -- this one from Baking Bites. I loved her step by step pictures. I did not take such detailed and lovely pictures, so please go to her site and check them out.

I really enjoyed making these and love the finished product. I think I baked mine a touch too short though. I am always afraid of my oven burning things beyond recognition, so I tend to take things out earlier than I should. Next time I will wait until they are all golden brown. That being said, after being toasted the texture is just perfect -- crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Yum! I made these the same day as the soft pretzels because they had similar cooking methods -- knead dough, let it rise, shape, boil, bake. It worked out pretty well and now we are stocked with yummy carbs for quite a bit!

Homemade Bagels

1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 cups water, warm (100-110F)
4 cups bread flour (not all purpose)
1 tbsp salt
1 egg, for egg wash


  • In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) combine yeast, sugar and water. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in flour and salt. Mix dough thoroughly until it comes together in a large ball, pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Add an additional tablespoon of flour or water, if needed.
  • If kneading by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until very smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a stand mixer, knead dough with the dough hook until elastic, about 8 minutes on a low speed. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  • When dough has risen, turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces (first quarters, then thirds). Shape each piece into a tight ball, pinching the corners together at the bottom of the piece of dough. When all the balls are shaped, let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered with a clean dish towel.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil and preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Once dough balls have rested, the bagel shape can be formed. Using your fingers, poke a hole through the center of each dough ball. Stretch out the dough into a ring with your fingers and be sure to make the hole a little larger than you want the finished bagel to have, as it will shrink slightly while the bagel is expanding during the baking process. Let bagels rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Working three to four at a time, drop the bagels carefully into the boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and boil for an additional minute. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer bagels to a clean towel to drain for a moment, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining bagels.
  • Brush boiled bagels with lightly beaten egg and bake for 20-24 minutes, until golden brown.Cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Soft Preztels

I think I may be in love with Alton Brown.  Ever since I first saw Good Eats I was hooked on his blend of science and cooking.  This is his Soft Pretzel recipe and it is everything I hoped it would be.  It wasn't too time consuming at all, especially with our Kitchen Aid mixer to do all the kneading.  It was a nice afternoon project and they look fabulous.  

Well, all but one look fabulous.  The first one I put in the boiling water unwound from it's pretzel shape.  I had the water at too high of a boil, instead of gentle boil and I learned a better way of using the spatula to slowely lower them in instead of just dropping them in.  I managed to get it back in a preztel shape, but it was not attractive, so it was my "quality control" pretzel, meaning I ate it to be sure the rest were okay.  :-)

I think these make a great afternoon or late night snack, and would be great with a nice, cold beer too.  

Soft Pretzels


1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted (1/2 a stick)
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (I used kosher salt.)

  • Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
  • Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  • Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
  • In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  • Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. 
  • Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Ham

This is another great recipe from EveryDay with Rachael Ray. Quick, easy, yummy. The only change I made was to used dried sage. I know, I'm bad, I usually try and use fresh herbs whenever possible since I love the extra kick of flavor they bring. But, I had everything else on hand for this dinner and was too lazy to go to the store. I thought it tasted great with the dried herb, but next time though, I will definitely being using the fresh. I used whole wheat pasta as well, and I think that really complimented the nuttiness of the roasted cauliflower.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Ham
Serves 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

1 head cauliflower (about 2½ pounds), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup loosely packed sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1 pound penne pasta
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 pound sliced, boiled ham, cut into strips 
salt & pepper

  • Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. 
  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil and toss; season with salt and pepper. Bake until browned, about 20 minutes. 
  • Salt the water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  •  Meanwhile, in a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook, without stirring, until the butter is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the sage and remove from the heat. 
  • Stir the ham, cauliflower and reserved pasta cooking water into the pot with the pasta. Stir in the sage butter and season with salt and pepper.

Chicken and Mushrooms in Balsamic Cream Sauce

Last week I bought some fresh rosemary to make Zach's favorite variation of the no-knead bread.  I didn't want the rest of the lovely herb to go to waste, so I quickly scoured my cookbooks for any rosemary recipes.  I also knew we had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so that was a requirement for the recipes too.  I found this one in my Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats.  After reading the title of the dish, I thought it would most likely have rosemary in it -- Nope!  It called for thyme, which I omitted and used rosemary instead since the rest of the recipe sounded delicious.  I also served it with couscous instead of orzo, since that's what I was in the mood for.  It turned out pretty good, and Zach agreed it was a "keeper."

Sorry the picture is not all that great, it's hard to get a nice picture when the meal ends up so "brown."  Plus, I was hungry!

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Balsamic Cream Sauce
adapted from Rachael Ray


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces crimini or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary (a couple of sprigs), chopped
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 
3 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, a generous handful
Salt & Pepper

  • Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add EVOO, about two turns of the pan. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add to the hot skillet. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Return the skillet to the heat, turn heat back a bit, and add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the mushrooms and brown, stirring occasionally for about 4-5 minutes. 
  • Once the mushrooms are brown, season with salt and pepper; add the garlic, rosemary and shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes or until the shallots are wilted. 
  • Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook two minutes more. Whisk in the stock, balsamic vinegar and the cream. Turn the heat up to high and simmer for about two minutes or until thickened.
  • Slice the chicken on an angle. Add the parsley and the chicken back to the skillet to heat up, about one minute.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Good Eats Meat Loaf

This is a super dish!  It lives up to the expectations that comes with any Alton Brown recipe.  I followed it exactly the first time I made it, but this time I made just a few exchanges of ingredients.  I used green pepper instead of red pepper, since the price difference was significant.  Also, in my mind when I was remembering this recipe it was half ground pork, half ground beef.  So, I decided to make it when I found some ground pork on sale at the grocery store.  I didn't check the recipe again until the night before I was going to make it and discovered it actually called for half ground sirloin, half ground chuck.  I used the pork/beef mixture anyway and we both thought it turned out just fine.  

It is great as leftovers too.  Our favorite way to "re-purpose" it is to use it in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Mmmmmmm, so good.  Actually, my memories of the last grilled cheese/meatloaf sandwich are what prompted me to make the recipe again!

Good Eats Meat Loaf
from, recipe by Alton Brown
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

6 ounces garlic flavored croutons
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and broken
3 whole cloves garlic
1/2 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
18 ounces ground chuck
18 ounces ground sirloin
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg

For the glaze:
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon honey

  • Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a food processor bowl combine croutons, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder and thyme.  pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture.  Place this mixture into a large bowl.
  • Combine the onion, carrot, garlic and pepper in the food processor bowl.  Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed.  Add the vegetable mixture, ground sirloin and ground chuck with the bread crumb mixture.  Season with the kosher salt, add the egg and thoroughly combine, but avoid squeezing the meat.  
  • Pack this mixture into a loaf pan to mold the shape of the meatloaf.   Onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, turn the meatloaf out of the pan onto the center of the tray. Insert a temperature probe at a 45 degree angle into the top of the meatloaf.  Avoid touching the bottom of the tray with the probe. Set the probe for 155 degrees.
  • Combine the ketchup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and honey.  Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

This recipe is one I copied out of a Weight Watchers cookbook.  I did modify it a bit, but it is basically the same.  I added in asparagus, since we had some leftover from a previous meal.  But, I think it would be good with other veggies as well -- spinach in particular came to mind.  Also, the original recipe called for fat free half & half, but we had regular leftover so I used that.  You can easily add in 1-2 more cloves of garlic if you wanted a more distinct garlic flavor.  

It is so yummy!!  The more you eat it, the better it gets.  It's pretty easy as well, and a good sauce to keep in rotation when regular tomato sauce gets boring.  

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
4 servings, yield 2 cups sauce

1/2 pound pasta (I chose penne to mimic the shape of the asparagus.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped 
1 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
fresh basil, coarsely chopped, vary amount to your taste
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half 
1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2-3 inch pieces 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and pasta.  When pasta is about half way done, add in asparagus.  Drain well and empty into large bowl.
  • While waiting for water to boil, heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  
  • Stir in the roasted red peppers and basil, cook about one minute.
  • Add the broth, simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in half and half.
  • Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor.  Pour sauce over pasta and toss to coat.