Archive for February, 2012
Five ingredients. One prep time. Three meals. What does it add up to? Easy baked ziti. I make a big batch of baked ziti one night that fills one, 9 x 13″ pan (for dinner that night and leftovers the next), then I fill a 9×9″ aluminum foil pan that I freeze and save to eat a couple weeks later. The only hard part about this meal is mixing all of the ingredients together before putting ‘em in the pans (hint: grab your biggest bowl).
A few notes on baked ziti:
•The noodles really do make a difference. Forget the penne, rigatoni, or even macaroni, ziti pasta is best.
•This dish is simple to make meatless. Skip the Italian sausage and use roasted veggies or spinach.
•I often add in spinach to this dish. The kids don’t seem to notice, plus I really like spinach.
•You can add as many different kinds of cheeses as you want–the last time I made this I put in Truffle Cheese (thank you Trader Joe’s!).
Baked ziti has all of the same flavors as lasagna, without all the work. So if your family likes lasagna, they’ll love baked ziti.
Prep time: 25 minutes + 40 minutes baking + 15 minutes cooling
1 16-ounce package ziti pasta
1 16-ounce container ricotta cheese
3 cups mozzarella cheese, divided
2 24-ounce jars spaghetti sauce
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (optional, but recommended)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Cook the Italian sausage, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces with the spatula.
- Cook the pasta according the package directions. Note: this recipe works best with ziti cooked to al dente, make sure not to overcook the pasta.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta and sausage, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, all of the ricotta cheese and both jars of spaghetti sauce.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Coat a 9×13” pan with baking spray. Pour the pasta mixture into the pan and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Place the filled 9×13” pan on a cookie sheet to make it easier to get in and out of the oven. (The pan will be heavy!)
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cheese becomes golden brown.
- Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
*We have a winner to the Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook giveaway! Laura will be receiving her copy soon.
On a dare my teen once drank a glass of Cholula, a vinegary Mexican hot sauce that’s spicer than Tabasco. She was used to dousing her food with the hot stuff anyway so it didn’t seem like a big deal to have a drink. She downed the Cholula in a few gulps, reached for a glass of water and then downed that too. I should probably mention that my middle child was the one who suggested the dare. And me? Well, I just sat back and watched the whole thing unfold.
This is NOT the way I’d suggest introducing your kids to hot sauce. My advice is to go gently. One dab at a time. Mix a little into stews or sauces to give them a bit of a kick. Add a drop or two to sandwiches. Why hot sauces? To put it simply, they give food an added dimension of flavor. They wake up your taste buds. Turn up the heat in your food by trying out one of these sauces:
Cholula sauce: This bright, deep orange-red Mexican sauce is thin and vinegary. Use it in place of Tabasco sauce on sandwiches or mix it into guacamole to turn the heat up just a bit.
Valentina sauce: Another Mexican hot sauce. But this one is slightly thicker and spicier than Cholula. I noticed a chef at Caffe Lola in Niagara Falls mix it into marinara and I’ve been doing the same ever since. The heat isn’t overpowering just enough to give you a tickle in your throat.
Chili Garlic Sauce: You can see the red peppers seeds right in this pungent sauce that combines heat and garlic. This Vietnamese sauce works well in Asian dishes. But you might also mix it with mayo to use it either as a dip for chips or a sandwich spread.
Sriracha sauce: The standard variety available in the U.S. has a building heat that envelops the middle of your tongue–and stays there. Mr. Squid is a huge Sriracha fan and sneaks it in whenever he gets a chance. The consistency is almost like ketchup and you can use it as you would ketchup. Just remember that it packs a kick. Use it in Italian, Asian, Indian, Mexican … well, you get the idea. This is one versatile hot sauce.
Frank’s RedHot sauce: I had to add one all-American favorite. This sauce is synonymous with the place where it was created: Buffalo. It’s a must if you’re making wings and it’s a perfect match with bleu cheese. I like to dabble it on salads that have creamy dressings too.
Your turn: What’s your go-to hot sauce–or do you prefer to go without the heat?
Reading the description of chocolate yogurt loaf in Debbie Koenig’s Parents Need to Eat Too cookbook I was struck by two ideas: the recipe was inspired by New York City delis (as a former New Yorker I was intrigued) and it’s chocolatey goodness is hypnotic while still being dietlicious.
I’m all for chocolate treats that taste decadent but don’t pack too many calories or fat (think: brownie craving satisfier right here). But I wondered if I could boost the nutrition just a bit. That way I wouldn’t feel too bad adding in some chocolate chips too (hey, we all need more anti-oxidants in our diet and dark chocolate happens to have them, which is why I try to get a little dark chocolate in each day–it’s tough, but I somehow manage).
I figured this recipe with a hefty dose of yogurt would be perfect paired with whole wheat instead of all-purpose flour. I also added a tablespoon of ground flax, 1/4 cup chopped almonds, orange zest, and mini Ghirardelli chocolate chips.
Kid reactions: Well, it’s chocolate, of course they loved it! My teen who has quite the discerning taste buds didn’t like the added orange zest. In her words, “the orange zest brings out the flavor of the whole wheat instead of the chocolate so I’d skip it next time.” If your kids are begging for brownies but you want to try something that might be just a little healthier than your standard recipe, you might consider making this loaf.
Prep time: 15 minutes + baking
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt (I used Greek)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease a loaf pan. (I thought two mini pans would work nicely here too).
- In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, except for the chocolate chips.
- Beat the butter and sugar together on high speed. Then add in the egg and vanilla.
- Add half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture; blend.
- Add half of the yogurt into the batter; blend.
- Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and yogurt. (The batter will be stiff.)
- Mix in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts, if using.
- Spread the batter into the pan and cook for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been awake all night with a fussy baby. These days when my “baby” can’t sleep, usually because of a thunderstorm, she’ll curl up in her doorway in her favorite blanket and I’ll find her there dozing in the morning.
When I flipped through my review copy of Parent Needs to Eat Too by Debbie Koenig (it came out today!) it brought back so many memories of harried days trying to keep my baby–and toddlers–happy and occupied while I tried to turn out a meal that involved more than flakes, a bowl, and milk.
Koenig understands the often daunting task of wanting to have good food for your family and holding on to your sanity at the same time, especially when you’re a new parent. The cookbook draws on her own experiences as a new mom and is divided into handy sections on meals to make while your kids nap, last-minute dinner ideas, good-for-you snacks, a whole section on slow cookers (I’ve already dog-eared that chapter) and cooking tips sprinkled throughout.
What surprised me about that book is that Koenig doesn’t shy away from flavor or dishes from around the world. Tucked in the pages you’ll find Polynesian flank steak, fish nicoise, Indian potatoes, soba noodle salad with tahini-lime dressing. And two. Count ‘em two recipes for homemade black beans. Sure, I won’t need the sidebars on how to make these dishes into baby food (well, maybe the next time they tighten my tween’s braces). But I thought the tips, tricks, and recipes in the cookbook work well for parents like me who may not have a baby in the house, yet we’re still trying to make good food for our kids between laundry, work, sports practices, piano lessons, field trips…
Here’s how to win a copy of Parents Need to Eat Too:
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The giveaway starts now and runs through Tuesday, February 28th at 9a.m. EST, when the winner will be chosen at random. Both a review and giveaway copy were provided by the publisher. Open to U.S. residents only.
It’s been a mild winter here in Ohio, but I’m still finding myself a little stir-crazy for Springtime. This salad gives me a bit of a taste of spring–with both kicks of fruit (both fresh and dried) along with a light vinaigrette.
Kid reaction: My teen liked the fruit/spinach combo but asked for it sans onions next time. The two youngest still aren’t convinced about vinaigrettes–to them salad dressing equals something creamy. I’m working on that.
Prep time: 10 minutes
12-ounce bag baby spinach (romaine works well too)
1 apple (Gala, Empire, Pink Lady), cut into thin slices
4 thin slices of red onion
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
¼ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
- Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the spinach and toss along with the apples, red onion, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries.
- Serve right away.
I’m usually not one to check out celebrity cookbooks, but I ran across this recipe in an issue of Prevention magazine on a week when chicken breasts happened to be on sale. Apparently this is a favorite from Sheryl Crow’s recent cookbook, If It Makes You Healthy (and I thought I was a fan of questionable puns). The recipe was easy, tasty, and made enough for two meals. (On day #2 I used the extra meat to make tacos, quesadillas, or burritos.)
Idea to make this even simpler:
I’ll buy enough ingredients to make this recipe 2 or 3 times. Place the meat in the marinade in plastic bags or containers then freeze until you’re ready to use. That way, as the chicken thaws, it’s marinating too.
Prep time: 20 minutes + baking
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil (I use half flavored oil, like basil, half regular)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (the juice of about 1 lemon; go ahead and toss the whole lemon in the bag once you’re done juicing it)
3 cloves garlic (or ½ teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
- In a mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients except the chicken. Stir.
- Add the chicken to a large, heavy-duty plastic bag and then pour in the marinade ingredients.
- Marinate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Add ½ tablespoon olive oil to a nonstick skillet and bring to medium-high temperature.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and put it in the hot pan, skin side down. Heat for about three minutes or until the skin is browned.
- Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.
- Cook for about 20 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer measures the chicken at 155 degrees. (The chicken meat should reach 160 after it’s out of the oven.)
- Allow the chicken to sit for five minutes before serving.
Chocolate. Make that dark chocolate. That’s what Happy Valentine’s Day are all about. If you’re looking for something decadent and special come February 14th, this is one show-stopper of a dessert. And the best part is you can make it a couple days ahead of time: it’s even better after it’s had time to–in Mr. Squid’s words–”densify.”
I actually made this dessert by request awhile back for my tween’s birthday cake. But I was getting bored doing the same-old cheesecake; I wanted to have some fun with the recipe.
So I was looking for a few ways to tweak my classic recipe and I thought of a common dessert combination from Viennese desserts where apricots are the fruit of choice with chocolate, instead of strawberries or raspberries. I like a hint of tartness to desserts so along with subbing apricot jam for raspberry, I also decided to forgo the regular whipped cream on top with a fresh blackberry sauce instead. That said, you can’t even taste the apricot in the final cake, it just intensifies the depth of the dark chocolate.
You’re intrigued, right? I hope so. This was by far my favorite cheesecake I’ve ever made. Ever.
Note: Another update to this recipe was trying to make it just a smidge healthier. I know, this wouldn’t qualify for a light recipe by any stretch of the imagination but I used Neufchatel cream cheese instead of the full fat variety and I nixed the whip cream for a fruit sauce. Small steps, right?
Okay, one more note: Please don’t let these directions scare you, just being thorough here because I believe in cheesecakes without cracks, and a waterbath is the way to go.
Prep time: 30 minutes + 75 minutes baking + 60 minutes cooling
9 ounces chocolate wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted (lower fat butter works well too!)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips are fine
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup apricot jam
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (Neufchatel recommended)
*Make sure the cheese is at room temperature
¾ cups sugar (I used 2/3 this time)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups blackberries (thawed or fresh)
1 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
For the crust: In a food processor, grind up the chocolate wafers (I also add just a touch of salt). I use Pepperidge Farms chocolate goldfish as the base for my crust—they’re not overly sweet like Oreos with cream filling. Add the melted butter to the crushed cookies. Here’s the tricky part. You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan. Surround the outside of the pan with aluminum foil (I’ll explain more on this later.) Cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom part of the pan. Spray the pan with cooking spray then insert the paper and spray again. Press the cookie crumbs into the pan and half way up the sides with your fingers (I’ve tried this with spoons, but frankly fingers are best). Put the crust into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
For the filling: Preheat the over to 325 degrees. In a large, glass measuring bowl, melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together in the microwave. Melt the two slowly. I usually start at half the power level for around two minutes. When the chips start to lose their shape, I finish the melting process by stirring the mixture vigorously. Add the jam to the chocolate mixture, stir and let it cool about 10 minutes.
In another large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the sugar. As I noted in the directions, it’s key to have the cream cheese at room temperature. (Eggs, too!) Beat the sugar and cream cheese for at least 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla and the chocolate-apricot mixture. Beat all the ingredients together for at least 5 minutes (I set a timer).
Constructing a waterbath: Here’s another tricky part—creating a water bath for your cheesecake. water bath keeps your cheesecake dense and smooth instead of dry. You’ll need a large, glass baking dish. I wish I had a larger one, but my biggest is 9×11” so I have to improvise. (I also add a larger, cookie baking pan under the casserole dish to make it easier to get it into and out of the oven.) make several aluminum balls and place them in the center of the baking dish because the casserole dish isn’t wide enough. Next, gently press the springform pan into the casserole dish. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust, making surethat your aluminum balls stay in place and keep your pan level. Add about a half an inch of water to the bottom of the casserole dish (not into your cheesecake!). Carefully put the whole contraption into the preheated oven.
Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours or until the cheesecake just jiggles in the center. Once the cheesecake is set, turn off and leave the door open. Wait one hour and then remove the cheesecake. Carefully pull it out of the water bath. Gently release the springform mechanism, but don’t remove it. Use a butter knife to separate the crust from the pan (this will ensure that the top doesn’t crack). Put your cheesecake into the fridge for at least one day before serving.
For the sauce: Place the water, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until the mixture thickens and just barely become syrupy (about 4 minutes on my power burner). Pour the berries into the hot mixture and simmer until the berries start to break apart. Use a handheld immersion blender to liquify the berries. Alternatively, you can pour the sauce into a blender. Adjust the seasonings: I like my sauce tart so I added 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon red raspberry vinegar. You might like adding orange zest or a bit of juice to add a hint of sourness and interest to the sauce. Cool to room temperature before serving. The sauce will thicken as it cools.
Note: I’ve had this recipe for years, it comes from an old recipe book called 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Natalie Haughton
Traditional Mexican taco shops, or tacquerias, often offer a liquidy version of guacamole along with salsas and such to put on your tacos. The thin guac is fine for tacos, but not so good for chip dipping. I wanted to come up with an in-between guacamole. Not too thin, not too chunky. Enter tomatillos, a mandarin-orange sized green berry that many people mistake for a green tomato. You can usually find fresh tomatillos in the produce section at the grocers near the chiles. Tomatillos have husks that cover the green berry, which is slightly sticky on the outside and tangy with a subtle sweetness on the inside.
Prep time: 15 minutes
2 ripe avocados
2 cloves garlic
2 large slices white onion (about 1/4 of the onion)
1/2-1 fresh serrano chile or jalapeno
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup cilantro
1/3-3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons diced, canned green chiles (optional, but really good)
- Bring 1 teaspoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan (I used my cast iron).
- Remove the husks, rinse, and then place the tomatillos, garlic, and onion into the hot pan.
- Roast for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the tomatillo skin is beginning to blister.
- Place the tomatillos, onions, and garlic into a blender along with the vinegar, 1/3 cup water, avocados, and serrano chile (keep in mind, the more chile you use, the hotter the guac will be so you might want to start with one half, before adding the entire chile).
- Add more water to adjust consistency. Sprinkle in salt and pepper to taste.
- Blend in the cilantro (and green chiles, if using) and get your dipping chips ready!
Bonus: I made this guacamole a day ahead to serve with dinner and with the vinegar whipped in the color stayed bright.
I know this looks tailor-made for Super Bowl Sunday, but we’ve been making this dish ever since sampling it as a small plate at a local restaurant One Red Door a couple years ago (I’m still trying to figure out how to make their chocolate mousse oatmeal cookie tower.)
So for a knock-out dish for the big game, or if you’re in need of amped up comfort food, here you go. Warning: after having mac ‘n cheese with barbecue sauce you’ll wonder why you haven’t been eating it that way for years.
One creamy, homemade batch of mac ‘n cheese
1 1/2 pounds London broil or round steak roast, cut into 1″ chunks
2 cups prepared barbecue sauce
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
- Prepare your mac ‘n cheese and set aside. Don’t have a favorite recipe? Try this one from Zingerman’s Roadhouse.
- In a heavy bottomed saute pan, bring 1 tablespoon canola oil up to medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, toss the beef pieces in flour to coat. You can do this easily by putting the chunks and about 1/2 cup flour in a heavy duty plastic bag and giving it a good shake.
- Add the flour-coated beef to the hot oil and cook until browned.
- Place the browned beef pieces, barbecue sauce, and chicken broth in a slow cooker set on LOW for 5-6 hours.
- Note: I also like to add a dash of Tabasco sauce or cayenne powder to the sauce to give it a kick.
- Serve each serving of mac ‘n cheese with a portion of barbecued beef.
Not a fan of beef? No problem. For a vegetarian version try roasting cauliflower or broccoli and then heat the barbecue sauce in a saucepan. Add the roasted vegetables to the mac ‘n cheese and grab a fork!