Sunday, October 18, 2009

Saturday dinner

We had friends over for dinner last night. I wanted a traditional comfort-food fall meal and decided on pork roast and Au Gratin potatoes.

I don't normally make a roast for the two of us and when I do it's usually in the crock pot. To give it lots of flavor I rubbed the roast with olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. Husband suggested beer in the roasting pan to keep the meat moist. It was then covered and in the oven for two hours. It was outstanding; very moist and flavorful.

The Au Gratin potatoes is one of my favorite holiday recipes; Russet potatoes boiled and then shredded, layered with sharp Cheddar cheese, heavy cream poured over the top and bread crumbs on top to finish. It is rich, creamy and delicious.

I bought a loaf of sour dough bread at Panera Bread and dessert was my homemade French Apple pie. It was a great evening.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

French Apple Pie

This is probably my favorite pie; the sweet crumb crust just makes it.

Homemade bottom crust-apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. I always use a little more cinnamon and a little less nutmeg then the recipe recommends.

A crumb crust-butter, brown sugar and flour. I have found the best way to mix is my fingers.

Finished product. After years of swearing about a mess in the oven from spillover; I now use a deep-dish pie pan.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beef Stew

Fall is in full force here and it is cold. The last couple days it has also been rainy. With the weather getting ugly I wanted something warm, hardy and comforting.

This is a recipe I have been wanting to try for a while. I am a big fan of Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) on Food Network. I love her style of cooking and her choice of foods. This stew sounded so wonderful I had to try it. We hadn't had beef stew in years and I was looking forward to a homemade recipe.

Beef Stew
with credit to The Barefoot Contessa

2 1/2 lb. good quality chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 (750-ml bottle) good red wine
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, stems discarded and cut in 1/2
1 lb. small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tbsp. minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups or 1 (14 1/2-ounce can) chicken stock or broth
1 large (or 2 small) branch fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas


Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in a large oven-proof Dutch oven and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you'll need more oil.) Place all the beef in the Dutch oven.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven over the beef. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250 or 275 degrees F.

Before serving, stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve hot.

My personal notes
: I cut the recipe down to about 2/3 of this; using a little over 1 pound of meat. I bought a package of pre-cut meat labeled as "stew meat" at the grocery store and it was flavorful and tender. The sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms were particularly delicious. I was concerned the mushrooms wouldn't hold up to all the cooking time but they were still intact and wonderfully flavored in the stew.
I did not have fresh rosemary so I used dried. Ina would hate this! I looked for fresh, I really did. In my opinion; the wine, the rosemary and the sun-dried tomatoes really make this recipe special.
Very, very pleased and Husband was raving; we have a winner here. I also have leftovers for another meal in the freezer-bonus!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chocolate-Marshmellow cookies

I was really hungry for something chocolate last night. My desserts recently have been carrot cake and strawberry/rhubarb pie; sweet but not chocolate.

My email this morning from Martha Stewart Living had a recipe for Surprise Cookies; a chocolate cookie with marshmellow in the center. I decided we needed a batch.


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
12 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally

Chocolate frosting

2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add reserved flour mixture; mix on low speed until combined.
3. Using a tablespoon or 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies begin to spread and become firm, 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Remove baking sheets from oven, and place a marshmallow, cut-side down, in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Return to oven, and continue baking until marshmallows begins to melt, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
5. Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting over each marshmallow, starting in the center and continuing outward until marshmallow is covered.

Potato gnocchi

While watching Food Network a few days ago I decided to try gnocchi. It is definitely one of those fussy meals you plan on a weekend or day off.
I found the process of making the potato dough pretty easy. It didn't seem to take very much flour; for better or for worse. They were fun to cut apart and shape and I thought they were cute on the plate going into the refrigerator to sit.

A few hours later, with the water boiling, the nerves kick in. If there is too much flour the gnocchi wouldn't float, too little flour they fall apart. The fun is dinner is supposed to be happening in five minutes. They don't work-then what???
I am happy to report they floated like champs and did not fall apart. Success! They did, however, somewhat fall apart when I put them in the pan with the vegetables and sauce. I am honestly not sure why. Perhaps the pan was too hot. In retrospect, I would have put the gnocchi directly on the ricotta and poured the sauce over them. I really think they would have worked fine.

But it was delicious. The gnocchi themselves were light, soft and tasty and I did think the recipe was very flavorful. The lemon ricotta was a very nice touch.

The recipe can be found here:

Potato Gnocchi with Peas, Prosciutto and Ricotta

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

When I come across a recipe one of my first thoughts is whether I can pull it together on a work night. In other words can I leave work at 5 o'clock, get home around 5:20 and have this meal on the table between 6 and 6:30. This recipe works.

I used a Mexican cheese blend and sprinkled a bit more cheese on top. I also covered it with tin foil for the first 1/2 hour as I like the shells soft and tender.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup black beans-drained and rinsed
6 flour tortillas (6-inch), warmed
1 small tomato, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 green onion, sliced (about 2 tablespoon

Heat the oven to 350°F. Stir the soup, sour cream, salsa and chili powder in a medium bowl.

Stir 1 cup salsa mixture, chicken, black beans and cheese in a large bowl.

Divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas. Roll up the tortillas and place them seam-side up in a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Pour the remaining salsa mixture over the filled tortillas. Cover the baking dish.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the enchiladas are hot and bubbling. Top with the tomato and onion.

Trivia fact: In looking at different recipes I found this is actually a chicken burrito. A corn tortilla shell is needed for an actual enchilada.