Friday, April 25, 2008

Ina's Creamy Cavatapi

I meant to blog about this the other day but didn't get the chance. I know this picture is not gorgeous, but it's Barefoot Contessa's Mac & Cheese recipe and Lord have mercy, it is to DIE FOR (or from, if you ate enough of it!). I honestly am not that much of a pasta girl, but I could not keep from sticking my fork in this, it's that amazing! Even my notoriously picky oldest child was fighting his sisters for second helpings, and that never, ever happens at our house.
I thought it was a little pricey to make -- the Gruyere is 16.99/lb, and the sharp cheddar is 8.99/lb, for a grand total of about 14.00 just in cheese to make this dish. I know, it sounds like I'm being cheap, and I shouldn't expect dinner to be less expensive just because there's no meat involved...but this ain't exactly Kraft Dinner for 1.98!

Use the cavatapi as Ina suggests; it's a fun shape and dresses it up a little bit. I served it as a side dish to her Turkey Meatloaf, and for a vegetable we had Sauteed Green Beans with Almonds (from The Joy of Cooking). No pics of the meatloaf or the green beans!

Mac & Cheese
Serves: 6-8
Source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style, p. 202

Vegetable Oil
1 lb. elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 qt. milk
8 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. flour
12 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (4 c.)
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 c.)
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 t. nutmeg
4 small tomatoes
1 1/2 c. fresh white breadcrumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions, about 6-8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 T. butter in a large (4 qt.) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the cheeses, 1 T. salt pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a 3-qt. baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 T. butter, combine them with the fresh breadcrumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Garden Vegetable Enchiladas & Cowboy Beans

I don't know how many blogs I've visited recently that have featured Mexican food -- Recipe Girl has been talking about Cinco de Mayo, Elly at Elly Says Opa wrote of her recent visit to Topolobompo, and Jenny at Picky Palate had a gorgeous taco salad last week...I know there have been more, but these are just a few that come to mind. Anyway, all this power of suggestion has given me a wicked craving for all things Mexican!

When a craving strikes, I turn to my notebooks and cookbooks for inspiration. I love the recipe I have for shredded beef enchiladas, but alas - did not have the three hours for braising and shredding a chuck roast today; besides that, chuck roast to me seems so 'wintery', and I'm DONE with winter food. Nothing else was jumping out so I did a search on good old Epicurious, and Garden Vegetable Enchiladas it was. It seemed like it would be 'healthy' enough -- a mixture of zucchini, yellow squash, onions and chilies rolled in flour tortillas and topped with a cheesy white sauce (okay, I know that cheesy white sauces are NOT healthy).

Paired with the enchiladas was one of my favorite Mexican sides: Rick Bayless' Quick Cowboy Beans. I just love those beans; I know I made them about ten times last summer when we had friends out to the lake. They pair great with all things Mexican, from fish tacos to fajitas on the grill. I thought they were nice with the enchiladas tonight.

Unfortunately, I did not end up hitting it out of the park with this dinner. My oldest wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole and had a sandwich instead. My middle opted for the leftover Creamy Cavatapi from two nights ago. My youngest was the only one who enjoyed the meal -- my husband (who normally can be counted on to enjoy EVERYTHING) didn't even rave, although as he said, he's just not that big of an enchilada fan to begin with. I liked them though, which is good, since I spent the better part of the afternoon in a corner of my kitchen!


The recipe for the Garden Vegetable Enchiladas can be found here:


Quick Cowboy Beans
Serves: 4-6
Source: Rick Bayless

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1 -15 oz. can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
2 - 15 oz. cans pinto beans
1 - 4 oz. can chopped chiles
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Cook the bacon in a large kettle over medium heat until crisp. Add the garlic; saute for 30 seconds. Add half the can of diced tomatoes (including the liquid). Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the beans with their liquid and the chiles, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the cilantro. (I like to mash up the beans with either a potato masher or a pastry blender, just to make them a little creamier. I also sprinkle mine with a little feta just to make them look pretty!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Asian Night

If you hang out in A Corner of My Kitchen, you've probably caught on to the fact that I have an Asian menu in my repretoire at least one night of the week. This week is no exception...mainly because I am a freak for salty food, and Asian cuisine is the easiest, most delicious way for me to mainline sodium (hey, we've all got our habits, right?)!

Of course it was raining here again today, so I off I went to the kitchen, cranked up the iTunes, and started cooking away. Marinating the pork tenderloin was first on my agenda. This is one meat the entire clan can agree on (my youngest always says, "good chicken, mom!"), especially prepared with this particular marinade. It's salty and sweet at the same time. I usually let it go for about eight hours, but today I only did three. Really, I couldn't tell that big of a difference! The original recipe also calls for grilling the pork, which I do in nice weather, but today I roasted it off at 425 for 35 minutes -- it was perfect! I don't have a picture because truth be told, those tenderloins weren't all that photogenic. But I promise, they were delicious!


Next up was a different take on fried rice. Normally I do rice pilaf or roasted potatoes as a side, but this morning I found a recipe for Fried Rice with Cilantro and Peas on Epicurious, and decided to give it a try. I embellished by adding diced carrot, bean sprouts, and some eggs to make it a little more substantial. I loved the addition of the cilantro! I think fried rice can sometimes taste a little flat, but the addition of cilantro really helped jazz it up a bit. I don't know what I would do if my family didn't like it...I might have to sell them to the circus and get a new brood!


Although the fried rice had some vegetables, I didn't really consider that a vegetable course. I added Braised Baby Bok Choy with Sesame -- wow! This one is going in my permanent file. And a bonus: they're darned cute, too! One tip: I used a regular chicken broth in a box, which became VERY SALTY (salty for me, even, and you know by now how I feel about salt) -- at the end of the recipe you reduce the braising liquid way down, thereby concentrating the saltiness. Next time I would absolutely go with the low sodium broth.


For dessert I made one of my oldest's favorites: Dark Chocolate Pudding, and Oh. My. Gosh. Sooooo rich and yummy and comes together in a snap! You probably have all the ingredients on hand as we speak. Last time I made it I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, which my girls didn't think came out sweet enough. Today I used semisweet chocolate and if they don't think that's sweet enough, then we have a problem! For a humble chocolate pudding, it's rich and slightly mousse-like in texture. I'd probably serve this to company, it's that good!

I think this post is getting a bit long-winded, so I'm going to cop out and just give you the names of the recipes; if you're interested in any of them, go to where you can seek them out quite easily (and print them off, too)!

** Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloin
** Fried Rice with Cilantro and Peas
** Braised Baby Bok Choy
** Chocolate Pudding

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Panko Crusted Lemon Chicken, Greek Inspired Salad, & "6" Layer Bars

Even though it was cold and rainy, I felt like having a springtime menu for dinner last night. It turned out great -- kid friendly (with the exception of my oldest, who made a disgusting gagging face/noise each time he took a bite of chicken, the little sh*t!) and healthy at the same time. Here is the recipe from Epicurious: You'll notice it's called "Parmesan Crusted Lemon Chicken" -- I swapped out the breadcrumbs for an equal amount of panko, just because I love the crunch you get from it.

Missing from the pictures are the Parmesan Smashed Redskins (Ina Garten's recipe; here's the link:,,FOOD_9936_24927,00.html). They are OUTSTANDING but didn't photograph that well so I left them to your imagination. They complimented the chicken and salad nicely, and since they have the skins left on, they added a pretty color to the finished plate.

As for the salad, I say Greek "inspired" because I'm not sure how authentic it is -- but the picture is pretty, right?! There wasn't a 'recipe', I just used romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, feta, and olives (although I punted and used plain olives instead of kalamata), and dressed the salad with red wine vinegar and olive oil. If anyone out there has a more authentic recipe, I'd love to have it.

For dessert we had the famous Six instead of Seven Layer Bars -- I leave off the nuts in order to avoid rebellion by my kids, who all act like they're being poisoned if there are nuts present in any recipe. Even though it's a total no-brainer, here it is:

Six (Instead of Seven) Layer Bars
Source: ??? No Idea!
Makes 2 dozen

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c. crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 c. sweetened flaked coconut
....and if you want the 7th layer, 1 c. walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13" pan with foil and spray the sides with Pam.

Combine the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl and pat into the prepared pan. Top with the chocolate chips and the butterscotch chips. Drizzle the condensed milk evenly over the chip layer, and top it with the coconut (and nuts, if you wish). Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before lifting the foil from the pan and cutting into bars. I like to use my pizza wheel for this job, it works great!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm Not Daring Baker Material

I love the blogs from you who belong to the Daring Bakers -- the photos of the amazing cakes, pies, tarts, and breads you all turn out are so impressive! I don't think I'll ever belong in a class with you chics.

I'm not a baker, but today I did make my first attempt at a layer cake, just for haha's. It's Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, from an old issue of Cooks Country. Before I talk about the cake, I just want to say how much I love that magazine! I think they must test to the never ending because I've been receiving it for about a year and I've never had a recipe 'bomb' on me.

Any hooo, we love pumpkin around here, so I decided to play Becky Home'Ecky (my mom always used to say that) and whip up a yummy dessert for this evening (instead of going to the gym. Maybe I'll run outside later.). Following the directions is easy enough of course, and the cakes came together just fine. I get in to trouble when I start to frost things. I end up with crumbs all in my frosting, I always have bald spots, and usually I have to go change my shirt afterwards because I make a total mess of myself!!! Also, I love to garnish, but what was I supposed to do with this? Plop a pumpkin on top? A knob of ginger? So what I have is a plain old cake. Oh well. I cut myself a slice, poured a glass of skim milk, and nibbled away.

It's moist and delicious (it oughta be, it has 4 eggs and a cup of oil!) as is, but my oldest thought it would benefit from a handful of chocolate chips. If I ever followed his advice, I would bake it in a 9x13 pan and leave off the icing - more like a snack cake.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Cooks Country Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2007
Serves: 16

2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. ground ginger
4 large eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 (15-oz) can plain pumpkin puree

6 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 t. vanilla extract

FOR THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in bowl. With electric mixer on medium high speed, beat eggs, oil, and granulated sugar until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add pumpkin, and mix until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture and mix until only a few small lumps of flour remain, about 1 minute. Scrape batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 - 35 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack and cool completely.

FOR THE FROSTING: With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat thoroughly. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Turn cooled cakes out onto wire rack, then invert onto cake stand. Frost first layer, then add second and frost it. Serve!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

So gorgeous, so yummy, so........disappointing!

Sunday afternoon I made a recipe that I had been dying to make for a long time: Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato, from BonAppetit's 'best of the year' issue. I had had it dog-earred for months and finally decided to make it. Lots of chopping and prep involved, but it was AWESOME! Coconut, curry, cilantro, ginger.....all of my favorite flavors.

I didn't have time to shoot it on Sunday evening, so I saved leftovers and re-created a bowl on Monday afternoon. Set the whole thing up, got out the camera, and then discovered the battery was dead. No auto focus, no nothin'. I really wanted to share it with you guys because it looked EXACTLY like the shot in the magazine! But, the camera didn't cooperate, and I was I ate the soup for lunch.

Anyway, here is the link to the recipe on epicurious. If you're a fan of Thai flavors, you will adore this soup! Check out the picture and pretend you saw it here first. ;-)