Sunday, August 30, 2015

BEST EVER CREAMY MAC AND CHEESE--EVER!!!


I love Mac and Cheese and I'm always trying out new recipes. I tried this one yesterday and was over the moon because it was so good, and the best news is it's made stovetop with only 10 minutes in the oven to brown the topping.

Here's the recipe:

3 tablespoons butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 lb elbow macaroni, cooked

Cook the elbow macaroni in a pot with 4 quarts water and 2 tsp salt. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat, add the minced garlic and sauté until golden, add flour gradually and stir until its bubbly. Add the cream and butter milk, whisking until the sauce thickens, then add in the cheeses gradually and continue stirring until smooth and completely melted. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat.

Add the drained macaroni and stir to incorporate the sauce making sure to completely coat each piece.

You can serve the mac and cheese just like this, or add a topping. I like a topping, so I spread the macaroni evenly into a greased roasting dish. Here's the topping recipe:

6 slices of bread pulsed in food processor until crumbly
3/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon granulated garlic



Swirl until blended, then sprinkle evenly over top macaroni and place in a 375 oven for 10 minutes. Yummy!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

PASTA PRIMAVERA


I love pasta! And why wouldn't I? I'm Italian. Of course, it isn't just my clan who loves pasta, everybody loves pasta. Tonight I made Pasta Primavera for dinner and it was a huge hit!


INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons olive oil
6 whole cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, cut in strips
1 cup broccoli flowerettes
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley and basil leaves, rough chop
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

12 oz box gluten-free pasta, your choice.
1 tbls. salt
1 tsp. olive oil

Using a large saucepan, add the olive oil, garlic and vegetables and sauté until crisp tender. Don't overcook or undercook these vegetables.



Meanwhile, in a 4-quart pot, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon olive oil and bring to a boil. Add the box of pasta and stir. Once the water starts boiling again, lower the heat to a little more than a simmer and set your timer for 7 minutes for al-dente, 8 minutes for a firm, or if you really like it cooked, go the 9 minutes. With gluten-free pasta, my preference is always somewhere between the al dente and the firm. I go for 7.5 minutes.


Drain the pasta and rinse with hot water. Return the drained pasta to the pot and add the veggies from
the saucepan, the Parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly to even out the olive oil and veggies. If you need more juice, just add more olive oil, chicken broth, veggie broth, or a bit of warm water.

SERVES 4



Bon Appetit!



Sunday, May 3, 2015

SOMETIMES YOU FEEL LIKE A NUT!


Here's a recipe that I developed when my husband and I started the Paleo Diet. He's fine with the program itself, but he was really missing his morning granola, so I hit the kitchen and created this one for him. Try it, I think you'll enjoy it just as much as we do. You can also find this recipe and several others in Dishing Up Romance!



PALEO NUTTY GRANOLA

9 cups variety of nuts (pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds), chopped
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
2/3 cups honey
2/3 cups coconut oil
1 ¼ sticks of butter, melted
1 tbls cinnamon
1 tbls vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt



 

PREHEAT oven 300 degrees

Chop the nuts in a food processor using the pulse tab. You don't want the cereal to be nut dust, so check it after two or three pulses to see if it's the right size.  To save time, you can also purchase the already chopped nuts. 

Mix  chopped nuts together in a large bowl and set aside. Melt the butter and add remaining spices, stirring to incorporate. Pour the liquid over top of nuts and mix until thoroughly combined.
Divide the nut mixture onto two half sheet pan. Using a spatula, spread out evenly on each pan.

Total baking time is 40 minutes. After the first 20, rotate the trays, and set timer for second 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Once cooled, add:

½ cup raisins
½ dried cherries
6 dried apricots, thinly sliced

 
Mix together and store in an airtight container.
 
SERVINGS: 18-20
 
Chef's note: These are also a pretty good snack.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

ADDICTIVE AT ITS BEST!

Today, I'm talking about Fruit n' Veggie Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips that are always a huge hit every time. It's easy to make, looks delicious and tastes even better.

 
FRUIT n' VEGGIE SALSA
 
                      1 large yellow pepper, diced
                      1 large red pepper, diced
                      2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
                      3 cloves of fresh garlic, diced.
                      1 large mango, diced
                      2 large peaches, diced
                      1 small red onion, diced
                      1 1/2 tbls olive oil
                      1 tsp salt
                      1-2  limes, juiced depending on your taste
                      2 tbls cilantro, finely diced.
 
You can use any combination of fruit, just make sure it's semi ripe.
 
This can be prepared the old fashioned way using a knife, but if you haven't used a Vegetable Chop and Measure yet, you don't know what you're missing. I was given this as a gift from a friend and am so hooked on this little gadget, I bought one for every member of our family. Here's a picture. You can find these in kitchen shops with pricing anywhere from $19.95 - $29.95, depending on the amount of grids included. The full-size cutter has four interchangeable cutters fitted with supersharp stainless-steel cutting grids; one grid makes slices and the three others produce 1/6", 1/4" dices or 1/2" chop. Now, I'm so hooked, I can't live without it. I use this thing for every recipe calling for chopped veggies.
 
We have such busy lives today, having this gadget frees up your time to do other things and still eat well. Do you see the cup measurements on the side of the container?  
 
 
 
 
Cut the tops of the peppers off, slice in strips and dice, which is 1/4 inch. Wash the tomatoes, cut in half and using your finger, push the seed outs and dice the outer skin. Dice and add remaining ingredients; mix thoroughly. Allow to macerate no less than an hour before serving.
 
 
 
CINNAMON SUGAR CHIPS
 
 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and set aside. NOTE: You must use the flour tortillas for this chip
 
 
                         10 (8") flour tortillas
                          6 ounces melted butter
                          1/3 cup sugar
                          1 tbsp. cinnamon 
                          
Place one tortilla down on a cutting board.  . Using a pizza cutter, slice the tortillas into equal slices in the shape of a Dorito chip:
 
 
Brush each slice with the butter and place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a dusting of the cinnamon-sugar coating over top each chip and bake in the oven for approximately 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool to a nice crunchy chip.
 
Enjoy!
 


 


Saturday, April 11, 2015

UNDENIABLY DELICIOUS!

Last night I was exhausted from a busy day of cleaning for two house showings--we even vacuumed the driveway to get rid of the tree droppings, I hadn't defrosted anything for dinner so I was looking for a quick and easy way out.

I made garbage pizza out of the tortillas and even grilled them so I didn't have to dirty the oven. How's that for lazy?


THE GARBAGE PIZZA

4 lg tortillas
4 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed
1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts (sliced - hard leaves removed)
1/4 black olives (sliced)
1 small onion, thinly sliced and sautéed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the BBQ grill.

Sauté the onions and mushrooms in separate or same pan, depending on preferences. Set aside. Slice the artichoke hearts. Set aside.

Place the four tortillas on a flat surface such as a large tray. Using a pastry brush, paint each tortilla with the olive oil. Spread equal amounts of tomato sauce around each tortilla and add the ingredients of your choice, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and top with mozzarella.

Place as many tortilla's on the grill as will fit and close the cover and allow to grill until cheese is melted. But don't walk away just yet. The cheese melts quickly so keep checking until you're satisfied. Plate and cut into four slices.

 Brace yourself because you're in for a real treat. Grilling them gives the tortilla a crisp, slightly smoky taste that's undeniably delicious! Bon Appetit!!!

Serves 2

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Best Kept Secret

I absolutely love Cannolis. It's a wonderful anytime dessert that's easy to make and enjoyable to eat. If you've ever wanted to be the Belle of the ball, just make this recipe and you will be.

The shells are a little more difficult to make so I'm not even going to include the recipe, however, if you do want the recipe, just leave me a note by clicking on the pencil located at the bottom of this post and I'll email it to you.

The easiest thing to do is buy the shells pre-made. You can find them in various supermarkets: Shop-rite, Whole Foods, AJ's, if you're from Arizona, or order them from Amazon. The shells are packaged in a plastic container with a bed for each shell so they won't crumble before you get them home. Of course, if you drop them, all bets are off.

 Here's the recipe I promised with the best kept secret revealed,

CAROLYN'S CANNOLI RECIPE

3 cups Ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup finely chopped candied citrus
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I use the mini)

Pistachio nuts, finely chopped (Optional)
Chocolate sprinkles (Optional)

Here's the secret: drain the ricotta in cheesecloth for three days prior to making the cannolis.  I have no idea why no one ever tells you, or if they do, they say if the ricotta is watery, drain. If you remove the lid from the container, it never looks watery and that's where the problem arises. I promise you that if you do this the way I'm telling you, you'll be amazed at how well your pastry will come out. If you take a shortcut and don't drain the water out of the ricotta, your filling will be so runny, it won't stay in the cannoli shell and run out like a faucet. Here's how to do it.

Cut four pieces of cheesecloth into 12" long strips. Place the two pieces on top of one another so you have two double strips. Now, place the first strip down onto the counter and the second piece so it looks like a cross.  Empty the contents of the ricotta into the center of the cheesecloth, bring all four corners up to the center and tie them together.

Using a knitting needle, or a wooden spoon, slip the end through the tie and let the sack hang over a deep bowl so the sack is not touching the bottom. Allow the whey to drain from the cheese for three days in the refrigerator. 

When it comes time to make the filling, remove from the refrigerator, add the ricotta into a mixer bowl with the vanilla and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until smooth. This will take about 10 minutes, so don't lose patience. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Stir in the candied fruit and chocolate piece, mixing by hand. Return filling to refrigerator to chill. Make sure these are finely chopped because they will clog your pastry tip if you don't.

Line up your shells on a tray. Using a pastry bag, fit a #10 round tip on the end of the bag to pipe the filling into each end of the mini-shells, or the extra large round tip for the larger shells. 

If you're using the pistachio nuts or the sprinkles, dip each end of the filled cannoli into the dish to coat, place on a serving dish and return to the refrigerator. Just before serving, dust the tops of the shells with confectioners sugar.

A word of caution. FILL THE SHELLS AN HOUR BEFORE serving. Even though you've drained the ricotta, some moisture remains and will do what we chefs call 'weep'. If that happens, your shells will be soggy.

Take photos of your cannolis and I'll post the pictures on this blog.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WELCOME TO MY KITCHEN

I’m banging my head against the wall right now because the light bulb just blinked on wondering why it’s taken so freakin’ long to figure this out. What, you say?

As most bloggers will tell you, trying to come up with something that’s a subject you’ll enjoy reading about isn’t always easy. Writing for the holidays is, but its the other 300 some days that aren't, and like most, I draw a blank because I’m focused on the latest book I’m writing.

 So here’s the epiphany: Why not write about something I know? Food! Now, for cripes sake, was that so hard? Geesh! 

And here's more good news that I'm very excited about. I'll be writing a second blog for mystery lovers, talking about unsolved crimes to see if we can figure out the who dunnit or what's going on in the news today. The title of that blog is: It's Murder in the First! I hope you'll subscribe to both. IMITF should be up in a few days and I'll post the link as soon as it's finished. I'll also have a link on both blogs for those of you who are interesting in reading both.

Beginning today, I will be posting as often as I can squeeze in the time in between writing and edits on a subject that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ll be giving you tips and shortcuts, recipes and some funny stories to go with it. If the recipe I post is contained in one of my Chef Toque series, I’ll mention which novel. 
~~~~~~~

Welcome to my kitchen.This particular meal is a favorite of my family’s and there’s nothing better than a hot bowl of Chili served with a warm cornbread slathered with honey butter and a glass of Rosenblum Zinfandel on a cold wintery night. So grab a glass of wine, relax in your comfy chair and enjoy the ride through my kitchen.

CAROLYN’S CHILI

1 tbls olive oil                                                                             2 tbls chili powder
4 cloves garlic, minced                                                               2 tbls ground cumin
1 lg. onion, diced                                                                        1 tsp dried thyme
2 red peppers, diced                                                                    1 tsp dried basil
4 lg. carrots, diced                                                                       ¼ tsp oregano
1 lb ground beef                                                                          ½ tsp cayenne pepper optional
1 lb ground pork                                                                          1 can beer – any kind will do
2-15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed                           4 oz dark chocolate
2-15 oz cans diced tomatoes                                                                                                        

Using a 5 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic, onion, peppers, carrots, beef, pork and simmer until the meat is no longer pink.

Measure out the dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients and thoroughly mix together making sure to incorporate completely.  Now you may add the beer, diced tomatoes and kidney beans, again mixing until combined. Save the chocolate for last. Allow to simmer for approximately 1 hour. Twenty minutes before serving, break the chocolate apart and add to the mixture allowing it to melt into the chili. Stir and serve with sour cream.

8 dinner servings

Chef's note: Follow this same recipe for a vegetarian version by omitting the meat.


This recipe can also be found in Dishing Up Romance.