Archive for January, 2010

Cookbook Review: Barefoot Contessa At Home (Plus, Blue Cheese Coleslaw)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Sometimes I wish that I could grow up to be the Barefoot Contessa. No, really. She has a gorgeous house, as far as I can tell, she spends her life having people over for brunch, lunch, or dinner, grows all of her own herbs, buys the best possible ingredients, and everything she makes is somehow beautiful and elegant. So naturally, I love her cookbooks.

I got a new one for Christmas, Barefoot Contessa At Home. Just like Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, (see my review here) this book is full of fabulous recipes and gorgeous glossy photographs. I find myself wanting to try something new every time I turn the page.

After an extensive introduction, the book is divided into sections for Soup & Sandwiches, Salads, Dinner, Veggies, Desserts, Breakfast, and followed other other resources about visiting the Hamptons and planning out party menus. Here’s a list of the recipes in each section:

  1. Soup & Sandwich: California BLT’s, Summer Borscht, Caesar Club Sandwich, Mexican Chicken Soup, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Ribollita, Smoked Salmon & Egg Salad Tartines, Fresh Pea Soup, Garlic Croutons, Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwiches, Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup, Tomato Mozzarella & Pesto Panini, Shrimp Bisque, and Honey White Bread.
  2. Salads: Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese Dressing, Chicken Salad Veronique, Grilled Tuna Salad, Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing, Jon Snow’s Fish Salad, Roasted Shrimp & Orzo, Pesto Pea Salad, Warm Duck Salad, Tomato Feta Salad, Blue Cheese Coleslaw (recipe below), Guacamole Salad, and Old-Fashioned Potato Salad.
  3. Dinner: Blue Cheese Burgers, Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing; Chicken Piccata; Lamb Kebabs with Couscous; Roast Capon; Loin of Pork with Fennel, Stuffed Cabbage, Rib-Eye Steaks with Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings, Portobello Mushroom Lasagna, Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil, Seafood Gratin, Eli’s Asian Salmon, Lmon Fusilli with Arugula, Summer Garden Pasta, Seared Tuna with Mango Chutney, Easy Lobster Paella.
  4. Vegetables: Garlic & Herb Tomatoes, Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots, Broccolini & Balsamic Vinaigrette, Zucchini Pancakes, Herbed Basmati Rice, Green Green Spring Vegetables, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes, Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower, Creamy Rosemary Polenta, Broccoli Rabe with Garlic, Maple Baked Beans, Mustard-Roasted Potatoes, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Herb Roasted Onions
  5. Desserts: Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate, Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake, Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, Mixed Berry Pavlova, Coconut Cake, Pumpkin Mousse Parfait, Chocolate Sorbet, Black & White Angel Food Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes & Peanut Butter Icing, Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries, Ultimate Ginger Cookie, Fruitcake Cookies, Peach  & Blueberry Crumbles, Pear Apple & Cranberry Crisp, Summer Fruit Crostata, Caramel Pecan Sundaes.
  6. Tri-Berry Muffins, Cranberry Orange Scones, Chunky Banana Bran Muffins, Easy Cheese Danish, Omelet for Two, Scrambled Eggs & Salmon, Maple-Roasted Bacon, Breakfast Fruit Crunch, Sunday Morning Oatmeal, Blueberry Crumb Cake, Anna’s Orange Marmalade, Irish Soda Bread, Fresh Peach Bellinis, Spicy Bloody Marys.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? All of it, I mean? If I was going to have my own Julie & Julia challenge, I think I’d work my way through Ina Garten’s recipes. At the very least, there’d be more lobster in my life.

Finally, as a sneak peak, here’s my adaptation of Ina’s Blue Cheese Coleslaw.

Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home

  • 2 cups shredded cole slaw mix
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, two mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Place the shredded cole slaw mix in a large bowl. Pour enough of the mayonnaise dressing over the vegetables to moisten, and toss well. Add the cheese and parsley and toss together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Very, very tasty. If you’re a fan of blue cheese dressing, you should give this one a try.

Italian White Bean, Bacon and Tortellini Soup

Monday, January 25th, 2010

I love cookbooks. It feels like I have a million of them, but I’m never disappointed to receive another. I got a few great ones for Christmas, which you’ll be hearing more about soon, I’m sure. One of the cookbooks I got recently (technically not a Christmas gift, but that’s okay) is Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta. I like this book a lot. It ranges from Salads and Starters to Sides to Main Dishes, and has a lot of quick and easy dishes, along with more sophisticated ones. We tried one of the more quick and easy dishes last week, this twist on a chicken tortellini soup. The recipe below includes my tweaks on the original. I subbed bacon for the pancetta, because it was what we had on hand, but also cut down on the bacon and oil a bit to lighten the dish. I also used a whole grain fresh tortellini for the pasta. With these substitutions, it ended up being about 6 points for a very hearty bowl of soup. With some crusty bread on the side it was a great winter weeknight dinner.

Italian White Bean, Bacon and Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Everyday Pasta (by Giada De Laurentiis)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • three slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 9-ounce package cheese tortellini, fresh or frozen
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper

In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, shallots, carrot and garlic. Cook until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and broth.

Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to the heat to a simmer. Add the tortellini and cook 5 minutes for fresh, 8 minutes for frozen, or until just tender. Season with pepper and serve.

Serves 4 to 6.

Lasagna Burgers

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I’ll admit that the idea of this burger came out of Everyday with Rachael Ray. I thought it was a good idea, but only skimmed the recipe. When it came time to try my hand at the lasagna burgers, I didn’t have the recipe handy, so I basically just threw it all together. Here’s what you need:

Lasagna Burgers

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 4 good-quality sandwich buns (recommended: ciabatta)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • garlic salt
  • Italian seasoning
  • 1  cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, garlic, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, and salt and pepper. Use your finger tips to mix, then score into four sections and shape into four patties.

2) Grill as you would hamburgers (we used a grill pan on the stove), using a little bit of olive oil or nonstick spray to keep the burgers from sticking.

3) While the burgers are cooking, melt the the butter in a small glass dish in the microwave. Stir in the garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Brush onto both halves of each sandwich bun and toast in a toaster oven or under a broiler until golden and crisp.

4) While you toast the bread and cook the burgers, combine the spaghetti sauce and remaining ricotta cheese in a small sauce pan over medium-low. Cook until the cheese melts into the sauce and the mixture is warmed through.

5) When the burgers are done, it’s time to assemble! Take the bottom half of a toasted sandwich bun and spread it with 2 tablespoons of the cheesy sauce mixture. Top with a burger patty and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Finish with the other half of the garlic toasted sandwich bun.

And there you have it–a burger with all the classic flavors of a cheesy lasagna with garlic bread.

Oven-Fried Chicken with Sage Gravy

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

This is another Weight Watchers recipe, from the Comfort Classics cookbook. Along with the Macaroni & Cheese on the cover, this was one of the first recipes to catch my eye, in part because of the very tasty-looking picture. I’ve tried corn flake style breading before, and wasn’t that impressed, but this baked, “oven-fried,” fried chicken fake out had a perfectly crispy, crunchy crust. I think it was the buttermilk. Next time, I think I’d up the salt and pepper content, because it could’ve used a little more flavor. Otherwise, though, I liked this recipe a lot.

Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken with Sage Gravy

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons four
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 1/3 cup cornflake crumbs
  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken, about 2 pounds worth (use the pieces you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (would increase next time)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4  cup fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil.  Place a wire rack in the pan, spray the rack lightly with nonstick spray.

2. Place 1/2 cup flour in a shallow dish. Put the egg whites in another shallow dish. Place the cornflake crumbs in a third dish.

3. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne. Add the buttermilk and turn to coat. Dip the chicken, one piece at a time, into the flour, then the egg whites, then the cornflake crumbs. Place the chicken on the rack. Spray the top of the chicken lightly with nonstick spray. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, to make the gravy, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons flour and cook, whisking frequently, for about a minute. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Continue whisking and cooking, until the gravy comes to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sage and pepper. Serve the gravy with the cooked chicken.

310 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 1 fiber, for about 2 pieces of chicken.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs

Monday, January 18th, 2010

There are two things I love about this recipe, taken from the March 2007 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

First, it uses boneless skinless chicken thighs. If you’ve ever tried to eat healthy, you probably found yourself eating a lot of boneless skinless chicken breasts. You hear all the time that white meat is healthier than dark meat, that the skin is terrible for you, etc. And while that’s technically true, even dark meat poultry can be a healthy choice. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are the embodiment of that. They have a bit more fat than the breast meat, it’s true–but they’ll also bring a lot more flavor to your dish, and tend to be a bit more moist than boneless skinless chicken breasts. And they’re just as convenient! If you prefer thighs and legs when you order your chicken from a fast food place, you’ll probably be much happier with boneless skinless chicken thighs than with breasts.

Second, it takes advantage of the broiler, a feature of my oven that I severely neglect. We live in the city, on the 16th floor, which makes grilling a fairly complicated option. Enter: the broiler. Basically anything you can grill you can cook under your broiler. It doesn’t take the place of the taste of real charcoal grilling, but if you’re using a gas grill, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2007

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.

Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 chicken thighs) CALORIES 321 FAT 11g FIBER 0.6g

Stuffed Shells

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

This is a great healthy Italian dish. It’s classic stuffed shells, but lightened. The combination of cottage cheese and ricotta cheese makes a rich, cheesy stuffing that melts beautifully. (If you aren’t a fan of cottage cheese, don’t worry–this doesn’t taste a thing like cottage cheese) Though you could serve this meatless, and I’m sure it would be good, I added a spicy chicken Italian sausage, which was delicious.

Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 1 pound cooked pasta, jumbo shells, approximately 24 shells
  • 1 pound cooked Italian Sausage (I used Amy’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375̊°F.

Mix together cheeses, salt, garlic powder, oregano and pepper. Spread a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on bottom of a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.

When cooked shells are cool enough to handle, fill each shell with cheese mixture and place in baking dish. When all shells are in dish, spoon remaining tomato sauce over shells. Cover pan and bake for 20 minutes. Yields about 4 shells per serving.

Note: I’m sure we’ll be trying this one again. It was very tasty, though a little too saucy. Next time, I think I’ll cut back on the sauce a bit. The Italian Sausage I used was precooked, so all I did was slice it and saute it in a skillet with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Coconut Cake

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Here’s the recipe for David’s birthday cake, his favorite cake…Alton Brown’s Coconut Cake. While this recipe is a lot of trouble, it really does seem to be worth it all. Using the fresh coconut gives the most light and true coconut flavor. It’s incredible how much better it is than the typical sweetened coconut you’re used to using. If you like coconut, you owe it to yourself to try this cake.

Alton Brown’s Coconut Cake with 7-Minute Frosting
As seen on Good Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 coconut, see Cook’s Note

For the cake:

  • Vegetable oil, for cake pan
  • 14 1/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup coconut water

For the 7-Minute Frosting:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces

Directions

Cook’s Note: To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl. Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the coconut onto a 1/2 sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The coconut should have cracked in several places. Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Oil the parchment paper and then flour the pan. Set aside.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bang the pans on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Once the cakes have cooled completely cut across the equator of each to form 4 layers. Place the 1/3 cup coconut water into a small spritz bottle and spray evenly onto the cut side of the 4 layers. If you do not have a spritz bottle you may brush the coconut water on with a silicone pastry brush. Allow to sit while preparing the frosting.

For the frosting:

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. In the meantime, place the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar and salt into a medium size-mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand mixer set to low speed. Beat for 1 minute and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the coconut and vanilla extracts for 1 minute. Allow the frosting to sit for 5 minutes before using.

Place approximately 3/4 cup of the frosting on the first layer of cake, sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut and top with the next layer. Repeat until you reach the top layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

AuGratin Potatoes – Lightened

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

I found this Au Gratin Potatoes recipe on the main Weight Watchers website. They post free recipes from time to time, and this was one of them. The notes on the recipe promise that these cheesy potatoes are spouse and kid-friendly, and I can see that. They didn’t taste light at all. The potatoes were creamy and cheesy–reminded me a lot of our family’s standard scalloped potatoes recipe, but with added cheese flavor. I didn’t mind the onion, but if you don’t like onions, you could certainly skip it, and it would turn out just fine.

Au Gratin Potatoes
Adapted from weightwatchers.com

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup 2% cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 2-quart covered baking dish with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour; add milk slowly, stirring. Add potatoes and stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup of cheese, salt and pepper.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and level out surface. Bake for 1 hour, uncovered. Cover and bake until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes more.

Change oven temperature to broil. Sprinkle remaining cheese over potatoes. Broil 6 inches from the heating element until the cheese is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before slicing into 8 pieces. Works out to three points a serving, according to Weight Watchers.

Note: I’m sure we’ll make these again. The potatoes were creamy, and cheesy, and definitely worth making. The only drawback is the lengthy cooking time–I may experiment with parboiling or starting the potatoes in the microwave a little bit to cut down on the time in the oven next time. Almost an hour and a half in the oven is too long to make these practical for a weeknight, unfortunately.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

I’m spending the day with family and friends, but wanted to stop in to say Happy New Year!

I’ve really enjoyed blogging this year, and am looking forward to making more tasty treats in the year ahead.

Happy New Year!