Monday, April 20, 2009

Spinach and Leek Risotto with Goat Cheese

This recipe was modified from a recipe in the April 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Once they post it on their website I'll post the original recipe. Their recipe calls for a pressure cooker and fennel. 1. I do not have a pressure cooker, and after looking them up online, I'm pretty sure I don't want one, and 2. I don't do fennel or anything else that remotely resembles anything related to licorice.

J'aime beaucoup: Spinach and Leek Risotto with Goat Cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach (or more to taste)
8 green onions, chopped (white and light green parts)
1 leek, white and light green green parts chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 to 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley, and oregano)
2 oz. aged goat cheese, grated (I used Midnight Moon)

Saute chopped leeks, green onion, garlic, and olive oil in a large sauce pan until tender/translucent. Rinse rice and add to the pot. Cook rice and vegetable mixture until rice is translucent, stirring regularly (approx. 5 mins.) Add spinach and stir. Add vegetable broth and a pinch of salt. Stir all contents together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover pot. Allow rice to absorb all moisture (approx. 30 mins.) Turn off heat once rice is cooked. Add goat cheese and chopped herbs and mix into rice. Add salt and pepper if desired. Serve and enjoy!

*I did not add pepper. I added a lot of oregano, but I think it was a little overpowering. Next time I'll use 2 or three sprigs of oregano and use more basil and parsley. I think this would also be good with asparagus, but Scott doesn't like asparagus, and since it was only for us I skipped it. If you like asparagus give it a shot.

Connie's Summer Pizza

This has been a favorite party recipe for a long time, only it's taken until now to get the recipe. I can't wait to make it for our next party. Thanks for sending it Connie!

J'adore: Summer Pizza

2-packages of Crescent Rolls (8 pack) in tube
1-8oz. package of Cream Cheese (you can use light)--bring to room temperature.
3 Tablespoons-Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (Dry mix) or 1 full pre-measured packet

Fresh Vegetables you like---DICED small. ** I always use broccoli, scallions (green onions), tomatoes.

Using a large jelly roll baking pan, flatten the crescent rolls into the bottom of the pan. Using your fingers, pinch together to make one large piece. Bake dough according to package directions---golden light brown. Cool completely.

In a mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese with the dry HV Ranch mix. After mixing, spread over the cooked dough---carefully. Use a cake knife or wide knife to get the job done.

Layer the broccoli first---gently press into cream cheese. Add the onions. Press gently again. Finally the tomatoes. If the tomatoes have a lot of moisture try to squeeze out excess juice before adding to top of pizza.

Using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife)---cut into bite size pieces.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ms. G-L's Famous Crepes

I'm not saying that I'm the best crêpe maker you'll ever meet, or even that I have the best recipe. What I will say is that my crêpes are famous among my students who start begging for them the first day of the semester. They get them once per marking period, mais c'est tout. There are sweet crêpes and savory crêpes, but this recipe is for sweet crêpes only. Fill them with whatever fruit, jam, syrup, or other sweet you have at your disposal, or eat them just as they are.

J'adore: Crêpes

scant 1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup (plus one tablespoon) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups milk

In a medium or large sized mixing bowl combine the sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, melted butter, water, salt, vanilla, and eggs. (I use a whisk since I find that the melted butter tends to coagulate when it comes in contact with the colder ingredients). Alternate adding the milk and flour, mixing well after each addition. Try to work out most of the lumps, but don't go too crazy with the whisk.

Grease a non-stick skillet with margarine or cooking spray and turn burner on to medium-low heat. Pour 1/8 - 1/4 of a cup of the batter into the skillet while holding the skillet above the burner. Quickly move the skillet around in a circular motion so that the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan. Depending on the size of your skillet you may have to play around with the amount of batter you use; crêpes should be thin like tortillas. When the top seems to have cooked, flip the crêpe over and cook the other side. The whole process for each crêpe should take less than a minute.

Fill and fold the finished crêpes as you like. When I make them at school I allow my students the choice of any combination of bananas, chocolate (usually hot fudge), and whipped cream. I fold them into triangles, but you can also make them like burritos. Scott likes them with strawberry jam. Fresh strawberries are wonderful with crêpes when they're in season. If you're a fan of nutella, that's another classic crêpe filling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Best Homemade Pancakes We've Ever Had

We've been looking for a good pancake recipe for a while. I tried searching online everywhere, but I never found anything that looked that great. I grew up on whole wheat buttermilk pancakes; Scott grew up on Aunt Jemima's, but we didn't want either of those. We settled on Betty Crocker's recipe from a book I got for our wedding, but we still weren't satisfied. I finally looked on tonight and found a recipe that looked promising. Boy did it pay off! These pancakes were like diner pancakes. They were light and fluffy. They smelled delicious and looked scrumptious. This recipe will stick with us for many years to come. Find the original recipe by clicking the hyperlink. Below is what I did. We didn't have any buttermilk, so I used an old trick my mom taught me and mixed some milk with plain yogurt. Both of us agree that these are the best homemade pancakes we've ever eaten.

J'adore: Buttermilk Pancakes with Bananas and Walnuts

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups well shaken buttermilk*
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ripe banana**
1/4 cup walnut pieces**

*Note: if you do not have buttermilk you can substitute a mixture of plain yogurt and milk. I happened to have some plain Greek yogurt in the fridge. I mixed 1/2 cup of yogurt with 1 cup of milk. Whisk it to get a buttermilk-like consistency.
**Scott prefers his pancakes plain, so I added the banana and walnuts to half of the batter in another bowl. You can substitute any kind of fruit or nut that you like in your pancakes. Blueberries, strawberries, or even chocolate chips would probably be equally good.

Whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients and whisk again until combined. Fold in banana slices and walnuts (or other desired fruit, nut, etc.)

Make as you would any pancakes. Just be careful: these pancakes spread!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Menu for feeding 30 (Mom's 60th birthday bash)

It's always hardest trying to figure out how much food to make and what people will eat when having mixed company over for a party. I had no idea what to make at first, but then I remembered some favorites and, with the help of my sister, came up with the following menu:
  • Spinach and White Bean Crescents
  • Cheese Platter with fruit, nuts, and honey-wheat black bread
  • Roasted Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes
  • Stuffed Peppers
  • Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Russian Tea Cookies
  • 7-Layer Bars
  • Fruit salad (pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, banana, and red grapes)
Additional items:
  • My Aunt Carol made chicken salad with cranberries on mini croissants that was apparently delicious.
  • My mom's friend Connie brought a summer pizza. It's one of my favorite party dishes. As soon as she sends me the recipe I'll post it. Yuuummmm!
  • My mom's friend Jan brought a salmon spread with crackers and white chocolate cherry cookies. I didn't try the spread, but I can vouch for the cookies!
  • My mother-in-law brought the birthday cake from a bakery in Vineland, NJ. We love this woman's cakes-- they are amazing. There were outcries when there wasn't enough for seconds!
(I also had everything needed for a green salad, but I just didn't get around to putting it out)

J'adore: Spinach and White Bean Crescents

I discovered this recipe in the November/December 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times. It originally calls for broccoli raab, but I substituted spinach for a milder flavor. Click on the hyperlink to take you to the original recipe. My modifications are below:

1 package of frozen spinach
1/2 jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, plus 1 Tbs. oil from jar (I use the ones from Trader Joe's)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed with garlic press
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

1. Thaw spinach and squeeze out most of the liquid. (I generally throw the frozen spinach in a strainer, run some warm water over it until it's thawed, and then squeeze out all of the water.) Add oil, garlic, and pepper flakes to a non-stick skillet and cook on low heat. Add spinach and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar, and season with salt. Remove from heat and stir in beans and sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside to cool.

2. Roll 1 sheet of thawed puff pastry onto floured work surface. (The thinner the pastry, the easier it is to stuff and the better the pockets hold together, but be careful not to make it too thin or the pastry will tear when you are folding it in half. Allow for a little bit of trial and error.) Cut out circles using a 3 ½-inch cutter. (Feel free to play with the size. I’ve used the rim of a jelly jar lid, which made very tiny pockets, or an over-turned plastic container for slightly larger circles). Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. Place pastry circles onto parchment paper. Spoon approx. 1 Tbs. of spinach mixture into the center of each circle. Brush or dab water around the edges of the pastry. Press edges together and press down with fork tines to seal. Repeat with scraps and remaining dough. Bake at 375°F for approx. 20 minutes or until golden brown.

J'aime: Cheese Platter with fruit, nuts, and honey-wheat black bread

Cheese platters can obviously be made with any assortment of cheeses, breads, crackers, fruits, or nuts. For ours we chose Saint-André, Port-Salut, Emmental, and some sort of bleu cheese (not sure which one specifically). The platters were decorated with almonds, walnuts, red grapes, strawberries, and dried cherries. Assorted crackers were available in a basket, and slices of a whole wheat baguette and honey-wheat black bread were arranged with the cheeses. We bought the baguette and the crackers at the super market, but the following is Abigail's recipe for the black bread. It is a modification of this original recipe.

Honey Wheat Black Bread

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
1 packet yeast
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
Scant ¼ cup honey
Scant ¼ cup molasses
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached Bread Flour
1 2/3 cups (6 3/4 ounces) Whole Wheat Flour
2-3 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Sprinkle yeast in warm water and let sit for approx. 2 mins. Add honey and molasses and stir, then add salt. Add all dry ingredients and stir (be sure to stir only in one direction) until it becomes hard to stir then knead in bowl until all flour is mixed into the dough. (If the dough seems too wet sprinkle in a small amount of additional flour).

Remove dough from bowl, clean bowl and lightly oil it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm oven until it doubles its size (approx. 1 hour). Remove bowl from oven and knead directly in bowl. Can be put into a liberally floured bread pan or can be divided into two pieces and placed onto a liberally floured baking sheet. Cover again with a damp light weight kitchen towel and let rise for another hour. Remove towel before baking. Bake at 350
°F for approx. 45 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when you tap on it.

J'adore: Roasted Asparagus with Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe is simple, fast, and requires very few ingredients.

Asparagus (as much as you like)
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Olive oil

Wash asparagus and trim bottoms of stalks. Toss into a baking dish. Add olive oil to coat (maybe 1-2 Tbs.) Add minced or pressed garlic (at least 3 cloves, more for more punch!) Toss in halved cherry tomatoes. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (be liberal, but not overly liberal with the salt). Toss everything to coat and throw it into the oven at 400°F for approx. 10-15 mins.
*During the summer when cherry tomatoes are in peak season we like to half them and freeze them for winter use. They hold up great, maintain floavor, color, and freshness, and save you a lot of time and effort if you need them in a pinch for a dish like this one.

J'adore: Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

This recipe appeared in the February 2009 edition of Vegetarian Times. I haven't varied too much from the original recipe except to use a little less cumin, a little more celery, and more black beans.

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 ribs celery, finely chopped
scant 1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 or 1.5 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup quinoa
3 large carrots, grated
1 1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
6 large bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange are best), halved lengthwise, ribs removed

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

*We find that we always have too much stuffing left over, so the next night we make quesadillas. Place a whole wheat tortilla on a lightly oiled non-stick skillet. Spread stuffing evenly on half of the tortilla. Add some pepper jack, cheddar, or American cheese if desired. Fold tortilla over to cover stuffing and cook on each side until inside is warm and outer tortilla is crispy. Serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Leftovers never tasted so good!

Je ne peux pas vivre sans: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

See my March 10 post or go to Vegetarian Times February 2009 to see the original recipe. I didn't make any modifications (except to add more chocolate chips); this recipe is perfect as is!!

J'adore: Wendy's Russian Tea Cookies

I don't really know how Russian these cookies are. This recipe has been in the family for years, and we attribute it to my Aunt Wendy. My sister loves to make them for holidays and parties. They're nearly always the first to disappear from the cookie platter!

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar with mixer or in food processor. Add all other ingredients and mix until smooth. Roll dough into small balls and press with thumb to indent. Fill indent with jam. OR roll dough into two long logs and press thumb down the center of the length of the logs to make a channel. Fill channels with jam. Bake at 325°F for 15-20 minutes or until light brown. Drizzle with confectioners' icing (confectioners' sugar mixed with a small amount of water or lemon juice). Once logs have cooled slice diagonally and place cookies on serving plate.

Je n'aime pas tellement: Seven-Layer Bars

I clipped this recipe out of Philadelphia Home Spring/Summer 2009 because I thought it looked tasty. I have to admit that I wasn't crazy about it; the bars were entirely too sweet for my taste. I was also pretty disappointed when I looked at the condensed milk can and found the same recipe! What the heck Philadelphia Magazine!?! Anyway, my dad, my uncle, and my grandfather all liked them, so if you know a sweet-tooth, this recipe might be for you! I'll be bringing the rest of mine in to school for my students. Teenagers live to eat! :)

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers (I used Annie's Bunny Grahams: half cinnamon and half chocolate)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cups peanut butter chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup dried cranberries (I used dried cherries)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cups coconut flakes
cooking spray (or margarine)

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8x8 or 9x9 pan or dish. Mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and coat the bottom of the baking pan with mixture, pressing to bottom of pan. Combine chocolate and peanut butter chips and spread on graham cracker crust, pressing firmly. Continue to layer with almonds and cranberries/cherries. Pour condensed milk over mixture, top with coconut, and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool completely and cut into bars. Do not refrigerate. Can be kept overnight.

*A couple of notes: 1. Be sure to use unsweetened coconut. I didn't notice there was a difference when I was buying it at the store. 2. Only use a cup of the condensed milk, not the whole can. Again, I wasn't paying attention, BUT the recipe on the can does say to use the whole can, and, honestly, what are you going to do with a few extra ounces of sweetened condensed milk? 3. I froze them and then thawed them before serving and they were fine. I don't know why it says not to refrigerate them.