Mashed Potato & Cheddar Casserole

January 4, 2012

Tonight was a cold night, and I was craving comfort food. Potato and cheese casserole sounded wonderful. I adapted this recipe based on what I had in the house. It made just enough for two servings as a main dish, so double the recipe if you’d like extra helpings.

2 large Russet potatoes
1 tbsp. butter
1 carrot or a handful of baby carrots, shredded
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onions or leeks (the white part, washed well)
1 1/2 cups sour cream*
1 cup cheddar cheese, divided in half
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water. When tender, peel and mash until mostly smooth. Sautee the vegetables in the butter until tender. Combine vegetables with the potatoes, sour cream, half of the cheese, the parsley, and salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a buttered 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until cheese browns on top.

* I didn’t have any sour cream, so I made my own. I whipped a bit more than 3/4 cup of cream, pouring in lemon juice little by little as I whisked so it wouldn’t curdle. I kept tasting along the way and stopped adding lemon juice when the cream was tart enough. Eventually, the cream nearly doubled in volume.


Vegetarian Sandwich: Sundried Tomato-Pesto Spread, Artichoke Hearts & Other Goodness

August 26, 2011

We had a party last weekend and made a ton of food, as we are wont to do. There was a lot of leftover sundried tomato-pesto dip, so I have been testing out every imaginable way to use it in different meals. This sandwich was the best one I’ve come up with yet.

First, the dip. It’s super easy, uses three ingredients and is delicious. I threw it together from what we had in the house when I needed a last-minute appetizer for a dinner party, and it’s a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:

1 8-oz. block cream cheese
1 small jar of pesto (around 8 to 10 oz.)
1 small jar of sundried tomatoes, drained (around 8 to 10 oz.)

Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor and serve.

Now for the sandwich. You can throw in whatever veggies you have in house, but this is what I used:

A few artichoke hearts, pulled into pieces
1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced
Handful of steamed broccoli
Crumbled feta

1. Spread two pieces of bread generously with the tomato-pesto dip. Layer the veggies on the bread and sprinkle with feta. Grill the sandwich in a panini press or on the stovetop, the way you would a grilled cheese sandwich.

2. Devour. (I ate mine with a little balsamic on the side because I can’t get enough balsamic.)


Mardi Gras King Cake Cupcakes

February 21, 2011

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! During Carnival time, the only thing that comes close to my love of drinking daiquiris on the parade route is my love of eating king cake… lots and lots of king cake. There is something about purple, green and gold sugar that just tastes better.

Since I moved away from New Orleans, it has been impossible to find king cake to satisfy my craving. I wanted to make a traditional cake, but I waited to start baking until 10 p.m,. and apparently you have to let most recipes rise for two hours. Instead, I found a few recipes for king cake cupcakes (from Cupcake Project and Ptit Chef) that I adapted, and they turned out fabulously well.

Notes: If you have never tried king cake before, since the recipe uses yeast, the consistency is less like cake and more like a delicious cinnamon roll. I left out the baby because I didn’t have a creepy plastic baby lying around. You could also use a pecan half if you so desire.

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Three small prep bowls of sugar, tinted with food coloring to be purple, green and gold

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup chopped sugared pecans (or if you have regular pecans, you could add brown sugar)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter
Cinnamon to taste

Frosting Ingredients:

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. softened butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (if you have it; we were out, so I had to skip it)
A little cinnamon to taste

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes until it is frothy.

2. Mix in the butter, eggs, salt and the other 1/4 cup of sugar (you can do this by hand or using a mixer). Add flour and mix until you have a soft ball of dough.

3. Cover with a towel and let the dough sit in a warm place for an hour until it doubles in size (I put the bowl in the slightly warmed oven with the door cracked.)

4. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Mix all the ingredients together and set aside.

5. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle. Spread the filling in a line down the middle of the rectangle so it is covered evenly.

6. Fill two cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Roll the dough up so it forms a long cylinder. Cut off small pieces (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches) and place each in a cupcake liner. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

7. While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the frosting using a stand-up or handheld mixer. Mix all the ingredients until fluffy and smooth.

8. Cool the cupcakes, then frost and sprinkle with colored sugar.

9. Devour and enjoy!

I was so distracted by my sugar rush that I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Photo credit goes to Meringue Bake Shop.


Seared Ahi Salad

September 8, 2010

I am now obsessed with this salad. It combines some of my favorite ingredients and takes no effort to prepare. A-mazing.

Ingredients:

Salad greens
1 cucumber, sliced
1 mango, cubed
1 avocado, sliced
2 blocks of sashimi-grade wild ahi

Dressing:

Rice wine vinegar
Olive oil
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
Wasabi
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1-2 spoonfuls brown sugar
Sesame seeds

Marinate ahi in rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil and sesame oil for about an hour, turning after 30 minutes.

Mix salad dressing ingredients thoroughly, using about a 2:1 ratio of oil to vinegar and adding soy sauce, wasabi, ginger, sugar and sesame seeds to taste.

Place greens on two plates and sprinkle cucumber, mango and avocado on top.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan on medium-high to high. Sear ahi pieces for about 15 to 30 seconds on each side and remove from heat immediately. Slice ahi into long pieces and place on salad. Dress and serve.

Serves two.


The Perfect Sunday Roast Chicken

September 8, 2010

OK, you don’t have to make this recipe on a Sunday, but there is something so satisfying about making delicious comfort food at the end of a lazy weekend. This recipe will make it look like you spent all day slaving in the kitchen… when you actually just threw it together in 10 minutes and spent the next hour drinking wine and watching “Arrested Development.”

(Adapted from this Barefoot Contessa recipe)

Ingredients:

1 roasting chicken (a 3-lb. chicken is enough for two people)
1 large onion, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole (or peeled and smashed, whatever your preference)
1 loaf of bread (baguette or round boule), cut into small cubes
Splash of chicken stock
Sprigs of rosemary
Olive oil
Butter
Salt and pepper
Tony’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the giblets out of the chicken and rinse it inside and out. Put the onion slices in a roasting pan and toss with a little olive oil and add a bit of salt, pepper, rosemary and chicken broth. Place the chicken on top of the onions and brush skin with soft, almost melted butter. Make small incisions in the skin and push bits of butter underneath.

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken cavity with salt and pepper and stuff with as many garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs and citrus slices as you can fit. Sprinkle any remaining pieces around the chicken. Dust the top of the chicken with salt, pepper and Tony’s.

Roast for an hour or until it is starting to look brown and the temperature reads about 160-170 degrees with a meat thermometer. Turn up the heat to 450 degrees and cook until the skin is crispy and golden brown (about another 10 to 15 minutes). Take out of the oven and let rest for five minutes.

Just before the chicken is ready, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan until very hot. Turn heat down to medium and add the bread cubes. Cook until lightly browned and crispy, adding more olive oil as needed and sprinkling with a little salt and pepper.

Spread out croutons on a serving platter and place chicken on top, pouring pan juices over chicken and croutons. Carve and serve.


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