Thursday, March 31, 2011

Did You know...Making Cake Flour

With just 6 to 8 percent protein, cake flour will give your baked goods a more tender, delicate texture than all-purpose flour.

If you do not have cake flour, it is easy enough to make.  Here's how:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stovetop Hamburger Casserole

For those that still remember the boxed Hamburger Helpers when you were a child and still enjoy them, Kevin is one of those people, here is a grown-up version of a classic.  

This is an easy to prepare weeknight meal.  The ingredients can be prepped prior to leaving for work and assembled when you get home.  This is comfort food at it's most rudimentary level.  This easily makes four servings.

Stovetop Hamburger Casserole

1 package (7 ounce) small pasta shells
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cubed cooked red potatoes
1 can (15 ounce) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (16 ounce) tomato sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

2. Add the carrots, celery and garlic; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

3.  Stir in the potatoes, corn, tomato sauce, salt and pepper; heat through.  Drain pasta and add to skillet; toss to coat.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Cover and heat until cheese is melted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Almond Pizzelles

In honor of St. Joseph's Day, the St. Patrick of the Italian and Polish, I decided to make a batch of pizzelles.  My Italian grandmother used to make these all the time.  After so many years of making them, she had the recipe and technique perfected.  I, on the other hand, still need some work on the technique.

As I was making these thin, crisp butter cookies, I thought I would do some research on them.  After a quick Google search, I found the following.

The word pizzelle means, loosely, "small, flat, and round" in Italian.  These waffle-type cookies are made by pouring batter between the two plates of an iron, which is then held over a fire or heated electrically.
Cookies House

Pizzelles were first made in the south-central area of Abruzzi (now the Region of Abruzzo) in the 8th century.  Two small towns each claim to have originated the treat, which are featured in their yearly festivals.  The first, Salle, in the Province of Pescara, celebrate the festival of Beato Roberto every July.  Celebrants walk down the street carrying branches on which pizzelle are hung as an offering.  And the second, Cocullo, in the Province of L'Aquila, the celebrants eat pizzelle during the festival of their patron saint, Domenico.  They cover his statue in snakes and carry it around the town.

These days, pizzelle can be found at almost any celebration in the Abruzzo region and across Italy.  It is a rare Italian wedding that does not serve pizzelle at the sweets table.  These cookies are closely associated with family; in fact, pizzelle irons have been fashioned with the pattern of a family's crest.  Pizzelle are also popular in countries with large Italian populations, such as Canada, the U.S.A., and Australia.

You can make these cookies in several flavors.  The most popular, my least favorite, is anise.  These are almond flavored.  The other varieties include vanilla, chocolate, , swirl, rum, orange, and any other you care to try!

There are several different recipes but this one came with my pizzelle baker.  I will try and post others.


3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract

1.  Beat eggs and sugar. Add cooled melted butter or margarine, vanilla, and almond.

2. Sift flour and baking powder and add to egg mixture.  Batter should be stiff enough to drop by spoon.  Refrigerate for minimum 1 hour.

3. Following manufacturer's directions, preheat the baker a minimum of 15 minutes. Give both the top and bottom plates a quick spray of cooking spray.  Place spoonful of batter on the hot baker centered but slightly to the rear.  Bake for 30 seconds exactly for light golden.  You will have to experiment with amount and time of baking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Balsamic Beef Brisket

As I was going through the shows I have stored on the DVR (about 60% of the memory), I ran across an episode of Secrets of A Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell.  Gotta love the hair! :)

She was making beef brisket.  I have made brisket one other time before and it turned out to be the consistency of the bottom of a shoe.  In the food world, brisket is the new "IT" meat.  So, not wanting to give up, I watched the episode.  

To my surprise she was using balsamic vinegar as the cooking liquid.  If you don't know how much I love balsamic, check out the blog entry "Balsamic Vinegars" from December, 2009.  You may be thinking...balsamic and brisket???  But trust me, this is one you will definitely keep in your collection as a regular.  
This serves 6-8.  I hope you enjoy it!

Balsamic Beef Brisket
          Extra-virgin olive oil
1        (5-pound) beef brisket
Kosher salt
¼       pound slab bacon, skin removed and reserved, bacon cut into lardons
3        large onions, thinly sliced
3        celery ribs, thinly sliced on the bias
4        cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1        pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and finely sliced
2        cups balsamic vinegar
3-4     cups chicken stock
4        bay leaves
1        fresh thyme bundle
1        bunch finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish


1.  Coat a large roasting pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the brisket generously with salt.

2.  Add the brisket to the pan and brown well on both sides. Remove the brisket from the pan and reserve.

3.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

4.  Lower the heat to medium, ditch the excess oil, and add the bacon and reserved skin to the pan with a little more oil. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crispy and has let out a lot of fat.

5.  Add the onions and celery. Season with salt and cook until they are very soft and aromatic, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
6.   Toss in the mushrooms and cook until they are soft and wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce it by half. Taste it - it will be very vinegary, but that's ok, don't worry. Season with salt, if needed.
7.  Lay the brisket on top of the veggie mix and add the chicken stock to the pan until it just covers the brisket. Add the bay leaves and thyme.

8.  Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven. Roast for 1 hour, check the brisket, and turn it over. Add more stock if the liquid level has reduced. Cover the pan again and return it to the oven for another hour. Remove the foil and roast for 30 minutes more.

9. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the brisket to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.

10.  Skim off any excess fat from the cooking liquid. If the vegetables are swimming in liquid, reduce the liquid on the stovetop over medium-high heat. You want the sauce to be soupy.

11.  Taste the liquid and re-season if needed. Slice the brisket against the grain on the bias. Serve topped with the onion-mushroom mixture and sprinkle with chopped chives.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Easy Peach Cobbler

Looking for a quick, no fuss dessert?  This one can't be easier.  My favorite filling for desserts has to be peaches.  

I love them so much that even when fresh peaches are not in season, I will make due with canned.  Kevin can personally attest to my spending countless hours driving in Michigan looking for the best white peach possible.

Ten minutes from pantry to oven.  This dessert serves 12.

Easy Peach Cobbler


1/2 c melted butter
1 c flour
1 c granulated sugar
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
2/3 c room temperature milk
1 room temperature egg

1 (28 or 29 oz) can sliced peaches drained
1 c granulated sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in a 9 X 13 pan.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in milk and egg. Pour evently over melted butter. DO NOT STIR with melted butter.

Combine peaches, sugar and spices and spread over batter. DO NOT STIR! 
Bake for 35-45 minutes until batter comes up to the top and is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

The combination of garlic, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese add to the rich flavor of this dish.  Surprisingly creamy with only ½ cup half-and-half and even less sour cream, this is a great version of a restaurant classic that is relatively easy to prepare for a weeknight meal.

The trick to making these types of dishes is having all prep done in the morning before leaving for work assemble and cook the dish once you are home from work.  Within 20-30 minutes, I usually can have everything done in the morning.  

I hope you enjoy this Italian classic.  This dish makes 4 servings.
Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
3          skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into cubes
3          tablespoons butter, divided
2          cloves garlic, minced, divided
½         tablespoon Italian seasoning

½         pound fettuccini pasta
½         large onion, diced
1          (4 ounce) package sliced mushrooms
¼         cup all-purpose flour
½         tablespoon salt
1/3       teaspoon ground white pepper
1 ½       cups milk
½         cup half-and-half
1/3       cup grated Parmesan cheese
4          ounces shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
1          roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
¼         cup sour cream

1.  In a large skillet over medium heat combine chicken, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves garlic, and Italian seasoning. Cook until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from 
skillet and set aside.

2.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

3.  Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in the skillet. Saute onion, 2 cloves garlic, and mushrooms until onions are transparent. Stir in flour, salt and pepper; cook 2 minutes. 
Slowly add milk and half-and-half, stirring until smooth and creamy.

4. Stir in Parmesan and Colby-Monterey Jack cheeses; stir until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken mixture, tomatoes and sour cream. Serve over cooked fettuccine.