Thursday, December 13, 2007

Giada's Linguini with Chicken Ragu

My husband and I saw this on an episode of Everyday Italian and tried it right away. Since then, I've made it several times and it's a regular menu item!

I make the marinara sauce described in the recipe, however, I put it in a food processor after it's cooked to make it smooth.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Macaroni & Cheese Project: Recipe 002

Non-stick cooking spray
3 cups elbow macaroni
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/3 cups 1 percent milk
3/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded non-fat cheddar 4 ounces processed light American cheese (recommended: Velveeta Light)
1/2 cup Japanese (panko) bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt water, add macaroni, and cook until al dente. Drain into a colander, run under cold water to stop the cooking, and then set aside.

While pasta is cooking, combine flour and milk in a large saucepan, whisking until blended. Cook over medium heat until thick, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheeses and cook until melted and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the macaroni and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top. Bake until bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.


Moderate. This recipe requires making a cheese sauce, which isn't difficult at all, but does add a few extra steps and cheeses.

Creamy yet just chunky/dry enough. Not greasy at all. The Velveeta makes it just creamy enough and it doesn't come out all stringy.

The variation of cheeses really add a lot of flavor to this recipe. I really like the addition of the fontina and parmigiano-reggiano as they add the right amount of zip.

This gets dry once reheated. A small dot of butter is required to get the creaminess back.

I especially like this recipe because it cuts about 1/2 of the calories by using the Velveeta Light, non fat cheddar and lowfat milk. This recipe is one of my favorites and I've made it several times.
I give this recipe 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Beef Stew

My family has been making this beef stew recipe for years. It's different from most beef stew recipes because it has a tomato base rather than a beef broth base. I prefer it over the broth base. Even better paired with a piece of buttery, crusty bread!

1 pound of lean stew beef
1 cup of flour
4 small yukon gold potatoes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
1 can of corn, drained
1 can of green beans, drained
1 quart of tomato juice
1 cup of chicken broth
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 T olive oil

In a plastic bag, toss the beef cubes with the flour, salt, and pepper. Remove the beef cubes and shake off excess flour. In a large pot, brown the meat with the olive oil and diced onion and garlic.

Add the tomato juice and chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and simmer for an addtional 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes more. Add corn and green beans to warm.

The Macaroni & Cheese Project: Recipe 001

Baked Macaroni & Cheese is a huge topic on The Nest. Someone is always in search of the best recipe, so what I've decided to do is start trying recipes from around the 'net and do my own critiquing and voting! Plus this will be a great place to compile the various recipes.

I've numbered them starting at 001 to protect identities. If you want the direct link or original post, please let me know.

I found this recipe on The Nest and it was requested by many people on my local board.

Recipe 001
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni, drained
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Pour macaroni mixture into a buttered or pam casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Top with additional cheese if desired.


Easy. The hardest part of this recipe is boiling the water! No cheese sauce to make.
I liked the texture right away. I do like my mac'n cheese a bit chunky, but not too dry. It had a bit of creaminess, but a little greasy from the butter and cheese.
I should have realized that with one type of cheese, this wouldn't have much flavor variety. Even though I used sharp cheddar, I felt the taste was a little bland. It needed another more sharp or pungent cheese to 'wake' this up. I should have been turned off by the addition of the eggs. I'm not a huge fan of eggs, so when I bit into a shell filled with scrambled egg, I was not a happy camper.

Surprisingly, this had a better taste/texture once it was reheated. It seemed a little creamier the second time around.

I give this recipe 3 out of 5 stars.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars with Nutella Frosting

This recipe is so quick and easy! You don't need to add the Nutella frosting, but why wouldn't you?!
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Sift together the salt , baking soda, and flour and mix into the butter mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Mix until well blended. Press batter into a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into bars and let cool in pan on wire rack.
Nutella Frosting
I made a 1/2 batch of Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting and beat in 3 tablespoons of Nutella.

Chai Shortbread Cookies

This recipe is out of the December 2007 Cooking Light issue. I thought they'd be bigger in diameter than they were, but these are bite-sized, so don't be surprised when you make these!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (I omitted because I didn't have it. I used chinese 5 spice instead)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup powdered
10 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon ice water (I used strong-brewed chai tea)

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined (mixture will appear crumbly). Sprinkle dough with 1 tablespoon ice tea; toss with a fork. Divide dough in half. Shape dough into 2 (6-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour or until very firm.

Preheat oven to 375°.
Unwrap dough logs. Carefully cut each log into 18 slices using a serrated knife. Place dough circles 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Orange Rooibos-infused Apricot and Walnut Biscotti

Instead of water, I brewed some orange-rooibos tea for the dough. I really liked the result and will try this with other teas and cookie recipes.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons strong-brewed rooibos orange tea
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Melted Dark Chocolate

Preheat oven to 325°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in walnuts and apricots.
Combine 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, rind, vanilla, and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring until well blended (dough will be dry and crumbly).

Knead dough lightly in bowl 7 or 8 times or until a dough forms (dough will be sticky). Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll. Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness.
Bake at 325° for 30 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet (do not turn oven off); cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch-thick) slices using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 15 minutes. Turn cookies over, and bake an additional 10 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.

Steak Fajitas

This is one of our favorite quick-fix meals. Plus it's perfect for that flank-steak that you have no idea what to do with!

I took a flank steak and used a dry rub all over it. My favorite is Saltgrass 7, which is a mixture of coarse salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Then the steak is grilled to 'medium'. Allow to rest for a few minutes and then slice it as thin as you can with a very sharp knife!

I top mine with my homemade guacamole, sour cream and cheese. Sometimes I'll add salsa, too.

2 ripe avocados
juice of 1 lime
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of diced tomatoes

Remove the flesh of the avocados and mash with a fork. Add the lime juice and salt and mash into a paste. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes.