Friday, May 31, 2013

Lasagna-Style Baked Ziti

I'm a sucker for anything in a casserole dish. So when Will mentioned he was craving a pasta dish, I wanted to make this re-furbished lasagna dish. It takes about 40 minutes and will feed your crew for days!

I started with a home-made meat sauce. To the ground beef, I added andouille sausage for a cajun kick!

I cooked 16 oz of ziti pasta and added the sauce into the large pot.

Then I added 4 cups of spinach. Will helped me mix everything together :)

Then I added 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese.

Once the mix was well incorporated, Will poured it into a 9x13 casserole dish.

He sprinkled it with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarella.

We threw it in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

All done!

We ate the baked ziti with garlic bread.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cream of Asparagus Soup (Créme d'asperges)

I've never made this soup before, but I've had it twice before. My mother-in-law and my aunt from Brazil both made it, and both times they were absolutely amazing! Will had a craving for soup, and I was up for trying something new!!

I ran to the store and picked up 2 pounds of asparagus, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and chicken stock and got started!

I rinsed the asparagus and had 3 bowls set up. On for the cut stalks, one for the tips, and one I call the "trash bowl".

I snapped off the bottom of the stalks and threw them in the trash bowl.

I cut off the tips and saved them for later as a garnish.

I cut the stalks into 1/2 inch pieces.

In a 4 quart heavy pot, I melted 2 tbsp of butter and added 1 large chopped onion. You want to sweat the onions down...

... and then add the chopped asparagus stalks.

I cooked them for 5 minutes.

I then added 5 cups of chicken stock and simmered it for 15-20 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, I blanched the asparagus tips and put them aside for later. To blanch any vegetable, you cook them for 2-3 minutes in salted water and then throw them in a bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking and helps keep the vibrant color.

Although most recipes call for adding the heavy cream (1/2 cup) after blending the soup, I added it before I blended it because I think it makes a smoother and lighter soup. 

I poured the soup back into the pot and kept it warm. I actually added a 1/4 tsp of fresh lemon juice, added salt/pepper to taste, and whisked in 1 tbsp of butter. Just before I served the soup, I threw the asparagus tips back into the pot to warm them.

The soup turned out so light and surprisingly creamy! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes

I like to think that I'm a minimalist in the kitchen, but there are those "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" recipes that I ABSOLUTELY love! And this is one of them.

Honestly, you can add whatever (within reason!) ingredients you want with double baked potatoes, and I went with mushrooms and cheese this time.

I picked out 5 potatoes.

And rinsed them.

I placed the potatoes on a sheet pan.

I drizzled about 2 tbsp of olive oil on the potatoes and coated each one.

I forgot to poke the potatoes with a fork, so I did that after I coated them in olive oil, which I would recommend you do before.

I threw the potatoes in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour.

While my guys were baking in the oven, I prepped the filling. I took 3 mushrooms and cleaned them off with a paper towel.

And I took 4 slices of bacon...

... and chopped everything up.

I cooked the bacon in a non-stick skillet.

I love bacon.

I then added 2 tbsp of butter to the skillet.

Then I added the mushrooms and browned them. At this point, I could have added onions and/or garlic, but I decided not to.

Potatoes are done!

Once they've cooled for a bit, I cut them in half and scooped out the filling with a spoon and put the filling into a mixing bowl.

I put the potato skins back onto the baking sheet.

I then added the mushrooms, bacon, a splash of half and half, 2 tbsp of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of sour cream, and salt and pepper.

Once it was mixed together, I added some shredded cheddar cheese.

Filling is ready!

I put the filling into the potato skins...

... and topped it with more shredded cheddar cheese.

At this point, I could keep the potatoes in the fridge for up to 1 day. Obviously, Will and I didn't wait long to pop it in a 375 degree oven for 15-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Ready for dinner!

We ended up dipping the potatoes in a little sour cream -- delicious!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Apple-Cranberry Crumb Pie

I wanted cake. I needed cake. And I ended up making pie. 

I discovered this pie recipe about a year ago. Will and I first made it at my parents, and it didn't last 'til morning. I'm telling you, when you serve this pie still warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream -- it will change your life.

Making the filling:
I took four granny smith apples...

... and peeled them.

I used a corer to remove the core.

Then I like to cut the slices into smaller slices, no bigger than 3/4 of an inch.

It yielded about 5 cups of apple slices.

Then I added a 14 oz can of whole-berry cranberry sauce, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp of cornstarch.

I tossed the apples, cranberry sauce, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl until they were well blended.

I piled the filling in a frozen 9 inch deep pie shell.

Making the topping:

I added 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, and 3/4 tsp of ground cinnamon.

Mixed together.

Then I cut up 1/2 cup (one stick) of cold butter...

... and added it to the mix.

In order to get the topping mixed well, I used my hands to really make sure the butter was incorporated into the dry ingredients.

I piled the topping onto the pie and threw it in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I always make sure I put it on a baking sheet because the filling sometimes oozes out of the pie. I also like to preheat the baking sheet in the oven.

1 hour and 15 minutes later...

... and 15 minutes after that!