Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where did Spring go?

Photo: Joseph De Leo (in "The Cheesemongers Kitchen" by Chester Hastings)

Last week our world was filled with sunshine; with highs in the 80's and blue, cloudless skies, people in the Pacific Northwest were scrambling to find sunblock and those long-lost sunglasses. It was heavenly! But all good things must come to an end, and that is certainly true of sunny skies in this corner of the planet. We have already had 2 inches of rain in the month of May.
My theory is if the weather can't keep us warm on the outside, we'll warm up on the inside. I have two recipes for you today--the first is a vegetarian chili I made for my daughter. The second is a homemade Cheez-it cracker that Dave Leite recently published on his blog (http://leitesculinary.com)

Buy the The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen cookbookDave found this recipe in the book "The Cheesemongers Kitchen" by Chester Hastings.

Red Chili and Cheddar Crackers Recipe


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 8 ounces best-quality aged Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water


  • 1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and chilies. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese and pulse to combine.
  • 2. Add 3 tablespoons of the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture comes together in a ball. Pulse in an additional tablespoon of water if needed to get the dough to hold together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • 4. Roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet. (If the dough seems sticky, sprinkle the surface ever so lightly with flour.) Try to be as accurate as you can about the thickness of the dough, as the crackers won’t puff up nicely if the dough is too thin, nor will they be crispy enough if the dough is too thick. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, a sharp knife, or a fluted pasta cutter, trim the dough into ½-inch diamonds (or any shape you prefer).
  • 5. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (If you, like us, don’t have 3 baking sheets—well, 4, actually, counting the one you’re already using–simply line 1 or 2 or however many baking sheets you have and bake the crackers in batches, allowing the sheets to cool between uses.) Place the dough on the parchment-lined sheets, giving them just enough room so that they are not touching. Bake until the crackers are deep golden brown and crunchy, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your crackers. Watch the crackers carefully as they go from almost done to a little too done quite quickly. Transfer the crackers to wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (The crackers can stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week, although they are best the first couple of days.)


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

lasagne cups

Photo: www.laurenslatest.com
In a recent post I confessed to my addiction to Pinterest--the social media time-leaching site that transforms minutes into hours into days. It was on a food "board" that I discovered lasagna cups, and through that glorious photo discovered the blog Lauren's Latest--Every day Intredients / Extra Ordinary Food (www.laurenslatest.com).

Here is her description of how to make lasagna cups:


I have to tell you guys, I had a lot of fun with this recipe! I had a blast making these with my niece and turning this idea into dinner the other day. Who doesn’t love a pasta cup filled with delicious sauce and ooey gooey cheese? I think I could say that EVERYONE falls under this category. Oh mama are these good.

If you like lasagna, then you will love these. Basically, this is just the super cute version of plain ol’ lasagna. All the same stuff you would typically see in the making of a regular lasagna, just with a little more prep work. More or less, this is a method you can adopt while still using the lasagna recipe that everyone is used to. OR try my version out! Feel free to add in or omit anything you’d like. Make this your own. That’s the beauty of cooking! :)

Quick note: I used a new product called cooking cream {a Philadelphia product}. If you can’t find it in your store, just add in more ricotta!

Hope you like this one, guys! We all certainly did! Happy humpday

Lasagna Cups yield: 12

Ingredients for the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion
1/2 pound lean ground beef cooked and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce {+1/2 can water to wash out can}
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste
for the cheese filling-
1-10 oz. tub Philadelphia Italian Herb & Cheese Cooking Cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
21 lasagne pasta sheets
For the sauce- heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions, pepper, zucchini and garlic until tender, 5 minutes. Stir in cooked ground beef and tomato paste until well incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or so. {The longer it cooks, the better it will taste!} This will be very thick.

For the cheese filling- stir all ingredients together excluding half of the grated mozzarella cheese. Set aside.

For the pasta- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta sheets 2 minutes less than package directions and drain. Place pasta on greased baking sheet until you are ready for assembly.
For assembly- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 jumbo muffin tins with squares of parchment paper. If they don’t stay in on their own, that’s ok–the pasta will help with that. Line the edges of the muffin tins with 1 pasta sheet per cup. {Pasta sheet will overlap about 2 inches.} Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each cup {#1}. Next cut 9 pasta sheets into quarters and press one of these pieces of pasta into the bottom on top of the sauce {#2}. Top pasta sheet with a generous tablespoon of sauce {#3} and then a generous tablespoon of cheese filling {#4}. Repeat this pasta-sauce-cheese layering one more time being sure to press out any air bubbles. Top these lasagna cups off with a 3rd piece of pasta, more sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbly. Serve hot.
Don’t these scream “Eat me! Eat me!”?

Lasagna Cups
Posted By Lauren On March 30, 2011 @ 2:38 pm In dinner | 88 Comments

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The good neighbor policy

Photo: Somchai Som
My next door neighbor is one of the sweetest, funniest, kindest, most generous people I know. We share a love of decorating, gardening, animals, and (most of all) eating. That last one is especially important because from time to time she will travel back to the Midwest to visit her daughters and grandkids. I watch her house, water the plants, and in exchange I get whatever is left in her refrigerator.

It's like an episode of "Iron Chef America"--I never know what the secret ingredient will be.

This past week, my friend left once again for "Dorothy-land" and I was left with, among other things, a quart of buttermilk. (Cue dramatic music and wry smile by Mark Dacascos).

I did the obvious buttermilk waffles. Then a batch of buttermilk biscuits. But I still have half a quart left.

What to do?

Well, I love mashed potatoes and will look for any possible excuse to use them as a side dish. What better way to use mashed potatoes than with meatballs and gravy? Here's my version of Swedish meatballs, using ground turkey, and buttermilk in place of the traditional sour cream.

Carb Diva Swedish Meatballs
2 slices firm bread (Italian, French, or any rustic bread)
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 tsp. olive oil

1 can condensed cream of chicken (or cream of mushroom) soup
1 soup can buttermilk

Into a blender tear bread slices and grind into fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Add minced onions. In a small bowl whisk together egg, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper and add to bread crumb mixture. Add turkey and with your hands mix mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
Form turkey mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
In a 12-inch non-stick skillet heat oil over medium heat and brown meatballs, turning them occasionally, until browned on all sides.

Stir together condensed soup and buttermilk. Pour over meatballs, cover and simmer over low heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We need cookies!

I'm sorry for my absence. Believe me, I've been wanting to post but my "other" job has required far more of me, in time and spirit, than I had ever imagined.

At our church/school we have had a resignation, a new hire (replacement), and a reduction-in-force in the span of just 30 days.

When I was working for the Federal government these types of personnel changes happened often and without much drama. But now I'm faced with changes that feel very "personal". The people moving on, coming in, leaving....I know them well. I care about them. They are a part of my family. When they rejoice, I rejoice with them. And when they are stressed, I share their pain.

My personal diet has been apples and yogurt, ramen and veggies during the day, and frozen foods/pasta with sauce in the jar, etc. for my family.

So I've not been cooking. I've not been posting.

But now, I'm taking a deep breath and I'm ready to resume thoughts about taking care of my family. And I'm thinking about CARBS!

Really BIG Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats  (do not use instant or quick oats)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coconut
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line two large cookies sheets with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper.

Place oats and 1/2 cup flour in processor; blend until oats are almost ground, about 10 seconds. Transfer oat mixture to medium bowl. Mix in remaining 1 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter in large bowl until light, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients just until blended (do not over beat). Stir in coconut and chocolate chips.

Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing evenly apart and forming 6 mounds per sheet. Bake each sheet of cookies 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

(Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)