Monday, February 20, 2012

Sausage, Mozzarella & Broccoli Rabe with Shells

I get daily emails from Everyday Food and when I saw this recipe come into my inbox, I had to give it a shot. Once you click on the link for the recipe, there was a great short video on how to make it which was cool. This recipe came out very good and was so easy. This is the type of meal that is great for a busy family that doesn't want to go out for dinner and needs something quick. 

I made a couple of twists on the recipe, instead of spicy sausage I used turkey sausage. Also I used about 9 ounces of mozzarella instead of 6--we love cheese! As for the pasta, I used the one that looks like mini spirals with edges like lasagna, instead of the shells. I had it on-hand and wanted to use ingredients I already had in my pantry. Enjoy this easy and delicious recipe!

Sausage, Mozzarella & Broccoli Rabe with Shells
Recipe by Martha Stewart
Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 sprigs thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 links spicy Italian sausage (3/4 pound total), casings removed (I used turkey sausage-casings removed)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
8 ounces medium shell pasta  (I used Corals pasta spirals)
1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used 9 ounces)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage (or turkey sausage). Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. 

Add tomatoes, breaking them up with spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to pot. 

Stir in sausage mixture. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. 

Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Big Game Appetizers

I love watching the SuperBowl. But some how every year, I never manage to watch it because I am cooking away in the kitchen. Well this year I was determined to watch the game--I especially love the commercials! So I had (key word here) my menu all planned out until I talked to the hubby about it. After I  gave him the run down of my menu he said "Sounds yummy. So who's coming over?" I was like "What do you mean? It's just going to be us two." Yeah, that didn't go over to well. He limited my menu down to just two appetizers and one dessert. What a party pooper! :)

So although I missed the first quarter of the big game because I was cooking away, I did sit comfortably with my spinach dip and beer battered onion rings in front of the TV for the second quarter. This spinach dip came out amazing and the onion rings were delicious. Thankfully I only made one onion instead of the two the recipe called for because that would have been way too much food. And to complete the spread, we made some yummy margaritas. It was perfect.

Then during the third quarter I served my famous ribs with roasted mini potatoes and a side salad. That's not too bad--I did make veggies! I will post this recipe soon. Enjoy!

p.s. my favorite commercial during the big game was the M&Ms when he wiggled it! Too cute.

Hot Spinach Dip
Adapted by Martha Stewart

2 teaspoons olive oil
PAM non-stick spray
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bag of frozen spinach
1/2 cup 1% low fat milk
6 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
3/4 cup shredded mozzarellaS
alt and ground pepper
Toasted bread, carrots or anything you want to dip


Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook frozen spinach as directed and squeeze any access water out of it. Set the spinach aside. 

Then in a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic until lightly browned. Add spinach and mix well. Put this spinach mixture in a separate bowl and set aside. 

Then in the same pot over high heat, add milk. 

Then whisk in cream cheese until melted, this will only take a couple of minutes. 

Now mix in the spinach onion mixture to the milk mixture along with the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/4 cup cheese. Taste the mixture and season with salt and pepper. 

Pour into a baking dish that has been sprayed with PAM. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top.
Bake until dip is bubbly and the cheese over the top has melted, about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Beer Battered Onion Rings
Adapted by Martha Stewart

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup Heineken or other beer
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Vegetable oil, for frying (about 4 cups)
1 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
Course salt
1 lemon


Combine flour, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. 

Whisk in buttermilk, beer, egg, and lemon zest, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper on middle rack of the oven.  You will be tossing batches of the onion rings onto this sheet to keep warm until finished. In a deep pot, preheat oil. Once oil is hot, dip a few slices of onion in batter, turning to coat and gently drop into oil. Cook, turning once until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer rings to paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Transfer onions to the baking sheet to keep warm. Repeat with remaining onions and adjust heat as needed to avoid burning onion rings. Serve with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I had taken an amateur bread baking course last year at the French Culinary Institute and it was excellent! We made over 20 different types of breads throughout the course and Challah was one of them. This recipe in Fine Cooking's Breads magazine was a little different as it didn't use half as many egg yolks. However, the end result was still delicious. It was funny because when I let the dough rise after mixing, it didn't rise in the 2 hours indicated in the recipe. It took more like 4! Not sure if my house was too cold at the time but I have to say,  I started to get a little discouraged that it wasn't rising. But after about 3.5 hours, it finally did its thing.

Although the braiding part was a little tricky--I had to unbraid it twice and start over--it really looked great. Here is a great video on braiding challah--which I unfortunately found after I made my loaf.

I am starting to learn that my oven bakes bread really fast and browns my bread in a third of the time that the recipe calls for. So keep an eye on your bread and if you see it browning too much, throw some foil loosely over top of it. This bread will surely impress the family. Enjoy!

Note: Next time I make this bread, I am going to brush some warm honey on top of it right when it comes out of the oven. To give it just a bit more sweetness. Also any leftover bread makes wonderful french toast!

Adapted by Fine Cooking's Breads magazine
Makes one very large loaf

2 tsp. instant yeast
16 3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed (I use regular all-purpose flour and it works great. Secret I learned from FIC professor)
1/4 cup warm water
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. table salt

For the glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Directions: In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the flour. Add the warm water, stir, and let this sit until it puffs up, about 15-to 20-minutes. Add the eggs, oil, honey, and salt; stir until well combined. The dough will look lumpy which is normal. Add the rest of the flour and mix the dough in the bowl until it all combines. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. The dough should feel very firm and will be hard to knead. If it’s soft and sticky, add more flour until it’s very firm. Transfer the dough to a large, clean container and cover it well.

Let it rise until doubled in bulk and very soft to the touch, about 2 hours or more, depending on the room temperature. If you room is cold, it will take the dough longer to rise. If your room is too warm, it will rise quickly. Line an insulated baking sheet with parchment. If you don’t have an insulated sheet, stack two sheets together (this keeps the bottom of the bread from overbrowning during baking).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle a little more flour over it. Spread and flatten the dough a bit, but don’t worry about punching it down.

Cut it into six equal pieces. Set aside the dough pieces, cover them lightly with plastic, and brush all the flour off the work surface. Have a small bowl of water handy.

Using no flour, roll a piece of dough with a rolling pin into a very thin sheet, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick (don’t worry about making a rectangle; an amoeba-type shape is fine). The dough may stick to the work surface; this is all right—just nudge it gently with a dough scraper.

Tightly roll up the sheet to form a strand. Roll the strand back and forth between your hands until it’s thin, very even, and 12 to 15 inches long. At the ends of the strand, angle the outer edge of your hands into the work surface as you’re rolling to make the ends pointy and the strand thicker in the middle (This will help you get a football-shaped loaf). The strand needs to grip the work surface slightly during this rolling; the “grab” will help as you roll. If the strand is too slick, very lightly dampen it with water to help it grip the work surface better. Repeat the rolling out, rolling up, and elongating steps with the remaining five pieces of dough, rolling them out to the same length. Lightly sprinkle all the strands with flour to prevent them from sticking to one another during proofing. Arrange the strands parallel to one another. At one end, gather and pinch the strands very tightly together. Weight the end with a heavy canister (I used my large olive oil container) to keep the braid from moving. Lightly tap each end of the loaf with your palms to tuck it under the loaf.

1. Move the second-to-the-right strand to the far-left position.

2. Move the far-right strand left over two strands, to the center position (spread the strands apart to make room).

3. Move the new second-to-the-left strand over to the far right position.

4. Move the far-left strand (the same strand you moved in step 1) over two strands to the center position. Now repeat the steps until you have no dough to braid.

Transfer the braid to the lined baking sheet and cover it loosely but thoroughly with plastic wrap. Let proof until doubled in bulk and the loaf remains indented when lightly pressed, about 2 hours, depending on room temperature. (If in doubt, let the dough proof more rather than less.)

Let's bake: Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Just before baking, brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, if you'd like.

With a thin wooden skewer, poke the bread deeply all over (the holes will prevent air pockets and help the bread keep its shape during baking). Bake for 15-20 minutes. Rotate the challah 180 degrees and bake until the bread is a dark, burnished brown, about another 15 minutes. (If the challah is browning too rapidly cover it loosely with foil and let it finish baking. Don’t remove the loaf too soon, as you’ll risk underbaking.) Let cool on a rack.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bread, bread and more bread!

I am so excited. I went to Costco this weekend and picked up the issue of Fine Cooking magazine--the breads edition! The magazine is a little pricey at $12.99 but it has 146 pages and lots of pictures. I can't wait to try a recipe tonight. I am thinking about baking the Challah bread! I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rich Chocolate Babka

So I ripped this recipe out of my Cooking Light magazine last month. It looked so delicious I had to give it a shot--it looks like a rolled up chocolate croissant. Yum! Believe it or not, it was a really fun and easy recipe. It just takes some time (roughly 4 hours) so you have to be patient with the dough. But boy, what a fun recipe to make. Totally delicious and a keeper recipe. Enjoy!

Rich Chocolate Babka
Recipe by Cooking Light magazine

1 cup warm 2% reduced-fat milk (100° to 110°)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
23 3/5 ounces all-purpose flour, divided (about 5 1/4 cups)
Cooking spray

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup butter, divided
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided

Additional ingredient:
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


To prepare the dough, combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface.

Add butter, vanilla, salt, and eggs; stir. Weigh or lightly spoon 22.5 ounces flour (about 5 cups) into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour to egg mixture; stir until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 4 minutes; add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

To prepare the filling, combine 1/3 cup sugar and cocoa in a small bowl, stirring well. Combine egg white and 2 teaspoons milk in a small bowl.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll dough into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle.

Melt 1/4 cup butter; brush 1 tablespoon over dough. Sprinkle evenly with half of cocoa mixture, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle dough evenly with 2 ounces chopped chocolate. Drizzle with an additional 1 tablespoon butter. Brush far edge with milk mixture. Loosely roll up, starting with a long edge; pinch seam to seal, and tuck ends under. Place dough, seam side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat procedure with remaining dough, butter, cocoa mixture, chocolate, and egg white mixture. Reserve remaining milk mixture. Cover dough. Let rise in a warm place 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Brush the dough with remaining milk mixture. Sprinkle each loaf with 2 1/4 teaspoons turbinado sugar.

Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until browned.

Cool loaves completely on a wire rack. Cut each loaf into 12 slices.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce

I am so completely infatuated with food blogs it is just ridiculous. Seems like everyday I find such fun new food blogs. Well just recently I found Being a new food blog myself--only one year old this January--I really appreciate blogs that are so down to earth and really show their love for food.

So I decided to try their Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce recipe. I had all of the ingredients on-hand (oregano and not the Italian seasoning) so why not give it a shot. This recipe came out delicious! So easy and beautiful once plated. I served it over a bed of fresh spinach. Thank you Table for Two! Enjoy.

Chicken with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce
Recipe by Table for Two
Serves 4

4 chicken tenderloins
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp. salted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. oregano 
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup chicken broth 
Fresh minced parsley for topping (optional)
4 cups fresh spinach (optional)


Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Lightly dredge the chicken in flour and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, Italian seasoning and paprika.

In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, melt 1 tbsp. of the seasoned butter with some olive oil.

Place the chicken in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

In the same skillet, increase the heat to high and add in the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, until the skins are charred and they begin to burst. It takes about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining seasoned butter to the pan, stirring to melt. Begin to crush the tomatoes slightly to release their juices.

Add in the chicken broth, scraping bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for a minute or two longer until well blended.

Take a piece of chicken and put it on a serving plate. Top with the pan sauce and tomatoes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with your side dishes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Minestrone Soup

Although the weather has been really mild here in the Northeast, Winter is soup season. So I thought I would kick off the Winter with a recipe I found in this months Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The recipe is by Ellie Krieger. She focuses on healthier recipes which I love and am trying to stick with for 2012. This recipe was really easy and came out delicious! I made my own chicken stock from a rotisserie chicken last week so I used that instead of the store bought stuff which is totally fine too. My only modification to this recipe was that I needed to add 1 teaspoon more of salt once all the veggies and broth were added along with 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Otherwise, this recipe was delicious as is. I made a fresh loaf of french bread to go along with it for dunking. Enjoy!

Also one tip of advise, chop all of your veggies before you start cooking. You will need to add your veggies quickly so avoid burning what is on the pot and prep before.

Minestrone Soup
Recipe by Ellie Krieger in
Serves 8

large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, diced (1/2 cup)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt (I used 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or low-sodium chicken broth (48 ounces)
1- 28 ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1- 45 ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
1- 15 ounce can low-sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup whole grain elbow pasta
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon sugar (I used this once soup had simmer for 10 minutes)


Prep your veggies before you turn the oven on.

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat cook and stir onion in hot oil for 4 minutes or until translucent.

Add garlic; cook for 30 seconds.

Add celery and carrot. Cook and stir for 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften. Add zucchini, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

I made my own chicken broth the week before so I used this. However if you don't have any onhand, store bought works too.

Add the broth and the diced and crushed tomatoes. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste your soup now. I added 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Add the beans and pasta. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until pasta and vegetables are tender. Top servings with cheese and parsley.

Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken stock.