Archive for the ‘Cooking/Baking’ Category

Lasagna in a Hurry!

May 18, 2017

When you find you are not in the mood to deal with lasagna noodles and sauce from scratch, here’s a wonderful recipe for lasagna that you can throw together in a hurry (using only four ingredients).  And it is positively fantastic!  Enjoy!

Ravioli Lasagna

1 pound of ground beef
1 jar (28 ounces) of spaghetti sauce
1 package (25 ounces) frozen sausage or cheese ravioli
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain off the excess juice.  In a greased 2-1/2 quart baking dish, layer a third of the spaghetti sauce, have of the ravioli and beef, and 1/2 cup of the cheese.  Repeat the layers once and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until heated through.

Super easy!

Cheesecake of the Month – May 2017!

May 15, 2017

This month I am experimenting a bit.  I found a couple of separate recipes for a pear/gingersnap combination and I’m going to take the best parts from each to create a hybrid recipe of sorts.  Wish me luck!

Pear-Gingersnap Cheesecake

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of crushed gingersnap cookies (about 40 cookies)
6 Tablespoons of butter, melted
1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
2 small ripe pears – peeled, cored, and sliced (1/8″ slices)
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 Bosc pears (firm) – peeled, cored, and sliced (1/2″ wedges)
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon of sugar
3 Tablespoons of molasses
2 packages (8-ounces each) of cream cheese, softened
1-1/4 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons of flour
1 cup of sour cream

Directions
1.  In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs, butter, and brown sugar.  Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ springform pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

2.  Prepare the Bosc pears: melt the 2T of butter in  large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pears and sprinkle with the sugar.  Cook the pears, stirring occasionally, until the pears are tender and lightly browned around the edges (5-7 minutes).  Add the molasses and continue cooking until syrupy (about 2 minutes more) and then set aside.

3.  Prepare the other pears: in a small bowl, toss the pears and ginger.  Line the cooled crust with the pears, overlapping the slices slightly.

4.  For the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes).  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined.  Add the vanilla and flour and beat until just combined, then add the sour cream and beat until smooth (about 1 minute).

5.  Pour this mixture over the pear-lined crust then gently  arrange the Bosc pear slices on the top (set aside any remaining molasses syrup [can be stored at room temperature] for when you serve the cheesecake).

6.  Transfer the cheesecake to the oven on the middle rack directly over a water bath. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or until lightly browned and set around the edges (the center should still jiggle a bit).  Transfer the cheesecake to a rack and allow to cool to room temperature before covering and refrigerating for at least 6 hours (or overnight).  Drizzle with remaining molasses syrup when serving.

Enjoy!

Cheesecake of the Month – April 2017!

April 15, 2017

Here is a wonderful recipe for a toffee cheesecake which is perfectly fine just as it is, or you can enhance it a bit by adding a caramel sauce topping . . . your choice or preference. Enjoy!

Ingredients
Crust:
1-1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup of packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup of butter, melted

Filling:
4 packages (8-ounces each) of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of sour cream
1-1/4 cup of sugar
5 eggs
1 Tablespoon of vanilla
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
5 ounces of toffee bar, crushed

Decoration
3/4 cup of whipping cream
2 Tablespoons of sugar

Directions
1.  CRUST: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and butter.  Press onto the bottom of a 9″ springform pan and freeze.

2.  FILLING: In a large mixer, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla and lemon juice.  Fold in the crushed candy pieces.  Pour the batter over the frozen crust.  Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is lightly brown and the center has a slight jiggle to it.  Cool on a rack for 2 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before decorating or serving.

3.  DECORATION: In a well-chilled bowl (I chill my beaters as well), whip the cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  With the mixer still running, sprinkle the sugar into the cream and continue whping until firm peaks form.  Ice the top of the cake with the whipped cream (or simply pipe a ribbon around the border.

If you opt for the caramel sauce topping . . .

TOPPING:
1-1/4 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 cup of whipping cream, room temperature
1/2 cup of butter, softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla

In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the sugar and the water until the sugar melts.  Increase the heaat and boil without stirring until the mixture is a rich caramel color.  It should take about 8 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low, add the room-temperature cream, stirring constantly to smooth the bubbles.  Mix in the butter until it is melted and then add the vanilla.  Cool slightly.  Garnish cheesecake with caramel.

Rack of Lamb!

April 6, 2017

Easter is right around the corner and would be an excellent occasion for serving a rack of lamb.   Here’s a recipe that I found for a mint-crusted rack of lamb that is just out of this world.  I had never even attempted to serve a rack of lamb before, but this recipe was super easy and delicious to boot!  I served green beans and potatoes with the lamb for a meal that was positively wonderful.

And, for presentation purposes, “trimming” your rack of lamb is essential!  Here’s a video that demonstrates the correct way to trim your rack.  Yes, she makes it look really easy, but trust me, it is a bit more challenging than it looks.  I’m sure my “trims” will improve with practice, but for a first go at it, I was very pleased with my result.  Good luck!

Cheesecake of the Month – April 2017!

March 15, 2017

This month’s delectable recipe is for a savory cheesecake (meant to be served as an hors d’oeuvres).  Three types of cheese and bacon . . . of course I’ll like it!

Gorgonzola Cheesecake

Ingredients
1-1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup lightly toasted bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onions
1-3/4 pounds cream cheese, softened
1/2 pound gorgonzola cheese
4 eggs
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot sauce to taste

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the crumb mixture in the pan, turning the pan to coat evenly.

Fry the bacon in a heavy skillet until crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Dispose of all but about one tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet. Add the onions, and cover and cook over low heat about 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.

Crumble the bacon. Combine the cream cheese and the Gorgonzola in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add the eggs, cream, salt and hot sauce and process until smooth. Blend in the bacon and onions, but don’t over mix.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the springform. Bake until the cheesecake sets, about an hour and 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and cool the cheesecake about an hour with the oven door ajar. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature before removing the pan and serving.

Source: Judy Walker, a writer for The Times-Picayune, Greater New Orleans (newspaper).

A “Honey” of a Dessert!

March 4, 2017

When it comes to baking desserts, I rarely make ordinary cake.  However, in this month’s issue of Food and Wine, I found a recipe that sounds fabulous and I just can’t wait to give it a try.

Honey Cake with Citrus Frosting

Cake Ingredients
Non-stick spray
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-3/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup of honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (plus 2 Tablespoons) of hot brewed coffee
2 Tablespoons of orange juice
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste

Frosting Ingredients
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup (plus 1 Tablespoon) of all purpose flour
1 cup of whole milk
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 teaspoon of finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
Candied orange slices (for the granish)

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Wrap the outside of the pan with foil and set on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cloves, allspice, and ginger.  In another bowl, whisk the oil and the honey.  In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the eggs with both sugars at medium-high speed until thick and nearly doubled in volume (about 4 minutes).  Slowly beat in the oil-honey mixture until just combined (about 1 minute).  The batter may not look right, but it will emulsify while baking.  In a measuring cup, combine the coffee, orange juice, and vanilla paste.  At low speed, beat the dry ingredients and the coffee mixture into the batter in three alternating additions until just combined.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 1 hour.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the springform pan (including the bottom).  Allow the cake to cool completely before transferring to a large plate.

4. For the frosting, in a small saucepan, whisk 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the flour then whisk in the milk.  Bring this combination to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking constantly (abut 10 minutes).  Scrape into a heatproof bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface.  Allow to cool about 1 hour.

5. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the orange zest on medium speed until fluffy and smooth (about 5 minutes).  Beat in the cooled flour mixture, 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla and salt and continue beating until smooth (about 2 minutes).

6. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake and refrigerate until set (about 15 minutes). Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Refrigerate until the frosting is just firm (about 30 minutes).  Top with candied orange slices prior to serving.

Candied Orange Slices
http://www.simplysated.com/candied-orange-slices/

Source: Food and Wine Magazine, March 2017, p. 33.

Cheesecake of the Month – February 2017!

February 15, 2017

I was perusing Pinterest the other day and ran across a recipe that sounded positively wonderful.  It is technically a pie, but a pie that incorporates a bit of cheesecake into the recipe.  I can’t wait to try it.

Upside Down Cheesecake Apple Pie

Ingredients
2 pie crusts
2 packages (8-ounce each) of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
6 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of flour
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce (garnish)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a pie pan with a pie crust.

2.  Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until fluffy.  Add in the eggs and the milk and mix until combined.  Pour the mixture into the pie crust.

3.  In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Place the apples on top of the cream cheese mixture.

4. Top the apples with your second pie crust, turning the crust inward.  Cut a few small slits into the top of the pie.

5.  Place the pie on a cookie sheet, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the apples are soft.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

6.  Place a large plate over the top of the pie and flip it upside down onto the plate.  Cool for one hour  then refrigerate at least four hours.  Serve cold with caramel sauce.

Source: Recipe by Spend with Pennies at http://www.spendwithpennies.com/upside-down-cheesecake-apple-pie/

Gluten-Free!

February 5, 2017
In the course of my bringing treats (baked goods and sweets) to the office from time to time, it became apparent that not every one could enjoy the desserts I was making (gluten-free, lactose intolerant, allergies, etc.). So, I’ve begun exploring other “options” and found a couple of delicious gluten-free cookie recipes (below).  Enjoy!
Chocolate Pistachio
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons of almond flour
2 Tablespoons of cocoa
3 Tablespoons of softened butter
3 Tablespoons of Confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon of espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/3 cup of chopped pistachios
Beat the first seven (7) ingredients together on low speed until a “dough” forms.  Mix in the 1/3 cup of chopped pistachios.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter.  Transfer the dough to the plastic wrap and form it into a log shape (about 7-8″ long and 2″ in diameter).  Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to chill (for at least 60 minutes).
When the dough feels firm and chilled, remove it from the fridge and place it on a flat working surface.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unwrap the cookie dough and slice it into 1/4″ slices (a very sharp knife really makes a difference). You could slice them a little thicker and adjust your cooking time accordingly.  Place the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until they start to brown (but watch them closely after 10 minutes or so to ensure you don’t burn them).  Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
Orange Cranberry — same instructions as above, add the orange zest and cranberries at the same point you added the pistachios above.
1 cup of almond flour
3 Tablespoons of softened butter
3 Tablespoons of Confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
Happy baking!

This Wasn’t Take Out!

January 26, 2017

When I have a craving for Asian food, I usually just go out.  But recently I decided that I should try my hand at cooking one of my favorites (I have several) and found this seemingly easy recipe for orange chicken (courtesy of Harry Wetzel on allrecipes.com).  I also decided to try making my own egg rolls.  Wish me luck!

Asian Orange Chicken

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of water
2 Tablespoons of orange juice
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/3 cup of rice vinegar
2-1/2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of orange zest
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of fresh minced ginger root
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
2 Tablespoons of chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons of cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of water
2 skinless and boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 tesaspoon of pepper
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
Cooked white rice

Directions
1. Pour the water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan on medium-high heat.  Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool a bit (10-15 minutes).

2. Place the chicken pieces into a large resealable bag.  Once the sauce mixture has cooled, pour 1 cup of the mixture over the chicken pieces in the bag (reserve the remaining sauce). Seal the bag and refrigerate for a minimum of two (2) hours.

3. In another resealable bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper.  Add the marinated chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat the chicken with the flour mixture.

4.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Place the marinated chicken into the skillet and brown on both sides.  Remove the chicken to a  plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

5.  Clean out the skillet and add the reserved sauce.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Mix together the cornstarch and the water and then stir this combination into the sauce.  Reduce the heat to medium low, add the chicken pieces, and simmer for about five (5) minutes (stir occasionally).

I Don’t Normally Do Casseroles . . .!

January 5, 2017

But I found this fabulous recipe that was an instant hit (and super easy to prepare)!  And, it has bacon to boot!

Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole

Ingredients
1-1/2 pounds of ground beef
1/2 pound of bacon (cooked and crumbled)
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 package (32 ounce) of frozen tater tots
1 can (10.75 ounce) of condensed cheddar cheese soup
16 ounces of sour cream

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly spray a 13″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.
3. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet until it is no longer pink and drain the fat.
4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked beef, cooked bacon pieces, cheddar cheese, tater tots, cheese soup, and sour cream.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
5. Spread this mixture into the prepared 13×9 pan.
6. Bake for 45-50 minutes (until bubbly).

Enjoy!