Monday, January 09, 2017

Golden Globes Supper: Extra Shroomy!

Last night, I watched and live-blogged the Golden Globes on Facebook (as is my way). And for my special awards night supper, I created the best Alfredo dish I've ever made: Mushroom Pesto Alfredo with Three-Cheese Tortellini, Balsamic Mushrooms, and Fresh Spinach. MMM!!!


This is going to be a little hard to recreate because of one ingredient. Like an episode of Co-Op Chopped, I ended up with local mushrooms and spinach in my basket the other day, and something from the 50% off markdown bin (always a trove of tasty treasures!)--mushroom pesto. Of course, you may omit that in the Alfredo sauce, but it won't be as lusciously earthy and shroomy. Good luck finding some, though. Try your fancy food stores and/or health food stores. Or make your own!

Mushroom Alfredo Tortellini with Fresh Spinach

Mushroom Pesto Alfredo:
4 tablespoons butter
2 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (up to 2 cups)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons prepared mushroom pesto

Balsamic Mushrooms:
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1/2 onions, thinly sliced or diced
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, washed and cut into chunks (or thickly sliced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

1 family-sized package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini

1 (or 2) cups chopped fresh spinach

In a medium sauce pan on low heat, melt butter and cream cheese. Add the half-and-half and granulated garlic and whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat, whisking frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Add the seasoned salt, pepper, cayenne, and Parmesan. Whisk until smooth, and cook on low for a few more minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and whisk in the mushroom pesto. (Thin the sauce with more half-and-half or milk if it gets too thick.)

Meanwhile, to a large skillet over medium heat, add the bacon fat (or butter or olive oil or a mix of the two), then saute the onions and mushrooms until tender and the mushrooms start to brown. Add the minced garlic and dried thyme and cook for another couple of minutes. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and season the cooked mushrooms to taste with salt and pepper.

Lastly, cook the tortellini according to package instructions and drain. Mix the pasta with the Alfredo sauce, the balsamic mushrooms, and the spinach. Garnish with more Parmesan before serving.


Friday, January 06, 2017

Nooks & Crannies Bagels



RUN--do not walk--to your nearest grocery establishment and acquire these freaky bagel/English muffin hybrids! They are so light and fluffy and crispy when toasted--they are the muffins the angels in heaven would eat!

And they make the best brunch EVAH! Behold: Toasted Nooks and Crannies Bagel with Mayo, Avocado Mashed with Lemon and Garlic, Baked Ham and Cheese Omelette, and a Drizzle of Sriracha

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Who knew the Amish ate Velveeta?

In yesterday's post-holiday dolor (your word for today), I fell down a YouTube black hole of Amish cooking videos. And I felt shamefully drawn to this casserole called Yumasetta (obviously gibberish which can't even be a real Pennsylvania Dutch word!), that's made with processed foods and cream o' chemical soup. Nevertheless, I had everything on hand to make it, including gen-u-wine Amish egg noodles, so I gave it a go.

As it turns out, it's not bad. It tastes like this sweet spaghetti that my friend and former roommate, Kim, used to make back in the day, but with egg noodles instead. I would make it again, but I'd swap out the Velveeta-type cheese for a cheddar-mozzarella blend, and I'd cut back a bit on the brown sugar, too. Still, I think this would be a hit at a church potluck.

Yumasetta (Amish Beef and Noodle Casserole)
(inspired by several YouTube video recipes)


2 lbs. ground beef (I used 1 lb. of beef plus a large can of mushrooms--I would keep it to one pound of meat, but use fresh mushrooms next time)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 can tomato soup (I used tomato bisque, because I'm fancy), undiluted
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I'd cut this back by half)
few shakes of hot sauce, optional
8 oz. Velveeta, sliced or Kraft Singles (I'd use shredded cheddar and mozzarella next time)
16 oz. medium egg noodles, al dente
1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 teaspoon dried parsley, optional (or use fresh if you have it!)

Brown the ground beef with the onions in a large skillet, and drain excess fat. Stir in the mushrooms (if using), and the granulated garlic, seasoned salt, pepper, and tomato soup. Pour this mixture into a 9x13 (sprayed) casserole dish. Layer the cheese on top. 

Meanwhile, cook the noodles until they are a little underdone. Drain, return to the pot, and stir in the cream of chicken soup and the parsley, if using. Top the casserole with the noodle mixture, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Great Green Guac!

My friend Yves always makes a giant vat of awesome guacamole for our friendly gatherings, and he swears that leaving the pits in the guac keeps it from turning brown (a tip he got from his friend's Costa Rican mother or some such). I poo-pooed this nonsense, but I thought I'd give it a try.

The first picture is from yesterday when I made my guacamole, and the second picture is 24 hours later...with no plastic wrap pressed on top like I usually do. (Actually, the first pic looks browner, but that's because I took the photo in lower-light conditions.) So, I stand corrected!

P.S. I'm not completely convinced that it's not all the citrus juice that's mainly helping the situation. But still, what harm in using citrus, the pits, and pressed-down plastic wrap? The holy trinity of keeping guac green! #yourewelcome

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Dinner and a Movie: Bridget Jones's Diary

I was recently horrified to learn that several of my dearest friends had never seen Bridget Jones' Diary, so I made it my personal crusade to rectify this abominable situation. I gave one of said friends the dvd and the even more entertaining novel as Christmas gifts, and tonight, we watched the movie together with a bunch of good friends, and I prepared a special themed buffet dinner. This was the menu I envisioned, and echoing Bridget's words, "Have sneaking suspicion am somewhat of a genius in the kitchen as well."

Cocktail Gherkins
Orange Marmalade Dip with Crackers
Blue Soup (Leek and Potato)
Turkey Curry with Jasmine Rice
Baked Ham and Cheese Omelette


The pickles on sticks and turkey curry were inspired by Bridget's mother Pam's New Year's Turkey Curry Buffet. And the blue soup, omelette, and orange marmalade dip were an homage to the tragic birthday dinner that Bridget tried to cook for her friends.
The appetizers included little cornichons on toothpicks (I didn't even bother to take a picture, but see above), and an unusual orange marmalade-topped cream cheese dip with crackers. In the movie, Bridget attempts to create a dessert called Orange Pudding in Sugar Cages, but you see them scooping the finished product up with crackers, and one of her friends describes it as tasting like marmalade.

At first, I was just going to serve orange marmalade with crackers, but that sounded pretty boring. Then I thought I might spread the crackers with cream cheese and top it with orange marmalade, but that sounded like a lot of busy work and still not very exciting.

So I did a Google search and found this recipe for a dip that turned out to be the surprise hit of the party! Many of my young friends are not very adventurous eaters, and they were surprised that something which seemed weird to them at first was so tasty. I took the picture below before I topped the dip with the toasted almonds, because it was prettier. The next time I make this, I think I might mix the almonds into the dip and let the marmalade be the only topping, because it would look nicer.

Orange Marmalade Dip
(Source: adapted from Food.com)


8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise 
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
8 large scallions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
few dashes hot sauce, to taste
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted and cooled

Mix the cream cheese, mayo, cheese, scallions, pepper, and hot sauce. Spread into an 8x8 dish, top with the marmalade and spread in a thin layer. Sprinkle on the almonds. Serve with crackers.

In the movie, Bridget tries to make a soup flavored with leeks, and she's supposed to tie the leeks together with kitchen twine. She does not have the proper twine, so she uses some blue string she finds that, of course, ends up turning the soup blue.

So I decided to make a leek and potato soup with the help of my trusty magic pot. It was quick and easy in the Instant Pot (only five minutes!), and it turned out velvety and luscious and DELICIOUS! Of course, you don't have to dye it blue to enjoy this leeky, potatoey goodness.

Instant Pot Leek and Potato Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, tough outer leaves removed, halved, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced
3 large stalks celery, thinly sliced 
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground celery
4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 cup cream
salt and pepper, to taste

On sauté mode, add the butter and olive oil to the pot and cook the leeks, celery, and garlic until the veggies are tender and just starting to brown. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and let continue to cook for a few minutes until the wine has almost evaporated. Stir in the thyme, granulated garlic, ground celery, potatoes, and vegetable or chicken stock. 

Cover with the lid and cook on soup mode for five minutes. Let the pressure come down for about ten minutes before doing a quick release. Using a stick blender, purée the soup until very smooth. Add the cream (or half-and-half or whole milk) and blend one more time. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

*If you're making this for a Bridget Jones dinner, add a little blue food coloring...but no string! 




For the first of two entrees, I prepared a curry with turkey and vegetables and served it over steamed jasmine rice (made in the IP, of course--three cups rinsed rice, three cups water, good pinch of salt, in the sprayed insert, on manual for four minutes, ten minutes rest then release). I couldn't find a recipe for the turkey curry, so I just made it up, and it turned our GREAT! Even one of the guests who swears she doesn't enjoy curry liked it!

Pamela Jones' Turkey Curry 
(as imagined by me)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 lb. turkey breast cut into one-inch chunks
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon granulated garlic, divided
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

1 large onion, diced
1-2 chili peppers, seeded and diced (to taste)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
2 medium potatoes, peeled (or not) and cut into one-inch chunks
1 cup chicken (or turkey) broth
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground celery
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 can coconut milk

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

steamed jasmine rice

To a large skillet over medium-high, add two tablespoons of olive oil, add the chunks of turkey, sprinkle with a half teaspoon each of salt and granulated garlic and a quarter teaspoon of pepper, and cook the turkey until golden brown. Remove the pieces to a plate and reserve.

To the same skillet, add two more tablespoons of olive oil, and saute the onions and pepper(s) until tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Add the carrots, potatoes, and chicken stock, partly cover, and simmer for about five minutes or until the carrots and potatoes are tender. 

Stir in the curry powder, ginger, ground celery, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and the remaining half teaspoon of granulated garlic, then cook for another couple of minutes until the spices are very fragrant. Turn off the heat and stir the coconut milk, the remaining teaspoon of salt and half teaspoon of pepper (or to taste), the reserved turkey, and the chopped fresh cilantro.

Serve over steamed jasmine rice.

In the movie, nothing Bridget tries to cook turns out right, so Mark Darcy to the rescue! For the entree, he suggests they make omelettes and serve it with the "congealed green gunge" (caper berry gravy) that Bridget has produced. Since I was cooking for about eight people, I didn't want to be standing at the stove making individual omelettes for everyone.

So I found a recipe for a big ham and cheese pan omelette that you bake in the oven, and I also siphoned some of the eggs and cheese mixture off before adding the ham and made an individual portion in a ramekin for one vegetarian guest. What a terrific brunch dish, and of course, you can add whatever ingredients you have that please you. (I doubled the recipe that follows and baked it in a 9x13 casserole dish.)

Baked Ham and Cheese Omelette
(Source: All Recipes)

8 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
3 ounces cooked ham, diced

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 8x8 inch casserole dish and set aside.

Beat together the eggs and milk. Add seasoning salt, ham, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and minced onion. Pour into prepared casserole dish.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until eggs are set. (The individual one-cup ramekin took 15-20 minutes.)

For dessert, I suggest you pass around a few pints of Ben and Jerry's and a bunch of spoons. And to wash everything down with, I suggest that you choose vodka...and Chaka Khan!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Surviving the Holidays with Food and Friendship

Christmas/Winter Break is going to be rough for me this year, but thank goodness I have friends who are helping me through it. They don't have to do much except invite me over to sit on the couch and watch something together. And if there are also good eats to share, more's the better! Recently, my friend Sally, who has been one of 2016's very few blessings in my life, invited me over for a fusion meal of chicken lettuce wraps and taco soup with rice while we watched Frozen.

So tonight, I decided to return the favor by trying out a new recipe on her from a Delish video that scrolled through my Facebook feed the other day for Garlicky Shrimp Alfredo Bake. Sally loves shrimp, as do I, and nothing can ever be too garlicky for me, so I declare this dish a real winner, and a cozy casserole to share with dear friends.

Garlicky Shrimp Alfredo Bake
(Source: Delish)

10 oz. penne
3 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1/4 c. plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add garlic, shrimp, and two tablespoons parsley. Season with salt. Cook until shrimp is pink and no longer opaque, two minutes per side. Transfer shrimp to a plate. (Keep juices in skillet.)

Add remaining two tablespoons butter to skillet to let melt, then add flour and whisk until golden, one to two minutes. Add milk and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in 3/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan until creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Return shrimp to skillet. Add tomatoes and cooked penne and toss until combined. (Add more milk if mixture is too thick.) Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella and two tablespoons Parmesan and bake until melty, five to seven minutes. Broil two to three more minutes until top is golden (watch it carefully so it doesn't burn!).
Garnish with remaining tablespoon parsley and serve.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas with a French Twist

My dear office mate and friend, Lee Ann, very kindly invited me for Christmas dinner this year, and it was truly an incredible feast! Her husband and daughter took a trip to France this year, so the theme of the dinner was decidedly French. I asked the hostess what I could bring, but she didn't text me back until this morning...after all of the shops were closed. Of course, she said I didn't have to bring anything, but my momma raised me right. Under duress, she said I could bring a salad or vegetable. The problem was that I had to make due with what I had on hand, and keep in mind, the culinary theme of the dinner is FRENCH! YIKES!

So I went searching, and found a (frozen) head of cauliflower in the garage fridge, and I still have kale left from the garden (you heard me!), and I always have bacon. So I steamed the cauliflower florets in my magic pot, and then made a creamy, cheesy, mashed cauliflower and kale gratin with smoky bacon bits. Anything "gratin" is French, right?  I think the kale and bacon make it look Christmassy with the red and green bits, non? (This picture is before I topped it with panko and more cheese.)

Here is a more detailed description of my methodology: First, I Googled how others steam a cauliflower in the IP and did that (four minutes on steam mode in a wire basket over a cup of water). While the cauliflower was cooking, I browned some bacon on the stove, removed it, and then sautéed a couple of cups of chopped kale in a few tablespoons of the bacon fat. 

When the cauliflower was done, I drained it and mashed it in the pot with four tablespoons of butter, four oz. of cream cheese, half a cup of shredded Swiss cheese, seasoned salt, pepper, one teaspoon of dried thyme, a half teaspoon of granulated garlic, and a grating of nutmeg. Then I stirred in the sautéed kale and about eight pieces of the cooked bacon (chopped). I put this mixture in a casserole dish, topped with half a cup of panko tossed with another couple tablespoons of Swiss cheese, and dash of garlic powder. I baked this uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes, and then topped it with another two slices of crumbled bacon before serving. VOILA!

 The Christmas dinner guests all assembled.
The appetizer was French onion soup...with a homemade bread crouton.
 Homemade French bread.
 The Christmas feast!
 Three French, err, Cornish hens.
 Lamb chops and mashed potatoes.
Asparagus with Hollandaise.
 Spinach souffle and my cauliflower kale mash.
 Roasted leeks and fennel.
 Cream puffs.
Crepes made to order with sugar, berries, and/or Nutella.
 Pear amandine tart.
 A toast to the memory of loved ones.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!