Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Caramelized Onion Dip

What can I say about Christmas this year? I almost wasn't ready for it since it was 80 here up until a week before. Then when I thought I was ready for it, it just hit me like a ton of bricks or perhaps a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

See, I actually had a little accident in the kitchen. I was stupid & wrapped my whole hand around a meat thermometer which had been in the oven for 50 minutes at 450. Yah, it was kinda hot. So, in an effort to relieve the pain or wait until the aloe vera kicked in I downed a few too many, too quickly. And it hit me. Not exactly what I wanted for a special Christmas with my family. I was actually very sad the 1st few days after the holiday knowing that I'd never get it back but I am focusing on all the good parts before the chaos set in, & I'll be sharing those parts in bits & pieces throughout the next few posts so I can savor a bit of Christmas.

And there still were a few treats from the kitchen I'd like to share with you as well. One being this fantastic dip. Once you try this I doubt you'll ever go back to the boxed onion soup mix/dip again. I will definitely be making this for Super Bowl. I served it with pita chips, crudites such as red pepper & celery & potato chips. So good......................

{Not the best picture but this really is the BEST dip. It's a must make}

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP from Barefoot Contessa

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil *
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half & then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds (you will have about 3 cups of onions). Heat the butter & oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, & pepper & saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low* & cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned & caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream & mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment & beat until smooth. Add the onions & mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

{Food for Thought}

You definitely don't need ¼ cup vegetable oil for sautéing the onions. Just a swirl or two around the pan is good enough. Also, I always caramelize my onions on medium high so I never reduced the heat like the recipe stated. I’d leave the onions alone for a few minutes & then I would give a stir & keep doing the same until you get the nice deep brown color, which brings out their sweetness.

Also, I strongly recommend rough chopping your onions once they are done & before adding them to your cream cheese mixture. This way, no one is getting a huge piece of onion.

And of course I wanted to share a few pics with you which I will be doing for the next few posts:

 {The table was simple but pretty. I used our everyday clear glass plates but placed them over chargers. I also finally invested in a set of my own cotton tablecloths. I placed one of my folding tables perpendicular to my dining room table}

{I took a higher quality white paper napkin & used clear jewelry cord to wrap a tag around the napkin with everyone's name on it, to act as place settings. Each tag was different}

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Greetings & Eatings!

Merry Christmas........

to you & yours!!!! I hope you enjoy the rest of your year & experience every happiness you deserve!!!!!

While I am happy to say I haven't gotten caught up in the commercial aspect of the holiday, I do get happily obsessed in planning for the Christmas celebration dinner at my house each year. So, I'd like to share my menu since a few have asked.

~ Featured Cocktail ~
Pomegranate Margaritas

~ Starters ~
Caramelized Onion Dip with Crudites
Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic
Potstickers with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce
Brandied Shrimp

~ Main Course ~
Beef Tenderloin (filet mignon) with Red Wine Sauce
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli*
Garlic Smashed Potatoes
Creamed Spinach*

~ Dessert  ~
Chocolate Fountain with Assorted Dippers
Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Vodka Espresso Cocktail
Assorted desserts brought by guests

{ The chocolate fountain shall flow } 

* I normally don't make 2 green veggies but I am purposely making one as an alternative to the other in case guests do not like one of the options. If you care to have any of the recipes above just let me know & I will be happy to forward it to you.

{ Linking Deliciously to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays }

Thursday, December 17, 2009

White Pizza with Clams

I have over 60 recipes waiting to try, some have been waiting for over 6 months. Not this one though. When I clipped it from a magazine I knew it had to be made right away. After all, I grew up on linguine with white clam sauce & love it to this day!

This was amazing ! I modified it quite a bit to make it even easier & healthier so please look at my notes for my modified version. This has definitely become my go to dish for when I am in the mood for a gourmet type of pizza. You prep it all in the time it takes for the oven to heat up & it’s done in 12 minutes. If you don't like clams I can totally see it with shrimp as well.


{Printable Recipe}

2 tblsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cans (6.5oz) chopped clams, drained
1 prepared 10 oz pizza crust
1 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Asiago cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 tblsp parlsey

Heat oven to 400. Heat oil in skillet over medium high. Add garlic; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in clams & cook for 2 minutes.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Spoon clams over top. Scatter mozzarella & Asiago cheese evenly over clams. Dollop heaping teaspoonfuls of ricotta cheese over top.

Bake pizza for 12 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool slightly, sprinkle with parsley.

{Food for Thought}

I modified this recipe quite a bit. Instead of using mozzarella & Asiago which I don’t always have on hand I just used freshly grated parmesan cheese. I also added basil, oregano & crushed red pepper to my ricotta. Instead of Boboli I used Naan which is a whole grain flatbread.

I halved this recipe to make a personal pizza on one piece of Naan. I only used 1 tsp of oil, 2 garlic cloves & one can of clams along with 1/3 cup of parmesan & ¼ cup ricotta mixed with the basil, oregano & crushed red pepper. Instead of garnishing with parsley, I used a little extra crushed red pepper.

{ This is what my dinner looked like last night as I was solo. Right on a cutting board with a glass of wine in front of the TV watching episodes of Criminal Minds }

{{ Linking deliciously to Friday Food with MomTrends }}

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh Fudge!!!!!!!!!!

How is it that there are only 10 days until Christmas??? This is the first time in my Christmas hosting history that I don't even have my menu finalized. Usually, it's done at least 3 weeks before. How 'bout I commit to sharing it with you this Friday! There, some accountability, a reason to get 'er done!

Until then, lemme share some fudge with you. I made this a couple of weeks ago & brought some into work. Everyone really enjoyed it. It seemed to be a bit softer than the usual fudge but the flavor was wonderful & this was super easy to make. No need to use a candy thermometer for this fudge recipe!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

{Printable Recipe}

3 tblsp butter
1 ½ cup sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup peanut butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Bring butter, sugar, milk & salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter, marshmallows & vanilla. Stir vigorously for about 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted.

Stir in chocolate chips until fudge appears somewhat marbled. Pour into a lightly greased 8 x 8 pan.

Chill until firm. Cut into squares.

{Food for Thought}

Even though I am not a huge chocolate lover & this fudge has more of a peanut butter than chocolate taste, I do recommend adding more chocolate. Maybe even double it. I plan to next time & see where it takes me.

If you like a little more chocolate in your fudge & a little toffee to boot, try this:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Penne with Sausage & Escarole

Blogging breaks are necessary but then I get to a point, usually after 5 days, when I feel disconnected from the people who have become a part of my life. So, here I am, I've missed you. And I bring you this dish I made recently which I found in the Today's Show recipe book, a gift for my  birthday in October.

I loved this dish! The ingredients just work so well together. The original recipe called for broccoli rabe which is slightly bitter. I opted for escarole since it pairs beautifully with sausage in a popular Italian soup. It was perfect so I'm sticking with it!!!!!


{Printable Recipe Here}

1 lb hot or sweet Italian sausage links
1 tblsp olive oil
8 oz Escarole, chopped (about 6 cups)
1 large leek, cut into ¼” slices (about ½ cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chicken broth
½ cup purchased roasted red sweet peppers, drained & cut into strips
6 oz dried penne pasta
¼ cup snipped fresh basil
½ tsp pepper
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Fill a skillet with ½” water. Bring to boiling. Add sausage. Cook covered for 15 minutes. Drain. Remove to a cutting board & cut into ½” slices. Return slices to a skillet & cook in oil for 2-3 minutes or until brown. Set aside.

Add escarole, leek & garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring until escarole is wilted & leek is tender.

Stir in sausage, broth & peppers. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover & simmer gently for 2-3 minutes until escarole is crisp tender.

Meanwhile cook pasta. Add cooked pasta, basil & black pepper to sausage mixture. Toss gently to combine.

Top with parmesan cheese. Serve additional parmesan cheese at table.

A little tip on parmesan: Fresh is best!!!!!!!!!!! I highly recommend buying a fresh block & shredding/grating as you need it. It lasts for a while & is perfect for pasta dishes that require only just a few but very fresh ingredients.

Since I find it to be such a pain to grate on the smallest hole (not shown above) I grate on the hole you see above, then I just do a rough chop to get it just a bit smaller that what you see.

{Food for Thought}

The recipe didn't mention taking the casing off the sausage but I did anyway. After it boils & you remove it to a cutting board, let it rest for a few minutes. Then just take a knife & make a slit the long way, removing the casing like a jacket with your hands. Since the sausage & escarole are perfect together I wouldn't recommend substituting chicken but if you're not a meat eater I think turkey sausage would be fine too.

 { Deliciously Linking to Friday Food with MomTrends }

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Drop Dead Lasagna

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I don't go crazy during Thanksgiving except to bring a few dishes to my parent's house so it was a good time to take a blogging break. Christmas, however, is a whole 'nother story!

I make this lasagna every year for Christmas dinner at my house. It's special for the holiday in terms of taste & effort & the whole family loves it!

Tyler Florence says this is the old-school lasagna that you find in the Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Fuggedaboudit! You can assemble the lasagna ahead of time...& it's great for leftovers.


Printable Recipe

1 lb lasagna noodles
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 tblsp fennel seeds
1/2 tblsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tblsp dried oregano
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
Salt & Pepper
2 lb ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
4 cups Marinara Sauce (see notes)
Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Fill a large pasta pot with water & place over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt & bring to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for only 8 minutes; they should still be somewhat firm, as they will continue to cook when you bake the lasagna. Drain the noodles in a colander & rinse them quickly under cool water to stop the cooking process. Drizzle some olive oil so the sheets don't stick together, then set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat & drizzle with 2 tblsp of olive oil. Sauté the onion, garlic & bay leaf for a couple of minutes, until the onions are translucent & smell sweet. Add the ground beef & pork, stirring to break it up & cook until the meat is thoroughly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the excess fat. Combine the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, brown sugar & dried oregano in a spice mill or a coffee grinder, give it a whirl & sprinkle on the browned meat. Stir in the tomato paste until well blended; season with salt & pepper. Take the pan off the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta & Parmigiano cheeses. Fold in the parsley, basil & eggs, season with salt & pepper. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350. Take inventory of the components you should have: slightly cooked lasagna noodles, seasoned meat mixture, ricotta cheese filling, 2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, a pot of sauce & a 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Let the layering begin.

Start by ladling enough sauce into the dish to cover the bottom; this prevents the lasagna from sticking. Layer 1 -- the noodles: slightly overlap 4 lasagna noodles lengthwise so they completely cover the bottom with no gaps.

Here is a little tip I swear by: if you take 2 lasagna noodles & line the short ends of the pan, they will act as brackets or a wall to give the lasagna support when you cut it (see pic below)

Layer 2 -- the meat: spread half the meat mixture on top of the noodles with a spatula. The meat mixture, being the most solid element, will act as a foundation.

Layer 3 -- the cheese: spread half the ricotta cheese mixture over the meat, smooth out with a spatula.

Note the side brackets of lasagna noodles

Then sprinkle a third of the shredded mozzarella evenly over the ricotta mixture.

Layer 4 -- the sauce: top with a full ladle of tomato sauce, about 1 cup (see notes); smooth it out with a spatula. Repeat layers 1 through 4. Finish with a final layer of noodles, tomato sauce & the remaining mozzarella. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to force out any air bubbles & to compress the layers.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden & bubbling. Allow the lasagna to sit for 20 minutes so it doesn't ooze all over the place when you cut it into squares. Pass the extra tomato sauce & grated Parmigiano around the table.

{Food for Thought}

If you’re like me, you’ll want to have more sauce than just 4 cups. One ladle for each layer seems so little to me so I add more so the lasagna isn’t dry. And I also have extra for passing around. My favorite, if I am not up to making my own, is LaFamiglia DelGrosso. It's expensive but worth it. Last year I got lucky when they had a buy one get one free. Normally, it's $8 per jar.

The use of fennel has also become a bit of a conversation piece in my house since some people do not like it. If you have loved ones who don’t enjoy fennel I recommend cutting down the amount to 1 tsp because you can really taste the tablespoon. Lastly, you may want to increase the ricotta mixture by 50% as well. This way, you have more if you need. And if you have leftover just reserve for another use.

Tastefully linking to Blessed with Grace for Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays!