Comfort Food with a Kick

25 Feb

Here’s another winner from the February issue of Bon Appetite.  (Sometimes I feel like a cheerleader for the magazine, but it’s the only one I get!).  It is quite spicy – I made an entire box of pasta and mixed half with plain tomato sauce for the girls.

The flavor is different – the peperoncini juice definitely adds a unique element, and I really liked the crunchy pepper rings.  It’s comfort food with a kick.  Add a green salad, and you have a perfect winter meal.

I made it just as the recipe indicates, so I’ll give you the link: Pasta with  Sausage, Shrimp, and Peperoncini


Easy Paprika Chicken

25 Feb

imageThis recipe makes enough for a crowd, or lots of leftovers.  The paprika lends a smoky, not quite spicy taste  – if you’d like a little more kick, add a little crushed red pepper to the spice blend.  Any kind of  paprika will work.  I used a blend of Hungarian and sweet.

The kids were skeptical while I was cooking, but I got a high compliment at dinner: “This is better than I thought it would be!”

  • 3 lbs chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 5 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 bag frozen peas

Mix together spices in a large bowl.  Add chicken and toss to coat.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high.  Add half the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove chicken and set aside.

Add some more olive oil to the pan if needed, reduce heat to medium, and saute onions, scraping up browned  bits from the pan, until softened, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Reduce heat to low and add in the bay leaves and tomatoes and stir to combine. Return the chicken to the pan and cover. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through, then remove lid, add peas, and cook 5-10 minutes more until sauce is thickened slightly.

Stir lemon juice into heavy cream.  (Omit lemon juice if using sour cream).  Stir a few tablespoons tomato sauce into cream to temper, then add cream to the pan and stir to combine.  Heat through, then serve over rice or pasta, garnishing with grated Parmesan.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

20 Feb

Bella does not like potatoes (other than French fries) and I can’t say I blame her, because I’ve never been a big fan myself (except for French fries).  But this recipe was a big hit with all the kids, and Bella even had seconds!  As Aniston said, “they’re like French fries but smashed!”

They really are good – the inside is creamy and soft, and the skin gets super crispy and crackly.  Smashing the potatoes allows the seasonings to cover a larger surface area, so each bite has just the right amount of flavor.

They’re  best right out of the oven, and if you have any leftover, I’d recommend reheating in the oven, or just adding a little milk and turning them into mashed potatoes.  The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), but I added the cheese.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs small red potatoes, scrubbed
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp thyme (fresh  or dried)
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Heat oven to 500°.  Arrange potatoes on a large baking sheet (you’re going to smash the potatoes, so make sure you have extra room).  Pour 3/4 c water on the sheet and cover tightly with foil.  Roast 25-30 minutes until potatoes are very soft.  A fork or paring knife will easily slip in and out.  If any water remains on the baking sheet, blot dry with a paper towel.

Drizzle 3 T oil over potatoes and roll to coat.  Use a flat bottomed heavy glass and smash each potato to 1/3 to 1/2″ thick, spacing evenly on the baking sheet.   Sprinkle with thyme and season generously with salt and pepper.  Drizzle evenly with the remaining 3 T oil.  Roast 20-30 minutes longer until potatoes are well browned.  Remove from oven, sprinkle grated cheese evenly over potatoes, and return to oven for 5 minutes.  Serve hot.

Treats for Sweets-Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

We made these for Valentine’s Day in my Mommy & Me cooking class, then Bella and I made them again for her class Valentine’s party.  They’re really cute, and really easy.  I normally frown upon things like refrigerated pie dough, but these are more novelty than confection, so I made an exception.

You’ll need slips of paper about 2″ by 1/4″.  Write your fortunes in non-toxic marker, then cut them out – much easier than writing on itty-bitty pieces of paper.

Lay out a circle of pie dough and use a 3″ cookie cutter to cut out 7 rounds.  Brush just the edges with water, then place a folded fortune in the middle.  The paper will stick to the water, so try not to get the fortune wet.  Fold over and press gently to seal.  Then gently pinch the corners and fold them together.  Lay on a lined baking sheet.

*Older kids can help write fortunes and fold the cookies.   Younger kids can brush the tops with water and decorate.*

Brush the tops very lightly with water, and sprinkle with colored sugar.  Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges.  Remove from oven, cool, and package in Chinese take-out containers  (you can find these at a craft store).

Brown Rice Risotto w Winter Squash & Pecans

12 Feb

I found this recipe in Bon Apetite this month, and since I still have butternut squash in the basement from my garden, I thought I’d give it a try.  I’ve been looking for meatless recipes that are still hearty enough to satisfy the family, and that aren’t soup. For some reason my family equates soup with torture.  Anyway, I made a few modifications, including using brown arborio rice and substituting pecans for the pine nuts.

It does take considerably longer with brown rice, but I think the brown rice is a little more forgiving – I was able to achieve that creamy risotto texture with little stirring and none of the gumminess that sometimes plagues white rice risotto.   This could easily be a wonderful vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and of course, you wouldn’t want to use bacon fat!  I couldn’t resist though – bacon makes everything taste better, and I keep leftovers in the fridge for recipes like this that benefit from that bit of extra flavor.

Here’s my version:

Brown Rice Risotto w Winter Squash & Pecans

  • 4 T olive oil or bacon fat, divided
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 T Sherry
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5-6 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c brown arborio rice
  • 1/4 c medium-dry Sherry or Marsala
  • 3/4 c pecans, chopped
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

    Heat 2 T olive oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add squash; sprinkle with sea salt and sauté until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add chopped sage and pecans, and cook until squash is  just tender, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle Sherry over; toss to incorporate. Transfer squash to plate. Wipe skillet clean.

    Heat remaining 2 T olive oil in same skillet over high heat. Add chopped onions, sprinkle with sea salt, and sauté until onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes.  Bring chicken stock to a simmer in large saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat. (Or microwave, reheating as necessary so you are adding warm stock to the rice.)

    Add arborio rice to onions in skillet. Stir until rice is slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Add Sherry; stir until absorbed. Add 1 cup warm broth; stir occasionally until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.   Add three more cups of broth, letting the rice absorb each cup before adding the next, and stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining cup of stock, reduce heat, and cover the pan, cooking 15-20 minutes until rice is just tender but still firm to bite and risotto is creamy.  Remove lid, add squash mixture, and cook until squash is heated through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Top risotto with shaved Parmesan.

    Cooking Classes @ the Middletown Cooking Studio

    7 Feb

    Jenn & Megan showing off their seared shrimp & scallops at last week’s Date Night: Seafood.

    We also made fish in parchment packets, shrimp & fennel pot pie, and lemon bars – yum!


    Visit the Frederick County Parks and Recreation website for more upcoming classes!  Click on Registration to browse programs.  While you’re there, check out the new page just for Cooking Classes.  We’ve got links to cooking videos & recipes, including my newest one featuring Butternut Squash Bisque.  You can also email the cooking program directly with any questions.

    Sloppy Joes

    2 Feb

    These are a far cry from the stuff in a can.  I use ground turkey breast, so they’re low in fat, and with all the veggies in the sauce, they’re a perfect one-dish meal.   I make them a little on the sweet side to appeal to the kids – you can cut back to 1-2 T on the sugar if you’d like, and substitute cayenne pepper for the paprika to make them spicy.

    I like to use potato rolls.  They’re nice and soft and I pull out the inside to make a pocket for the meat – fewer carbs and less mess!  Sometimes I get the smaller dinner rolls instead for the kids.  Two regular sandwiches is too much, but two dinner roll size are perfect.


    Sloppy Joes

    • 1 T oil
    • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 medium onion, diced
    • 1 1/4 lb ground turkey breast
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
    • 1 T Worchestershire
    • 1 T red wine vinegar
    • 3 T brown sugar
    • pinch ground cloves
    • pinch ground allspice
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 c ketchup
    • hamburger buns

    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the peppers and onions and saute 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add the turkey and break up with a spoon.  Saute until turkey is fully cooked.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes (with juice), Worchestershire, vinegar, sugar, and spices.  Stir 1-2 minutes until combined.  Add ketchup, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes. If the sloppy joes look too dry, add a little water or chicken stock.  Adjust salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

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