Archive for the ‘Rachael Ray’ Category

Broken Florentine Lasagna Bake

January 7, 2009

After enjoying this meal for two evenings, I determined that I had to write and share it with the blogging world. It is SO good! Not surprisingly, I found it in my newest Rachael Ray cookbook. I was initially tempted to make the lasagna bake because all of the ingredients, save for the spinach and chard, were things I keep stocked in my pantry. I made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s to purchase the greens-they’re only $1.99 a bag there!-and I was ready.

The recipe is straightforward, and can easily be put together in 20 minutes or so. The baking time, however, is 30 minutes, so it’s not technically a 30 minute meal-even for you, Rach! It’s a very low-maintenance dish though, a simple cheese sauce and sauteed greens. Unfortunately, I had not been able to purchase the no-boil lasagna, so I had to add that whole extra step, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle. The final result is very tasty, and you don’t even feel guilty about the cheesy sauce, because you’re also eating 3 POUNDS of greens! My husband usually rebels against any dish that doesn’t contain some kind of meat (even fish really doesn’t quite satisfy him!), but he seemed to enjoy it. It’s comforting, easy, and great heated up the next day.

Broken Florentine Lasagna Bake

4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk (I used lowfat, and the dish was still creamy and delicious)
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg (I did NOT go out and find myself a whole nutmeg for this purpose)
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tbsp EVOO
1 garlic clove, cracked away from its skin
1 bunch of green chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (I removed the stems from my bag of chard, and didn’t bother chopping, as it was already torn into largeish pieces)
2 pounds spinach, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (again, I didn’t bother chopping, and it made no difference at all)
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (As I mentioned, I had to resort to regular lasagna noodles, but I didn’t use a full pound)

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Melt the butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, whisk to combine, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook for a couple of minutes to thicken. Stir in half the Parmigiano (about 3/4 cup). Set the sauce aside.
3. Heat the EVOO in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the cracked clove of garlic and cook for a minute or two to release its aroma and flavor. Add the chard and cook, turning occasionally to wilt down, 2 minutes. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, wilting each batch before adding more. Season the greens with salt and pepper.
4. Break the pasta sheets into large pieces. Toss them into the pan with the greens and give them a good stir to incorporate them. Pour the sauce into the skillet, stirring again to incorporate everything evenly. Smooth the top down and sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup Parmigiano into the skillet. Cover the skillet with foil, transfer to the oven, and bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Remove the foil from the pan and let it finish cooking uncovered for about 15 more minutes to brown the cheese. (I found this extra 15 minutes unnecessary, as my oven is freakishly hot, and the lasagna bake was golden and bubbling.)

I’m still working on developing decent food photography skills-perhaps my husband’s new fancy camera will help-so you’ll have to excuse my amateur efforts. I do like the steam emanating from my skillet o’ greens. In case you’re wondering, my bag of chard was full of rainbow AND green chard-that’s why you see strange purple greens.


Turkey Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie-Hmmmm….it’s Good!

December 18, 2008

Tonight my dinner was so delicious and satisfying that I immediately had the urge to blog about it! Now, certain beloved family members who do not love sweet potatoes might want to skip over this post. I’ll understand 🙂

However, anyone who has any affection for sweet potatoes, comfort food, turkey, or even casseroles would do themselves a favor by making this dish, pronto! The recipe, not surprisingly, is from Rachael Ray. I’ve actually made it once before, with equally good results. Essentially, it’s a basic shepherd’s pie, only made with ground turkey (it’s from a Thanksgiving-themed menu in RR’s newest cookbook) and covered with a layer of mashed sweet potatoes instead of the usual mashed potatoes. The turkey mixture is chock full of vegetables, bright green peas, crisp celery, and grated carrot and onion, and the healthy factor only increases with the creamy sweet potatoes (well, they may be creamy due to the presence of a large pat of butter conveniently mixed in). An unusual, but absolutely perfect element of the dish is a ripe banana mashed with the potatoes. I know it sounds weird, but it REALLY adds to the flavor. The pie is topped with a layer of sharp cheddar and browned for a few moments in the oven.

On a cold, wintry evening, this dish was exactly what we needed. It’s warm, comforting, and has the added bonus of not leaving you with that loathed too-full feeling. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s an easy weeknight dinner-grating the vegetables is time-consuming. If you have a decent hour or so of free time, though, this is an excellent dinner! Now, my pictures really don’t do it justice, but it’s not exactly photogenic food, as you can imagine. Notice my Christmas dish towel-one of my favorite things to do in various holiday seasons is take advantage of Target and all its perfection and buy holiday dish towels. Once you’ve torn your eyes away from the mess of the kitchen, you might also be able to spy my adorable vintage-y kitchen timer, a very appropriate birthday gift from my sister-in-law.

Before I copy the recipe, I could not help but include my first introduction to shepherd’s pie.

Yes, it was Rachel’s attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving dessert, which I have watched and laughed at literally hundreds of times, that first piqued my curiosity in shepherd’s pie. You gotta take a bite with all the layers!

Here’s the recipe:
(I made a few comments)

2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil, as if anyone doesn’t know what that means)
2 pounds ground turkey (or chopped leftover turkey)
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
4 celery stalks from the heart, chopped
4 tablespoons (half stick) butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
a few dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas
1 very ripe banana, sliced
a few dashes hot sauce
2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a deep ovenproof skillet or a Dutch oven, heat the EVOO over high heat. Add the turkey and break it up with a wooden spoon; season with salt and pepper and the poultry seasoning.
3. Place the sweet potatoes in a pot with water to cover. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then salt the water and cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until tender.
4. Grate the onion and carrots directly into the skillet with the turkey. (I actually chopped just half an onion, because my box grater has yet to turn up and I’ve just been using a Microplane-way too tedious, and small, for an onion!) Add the celery, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add the flour to the melted butter and whisk for 1 minute, then whisk in the stock and season with salt, pepper, and Worcestershire. Cook for a few minutes, until thickened then add to the turkey mixture. Stir in the peas into the turkey mixture and turn off the heat.
5. Drain the potatoes and return the hot pot to the heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the banana and potatoes to the pot and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Mash the potatoes and banana to combine, and adjust the seasoning. (I saved on dishes by melted the butter directly into the potatoes, then adding the banana)
6. Spoon the potatoes onto the meat, and cover the potatoes with the cheese. Bake uncovered for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.

(from Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book)

On a more domestic note…

December 15, 2008

I’ve obviously been spending far too much time on various entertainment websites and rereading the Twilight saga-I’ve cooked several blog-worthy meals, and I haven’t even written about them! I know that I decided a few months back that I should just write about whatever pleases me, but the original purpose, after all, was to write about my meals and my reading.

Once I finally descended upon my new, very-own kitchen, I felt inspired to cook all new recipes for a while. In spite of my vast cookbook library being safely tucked away in storage for the past few months, I have managed to accumulate something like 8 or 10 additional cookbooks. I’m pretty sure I have a dangerous cookbook buying addiction, by the way. A few of my favorites (from this new mini-collection): Simply Organic-a beautiful cookbook with very simple recipes, organized by season, which is perfect for the bounty of produce in California; Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2008-I’ve grown attached to Cooking Light, and I made a delicious Frozen Peanut Butter Pie this summer, courtesy of this cookbook; and my most recent acquisition, Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book. Granted, that last one is a given-I always pre-order new Rachael Ray releases.

Several of the meals that I’ve found in these books have turned out to be delicious, and definitely worth repeating. From Simply Organic, there was the heavenly salmon salad with raspberry vinaigrette. It literally could not have been an easier dish-I simply pan-fried two salmon fillets, made the vinaigrette with fresh raspberries while the fish cooked, and quickly rinsed arugula for the salad base. The fillets sit atop the salad, dressing drizzled on top. My husband was still hungry when he finished his portion, but that could be easily remedied with a larger piece of salmon or perhaps a small side dish.

One of the first substantial meals I made in the new house was Buffalo Chicken Chili Mac. Rachael Ray loves twists on macaroni and cheese, so she often creates cutesy little recipe titles like this. I know it’s not the most creative. Anyway, the recipe is a fairly straightforward chicken chili, spiced up with the usual buffalo ingredients: hot sauce, blue cheese, carrots, and celery. I came to my love of buffalo wings rather late in life, and I don’t know what took me so long. I can’t even really think of a flavor combination that I love more than the happy marriage of hot sauce and blue cheese. When I lived in Austin, my husband and I refused to watch a movie anywhere but the wonderful Alamo Drafthouse, where you can eat and drink while enjoying your movie. Without fail, I ordered the buffalo blue cheese burger, which came smothered in hot sauce and coated in delicate crumbles of blue cheese. Yes, every movie I watched for two years I watched at the Drafthouse, and every time I ordered the same burger.

I digress…the buffalo chicken chili mac is actually a healthy and flavorful weeknight dinner. The recipe calls for whole wheat elbow macaroni, which is tossed with a saute of finely chopped chicken breast, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, and hot sauce. The mixture is poured into a casserole dish, sprinkled with a combination of pepper jack cheese and blue cheese, and placed under the broiler for just a few minutes, allowing the cheeses to become golden brown and delicious. Yes, that might be my fifth use of the word “delicious” thus far…that just happens a lot when you’re fortunate enough to find great recipes! My husband and I both enjoyed the dish tremendously, and it lasted for several meals, which is especially great in these troubled financial times.

Yet another success was Bacon-Wrapped Salmon with Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli, another offering from Rachael Ray. My mother-in-law likens salmon to candy, and I have to agree with her-it’s got such a distinctive, heavenly flavor, and you don’t have to do a thing extra to make that flavor stand out. Of course, adding bacon to anything only increases the delicious factor, and that wasn’t any different for this dish. It was exceedingly easy-I started with the potatoes, because I knew they would take a while to be just right for mashing, and the salmon and broccoli went into the oven at just the same time. The recipe called for two interesting additions: cream steeped with thyme and lemon peel for the mashed potatoes and maple syrup melted with soy sauce to baste the salmon. After I heated the pot with the cream, I tossed the broccoli with garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. It took approximately two minutes to wrap each filet in bacon (one slice per filet), and the fish and broccoli roasted for 20 minutes. By that time, my potatoes (a lovely mix of red, yukon, and purple baby potatoes that I purchased at Trader Joe’s) were done. The final product was very tasty, and it looked rather fancy, if I do say so myself.

You’ll have to excuse my food photography. I’m no Smitten Kitchen. Thankfully, my husband has considerable skill when it comes to great pictures, so I’ll hopefully be able to employ him more frequently in the future. I neglected to take a photo of the salmon salad, but I was able to find a good representation online. I’m really enjoying seeking out new recipes, though it’s probably a bit too ambitious to try to go all new. Beans and rice will be back soon, I’m sure.

I can’t tell you how much leftover guacamole I’ve eaten.

November 23, 2008

Today was spent, as most of our weekends have been (and will be, for the foreseeable future) on further preparing our house for real living! Most of the kitchen cabinet doors have been attached, and I have found almost all of our dishes. Thus far, there has been only one Fiestaware casualty-one of my peacock coffee mugs. I wanted to take a picture of how lovely all of the plates, bowls, mugs, and various serving ware items look in the white cabinets, but I figured the effect would be even better once the kitchen is completely finished.

I prepared my first official meal (grilled cheese sandwiches and beans and rice do not count!) on Thursday night. For the inaugural meal, I selected cold chicken satay noodles, one of my most favorite dishes. It’s a very simple dish, mostly because it calls for a rotisserie chicken. I’ve really come to appreciate rotisserie chickens-flavorful, relatively inexpensive, and very little preparation involved! The chicken is tossed with whole wheat spaghetti, thinly sliced spinach and carrots, and an absolutely heavenly AND addictive peanut and soy sauce. I could eat buckets of these noodles, and I’ve even been known to sneak a small bowl in the morning! They are also the only dish that I make with whole wheat pasta that my fairly non-discriminating husband will eat. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get him to really enjoy whole wheat pasta. Needless to say, we had the nicest little meal together at our own dining room table, and I was bursting with happiness at having been able to cook in my own house.

We spent the morning raking leaves and mowing the lawn. Actually, my husband mowed the lawn, and I followed along behind, picking up the 1000’s of tiny avocados that have been tumbling from the tree in our front yard. I’m going to have to read up on avocado trees and make sure I’m doing everything I can to make ours healthy. As you can see,

the tree in the front is certainly producing a plentiful amount of fruit, but they are immature. Imagine how much money that blue bucket would be worth if it was full of ripe, mature avocados? It’s mind-boggling! By the way, I don’t know why my hand is so freakishly swollen-looking here. It’s the angle, I promise!

We set up a little table in the kitchen, a breakfast nook of sorts, and I couldn’t resist including this picture:

Look at that beautiful bowl of Meyer lemons! From my own tree! For the non-cookbook obsessed crowd, Meyer lemons are a highly coveted, expensive variety of lemon. They have a more spicy aroma and taste than a conventional lemon. Lucky us.

By far the highlight of the day, however, was using my new avocado picker (a long pole with a hook and basket attached to the end) to pluck a slew of avocados from my healthy tree in the backyard. It was a delightful feeling to yank the avocados down! We’re still not sure about the ripening process, so we’re just going to try putting them in a brown paper bag to see if that helps. Of course, I had to photograph them first.

the BEST fish tacos

August 30, 2008

I recently made the MOST delicious fish tacos. Not that I’m bragging about my culinary skills, because the recipe certainly wouldn’t register a high level of difficulty, but the tacos were wildly successful. I’ve made fish tacos several times, and they’re actually one of my favorite things to eat or even order in a Mexican restaurant. The other recipes I’ve tried were all good, but this one has proved to be the best. It came, of course, from Rachael Ray, in the May issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. The picture that I’ve posted is actually from the magazine, as my husband and I were too busy scarfing them down to take our own picture.

The recipe actually calls for using two layers of tortilla for each taco-a corn tortilla hard shell and a flour tortilla. I deviated from this aspect of the recipe, mainly because I don’t really love store-bought flour tortillas (I’m from West Texas, the land of sublime Mexican food!) and I LOOOOVE soft corn tortillas. I found the perfectly sized package of corn tortillas at Trader Joe’s and used them instead, with only one tortilla per taco. I also used tilapia instead of mahi-mahi, another common practice of mine. Tilapia is a good sturdy fish, with a subtle, non-fishy flavor, that happens to be very reasonably priced!

These tacos are unique because of the addition of jalepeno and red onion-spiked black beans, which act as a spread for the tortilla. They’re topped with the nicely flaked fish (I made sure to season my fish well with salt and lime juice) and a red cabbage slaw, a condiment traditionally used for fish tacos. It was the first time that I’ve made the cabbage slaw for fish tacos, and it made a huge difference to the intense flavor of the dish. I was quite liberal with the hot sauce that goes into the slaw, so the tacos were extra spicy. I also made fresh guacamole, which the recipe didn’t call for, but made it all the more delicious!

Making guacamole is one of the most satisfying activities for a cook, especially when the avocados are just right. I mashed two avocados, a finely chopped jalepeno, chunks of two red plum tomatoes, and sliced scallions all together, then squeezed a generous amount of lime juice over the mixture and added salt and pepper. I dolloped the guacamole on top of the fish, and we dove into the tacos.

While they weren’t the neatest dish and the added layer of beans caused the tortilla to bend a bit under the weight, the tacos were heavenly. It felt a bit like eating a barbecue dinner so good that you don’t care about how much sauce is getting on your face and hands. I definitely plan to stick to this recipe when I make fish tacos again!

Here’s the recipe:

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast

March 2, 2008

Here is yet another dish from 365: No Repeats (otherwise known as the Rachael Ray cookbook that I rely upon the most) that was utterly satisfying and yummy. I have combed through this particular cookbook many, MANY times, and often my eyes lit upon the recipe for “Creamy Chicken and Asparagus on Toast.” Somehow I always felt the ingredient list was rather decadent, including Black Forest ham, chicken, half and half, and (my mouth is watering thinking of it), Gruyere cheese (Gruyere cheese, like rice cookers, deserves its own special post). Needless to say, after dismissing it time after time with healthy eating in mind, I finally decided that I must give in and try it.

One of the best parts of the dish is the Provence-like flavors that result in the combination of sauteed onions, thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper. This central element delicately permeates the rest of the dish, in a wonderful, non-overpowering way. After the aforementioned ingredients are sauteed (until the onions are translucent-the “rule” for sauteed onions), they are removed from the pan to make room for chicken breast, which is then nicely browned in preparation for the toasts.

The “toasts” are created from a single slender baguette, which is split in half lengthwise and then quartered into 4 roughly even portions. The recipe calls for scraping a bit of the extraneous bread from the cavity of the loaf and discarding it, but as I had a rather small baguette to begin with, I dispensed with this instruction and used all of my bread. Each piece is then buttered with a delicious compound butter of sorts, which I made in one of my trusty green ramekins by churning a cold chunk of butter with chopped flat leaf parsley and freshly ground pepper and salt. The bread is then placed into the oven until it is a light golden brown.

While the bread is toasting, the onion mixture is tossed back into the pan with the chicken and dusted with flour. A bit of white wine, chicken stock, and half and half are added to create a thick, creamy sauce. Bright green lengths of asparagus and chopped ham are then stirred in. The toasts are removed from the oven, and spoonfuls of the creamy chicken are lightly settled onto each large piece. Each “toast” is topped with a mixture of shredded Gruyere and bread crumbs. They are promptly shoved back into the oven to melt and brown the cheese.

While the final result may not be the most attractive dish I have ever made, appearance most certainly belies taste. The toasts are delicious, with a heavenly combination of flavors-a bitter bite of asparagus, salty ham, hearty chicken, creamy sauce, all topped with sharp Gruyere….hmmmmm! I’m almost tempted to make it this very evening!

My First Post

April 15, 2007

The lovely old quote from Little Women, a book that many besides myself cherish, perfectly describes the state of life in which I have happily found myself. Granted, I would hardly give myself the credit that Louisa May Alcott has given Meg-I certainly do not bring as much energy and cheerfulness to my household as I would like!-but I do aspire to make my home a veritable haven of domestic bliss for my adored husband. Unlike Meg, I spend the greater part of each day at my challenging, but rewarding, job as an elementary special education teacher. It’s probably a good thing that I have a limited amount of time on my hands when I get home-I’m fairly easy to distract. Even with that limited time, however, I have found myself wishing that I could document some of my domestic experiences. I’ve been poring over cookbooks almost since I began to read, but oddly enough, it wasn’t until I met my beloved that I was ever inspired to actually cook any of the recipes I relentlessly read about. He’s a man of many talents, including an innate ability to know exactly how much flour and butter to combine to make a white sauce and a sixth sense about the readiness of a heated pan for a pile of onions and garlic. While he sticks to the things that he knows best (bolognese, steaks, Danish comfort food, French toast) and rarely relies upon recipes, he nonetheless motivated me to delve into cooking for myself. Ever since then, I have been reaping the benefits and enjoying the satisfaction that comes from cooking for yourself and/or the ones you love. Truth be told, my belief in my own cooking abilities comes not just from my man, but also from the oft-loved, oft-loathed food personality phenomena known as Rachael Ray. I won’t go in to all of my feelings about Rachael in my first post, but to put it briefly, she has definitely changed my life. While I occasionally diverge from my Rachael Ray cookbooks and reach for Jamie Oliver or Donna Hay, I almost exclusively cook directly from Rachael Ray’s recipes.

Along with writing about my love (which is rather newfound) of cooking and Rachael Ray’s recipes, I wanted to also express my appreciation of literature. While I certainly don’t read as much now as I did when I lived in New York City and had an hour commute on the subway, each way, each day, I have continued to pore over wonderful books, both old and new. My husband is currently attending graduate school, and when he is overburdened by group projects and study sessions, I often find myself at home, sitting in the peacefulness of warm, golden afternoons at my dining room table, a novel or cookbook propped up in front of me, planning what I might make that evening or wishing that authors of now wrote with the passion and intelligence of authors past.

Needless to say, this blog will be a combination of both my loves, cooking and literature. I won’t ever be an obsessive poster-weeks might go by between posts!-but I am planning to chronicle the most notable of my domestic adventures and my literary revelations. Until next time!