Monday, July 30, 2007

You will go Banana's for this....

Any one from the South will agree that Banana Pudding is a classic. When Ben brought home a Southern Living magazine with this recipe I knew it'd be a hit. Banana Pudding Pie is the ultimate Southern dessert. It was the perfect compliment to Lexington style bbq and huspuppies.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but it's easy and worth the wait! Make sure to hang on to your egg yolks--you'll be using them in the Vanilla Cream Filling.

Banana Pudding Pie (Southern Living)

1 (12-oz.) box vanilla wafers, divided
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 large bananas, sliced
Vanilla Cream Filling (recipe below)
4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Set aside 30 vanilla wafers; pulse remaining vanilla wafers in a food processor 8 to 10 times or until coarsely crushed. (Yield should be about 2 1/2 cups.) Stir together crushed vanilla wafers and butter until blended. Firmly press on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a 9-inch pieplate.

Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool.

Arrange banana slices evenly over bottom of crust. Prepare Vanilla Cream Filling, and spread half of hot filling over bananas; top with 20 vanilla wafers. Spread remaining hot filling over vanilla wafers. (Filling will be about 1/4 inch higher than top edge of crust.)

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves. Spread meringue evenly over hot filling, sealing the edges.

Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool 1 hour on a wire rack or until completely cool. Coarsely crush remaining 10 vanilla wafers, and sprinkle evenly over top of pie. Chill 4 hours.

Vanilla Cream Filling

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
4 egg yolks
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until it reaches the thickness of chilled pudding. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will be thick enough to hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Use immediately.

More Casseroles...

This must be the month of casseroles! Until recently I had never heard of Turkey Tetrazzini or Chicken Tetrazzini. After the holidays I used leftover turkey for the Turkey Tetrazzini casserole and recently found one for chicken. While making this I was slightly worried about the lack of flavor since there isn't much sauce to speak of, but it was full of flavor. The almond slivers add a wonderful crunch factor. The original recipe called for Sherry, but I only had vermouth and used that. It was a pretty strong taste, in a good way, but next time I think I'll use white wine. I served this with a side Southern Green Beans as something different than salad. We make these green beans quite a lot!

Chicken Tetrazzini (Southern Living)

3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
(10-ounce) container refrigerated Alfredo sauce
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
7 ounces vermicelli, cooked

Stir together chicken, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and next 7 ingredients; stir in pasta. Spoon mixture into 6 lightly greased 6-ounce baking dishes or an 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Southern Green Beans (Rachel Ray)

1 1/4 pounds green beans
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Cook green beans in 1-inch simmering water, covered, for 6 minutes. Drain and set aside. Return skillet to stove and set burner to medium high. Add bacon and brown. When fat begins to render, add chopped onions to the pan and cook until tender with the bacon. Add cooked green beans to the pan and turn to coat in bacon drippings and onions. When the beans are hot and bacon crisp at edges and onions translucent add vinegar to the pan and season with beans with sugar. Allow the vinegar to evaporate and the sugar to combine with pan drippings, 1 to 2 minutes, then serve.

My favorite thing to cook...

Lasagna! It's quite ironic I love lasagna now. When I was about 7 years old I remember eating lasagna at the beach right before we loaded up the van to come back home. A stomach bug was being passed around our family and later that night I came down with. It took many years for me to be able to eat any pasta with cheese in it. And slowly almost 20 years later I've learned to love it. It's almost like an art layering the noodles, cheese and sauce. It's so hearty and the perfect comfort food.

I've made several versions of lasagna and we have two favorites. This is the veggie lasagna I first made for Ben's 27th birthday party when we hosted our family and friends over. It was a huge hit and even Ben who was a little skeptical of meatless lasagna loves it.

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna (Allrecipes)

1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 (26 ounce) jars pasta sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 (15 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Rinse with cold water, and drain.

In a large saucepan, cook and stir mushrooms, green peppers, onion, and garlic in oil. Stir in pasta sauce and basil; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.
Mix together ricotta, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, and eggs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread 1 cup tomato sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer 1/2 each, lasagna noodles, ricotta mix, sauce, and Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering, and top with remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Quiche Lorraine

I remember the first time I'd ever had the award winning West End dining hall at Virginia Tech. It was one of my favorite meals...quiche and salad...the perfect hearty lunch right before the lazy afternoon nap. I finally found a recipe that duplicates that quiche and also tastes pretty close to the Biltmore's quiche recipe you'd find in the Stable's Cafe.

Make sure you don't drain the bacon grease and go ahead and cook the onions in the grease. I think it's the secret ingredient.

Quiche Lorraine (Allrecipes)

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
6 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Line pastry with a double layer of aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 4 to 5 minutes more, or until crust is set. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons bacon grease in skillet. Cook onion in reserved drippings until tender; drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk and salt. Stir in bacon and onion. In a separate bowl, toss cheese and flour together. Add cheese to egg mixture; stir well. Pour mixture into hot pastry shell.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until knife inserted into center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edges of crust with foil to prevent burning. Let quiche cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Meal Fit for A King...and Queen!

This past weekend we bought a new grill... and what better way to break it in than with the ultimate steak...filet mignon. Ben did a supberb job with the steaks. He wrapped them in peppercorn crusted bacon, seasoned them with salt and pepper...then grilled them over charcoal. I made ultimate baked potatoes, complete with more bacon and loads of pepperjack and sharp cheddar cheese. For the greens, I made one of favorite asparagus dishes...Lemon Asparagus. It's one of my Rachel Ray favorites and dresses up any dish.

To finish off our meal, I made a special request from Ben out of my new Perfect Scoop Ice Cream recipe book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is an ice cream fanatic. It has flavors of ice cream you can make with your home ice cream maker that you can't find any where else...such as Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream.

Lemon Asparagus

1 lb asparagus, trimmed
1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Steam asparagus in 1 inch of water in a saute pan for 5-6 minutes. Drain water, add olive oil, juice of the lemon, salt and pepper.

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

7 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Guinness Stout
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the chocolate pieces in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.

Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. In a seperate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as your stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer over the milk chocolate, then stir until the chocolate is melted over low heat. Once the mixture is smooth, whisk in the cream, then the Guinness and vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refridgerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer instructions.

Sausage, Zucchini & Feta Casserole

This casserole sounded like a weird combination, but I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand. I also used Al Fresco Garlic and Herb chicken sausage....which I received a free coupon. This ended up being a pretty inexpensive dinner, which was also a casserole, so it made excellent leftovers for lunch. Don't be too afraid of the feta cheese...the strong flavor didn't come through as much as I thought it would. And I was a little worried the flavors wouldn't be very developed since there wasn't much "sauce." I think I was more surprised at Ben's reaction...which he loved it.

Sausage, Zucchini & Feta Casserole (Cooking Light)

2 1/2 cups uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
8 ounces chicken sausage
Cooking spray
teaspoon olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups vertically sliced onion (about 1)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cook pasta in boiling water 5 minutes, omitting salt and fat; drain.

Remove casings from sausage. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage to pan; cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from pan. Heat oil in pan. Add zucchini, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and zucchini begins to brown, stirring occasionally.

Combine broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute. Combine zucchini mixture, pasta, sausage, and feta cheese in a large bowl; toss well. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

An Oldie, but a Goodie

I can't really take credit for this recipe...Ben actually found the recipe and made it for the first time and we've modified it a little...Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole. I've been noticing a trend in our dinners which are mostly casseroles, but with Ben working most week nights it's the best to take to work, plus it's a yummy homecooked, complete meal.

Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole

1 box Uncle Ben's® Country Inn® Broccoli Rice Au Gratin
2 cups water, boiling
1/2 can cream of broccoli condensed soup
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine rice and contents of seasoning packet in 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Add boiling water and cream of broccoli; mix well. Wash hands. Lay chicken breasts on top of rice, sprinkle with garlic powder, cover and bake 30 minutes.2. Add broccoli, cover and bake 4 to 6 minutes or until chicken is done (internal temp 170°F).3. Sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and begins to brown.

It's Been A While...

Before starting my new job Ben and I spent many days at the beach to enjoy my time off. So it's been a while since I updated the blog. We had a wondeful time at the beach and even made it to Charleston one day...just for the day. We enjoyed lunch at Stickey Fingers and dinner at The Noisy Oyster. Nothing beats their shrimp and grits.

In the mean time....I've made several dishes at home. One being a perfect summertime dessert...Blueberry Peach Cobbler. Last year at our wedding we made small jars of homemade blueberry jam. We found a blueberry farm near our house and picked buckets and buckets of blueberries. Almost one year later, we still have a few leftover blueberries we've frozen. But this dessert is wonderful with frozen peaches and blueberries from your grocery store as well.

Peach & Blueberry Cobbler (Cooking Light)

1 cup reduced-fat baking mix
1/2 cup regular oats
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chilled reduced-calorie stick margarine, cut into small pieces
4 cups frozen sliced peaches
2 cups frozen blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Vanilla low-fat frozen yogurt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; cut in margarine with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.

Combine peaches and blueberries in a 2-quart casserole, and sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar evenly over fruit. Crumble oat mixture evenly over fruit. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until cobbler is bubbly. Top cobbler with frozen yogurt, if desired.