Monday, October 22, 2007

Balsamic Wings

I've always liked Giada de Laurentiis's Balsamic Chicken Wings, but I thought they were missing a little something. Then, one night when we were eating them and my husband suggested we try frying the wings to get the skin crunchy. We tried it last night, and man, were they good that way. I can't wait to make them again. We gobbled them up way too quickly to get a picture.

Balsamic Chicken Drumettes

Recipe by Giada de Laurentiis, adapted

*Serves 2-4*
Cook Time - 20 minutes

½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
5 sprigs of rosemary
5 garlic cloves, chopped
10 to 12 chicken drumsticks
Oil for frying

Combine the balsamic, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves, in a medium pot. Bring the marinade to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook over low heat until thick, about 15 minutes. Reserve. If sauce is too thin, add a cornstarch/water mixture.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F. (We used our deep fryer).

Meanwhile, place chicken wings in a large re-sealable bag. Shake with flour to coat.

Fry drumsticks until cooked through (Should be about 5-10 minutes).

Place chicken wings in pot with the sauce and shake to coat.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mac & Cheese, with a twist

I know I've said before that I really like Rachael Ray's concept of the "30-Minute Meal," but usually don't like her actual recipes. I found this one a while back and thought it looked interesting. My husband picked it out for dinner on Friday. We both thought it was great.

Italian Mac & Cheese
Recipe by Rachael Ray (my changes noted)
Prep Time - 10 minutes, Cook Time - 20 minutes

1 pound ziti rigate, penne rigate or cavatappi (I used shells - It was what we had on hand)
1 pound Italian bulk sweet sausage (I used hot)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I omitted)
1 tablespoon butter
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
12 crimini mushrooms, sliced (I omitted)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (10-ounce) sack, 2 1/2 cups, shredded Italian 4 cheese blend, available on dairy aisle
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
1 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco), optional
1/2 cup Parmesan, a couple of handfuls

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and cook pasta to a chewy al dente, about 8 minutes.

In a nonstick skillet, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain cooked crumbles on paper towel lined plate. Return pan to heat and add extra-virgin olive oil, butter, garlic and mushrooms. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Saute 3 to 5 minutes, until mushrooms are lightly golden. (Because I omitted the mushrooms, I added the garlic to the sausage about 1/2 way through the browning).

Preheat broiler to high.

To mushrooms, add flour and stir, cooking 2 minutes. Whisk in stock, then stir in cream. (Since I omitted the mushrooms, I added the stock first and whisked in the flour, then added the cream). Bring cream to a bubble, then stir in 2 cups of 4 cheese blend. When cheese has melted into sauce, add tomatoes. When sauce comes to a bubble, remove from heat and adjust seasonings, adding hot sauce if desired.

Combine cheese sauce with sausage and pasta, transfer to baking dish, casserole or oven safe serving platter. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of 4 cheese blend and the grated Parmesan over the top and brown under hot broiler. (This only took about 2 minutes)

Three Cheese Pasta

This week was really cold. So, it was time to try some of the heavier, baked pastas. I printed off this recipe from a while ago and it reminded me of a baked ziti I made a while ago - but we both liked this recipe better.

Three Cheese Baked Pasta
Recipe from (my changes noted)
Prep Time - 20 min -Cook Time 30 min
Serves 12

1 pound uncooked pasta (I used about 2/3 lb of rotini)
1 pound ground beef (I used 1/2 lb)
1 onion, chopped (I used about 1/4 of a really big onion)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 1/2 cups tomato pasta sauce (I used my homemade - about 4 cups)
6 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream (I used about 1 cup)
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (I didn't measure)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I didn't measure)

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, cook ground meat, garlic, and onion in a skillet over medium heat until meat is browned. Stir in pasta sauce, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. (I think I did about 10)
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer the ingredients in the prepared baking dish as follows: (thin layer tomato sauce), half of the cooked pasta, all the provolone cheese, all the sour cream, half of the sauce mixture, remaining pasta, mozzarella cheese, and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
*I served this with a garlic bread made from Texas Toast*

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Brownies, anyone?

I've taken a brief break from blogging, but I haven't taken a break from cooking. I hadn't baked in a while, so I decided to make brownies. Now, if I'm going to eat a brownie, I'd much rather it be a really good, full fat one than a low or non-fat one that tastes like preservatives (I'm talking to you Trader Joe's No-Pudge!!). I really hate to brag, but I think my brownies are the best. They're rich and fudgy and pretty much just melt in your mouth.

Family recipe - original source unknown

1 cup butter, melted (must be butter)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into 9x13 inch brownie pan and bake 30-40 min or unti toothpick comes out clean.

Let brownies cool and then with chocolate frosting (recipe below).


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream (substitutes do not work)
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Mix together cream and sugars. Bring to a boil & boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Add chocolate chips, cover, and walk away. In about 20 minutes, uncover and stir. Keep uncovered. Walk away again.

Let stand to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Frost brownies when the frosting has reached your desired thickness.

*Shameless plug for my brownie pan... I got a Calphalon brownie pan for a bridal shower and I swear my brownies taste better when I make them in that pan than when I make them in a regular 9 x 13 pan. If you're into brownies, you should check out the pan.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Orange Chicken

Last night I was on my own for dinner. My husband was off at a friend's house watching football. Since he doesn't like Chinese, and I love it, I usually use the times he's not home for dinner to make it. About a month ago, I bought a package of Mandarin Orange Chicken from Trader Joe's and decided it was the night to make it. I highly recommend it.

I fried the pieces for about 5-7 minutes using our deep fryer and then tossed the pieces with the sauce. I served it with some brown rice on the side. I wanted it again for lunch today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Wiener Schnitzel

I was first introduced to schnitzel when I was 18 years old and touring Europe. I didn't actually visit Vienna on that trip, but I found schnitzel on the menu all over Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. I loved it at first bite and was determined to learn how to make it. I was wholly unsuccessful. Even two more trips to Austria didn't give me any deep insight how it's made. Then, about 6 years later, I attended an Austrian cooking class and got a recipe for it. I tried it and it tastes just like I remembered it tasting in Austria.

Wiener Schnitzel
Recipe from a chef from Austria (I don't remember his name)

4 veal cutlets (I normally use chicken, but veal is traditional)
Unseasoned bread crumbs (use regular, not panko)
1 lemon wedge (optional)
Lard, for pan frying (I normally use vegetable oil, but lard is traditional)
2 eggs, beaten and mixed with a little water

Pound the cutlets as thin as you can. Literally, just wack the h#ll out of them.

Prepare three shallow dishes:

1. Bread crumbs (No set amount, just dump some in).
2. Eggs
3. Flour, seasoned with salt & pepper (again, no set amount - Just add some. You should be able to see pepper flecks in the flour.

Meanwhile, heat oil or lard in a pan over medium heat.

Dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg, and then the bread crumbs. Shake off any excess and pan fry about 3 min per side, or until the coating is a golden brown and internal chicken temperature is 160 degrees. Repeat with each cutlet. Briefly drain on paper towel.

Squeeze a tiny bit of lemon on each cutlet (I usually skip this because we don't regularly keep lemons).

Hamburger Helper Inspirations

I'm not afraid to admit it - I like Hamburger Helper. In college and law school, when I barely had any time or cooking skills, I made it frequently. However, I know how full of sodium and preservatives it is, so I basically never eat it anymore. Tonight, I decided to try my hand at a homemade version. I was impressed with the concoction.

Italian-style Shells
Inspired by Hamburger Helper

*I didn't really pay attention to my measurements, so the following is just an estimate.*

1 lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, diced fine
salt & pepper to taste
Marinara sauce (I used my homemade stuff, recipe below)
Uncooked pasta shells (probably about 1 1/2 or 2 cups)
Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Brown ground beef with onions & garlic. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Drain off any excess fat and return to pan.

Add about 2 cups marinara sauce and uncooked pasta. The sauce should be fairly thin at this point. Add water if necessary. I think I added about a cup of water.

Bring to a boil. Stir, and reduce heat. Simmer, covered for about 15-20 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Stir a few times during cooking. If it gets too dry, add a bit more water.

Top with shredded Mozzarella cheese.

Marinara Sauce

*All measurements of spices are estimates*

2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups diced tomatoes, with juices
1/2 cup onion, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP flat leaf parsley, chopped.
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp seasoning salt
1 TBSP sugar
2 bay leaves

In large pot, combine tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water. Stir.

Add EVOO, onions, garlic, & parsley. Stir.

Add seasonings and stir.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hr. Stir a couple times during cooking. Remove bay leaves before serving.

**When I make this sauce for spaghetti, I drain the tomatoes before serving and add a couple TBSP of tomato paste - the above is what I use for baked pastas.**