Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I'm always on the lookout for a good casserole recipe.  It seems like there are always church potlucks, or a family get together, or a friend having a baby where I need to come up with a good hearty freezer-friendly meal.   I get tired of making the usual lasagna, baked ziti, chicken spaghetti, standards that I always seem to turn to for these events, so when I see casseroles that catch my eye, I always flag them to test out.

I saw this recipe for Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and thought it sounded great for a comforting and hearty casserole. Plus, it has the added bonus of being able to be baked right out of the freezer.  This makes a huge casserole so if you aren't taking this somewhere, you can always divide this into 2 dishes and make one immediately and freeze one for later.

This casserole was creamy, with the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic adding a nice flavor to the sauce.  If you like fettuccine alfredo, you will love this.  It really reminded me of a perfect cross between macaroni and cheese and fettuccine alfredo and really, can you go wrong with that?

6 Tbs. butter, plus more for baking dishes
salt and pepper
1 pound penne rigate or ziti
1 tsp. olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, (8 oz. each), halved horizontally
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups whole milk
10 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 oz.)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided (4 oz).


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 2 shallow 2-quart baking dishes or one large 9x13 casserole dish.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta, and return to pot.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side.  Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.

3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Off heat, gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.

4. Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes; sprinkle each with 1/4 cup Parmesan.

5. Bake uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

To Freeze: Prepare through step 4; let cool. Cover tightly with foil, and freeze up to 3 months.

To Bake From Frozen: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and bake (still covered in foil) on a rimmed baking sheet until center is hot, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil, bake until golden, about 15 minutes more.

Recipe from Everyday Food

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Bars

Maybe you've noticed that I like recipes involving strawberries on my blog.  Strawberries are one of my favorite fruits and once strawberry season hits, I'm always looking for new recipes and trying to find ways to add strawberries into some of my favorite ones.  Besides being delicious, I just love their bright red hue and that when pureed and mixed into icings and batters, it makes the most beautiful shade of pale pink-- no artificial food coloring needed!

These sugar cookie bars have been a favorite recipe of mine since I saw them on Annie's Eats blog last year.  They are delicious (who doesn't like frosted sugar cookies?), make a ton so they're great to make for company, and you can color coordinate the icing to match your favorite color or holiday-- so festive!  I was thinking recently that I bet these would taste great with chopped fresh strawberries mixed in and then I thought, why not add strawberry puree to the icing to make a nice pink strawberry frosting on top? These bars are soft and chewy and already had a vanilla buttercream on top so it was easy to incorporate fresh strawberries to both the cookie and the frosting-- a perfect and easy spring dessert.

I couldn't be happier at how these turned out--can I just say,Yum-- please go make these.  I finely diced the strawberries in order to not have huge chunks of strawberries and that seemed to work well with this batter.  The strawberry frosting was beautifully pink and had a nice sweet mild strawberry taste.  With my inability to resist pale pink strawberry studded desserts, it was hard not to gobble these up, so I had to send them off to work with my husband (especially since these make 4 dozen!).  Definitely give these a try-- I know I will be making them many more times this spring and summer!

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Bars


For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest from 1 lemon
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups fresh strawberries finely diced, divided
1/8 cup sugar

For the strawberry frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups, powdered sugar, sifted
strawberry puree (made from 3/4 cup of the diced strawberries above)

Finely dice the 2 cups of strawberries and mix in a bowl with an 1/8 cup of sugar.  Leave on the counter to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x18 rimmed baking sheet.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together to blend.  Add the dry ingredients together to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Mix in 1 1/4 cups of the diced strawberries and their juices taking care not to over mix.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer.  Bake 10-15 minutes until light golden brown and until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

For the Strawberry Frosting:
Place the remaining strawberries in a food processor (if you have a mini food processor, it works great for this).  Process until the berries are pureed.

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.  Blend in the vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Pour the strawberry puree through a metal strainer and beat another minute or so until the ingredients are combined.  If your icing is too runny at this point, add a little more powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, and mix until the icing reaches the desired thickness.  Spread over the cooled cookies and cut into squares.

Yield:  About 4 dozen

Adapted from Annie's Eats via The Repressed Pastry Chef

Friday, April 6, 2012

Asparagus and Mascarpone Gratin with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

I'm so excited that it's spring and we're starting to see delicious spring produce popping up-- asparagus, artichokes, strawberries, and rhubarb just to name a few.  There are so many fruits and vegetables that are coming into season in so many beautiful colors right now.  I always look forward to seeing asparagus in the spring and enjoy trying out new ways to prepare it each year.  I saw this recipe for Asparagus Gratin, made with mascarpone cheese in this month's Fine Cooking and couldn't wait to try it out when we got together with some friends for dinner recently.  It ended up being a big hit and it's a dish that I'm going to make again for Easter dinner this weekend.  I don't know about you, but I always love to find new vegetable and side dishes to make for company or dinner parties and this really fits that bill.  I find it easy to come up with main courses and dessert (of course!) but always struggle on the sides. This one is definitely a keeper, I'm happy to say. Because you prepare the whole thing in the broiler, the dish comes together in under 20 minutes, and uses only the casserole dish you bake it in.  Plus, how can you go wrong with anything made with mascarpone cheese? The combination of the asparagus with the bread crumbs and the mascarpone was creamy and delicious but not over-powering.

One final note, I'm always a little nervous when broiling because I know things can go from under cooked to scorched in the blink of an eye, so just keep an eye on your dish and set your timer for a minute or so less than the called for time to adjust for your broiler's temperature.  In the final stage when I added the bread crumbs and cheese and put the dish in the broiler to toast the crumbs and melt the cheese, I was a few seconds shy of burning the topping. Thankfully, I just happened to check on the dish a little before the timer went off and grabbed it before my bread crumbs burned.  I found that for my oven, it only took a little over a minute to melt the mascarpone and brown the breadcrumbs.

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 of a small yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
5 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional. I didn't have any and thought it was delicious without it)

Position oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high.  Trim 1 1b. asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces.  In a 2-quart gratin dish that is safe for the broiler, toss the asparagus with half a finely diced small yellow onion, 1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Broil until crisp-tender, about 6-minutes but, broilers can vary so it may be good to check at about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile toss 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs with 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Dollop 5 oz. mascarpone in little spoonfuls over the asparagus, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (if using), and top with the breadcrumb mixture.  Broil until bubbly and golden-brown, about 1 to 2 minutes more.  Serve.

Adapted from Fine Cooking

Serves 4

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hummingbird Bundt Cake

Whew! I can't believe how long it's been since my last post.  Here I was planning all of these nice things for St. Patrick's Day when things at work went into overdrive and now it's the week before Easter!  I missed blogging, and cooking altogether for that matter.  But, except for microwaving the occasional Lean Cuisine, my kitchen was a very neglected room these past few weeks.

I thought this Bundt cake would be perfect for an Easter brunch or dessert.  If you've never heard of Hummingbird cake, it's sort of like carrot cake but just swap out the carrots for banana and pineapple.  The end effect is dense, moist, slightly spiced cake that is somewhere between carrot cake and banana bread.  Hummingbird cake is usually topped with cream cheese frosting and this version has a gorgeous cream cheese glaze drizzled over the top.

Banana desserts are rare on my blog because, I will admit something to you all, I just absolutely hate bananas.  There are not many foods that I feel so passionately evil towards, but bananas would probably be close to the top of the list.  I can't even smell them without gagging.  My husband assisted me with mashing the overripe bananas and I have to give him a big thank you for sparing me the gross part.  :)

But, once the cake is cooked, it is lovely-- as the banana is not overpowering.  It was sweet from the fruit and spicy from the cinnamon and crunchy from the toasted pecans.  The cream cheese glaze was a perfect topping and pooled beautifully all over the cake.  This is definitely going to be a cake I make often, as it was incredibly easy and most of the ingredients are those that I usually have on hand.

Cake Batter:
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4 large)
1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 oz. cream cheese, cubed and softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk

1. Prepare Cake Batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in eggs and next 4 ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Sprinkle 1 cup toasted pecans into a greased and floured 14-cup bundt pan.  Spoon batter over pecans.

3. Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 2 hours).

4.  Prepare Glaze:  Process cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. milk in a food processor until well blended. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time, processing until smooth.  Immediately pour glaze over cooled cake, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup toasted pecans.

Serves 10 to 12

Recipe from Southern Living

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...