Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

I had to bow out of TWD this week.

I will, however, try to make it up...somehow...but for now if you would like to see what the other bakers took part in for this weeks Tuesday with Dorie, visit the blogroll on Dorie's page. And Thank you to Heather of Sherry Trifle for hosting this week!

Hopefully I will be caught up with life and other things in the kitchen by then!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chicken Napoleons and Girls Night In

Whenever my husband is out of town, some of my favorite things to do is to rent movies he will never watch with me, polish my nails, and eat whatever I want (sometimes this means eating popcorn for dinner).

While I was watching my movie on my 'Girls night in', my big bowl of popcorn just wasn't cutting it, so I wandered into the kitchen in search of something better. (This usually means standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open waiting for the food to talk to me. Yes...food talks to me.) Then I remembered Giada on the Food Network making chicken napoleons earlier that week, and I quickly realized I had everything I needed right in front of me.
Don't you love it when that happens?

I don't know about you, but anything with avocado has my name on it...paired with puff pastry and cayenne pepper? Um....okay?!

Chicken Napoleons
Recipe courtesy of: Giada De Laurentiis, Foodnetwork.com
1 puff pastry sheet, defrosted
2 oz. thinly sliced cooked chicken (I used a left over rotisserie chicken)
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
3 tablespoons reduced fat mayonnaise (or use smart balance or the olive oil mayo)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut puff pastry into 6 rectangles. Place pastry on the prepared baking sheets and poke with a fork all over. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the puff pastry and put another baking sheet in top. (You want the baking sheet to sort of smash the puff pastry down so that it doesn't puff up.) Bake for 25 minutes and cool completely before assembling.

Meanwhile, mix the mayo and cayenne pepper together. Slice the avocado and chicken into pieces.

To assemble the sandwich, start with one piece of pastry, spread the mayo and cayenne mixture on, top with spinach leaves, chicken, and avocado slices. Then, top with another piece of pastry, and repeat layering process ending with another piece of pastry. (There will be a total of 3 pieces of pastry per sandwich.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I am a very visual cook. If I see something that looks appetizing in a magazine or cookbook that is enough to certainly get my attention. So when I was watching the food network one afternoon, my brain went on sensory overload. I wanted to make everything I feasted my eyes on. So I quickly wrote down my list of what I wanted to make and headed to the grocery store. Since my husband loves shrimp and I rarely make it, I decided I would try this baked shrimp scampi I saw Ina Garten of the Barefoot Contessa make.

The recipe suggested deveining these yourself, but let me just tell you, have your fish monger do that for you. It’s a tedious job. Not one that interests me if you catch my drift. However, if you are up for the challenge, You Tube is so kind to provide some handy videos on how to do it.

I really liked this dish because it was fairly easy to put together but it was healthy since I heard today that shrimp is mainly water and is only about 10 calories! (Calorie count is an estimate and may vary on brand, and size). Crazy…I may have to start eating a lot more shrimp.

I halved the recipe since it was just the two of us and that was even way more than we could eat. I served this alongside the Mache Salad and the citrus combo was great.

I may just make this for my super bowl party! No canned crap and chips served at my party…no sireee!

Baked Shrimp Scampi
Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten from foodnetwork.com

2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on (Or have your fish monger do this for you…hint hint!).

Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

In a 14 inch baking dish, arrange the shrimp in a single later with the cut side down and the tails curling upward. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp, then place the butter mixture over the top.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. You can place it under the broiler for a minute to brown the top. Serve with lemon wedges.

Huevos Rancheros and My Favorite Restaurant Breakfast

The weekend will soon be here and it’s time for a great weekend breakfast recipe!

Whenever my husband and I go out to breakfast, one of my favorite things to order is huevos rancheros (I really just like Mexican style breakfast for that matter). But these days, we have been eating in a lot more and I have had to try to figure out how to recreate some of my restaurant favorites.

Making this is rather easy and you can adjust the tastes to your liking. I top mine with different things, depending on what I have in the house. I had left over chipotle chilies, a lonely avocado and a large container of yogurt just begging to be used. I threw in some salsa and black beans and I was well on my way to a great restaurant style breakfast.

Dig in!!

Huevos Rancheros

2 Flour or Corn Tortillas
5 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
¼ cup shredded cheese (you can you a blend or cheddar-whatever you like)
Vegetable oil or Canola oil for cooking the tortillas

Serve along the side: Yogurt/Sour cream, Sliced Avocados, salsa, shredded lettuce, and black beans

Chipotle Cream:
1 teaspoon chipotle chili in adobo sauce, deseeded and diced (these come canned)
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
Pinch of salt
-Mix together in a blender or food processor until completely smooth

Avocado Cream:
1 Avocado
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
Pinch of salt
-Mix together in a blender or food processor until completely smooth

Directions for Huevos Rancheros:
1. In a large skillet, on medium/high, heat oil and toast the tortillas on each side for about 30 seconds each.
2. In a small bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Scramble eggs on a non-stick skillet adding the cheese towards the end to melt.
3. To assemble: Place tortilla on plate, top with lettuce (if using), then black beans, place the eggs with cheese on top. You can top with any sides you like such as: sour cream, avocado cream, chipotle cream, salsa, cilantro, etc.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Berry Surprise Cake

I had to opt out this week's TWD because I had the flu this weekend and I for one couldn't get off the couch! (Plus I don't think anyone would be interested in eating a cake cooked by someone fighting off the plague!)

Thank you Mary from Meet me in the Kitchen for hosting this week (check out her BEAUTIFUL cake(s)! My mouth is still watering... ) and if you would like to see what the other TWD'ers did, check out TWD's blogroll.

I may try to make this attempt to make the cake at some point...but now I must get back to my last minute search for a new car since mine is due within hours. EEEK!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Healthy Dinner Alert: Black Bean Tacos

With these chilly temperatures we are getting in the Detroit area this week my mind is focused on one thing, spring! I think I am in for a long wait.

The good thing is I can take myself away in an instant with the food that I make. These tacos scream warm weather but, thankfully, can be made any time of the year.
I found these in none other than my Bon Appétit magazine. I’ll admit, I initially skipped over reading about these because there was not a picture right next to the recipe (DOH!), until my friend from California called me to say “Oh my, Court! I just made the black bean tacos from Bon Appétit and they were so good, I am making them again today for lunch!” So when I needed something quick to make for dinner that required me NOT to leave my home in these arctic temperatures…I knew these were the tacos for me.

I love these tacos for 3 reasons: They are super quick, they are actually very healthy, and….drum roll…they are delicious!

Bonus: This is a great hearty meal for you vegetarians that even a meat lover will rave about!

Black Bean Tacos
Courtesy of: Bon Appétit magazine, February 2009 issue

1, 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed. (I used fresh black beans)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice ( I added zest of the lime also)
2 cups coleslaw mix
2 green onions, chopped (I omitted but that is just my preference)
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 white or yellow corn tortillas
Hot sauce

In a medium sized bowl, mix cumin and beans together. Partially mash the beans.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk fresh lime juice and olive oil. Add coleslaw, onion, and cilantro. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add tortillas in a single layer onto the skillet and add about ¼ of the bean mixture. Cook for about a minute and then fold over the tortilla. Cook on each side for about a minute each. Plate the tacos, then fill with the slaw mixture and feta cheese. Serve with hot sauce. You can also add yogurt or sour cream, sliced avocado and sliced jalapenos.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie and a Quick Fix Meal, revisited

I know. I had promised to post this chicken pot pie last week when I posted my "Make ahead Meals" but for some reason, time has gotten the best of me.

I made two of these 'pie's' using a rotisserie chicken from the store (how easy is that?). We ate one for dinner and I save the other in the freezer for the following week.

I fashioned the pot pie after one my my favorite local restaurants, Red Coat Tavern in Royal Oak, MI. Since they typically have a 2 hour wait on a Tuesday, I had to figure out my own way to get my pot pie fix. Although I have made pot pie for 10 years now, I think it's evolved as my my skills have grown in the kitchen. So far, this is my best yet.

I used fresh herbs to make this, which I think really makes a difference in flavor. My other trick: a demi-glace for the roux. These can sometimes be tough to find but if you have a nice specialty market nearby they are usually by all the stocks or even up at the meat counter.

The rest is history...

Chicken Pot Pie
Recipe by: Courtney Monigold

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon chicken glace (this just enhances the flavors like you wouldn’t believe, if you can’t find it, leave it out. You can find it by the chicken stocks or at the meat counters)
3 Fresh thyme sprigs (or ½ teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf
2 Carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine (or 1 teaspoon dry)
½ cup onion
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup peas (frozen)
¼ cup corn
1 ½ cup cooked chicken, I used a rotisserie bird
1 store bought puff pastry sheet, defrosted
Salt/pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add carrots, celery, parsnip and a sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft. Then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove thyme stem. Transfer to a large bowl.

To make the roux:
Clean out pot with paper towel. Put pot back on the stove. Add butter and let it melt (but be careful not to burn it). Add flour and stir constantly with a whisk over medium heat until combined and then add the chicken stock, whisking constantly. Add bay leaf and thyme. You can add the chicken glace here. Stir until thickened.  This can sometimes take about 5 minutes.  If you can’t get it to thicken, add cornstarch one teaspoon at a time. Remove bay leaf and thyme stem.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Assemble the pie:
Add roux mixture to the vegetables, add peas and corn, add cooked chicken and mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add to a deep dish pie pan. Roll out puff pastry to fit the top of the pie pan then place over the top of the pie dish and press the edges down to seal it. Put pie dish on a baking sheet to catch any run over and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Top with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

Tip: If you want the top to look ‘shiny’ brush an egg wash over the top with a pastry brush. Egg wash is one egg and either a little water or milk mixed together.  You can also use pie crust.  Just follow the cooking instructions for the pie crust.  I like to use Trader Joe's brand if I DO purchase from the store---it tastes homemade!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

This week’s TWD was Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. If you would like the recipe, you will have to meander over to her page to take a look see.

To be honest, I made these because they looked easy, not necessarily because I wanted to try them. (And yes...these were very easy) I used to love corn muffins and muffins altogether when I was a kid, but for some reason, these days they aren’t my fave. I am not sure why. Maybe it's because I am so used to cakes that I really prefer a moist crumb.

So I decided I would knock off my second week for TWD with these muffins in the event my life became so insanely busy that I didn’t have time to do the other weeks (for someone who is unemployed at the moment…I chuckle, but believe me folks…I am busy. HA!)
Anyhew! I went with all the other TWD’ers and made a pot of chili with these and ate them yesterday for lunch.

I was a little skeptical because I have never made a muffin with peppers, let alone a jalapeño!! But I was pleasantly surprised with the sweet undertones from the sugar. I myself am not a Southerner (only by my grandparents roots could I be considered one) so I prefer the sugar in my muffins. I think its probably really an 'expectation' thing. When I think muffin, I think sweet. I really enjoyed this muffin, especially with my chili! It was so delicious, I had 2.

My homemade chili and TWD Savory Corn and Pepper Muffin, YUM!

I didn’t find these dry at all and that is probably because of the buttermilk, something I require to bake with in my cakes because I think it makes them so much moister.

I will definitely make these again, I loved them!

Muffin with my smart balance butter. lol, have to cut somewhere!

Dry ingredients. I used dry buttermilk, so that is the extra 'dry' you are seeing.

Adding the liquids in...
Look at these colors! You would think it was summer in this arctic chill of winter in Michigan!

Ready for the muffin tins!

Ready for the oven

Monday, January 12, 2009

Avocado and Grapefruit Mache Salad

As I wandered the grocery store over the weekend I was looking for arugula, when I picked up a bag of Mache lettuce by mistake. “Mache,” I said. “Hmm. What the heck is this?” And here I thought I knew about the whole world of lettuce.

Finding something new should be no surprise, because I continue to learn new spices, recipes, and vegetables every day. I used to get intimidated looking at recipes with ingredients I was unsure of, but what I did to overcome that was to just begin wandering the grocery store…looking at everything like it was a shoe store.

Mache, which is also called Lamb’s lettuce, is a very mild, tender lettuce that looks similar to very thick clovers in my opinion. Since Trader Joe was so kind to have a recipe on the back of the bag, I decided, “what the heck, I will try it!” I love salads, and I especially love trying a new one.

So don’t forget to wander the store once in awhile…you never know what you may run into.

Mache Citrus Salad
Recipe courtesy of Trader Joe

1-6 oz. Bag of Mache Lettuce
1 avocado, sliced
1 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
½ cup macadamia nuts, toasted

Citrus Vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, (or just get a juice NOT from concentrate)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime (please, not from the plastic lime)
1 zest of a lime
½ cup good extra virgin olive oil, I used Round Pond Spanish Olive Oil
Salt/Pepper to taste

1. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet at 350 for about 5 minutes. You will know when they are starting to toast because you will smell them. Set aside and let cool completely.
2. Slice up avocado and peel grapefruit. I removed the skin of the grapefruit because I find the skin tough but that’s only my preference.
3. Mix vinaigrette until emulsified (completely combined turning a light yellow) with a whisk.
4. Toss dressing with the salad, then top with grapefruit, avocado, and nuts.

Tip: I served this alongside shrimp scampi which also had citrusy undertones. Very delish! I will post that recipe later this week!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ricotta Cinnamon Pancakes

As I was laying in bed way early this morning, tossing and turning to get comfortable, I hear my husband sigh.

“Buddy? (he calls me buddy), are you up?”

“I can’t sleep.”

“I know, me either. Should we [we really means ‘I’] make pancakes?”

This was 5:30 in the morning, and for the two of us who typically don’t crawl [drag ourselves] out of bed until 7am this wasn’t typical.
Luckily, I had some left over ricotta cheese from earlier in the week that I needed to use up along with an egg white…so I basically had all the ingredients I needed to make some early morning ricotta pancakes. It only took me 10 minutes and we had yummy, fluffy blueberry cinnamon ricotta pancakes.

You know what? It was nice sitting down for breakfast before I sent him off to work…we may have to make this a little tradition.

Ricotta Cinnamon Pancakes
Recipe derived from Cooks.com

¼ lb. Ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup flour
Pinch salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Canola Oil
Pure Maple Syrup


1. Separate egg yolks from the whites. Whip egg whites to stiff peaks.

2. In a separate bowl, break up the egg yolk and whisk in the ricotta cheese and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well and pour in the milk and lightly stir. Add cinnamon, lightly incorporate. Fold in the egg whites.

3. Turn on a griddle to high and heat up oil (I used canola, you can use vegetable if you want). Pour pancakes in ¼ cup fulls and top with blueberries. Brown on each side, turning once.

4. Serve with pure maple syrup, warmed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Enchilada Pie to Make Ahead

There are so many options with this dish. You can serve it with salsa, guac or just about anything!

Enchilada pie
Recipe by: Courtney

Corn Tortillas, cut in half
1 pound of ground turkey, chicken or beef (your choice but I had turkey)
1-2 cans green enchilada sauce
1 can green sliced chilies
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained (I used fresh because that is what I had)
4 cups of shredded cheese (you can use Monterey, sharp cheddar, or a blend)
1 cup Chicken stock
Sliced tomato

Sour Cream
Sliced lime

1. In a baking dish (I used a really small one because it was just for two of us but you could make this in any sized dish you want). Just use a rectangular dish.

2. In a small bowl mix enchilada sauce and chilies together

3. Ladle some enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan. Top with tortillas and assemble similar to assembling lasagna. Top with cheese, ladle enchilada mixture on top, sprinkle black beans on top. Then layer the tortillas on top again and repeat until you reach the top of the dish. Finish off with last of the cheese and pour on the chicken stock over everything. Top with sliced fresh tomatoes.
4. Cover and refrigerate if you are saving for later for up to 2 days. Otherwise, cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour at 350 degrees until cheese is bubbly and brown. Serve alongside sour cream, jalapenos, and slices of avocado. Don’t forget the lime!

Lasagna and a Quick Fix Option

The lasagna as promised. Make this ahead...as a fix and forget dinner.


½ pound lasagna noodles, cooked until el dente (or even less)
3-4 cups Marinara sauce (I make my own, you can use any type of sauce you like)
2 cups Ricotta Cheese (again, I now make my own, you can buy it!)
1 egg
1 teaspoon dry basil or 2 tablespoons of fresh
½ freshly grated parmesan
3-4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1-2 tomatoes, sliced
Salt/pepper to taste

1. Boil a large pot of water, add salt to season the water and add the noodles. Cook for about 4 minutes and put in a colander.

2. In a medium sized bowl, add ricotta cheese, egg, basil, salt, pepper, and parmesan.

3. In a 9x11 pan ladle some sauce at the bottom and layer 3 noodles along the bottom of the pan. Spread each noodle with the ricotta mixture, top with mozzarella, and add a few ladles of sauce.

Keep layering until you begin to reach the top of the pan.

Top off with remaining mozzarella at the top and then top with fresh sliced tomatoes.
Cover and keep refrigerated until you need it or cook immediately on a baking sheet to catch any run off at 350 for 1 hour or until bubbly and brown. Then let the lasagna set for at least 15 minutes before slicing pieces.

Back in the kitchen again....

I’m sad.

My apron has been hung on its lonely hook for 2 ½ days, exactly.

That never happens.

Although I have been posting, I have a confession to make. I stock piled recipes.

I know. I’m guilty.

I do have an excuse that involves a bum mixing arm due to surgery earlier this week but I’m feeling better than expected. After being tortured by watching non-stop food network all week, I just couldn’t take it anymore so I decided to mask my pain by making something. Watching someone else do something I would rather be doing is the equivalent of going to the mall and not being able to buy anything.

Torture. Pure torture.

Seriously though, cooking is the only thing medicinal that works because my mind has been kept awake at night not only on trying to find a comfortable sleeping position but tormented on lists upon lists of things I want to make.

It’s so funny because if I think about going back to my regular job, I would have to say I would be in too much pain to sit at my desk. But when I think about ‘working’ in my kitchen I would have to say any pain would have to be excruciating to keep me out of it. I’m totally addicted.

To prove my neurosis with my kitchen, I worried so much that the pain would keep me couch bound that I even stockpiled meals. I couldn’t bear my husband and I going hungry (or god forbid make him stop on his way home from work to pick something up) so I made my meals Sunday and either froze them or kept them in the fridge, all ready to go with their specific instructions. Why? Because…I’m good like that. *laugh*

I can’t tell you all the days I came home from work running like a chicken with my head cut off figuring out what to make, then stopping at the store, and then rushing to get dinner on the table before the night was over. When I was making all these meals on Sunday I couldn’t help but kick myself for not thinking of this earlier! DUH! Make meals on the weekend and save them…then you always have this stuff on hand. The best part is your kitchen is only destroyed once. Think of it as those new trendy ‘prep a meal’ places I see popping up everywhere.

So here are some quickie recipes for anyone that is super short on time or for those that just work a ton and don’t have time to cook during the week.

Instead of a MASSIVE post...Ill post the recipes separately so they are easy to find on the search.

For now...my battle wound from the nurse who couldnt find a vein. I now have a tingly arm, 3 days after.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Are we approaching a world of “do it yourself”?

Growing up, my dad was always the ultimate handy man. If something broke, he fixed it. Today, I still consider myself my fathers’ daughter…only not in a sense of ‘fixing’ things, but as the ultimate handy wife in the kitchen. I like doing things myself. Whether it be making my own vanilla extract, rolling out my own chicken stock, making my own ravioli, mashing my own potatoes, and even making my own ricotta cheese. Some may find these projects tedious, but I find them fun.

What you may come to realize by making things yourself is the satisfaction that you can do it, and in the meantime realize…that things taste so much better, fresh. I think we are reaching a new age of ‘fresh foods’, organic, local, or what have you because let’s face it folks, it’s time to get back to the simple way of things. (Oh yeah, it’s probably easier to buy that in the store…but what kind of fun would that be?).

I was so excited when I opened up my January Bon Appétit because they featured a “how to” section on ricotta cheese. The headline alone intrigued me to read it but what actually enticed me to try it was how easy it was…and you won’t believe it’s all from ingredients and tools you most likely have at home.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Recipe from: Bon Appétit, January 2009
Yields: 1 ½ cups

8 cups whole milk (8 cups= half gallon)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth and put over a bowl to collect any drainage. (You can find cheesecloth at just about any grocery store. I found mine at Kroger by all the kitchen tools.)

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, simmer the milk and salt on medium-high heat. Don’t boil it.

Once it simmers, stir in the lemon juice until curds form (This will only take about a minute).
With a slotted spoon, spoon out the curds and put them into the colander lined with cheesecloth. Let them drain for only a minute, then add to a bowl and cover and chill for 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Discard the left over liquid from the sauce pan.