Sunday, October 31, 2010

HerbTwice-baked Potatoes

Sorry it's been forever since I posted. I'm working swing shift at my new job and it has taken getting used to.

Potatoes are always a great side dish, but sometimes I don't like having to mash potatoes right before a meal and plain baked potatoes are kinda boring and dry. These are an impressive and easy side dish that can be made a day or two before and just popped in the oven when you are ready to serve them. They class up any meal, which is always nice. While I am giving you estimations of ingredients you may want to add a little more or less of some ingredients (such as sour cream) depending on your  tastes and how dry the potatoes are.
Also, you can play around with flavors and even makes these a full meal if you add meat. Such as a ham and swiss potato or broccoli cheddar.

Herb Twice-baked Potatoes
(Serves about six depending on the size of potatoes)

6 large russet potatoes, baked  and cooled (cover with foil and pierce a few times, bake one hour at 375 degrees)
2/3 cup low fat sour cream
3-4 tablespoons butter (softened)
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons fresh chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Lay the potatoes down and lengthwise cut the tops off.  Scrape the flesh off the removed tops into a large bowl. With a spoon, scoop out the insides of the potatoes, leaving about 1/4 of an inch lining the potato skins. Add the removed flesh to the bowl. Add the milk, butter, sour cream, herbs, and salt and pepper and mix well. This should resemble a dense mashed potato. Adjust seasonings as need, also if it is too dry add a little more milk or sour cream. If making cheese variety add the cheese in and stir.  Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins. It should mound over the edges, make sure that each potato has an even amount. Sprinkle either herbs or cheese on top of each to add to the presentation. At this point you can either refrigerate the potatoes to serve at a latter time or bake them
To bake the potatoes, place them in a 9 X13 dish and put in a 350 degree oven. Cook until the tops start to brown, and cheese is melted, and the potatoes are heated through. This should take 20-30 minutes. If baking straight from the refrigerator, cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

Potato leek soup is one of the classic leek dishes. It is also easy to make and is a nice warm and filling fall meal. Leeks are one of those forgotten vegetables. To be honest I had never tired a leek until about a year ago, but it is a great ingredient to add a little different flavor to your food. They have a mild onion taste and are related to scallions. With leeks you have to know which parts to use and how to clean them. The only part of the leek you want to use  is the stem. The green tops are bitter and tough. Next, since the leek grows in consecutive rings, dirt will get trapped between the layers. It is important to rinse the leeks after chopping to make sure that the grit doesn't end up in your food.

Potato Leek Soup
serves 5-6

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks chopped
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth or stock
3 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
1 cup low fat milk
salt and pepper
chopped parsley (optional)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the broth. Add the potatoes and some salt and pepper, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes (until potatoes are soft). Stir in milk. Puree the soup in a blender (or if you have one of those cool hand held immersion blenders, use that) and adjust seasons by adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parsley sprinkled on top.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies can be absolutely delicious if baked right, but otherwise they are simply overcooked and bland. I wanted to find a recipe for the perfect cookie and I think this is a winner.  This recipe is a homemade version of large and chewy cookies found at bakeries. I included the weights for ingredients, since your baked goods will turn out better if you cook with weights rather then measurements. A kitchen scale is nice item to have, although if you don't do a lot of baking it really is not a necessity.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(From The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Cookbook)
Make about 18 large cookies

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour (10 2/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons  (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (you can use salted butter, just omit the 1/2 teaspoon salt)
1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips ( I like to use half chips and half chunks)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper. Make sure the oven racks are in the middle of the oven.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.
With a stand mixer or hand mixer beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla  and beat until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until it is all combined. This should only take about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips.
Divide the dough into 18 portions and roll them into balls. To create a nice bumpy texture on top of the cookies: take a dough ball and pull it into two equal halves, push the two halves together with the uneven surfaces ( where the dough pulled apart)on top, Place these on a cookie sheet. Space six cookies on each sheet.
Bake until the cookies are light brown on the edges. They should be puffy and soft on the inside (they will flatten as they cool). This should take around 15-17 minutes. If baking two pans at once make sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking time. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Laurie's Aunt Suzy's Crepes

One of my best friends and college roommate, Laurie, brought this recipe to our apartment and it has been my go to crepe recipe ever since. It cooks up well and has wonderful flavor. While crepes may take a little more time then something like pancakes, they aren't as hard or time consuming as people tend to believe. Plus they are a classy and fun breakfast option. I love to fill them with fresh fruit  (I put raspberries and peaches in the one pictured),  cinnamon sugar and butter, or for an extra treat- Nutella and banana. These could also hold up to savory ingredients like ham and cheese. The best thing about crepes is that they are small enough that you can try multiple filling options in the same meal. Just imagine a big pile of crepes and a table full of filling options- breakfast heaven!

Laurie's Aunt Suzy's Crepes
Makes about 12-14 crepes in an eight inch skillet

3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter

Mix the eggs, milk, sugar and salt  in a bowl with a hand mixer. Mix in the flour and then the melted butter.

Heat a greased eight inch skillet on medium-low heat.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter in the middle of the hot pan. Turn the pan in a circular motion until the crepe covers the bottom of the pan in an even layer. When the edges start to pull away from the pan and it no longer looks wet on top, flip it to the other side. Cook about one more minute, until lightly browned.   Remove from pan and fill.

Note: Some pans hold heat better then others. I generally have to continually adjust the heat to make sure the crepes don't cook too fast and burn, or under cook.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pork Cutlets with Noodles

This month's Real Simple magazine has a section of easy menus for the entire month. Quite a few looked delicious, so expect to see more posts from this magazine. This recipe comes together quickly and has a nice Asian flavor (the original title calls it spicy noodles, but no one in my family felt it had much heat). It uses Udon noodles, which add a nice texture and soak up flavor. Overall, I would say this is a filling and different week night hit.

Pork Cutlets with Noodles
(taken from the October 2010 Real Simple Magazine)

4 cups low sodium chicken stock (since all the liquid is soaked up by the noodles, make sure to use low-sodium broth or use a mixture of broth and water)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 pound udon noodles (found in the Aisan section of grocery stores, or at specialty markets)
1/2 pound mushrooms, de-stemed, and sliced (I used regular white mushrooms, but shiitake would also work)
1 red jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
4 thin pork cutlets (about 1/2 inch thick)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg beaten
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 green onions sliced (I absolutely hate green onions, so I left them out)

In a  large pot, bring the broth and ginger to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the noodles are almost done (about 6 minutes). Add the mushrooms and jalapenos and simmer until mushrooms are done. Stirring to avoid the noodles sticking to the pan.

While the noodles are cooking, cook the pork. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat with flour, then egg, then panko bread crumbs.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the pork for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned and cooked through.

Dish out the noodles and top with slices of pork. Sprinkle with green onions, if desired, and serve.