Thursday, May 28, 2009

Baked Cheese Tortellini

I made this ages ago--months--and forgot about it until just now when I was flipping through my cookbooks. I think it was when I was working that job I hated. Anyway, it's pretty good. Enjoy! (Also, if you're looking at my blog and not using a Mac, I'm sorry that it's so ugly. Not my fault. Buy a Mac.)

Baked Cheese Tortellini, adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Two cups fresh breadcrumbs
Half a cup of finely chopped walnuts, if you want
Two tablespoons butter, melted
One pound fresh cheese tortellini*
Four slices of bacon, chopped
Three shallots, minced
Three cloves of garlic, minced
One teaspoon fresh minced thyme
Two tablespoons flour
Half a cup dry white wine or chicken broth
One cup chicken broth
Half a cup of heavy cream
Two ounces grated Parmesan
Half a cup of frozen peas

For the topping, toss together the bread crumbs, butter, and walnuts. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the tortellini until tender. (Fresh pasta cooks quicker than dried pasta, so keep an eye on it.) Drain the tortellini and set aside. Chop the bacon into small pieces and cook in a large skillet until crispy. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, three to five minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, about a minute. Preheat the oven to 400F. Slowly whisk in the wine, chicken broth, and cream, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, stir in the parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the peas. Pour the tortellini into a baking dish. Cover with sauce and stir it around a little to coat. Top with breadcrumbs. Bake until browned, about 15 minutes.

Takes about an hour, start to finish.
Difficulty: 3
Serves 4.

*You can buy fresh pasta at most grocery stores. Safeway keeps it next to the specialty deli meats and cheeses, Fred Meyer's shelves it in the same aisle as cheese, cold cuts, and refrigerated dough.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Corn Dogs & Smoredillas

I made both of these a couple weeks ago and didn't take pictures. They're both pretty easy and pretty tasty, so here's the recipe. Go nuts!

Corn Dogs
One pack of hot dogs
Popsicle sticks or chop sticks
One box of corn bread mix, like Jiffy
Oil, for frying

Prepare the corn bread mix and pour into a tall glass. Skewer the hot dogs and pat them dry. Heat the oil over medium heat to about 375F. Dip the dogs in the corn batter, and then fry in the oil. The batter on my dogs sort of slid around and didn't really stick too well. They weren't pretty, but they were tasty! You can make these and then freeze them, if you want. Just be sure to heat them in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes before you eat them.

Flour tortillas
Softened butter
Chocolate chips
Mini marshmallows or regular marshmallows chopped into pieces.
Cinnamon sugar, if you want.

Butter one side of each tortilla. Place one tortilla, butter side down, on a medium hot frying pan or griddle. Sprinkle lightly with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Cover with the second tortilla, butter side up. Allow tortilla to cook until lightly browned, then flip. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if you want and cook until filling is melted and bottom tortilla is browned. Remove to a cutting board and cut into wedges with a pizza wheel.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Graduation Day Breadsticks

In honor of the graduation of one Mark W. Truax, future POTUS, I offer you this recipe for breadsticks. (Note: I halved the recipe to begin with, because I only needed to feed myself and Tim. If you make the whole recipe (which is what I'm giving you), you'll end up with more dough than in the pictures.)

One and a half cups of lukewarm water
Three tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
One and a quarter teaspoons of salt
Three and a half cups of all-purpose flour
One tablespoon yeast
Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

Lightly grease a cookie sheet and drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil. (I think this is much more than two tablespoons.)
Combine all of the ingredients and beat on high speed for a minute. The batter should be fairly sticky.
Scoop it onto the pan and spread it out as close to the edges as you can. Oiling your fingers helps. My dough tore in the middle and I couldn't get it to smoosh back together. Oh well. I wasn't trying to impress anyone.Use a pizza cutter or a knife to score the dough into the size and quantity of breadsticks you want. Cover and let rise for an hour. My dough didn't rise at all, so my breadsticks turned out more like ciabatta. Whatever, they were still good. Preheat oven to 375F.Drizzle the dough with a little olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings and Parmesan, and bake for 25 minutes.Remove the pan to a cooling rack. As soon as you can handle the dough, pull it apart along the lines. You might need a knife or scissors to help you. Turn the breadsticks on their sides and put back in the oven for 5-8 minutes to get a little crunchy and crispy. If your dough didn't rise, like mine, they'll be tasty and delicious just the way they are.Takes about an hour and a half.
Makes as many bread sticks as you want, basically.
Difficulty: 2

For dipping, I put a little (3 tablespoons) of olive oil in a tiny bowl and added a tablespoon of minced garlic, one teaspoon of black pepper, one teaspoon of red pepper, and half a teaspoon of kosher salt. It was divine.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rigatoni Pie

One pound rigatoni
Olive oilOne pound ground beef
garlic cloves, crushed
teaspoon freshly ground pepper
One can (28 ounces) good quality crushed tomatoes, or equivalent amount tomato sauce
One cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Eight ounces coarsely grated mozzarella

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone. Use a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together. When done, drain the pasta and rinse with cool water. Toss pasta with parmesan cheese and set aside.
In a large skillet, cook the beef over medium-high heat until brown. Drain the fat, add the garlic, and season with salt and pepper. (I tossed in just a pinch of oregano, basil, and fennel, also.)
Add tomato product and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Coat a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray or butter. Pack the pasta into the pan, standing each piece on end.Spread meat sauce on top of pasta. Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold. Cut into wedges and serve.I think this is easiest when you have a lot of time to prepare. The meat sauce needs to cool since you're using your hands to stuff the noodles, and that takes awhile. I prepared the pasta while the meat cooked, and then did the dishes while I waited for the meat to cool. All in all, while you could certainly do it on a week night if you didn't mind eating a little later than normal, I think it's best to give yourself about an hour and a half to prepare this. Bonus: you can make this and refrigerate it overnight (make it Sunday afternoon and serve it for Monday dinner!) or cover and freeze it for a couple of days. If you freeze it, though, be sure to either thaw it before you stick it in the oven or adjust the bake time (I recommend thawing it).

Takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, plus bake time.
Difficulty: 3, but only because packing the pasta is a little tricky.
Feeds 4-6.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

I've been staring at this recipe for a year. I've been wanting to make it, but it just made so damn many cinnamon rolls, and there's no way that I could eat that many or give them away. And then I had a stroke of genius--halve the recipe! Duh. Don't know why I didn't get there sooner. Sometimes I'm not so bright.

You will need:
One pint (2 cups) whole milk
Half a cup of vegetable oil
About one and a half cups of sugar, divided
Four and a half cups of flour
Baking soda
Baking powder
A stick and a half of butter

In a large pot, mix one pint (two cups) whole milk, half a cup of vegetable oil, and half a cup of sugar. Turn the burner on high and heat the mixture until just before it boils (if it actually boils, that's okay, too). Turn the heat off and walk away. Let it cool for a good 45 minutes, maybe longer, until the pan is comfortably warm, but not hot at all.
Add one package (about two and a half teaspoons) of active dry yeast, and let it hang out for a minute. Toss in 4 cups of flour, and stir.
Cover and let it rise for an hour.
Add another half cup of flour, one teaspoon of baking POWDER, half a teaspoon of baking SODA, and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix it in, divide the dough in half, and get ready to roll it out.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough (in two batches) in a long rectangle shape, about 8 inches wide. Melt a stick and a half of butter and pour a tablespoon into each round pan you plan to use. Then pour half of the remaining butter over the dough. Top that with half a cup of sugar and a lot of cinnamon (I couldn't take pictures of this because my hands were buttery and sticky. Sorry). Roll the dough up from the long side of the rectangle and cut into 1-inch rounds. Place them in the pans and let them rise for 20 minutes or so. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Preheat the oven to 400F.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Top with cream cheese icing, or whatever your heart desires.

Takes a good three hours, possibly longer.
Difficulty: 3
Makes about 4 pans.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

Lordy. These suckers are delicious. The great thing about this recipe is that you can do it entirely in your food processor, if it's big enough (mine is not, and I learned that the hard way). I'm gonna give you the recipe and tell you what I did, and then tell you how I'm gonna do it differently next time.

One cup cake flour
One cup all-purpose flour
Two teaspoons baking POWDER
One teaspoon sugar
Half a teaspoon baking SODA
Half a teaspoon salt
One stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
One cup cold buttermilk*

Add all the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl, blender, or food processor. Stir or pulse to mix them. Add in the chopped butter and pulse to combine with the dry stuff. If you're doing it by hand, use a pastry cutter, fork, or a couple of knives to work the butter into the flour. Do this until there are no large lumps of butter and everything looks like crumbs. Add the milk and pulse or stir until the dough starts to clump and everything is thoroughly moistened (I had to use my hands a little).
Preheat the oven to 450F. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a ball. Using a knife or dough cutter, cut the dough in half, in half again, and then cut each fourth into thirds. Form each hunk into a ball and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and devour.

*If you don't generally use buttermilk, you can make your own with regular milk and lemon juice. Fill your measuring cup to just under the amount you need, then fill in the rest with lemon juice. Let it sit for a minute and give it a good stir, and you're good to go.

Okay, so that's what I did. Here's what I'll do next time (and what you should do the first time):
Double the recipe, first of all. These are delicious and I will eat all of them by myself in one sitting.
Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper, and use a biscuit cutter to make actual biscuits. The ball-shaped biscuits were hard to eat, fell apart at the slightest touch, and burned slightly on the bottom.
Also, I lined my sheet with parchment paper. I won't do that again.

Difficulty: 2.
Makes 12.
Takes half an hour.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Coke Can Chicken

This was my first opportunity to use the crock pot I got for the wedding. It was delightful. My house smelled amazing by noon, and lasted all day. This recipe is pretty good, but not stellar. It was an adequate rainy-Monday meal. At any rate, it's good, but I'm not planning to make it again any time soon.

Coke Can Chicken
1 Whole fryer, 3-4 pound
1 Lemon
1 Onion
1 Bottle BBQ sauce
1 Can of Coke

Peel the onion and cut it into quarters. Cut the lemon into quarters. Place the fryer in the crock pot. Toss in the onion and lemon. Pour in an entire bottle of BBQ sauce and an entire can of Coke. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or on high three to four hours.

For the record, I halved my lemon and squeezed it before I tossed it in. And the onion I had on hand had already been chopped in half, so I just sort of peeled away the layers and tossed them in. But by all means, you should quarter your onion.

Sorry about the crappy photography, I did this all in the darkest corner of my kitchen and had to use the flash. Yuck.

Difficulty: 1
Takes 8 hours
Feeds about 4.