Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Some Everyday Italian, lightened up...

Tonight, I made a recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis that I saw in the orange kitchen for Ricotta and Crab Cannelloni. The recipe is as follows:

1 box (8 ounces) cannelloni or manicotti pasta (about 12 shells)
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (I used part skim.)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used 1/2 cup of basil paste.)
1 pound lump crabmeat (I used three cans of Chicken of the Sea lump crab meat.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (I used mixed peppercorns.)
Bechamel Sauce, recipe follows

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 3/4 cup Parmesan, egg yolk, basil, crab, salt, and pepper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill the cannelloni with the crab mixture and place in a buttered baking dish. Top the filled cannelloni with the Bechamel Sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter (I only had salted.)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed (I used 2%.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (I used the mixed again.)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I used jarred.)

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick, smooth, and creamy, about 10 minutes (do not allow the sauce to boil). Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. (The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool and then cover and refrigerate.)

I would say that my substitutions worked fine. I have never had a Bechamel sauce, so I can't speak to its authenticity. It didn't end up being very thick, but it kept the pasta wet during the baking process. The meal turned out very well, although I would imagine that it would be even better if Giada herself had made it for me!

Here's the final result...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Foodie Blogroll

I am now, in the infancy state of this blog, a proud member of the Foodie Blogroll. If you happen to find your way here, please leave me a comment! And if you happen to be a foodie blogger, please join the Foodie Blogroll! It will make it that much easier for me to stalk you...

Italian-inspired eating...

Last night, I had some pork chops all thawed in the fridge and ready to go. I didn't want to do my usual marinade-and-bake or shake-and-bake (yummy and not too bad for you if you are in a hurry or a bind). I had just been reading somewhere about all the different ways you could stuff chicken, and since I had pork on hand instead of chicke, I decided to stuff that instead!

I started out with the following ingredients:

I had the pork chops and garlic at home. I picked up, from my local food store, some basil paste (much better than the dried version, and I don't use fresh quickly enough), some fontina cheese, some grape tomatoes, some prosciutto, and some shredded parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

I butterflied the pork chops, after trimming off some of the excess fat, and placed in the center of each a slice of fontina cheese and two slices of prosciutto. I then put them in the baking dish and sprinkled Italian-style bread crumbs over the top, alone with some of the parmigiano-reggiano.

I then halved the grape tomatoes and sauteed them in a little bit of olive oil (I got this idea here) with three cloves of garlic (two were pretty small, while one was a decent size...not three large cloves of garlic). After they were soft and releasing some juice, I added a couple of squirts of the basil paste (I had never used the herb pastes before, but I was really pleased with it!). I sauteed that a little longer while my penne (I used Barilla Plus) finished cooking to an al dente finish. Then, I mixed those together and heated them through.

Here's the final result:

I sprinkled more cheese on top of the pasta, and it was a fantastic meal! I will definitely make this or some form of it again...enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mexican Wontons

My sister and her boyfriend came to a party at my house last weekend and brought some cheeseteak wontons that really wowed the crowd. I chatted with them about how they were made and thought I would try to make a wonton recipe myself. A quick search of the Internet found this recipe. I appreciated that it had a WW Points value assigned to it, but I wasn't feeling so virtuous today, so I tweaked it a bit. Here's my recipe:

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup shredded cheddar and jack cheese

1 small can diced green chiles

2 t cumin

2 t chili powder

olive oil cooking spray

wonton wrappers

First, I browned my beef and added to it the cheese, seasonings, and green chiles.

While that was cooking up, I laid out some wonton wrappers.

Once the beef mixture was ready, I dropped it by the teaspoon onto each wrapper.

I moistened the edges of each wrapper, folded each one over, and shaped each into a wonton shape.

After spraying a cookie sheet with olive oil cooking spray, I placed the wontons on the sheet. I then sprayed the top of the wontons with the cooking spray, and into the oven they went!

After 15 minutes at 350 degrees, this is what they looked like:

I served them with some salsa (served them to myself because Bill is still out of town).

I actually made about 3 dozen wontons up, but I froze the rest of them for some other time. I could probably have made about six more, but I was getting sick of the process and gave up.

Next time, I would probably use more cheese and maybe some kind of soft cheese (cream cheese, maybe?) in addition to make the mixture more soupy.

Also, next time, I won't leave the wonton wrappers at the checkout at the first grocery store I go to, thereby bringing about a second grocery store trip after I was done with all the swearing.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

When the husband's away...

No meat need be served!

I was wandering through Wegman's this morning after my third 12-hour night shift (Note to self: Don't shop then. Healthy decisions are NOT made in the wee small hours of the morning), and I came across the garlic butter spread that they make and sell right near the other butter and margarine choices. And I started thinking about how it would make a nice white pizza.

One tub of garlic butter spread, one can of Pillsbury pizza crust dough, and one bag of Sargento's light four-cheese Italian mixture later, and we have this:

Healthy? Not really. But at least I don't use the whole milk mozzarella! And it will be perfect to sit in front of the TV with as I watch The Office season finale on my DVR. And that will start...NOW!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Out of my rut and into my kitchen...

In my perusal of The Nest's bulletin boards this morning, I came across the "What's for Dinner?" board and was immediately drawn in. I generally struggle about what to make for dinner and often opt for the old protein-starch-veggie combo, which gets old after a while. We eat a lot of chicken. Mostly, it is marinated and baked or grilled. Sometimes, it's thrown into a casserole or a one-pot meal. Someday soon, we may start to cluck.

I have admiration for my friend Amy who is not afraid to try new recipes and who actually cooks for her husband almost every night. When I got married in October, I thought I would try to do the same thing. Now, almost seven months later, and I can say that I have not yet gotten in the groove of that. I am working night shift, and I did experiment a bit with my slow cooker to make easy meals during the day while I was asleep, but it has been a while, and I am back in my rut.

This past weekend, my sister and her boyfriend were here for a party, and they were talking about some of the stuff they cook together. They definitely are not afraid to try out new things, and they come up with some great food! I found myself thinking that it would be fun to be a little more daring with my cooking in order to jazz it up a bit and make it seem like less of a chore.

I headed to the Internet, where I found this recipe for stuffed yellow peppers. They are stuffed with a spicier, more Mexican-style meat mixture, instead of the usual Italian-style beef and rice. They also have a black bean recipe to accompany them. I will be making these two items for dinner tonight. I headed to Wegman's to get the ingredients (because I don't imagine that a spicy chicken sausage is something that can be found at my local Mr. Z's), and I also picked up a couple of magazines for inspiration. The biggest challenge for me is that I want to make these yummy and adventurous foods fit into my Weight Watchers lifestyle. Therefore, some of the heavier and more decadent ingredients have to go. Luckily, there are plenty of recipes out there on the Internet that incorporate healthier ingredients, and with the recipe builder on the WW website, I can figure out the Points values for the things I am cooking.

Wish me luck...tonight's the first night of my culinary adventure!



My trip to Wegman's netted me some smoked chicken chorizo, but no fresh spicy chicken sausage. Therefore, instead of crumbling and browning the sausage, I cut the sausage I bought into chunks and cooked it with the other ingredients. I also added a can of diced green chilis that I had on hand in my pantry.

Below, the fruit of my labors:

I know the beans don't look pretty, but they were so, so good. And the change in sausage made for a good dish, although I can't compare it to the original since I haven't had the original. All in all, I would say it was a hit with me, and I am sure that my husband will enjoy it too.

Experiment #1 was a success!