Friday, September 21, 2012

Buffalo Chicken & Potato Casserole

Wings, dip, now casserole.  Is there any format that you can't find Buffalo chicken in?  I would say milkshake, but I'm sure it exists somewhere.  I didn't come up with this recipe - Betty Crocker did, but wanted to share it with you guys, because it was easy and damn tasty.  Follow your nose!

I cooked my chicken halfway through prior to tossing it in the wing sauce, because I'm funny about tossing raw chicken into a casserole with other ingredients.  Yes, I'm a spazz - but it didn't dry out.  Here's a photo of how ours turned out. The only thing I might go flip mode on next time is cutting the bleu cheese dressing a smidge with some ranch.  It was a bit overwhelming for a couple of folks who never use that dressing.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

I love inviting folks over for dinner, even though we have nowhere but the floor to sit and eat.  Mr. FvF threw me a curveball a few weeks ago by inviting a vegetarian over for dinner.  I love a challenge, and as long as it's not vegan cooking - I'll rise to the occasion.  After giving it some thought, I realized I really love a good roasted veggie lasagna with bechamel, but have never attempted one on my own. Time to Frankenstein some recipes from the webbernet!  This is the part where I'll try desperately to remember how I did everything, since this all happened over two weeks ago.  Here's what you'll need:

1 box lasagna noodles*
1-2 jars alfredo sauce**
squash & zuchinni, 2 of each, sliced thin
1-2 large carrots, sliced thin
1-2 C fresh spinach
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 container ricotta cheese
1/2 C shredded parmesan (or any hard Italian cheese)
1C shredded mozzarella (the part skim stuff is fine here)
1 ball/container of fresh mozzarella, sliced
White wine
olive oil

*I prefer whole wheat, and I do NOT recommend the no-boil noodles for this.  This isn't a high water content dish, so they may not cook thoroughly. 
**Sure, about 2 cups of homemade bechamel would be great, but I don't have a sous chef or an extra hour in my day.  I used roasted red pepper for some extra flavor.  

First thing's first - get your noodles boiling in a big stock pot, so you'll have time to cool them before working with them.  Heat your oven to about 300 (350 tops) and start chopping your squash and carrots.  This was my first opportunity to really use my mandolin. Almost every other recipe I read said to "cube the veggies uniformly before roasting." In my opinion, paper-thin veggies make a much better looking presentation.  But, do whatever floats your boat.  If you're using a mandolin for the first time, for the love of God - be very careful. Fingertips in, knuckles out.  Even the cheap ones are seriously sharp and one fast move will leave you looking like your junior high shop class teacher.  Especially if you already have a mustache and a drinking problem.

Get all of your long veggies chopped to your liking, then toss them all in a roasting pan with a few hearty pinches of salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss around to make sure they're all covered, then roast them for about 15 minutes, watching closely that they don't get crispy around the edges.

While those are roasting, keep an eye on your pasta (never overcook your pasta, nerds) and start sauteing your diced onions and garlic over low heat in some olive oil and salt.  Remove from heat & set aside to cool off once onions are soft.

Your pasta and veggies should be done soon, so it's time to start your assembly line.  You'll be using nearly every inch of your counter space, but have everything you need out & ready with its own utensil.   You'll thank me later.  At this point, I like to take my roasted veggies, onions, garlic and spinach and toss them all on a bowl so I don't have to add them individually.  I do the same with the shredded parm and mozzarella (save the whole mozz for last, though!)

Start with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then a layer of noodles.  On top of the noodles, layer about 1/3 C ricotta, then a layer of veggies, then a layer of your shredded cheeses, then another drizzle of the sauce.  Lather, rinse repeat until you run out of fillings, and make sure you are left with a smidge of sauce after layering the last noodles.  Top those final noodles with a drizzle of the cream sauce, then add your sliced fresh mozzarella.  I like to sprinkle on a smidge of extra salt and red pepper flakes at the end, too.

Gaze in awe for a moment, then bake this BAMF at 350 for about 40 minutes covered loosely in foil, then another 15 minutes after removing the foil so that your cheese gets nice and brown & bubbly.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mulligans: Turkey Tetrazzini

Another throwback from last year's Thanksgiving recipes that I never posted.  This is what I always do with leftover bird.  Works just fine with chicken, but the occasion for this much leftover chicken seems harder to come by.  This recipe is pretty easy on the fat and calories (6 servings, about 450 cal, 48 carbs, 14 fat and 6 fiber), especially compared to what you probably ate the day before.  But trust me, you won't taste anything "light" about this recipe. Here's what you'll need: 

  • 1 box whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 1 pound turkey breast, cut into cubes or roughly chopped*
  • 1/4 C dry white wine
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (fresh or canned will work)
    3/4 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese (any hard Italian cheese will work)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (condensed)
  • 1/2 C panko bread crumbs, seasoned w/salt & oregano
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted\
  • *If you don't have leftovers, here's what to do. Get turkey breast cutlets and season them w/salt, pepper, garlic & onion powder and pan fry them until they hit 165 degrees, then chop'em up.
Get your whole wheat pasta cooking before you start anything else, that way it'll be ready when you need it.  
Sprinkle your mushrooms with onion powder & cook in the white wine over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes until tender.  In a large bowl, combine your peas, soup, milk, sour cream, parmesan - then add your cooked bird, cooked pasta and mushrooms and stir until everything is coated and well-combined.  
Empty your bowl into a greased casserole dish, at least 9x9" (bigger works, too).  Mix your melted butter and seasoned panko in a small cup and spoon this mixture evenly over your pasta.  Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.  

If you consider the turkey leftovers a freebie, this dish only costs about $10 to make if you have to buy everything else.  I keep most of these staples (pasta, panko, seasonings, parm) on hand, so I usually only have to spring for mushrooms and peas.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

A couple of years ago, a friend bought me a springform pan when I was getting into cooking.  I'm pretty sure she just wanted me to make a cheesecake so we could eat it together, which I completely respect as a reason for choosing a gift.  Once I had it, though, I realized a lot of cheesecake recipes seemed overly complicated.  "Water bath" this and "adjust wire rack" that.  It took me so long to read the directions, I finished a whole bottle of wine and woke up the next day, very thirsty in a house still devoid of cheesecake.  

When I saw this recipe on the Betty Croker website, I assumed it was going to end up like one of those soft, no-bake "cheesecake pie" attrocities that you'd find at Denny's - but quite the opposite.  It's easy as all get out, and it yields a firm, true-to-form cheesecake without all of that fancy talk.  It only takes about 15 minutes to throw together and an hour or so to bake, then you have the rest of that time for getting day drunk.