Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Naked Ravioli with Squash and Browned Butter Sauce

One of my family’s favorite recipes is Naked Ravioli – the insides of the ravioli on the outsides kind of naked – not the call the health department kind.

This time around, the Naked Ravioli got a cozy, warm, comfort food type of make over.  Peas were swapped out for squash and the rosemary-olive oil sauce was replaced with browned butter and thyme.  It’s fall on a plate.  Enjoy.

Naked Ravioli with Squash and Browned Butter Sauce
An Amy’s Cooking Adventures Original Recipe

1 small buttercup squash
1 lb spicy pork sausage
1 egg
¼ cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup bread crumbs
13 oz (1 box) whole wheat pasta
3 tbsp salted butter
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the squash into eight wedges.  Scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp.  Place the wedges on a microwave safe plate.   Microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove the squash from the microwave.  Place the wedges on individual squares of aluminum foil.  Top with a large dollop of butter and pinch the aluminum foil closed.  Place in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Scoop the flesh out of the shell and break into small chunks.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, mix the sausage, egg, parmesan, and bread crumbs together.  Once thoroughly mixed, form into 1 to 1 ½ inch meatballs.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Carefully drop the meatballs, one at a time, into the boiling water.  Cook, uncovered for 7-10 minutes or until cooked through.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs from the boiling water.  DO NOT DRAIN.  Set the meatballs aside in a bowl and cover.

Pour the noodles into the still boiling water that the meatballs were cooked in.  Cook according to package directions and drain; reserving ½ cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Continue to cook the butter, stirring occasionally, until the butter has browned.  Add in salt, pepper, thyme, and reserved pasta cooking water; whisk together to form a light sauce.

Pour the browned butter sauce over the noodles in a large serving bowl and stir together.  Add in the cooked meatballs and squash.  Stir to combine.  Serve topped with fresh parmesan cheese.

Serves 6


Monday, November 28, 2011

Squash & Turkey Chili

I was feeling a bit adventurous the other day and made an unconventional chili.  Instead of a tomato base, I used a buttercup squash.  It lent itself well to the chili, giving it a smooth, silky texture and a slight sweetness that paired well with the spiciness.

This is a buttercup squash

This chili is a great alternative for people who find the tomatoes in regular chili to be too acidic.  Tone down the spice a bit (or not) and this is a perfect introduction to chili for children.  I gave it to my boys (deconstructed) and they loved it.  My little one ate the beans and my older one loved the “meatballs” in their orange sauce.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cheesecake Pumpkin Pie Truffles

So we’re post-Thanksgiving.  Are you stuffed?  Can you think about more food yet?  Have some leftover desserts, perhaps?  Then do I have the recipe for you!

There’s no denying that I love truffles.  So I took some of my favorite Thanksgiving (or Christmas or anytime) desserts and rolled them into one glorious, smooth, chocolaty truffle.  White chocolate?  Dark chocolate? Anything in between? Do it all – these are fabulous no matter the candy coating!

Recipe Notes:
*You can use any leftover pumpkin pie or cheesecake (even if they have crusts) or your favorite recipe of each.
*It is not necessary to let the pie or the cheesecake to set up before making the truffles.  Mine were both a still a bit warm when I scooped them.  They will set up in the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Turkey Day!  I hope you are all enjoying your friends and family today (if you’re in the US) and if not…well…look!  A turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Long ago, in the days of poor photography, I posted a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.  That one was a more authentic Chicken Tortilla Soup, the only cheese being the garnish.

Though, when many people think of Chicken Tortilla Soup, they think cheesy.  You know, like that one that pops up in dining centers and cafeterias in those big warmers?  I’m not gonna lie, I love that stuff.  I even used to make one that was very similar that consisted of 2 cans of condensed soup, a can of enchilada sauce, and canned chicken.  Easy?  Yes.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  *Gasp*  Oh the processing!

Since cooking healthy meals continues to be a goal of mine, I am trying to stay away from overly processed foods like condensed soup.  The problem was, I really wanted some cheesy chicken tortilla soup!  So, using homemade chicken stock and real cheese, Cheesy Chicken Tortilla Soup made its way back into the recipe rotation!  Yum!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Steak Tips with Peppered Mushroom Sauce: SRC

It’s Secret Recipe Club time again!  This month, I got to cook from Amy’s lovely blog, The Savvy Kitchen.  Amy’s goal as a blogger is to compile all of her family’s favorite dishes and document all of her wonderful new recipes.  

Amy and I are so much alike!  Aside from sharing a great name, we both strive to emulate cooking styles of our mothers, and so many of her recipes remind of me my favorites from when I was growing up.

As I was looking through the list of Amy’s recipes, one instantly jumped out at me.  Amy had a recipe for Steak Tips.  Instantly, I thought of my mom’s recipe for Beef Tips, which she made frequently as I was growing up.  It has been years since I last had my mom’s Beef Tips, and it was a recipe I had never thought to ask for.  After seeing this recipe, it was the obvious choice for Secret Recipe Club.

So enjoy, and take a walk down memory lane with me!  And thank you Amy, for reminding me of this wonderful dish!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Savory Crepes: Chicken Divan

In October I went away on a Girl’s Weekend with a couple of my friends from college.   On our first shop-a-thon day, we stopped at a crepe stand for lunch and I had my first savory crepes.  Wowsa!  Consider my mind blown!

Once I got home, I knew I had to try and make these at home.  While not identical to the crepe stand (seriously, have you seen to cool tools they have?), this version was delicious.  I can just imagine filling these easy crepes with all sorts of wonderful savory and sweet ingredients.   Mmmmm…bananas for brunch, maybe?  Stay tuned!

Recipe Notes:
*Use leftover chicken instead of frozen chicken for an even faster meal.

Savory Crepes: Chicken Divan

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Root Vegetable Crisps

I recently shared a recipe for Root Vegetable Fries.  They were delicious (and will be making an appearance at the Thanksgiving table).  The only complaint about the fries was that they were not crispy.

Then I happened upon a recipe for crispy oven fries along with the secret to crispy fries: soaking.  At least 1 hour before baking, the potatoes (or other root vegetables) are soaked in cool water in order to remove some of the starch.  I adapted the potato recipe to the rest of my root vegetables to test the theory.   The vegetables were all sliced quite thin and soaked before baking.  The result: some nice crispy vegetables!  Yum!

Recipe Notes:
*Play around with the spices, adding your own favorite flavor combination.
*Don’t have pumpkin seeds?  Use sunflower seeds or panko bread crumbs for crunch
*I soaked my beets in a separate bowl, so they wouldn’t turn the rest of the vegetables red.

Root Vegetable Crisps
Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

1 large red potato
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 large turnip, peeled
1 large beet, peeled
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crockpot Pork Roast with Apples & Sweet Potatoes

Fruit and meat.

I don’t know, why, but this is a very difficult concept for me to wrap my head around.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of cooked fruits.  Or maybe because I love the salty and savory flavors associated with meat.

Despite my reluctance to accept it, pork lends itself to sweet flavors.  I first was dragged into this flavor combination by my brother-in-law, who (several years ago) made me a lovely mango sauce with pork chops.  I enjoyed it (but mostly flicked those mango pieces to the side) and didn’t think about it again.

Until this past summer when I was uncharacteristically inspired to make a spicy raspberry sauce for pork chops.  And again recently when I bought a pork roast and just wanted to do something different.  So I looked around and found some old apples and onions, and a couple sweet potatoes in the pantry and an idea was born!

Recipe Notes:
*Use any apples that you have in your pantry.  I didn’t peel mine, because I like the additional nutrients found in the apple peels.
*After removing the roast, scoop out the apple, sweet potato, and onion pieces; draining a bit, and mash with a potato masher.  Serve as an instant side dish.

Crockpot Pork Roast with Apples & Sweet Potatoes

2.5 lb pork roast
2 fuji apples, cored and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, chopped in large pieces
1 medium onion, chopped in large pieces
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup apple juice (or white grape juice or water)
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried marjoram
¼ - ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

Spray the bottom and sides of a 4.5 quart slow cooker.

Place half of the apple, sweet potato, and onion chunks in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the roast on top, followed by the juice.

Sprinkle the herbs and spices over the roast, followed by the remaining chunks of apple, sweet potato and onion.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3.5 – 4.5 hours.

Once finished, remove and slice the pork roast.  Scoop the apple, sweet potato, and onion chunks into a bowl and mash with a potato masher.

Serves 4


Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweet Potatoes au Gratin (with Bacon)

Since I’ll be hosting my first Thanksgiving this year, I have been slowly testing out a few recipes to serve my guests.  Sweet Potatoes au Gratin has most definitely made the Thanksgiving cut!

Unlike so many other sweet potato dishes out there, this one is savory.  No marshmallows, no brown sugar, but cheese, bacon and more cheese.  Yum.  This casserole reads a lot like a sweet potato version of scalloped potatoes and ham.  If you’re tired of sickly sweet sweet potatoes, this is definitely the recipe for you.  I just can’t wait for my guests to try it!

Sweet Potatoes au Gratin (with Bacon)
Adapted from Kraft

3 medium sweet potatoes
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, drippings reserved
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp black pepper
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a small baking dish with cooking spray.

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice into ¼ inch rounds.  Place in a pot and cover with water; bring to boiling.  Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain.

Meanwhile, cook the onions in the bacon dripping in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in the flour and the pepper and cook for a minute longer, stirring constantly.

Slowly stir in the broth.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes of until the sauce has thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese.

Place half of the sweet potatoes into the prepared baking dish.  Top with half the cheese sauce and half the bacon crumbles.  Repeat; topping with the remaining half cup of cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are heated through and the cheese is melted.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Chicken & Dumpling Soup

A few weeks ago, my son came down with a nasty cold that rapidly spread to the entire family.  While we were all lying around sniffling and coughing, dinner was the furthest thing from my mind.  

But I had a chicken in the refrigerator that needed to be cooked and my husband looked at me pitifully and asked if I could please make him some soup.  Since everyone knows that chicken noodle soup is that cure for a nasty cold, I obliged (I’m such a fabulous wife!)

I am so glad that I ended up making this soup!  It absolutely hit the spot (and we felt a lot better than we would have had we eaten fast food).  I highly recommend a big bowl of this soup next time you are under the weather.

Recipe Notes:
*Always bring the water to a boil before adding the chicken (or any other meat) to a soup.  This will keep the broth clear.  Adding the meat first results in a cloudy broth.
*In the recipe, I’ve added “vegetable scraps” as an ingredient.  Use whatever you have on hand (I keep a bag of scraps in my freezer), but do note that vegetables like beets and mushrooms will change the color of your soup and tomatoes will change the taste.
*If you like your dumplings to be a uniform size, roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thick and cut into small squares with a pizza cutter.

Chicken & Dumpling Soup

2 quarts (8 cups) of water
1 whole chicken (without giblets)
1-2 carrots
1 onion
Vegetables or vegetable scraps
          (I had several withered carrots, a turnip, a broccoli stem and half an onion)
3 whole black peppercorns
½ - 1 tbsp sea salt

3 large carrots, cut into coins
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Additional salt to taste

Place the water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Add in the chicken, vegetables, peppercorns, and salt, return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 60-90 minutes.

Remove the vegetables and peppercorns; discard.  Remove the chicken, separating the meat from the skin and bones.   Shred the meat into small pieces and set aside; discard the rest.  Strain the stock to remove any missed solids.

Increase the heat to medium, bring the stock to a low boil and add in the carrots.   Meanwhile, stir together the eggs, flour, salt, and baking soda until if forms a smooth ball.  Roll the dough into a log.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut small bits of dough off directly into the boiling water.  I actually hold the dough over the pot and cut the dough right in – do beware of splashing water.

Finally, add in about half of the reserved chicken (or all of it if you like a lot) and simmer for 10-20 minutes.  Serve hot.  Feel better.

Serves 4


Monday, November 7, 2011

Colored Kettle Corn

I love kettle corn.  It reminds me of summer and craft fairs and that deliciously sweet popcorn-y aroma wafting through the air.

Little did I know that kettle corn can also be made at home!  I was researching ways to color popcorn (for a boy themed baby shower), and came across this kettle corn recipe.  Yay!  From there, it became a simple matter of adding the food coloring with a few super delicious experiments to get it just right.  Now the only problem is not making this every night!

Recipe notes:
*Placing the initial 3-4 kernels of popcorn in the oil in the beginning ensures that the oil is at the perfect temperature for popping, without robbing the bulk of the kernels of moisture during the heating process.
*I like to use a two handled pot to make kettle corn, so I can shake the pot easier.  I also wear these gloves, so save my hands from the heat.
*When removing the lid, beware of escaping steam.
*I typically use a premium popcorn, like this one

Colored Kettle Corn
Adapted from Savory Sweet Life

¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup granulated sugar
¾ - 1 tsp coarse sea salt
Generous dollop of gel food coloring (optional)

Stir together the sugar and salt.  With the back of a spoon, grind the food coloring (if using) into the sugar mixture.  The food coloring does not need to be perfectly mixed in, but there shouldn’t be any large globs of food coloring.

Meanwhile, place the oil and 3-4 kernels of popcorn in a large stockpot (uncovered), over medium-high heat.  Allow the oil to heat up until the first kernels begin to pop.

Quickly add the remaining unpopped kernels and the sugar mixture to the pot and stir to mix.  Place the cover on the pot. 

Once the popcorn begins to pop a second time, carefully lift the pot and give it a gentle shake every few seconds to keep the sugar from sticking to the bottom and burning.

Once about half of the kernels have popped, reduce the heat to medium-low.  Continue shaking the pot every few seconds.

Once the popping has slowed to 1-2 seconds between pops, remove the pot completely from the heat.  Carefully remove the cover and pour the kettle corn immediately into a large bowl.  Allow the popcorn to cool for at least 5 minutes before attempting to eat it.  At that time, break and large chunks of stuck together popcorn into more manageable sizes and serve.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Ombre Baby Shower Cake

This cake was made for a friend’s baby shower.  She is expecting a boy, so the theme was cars and trucks with blue everywhere!   Since the car theme prevailed in the decorations, I decided to make the cake an elegant statement piece.

Sometimes it is fun to step away from the extravagant fondant cakes and make a simple buttercream cake.  This cake is simple on the outside, but absolutely stunning once it’s cut.  Though I made this cake for a baby shower, it would be lovely for any occasion from bridal showers to birthdays.

Ombre Baby Shower Cake

Food coloring (blue or the color of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and spray 6 inch pans with cooking spray (I used two pans, but use as many as you have)

Mix up the cake batter according to these instructions.  Separate the cake batter equally into 6 bowls (there will approximately 1 cup of batter per bowl).  Set one bowl aside, as 1 layer will remain white. 

In each of the remaining 5 bowls, add some food coloring, just a drop to the first bowl; using more food coloring with each subsequent bowl until you have the desired colors. 

Remember, you can always go darker, but you can’t go lighter!  I recommend using varying amounts of a single food color, rather than switching to a different (darker) blue as you go so as to keep a more natural continuity of color.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pans and bake for 15 minutes, check with a toothpick, baking and checking at 5 minute increments until the toothpick comes out clean.  Move to wire racks and cool for 10 minutes, turn the cake out and cool completely.  Wash pans and repeat with remaining batter (unless of course, you own 6 cake pans and are already finished).

To assemble the cake, make a batch of plain white buttercream frosting.  Starting with the darkest layer at the bottom; stack the cakes, darkest to lightest, with a thin layer of buttercream in between each layer.  Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining buttercream and finish with sprinkles.

Makes 1 cake


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Brownies with Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

When I was growing up, my mom made pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting every fall.  I absolutely adore the combination of pumpkin and cream cheese, but I have yet to make my mom’s delicious recipe myself (some things are best left to the experts!)

This year, I decided to make a chocolaty version of those delicious pumpkin bars.  The brownies themselves are only 3 ingredients!  You take a brownies mix and a can of pumpkin, throw in some chocolate ships and that’s it!  The pumpkin takes the place of all of the water, eggs and oil (really).  I’ve sometimes even seen this referred to as pumpkin fudge because this makes one dense brownie but it is oh so good!  Believe me when I say – it is very hard to stop at one!

Recipe Notes:
*When baking the brownies, cook them until the center is just set.  They may seem slightly underdone (but no worries – there are no eggs in this recipe!)  If you overcook them, they will get rubbery.  As the brownies cool in the refrigerator, they will firm up considerably.

Pumpkin Brownies with Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

1 box of brownie mix
2 cups pureed pumpkin (or one 15 oz can)
1 cup chocolate chips

Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Our Best Bites
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 oz Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8x8 inch pan with cooking spray. 

In an electric mixer (or by hand) combine brownie mix and pumpkin.  Mix until combined and mostly smooth.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 45-55 minutes or until the center is just set.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat until smooth and light. 

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the spices.  Mix on low until combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl again and add the powdered sugar.  Beat until smooth and combined.

Spread the frosting on top of the cooled brownies.  Loosely cover the brownies and cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving (or overnight).  Serve cold.

Store any remaining brownies covered in the refrigerator.  Enjoy within 3 days.




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