Fleur de Lis

Fleur de Lis

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Italian Polenta Casserole

Polenta is (in my mind at least) Italy's version of grits. It is, very simply, finely ground cornmeal cooked in water or broth. It soaks up any wonderful combination of flavors you throw its way. 

Let's start with the polenta recipe portion of the recipe first:
2 cups yellow cornmeal
6 cups water or chicken broth
1 t. salt
2 T. butter

Bring the water/broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Add the cornmeal and quickly whisk to blend it well and turn heat to medium.  At this point, the polenta will be very loose and would drip right off the spoon. Keep stirring because it can and will stick. As the water is absorbed, the polenta will begin to thicken. This process will take 20 - 25 minutes. When you can pull the spoon or spatula across the bottom and leave a path without the polenta filling it back in, you're done! Remove from heat.

Now for the remainder of the recipe:

Add ins for the polenta:
6 oz. cream cheese cubed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
1/2 cup finely shredded or gated Parmesan cheese (divided)

Stir in cream cheese, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan until well mixed. Spread two thirds of the polenta/cheese mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Now for the sauce:

12 oz. bulk sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups prepared pasta sauce

In a large skillet, cook sausage, mushrooms, onion and garlic until meat is browned and onion is tender, stirring to break up meat; drain off fat.

Add pasta sauce; heat through. Spoon sausage mixture over polenta in baking dish, spreading evenly. Spoon remaining polenta on top of sauce and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Bake uncovered about 20 minutes until heated through and top is lightly golden.

Praline Pecan French Toast

From Southern Living February 2011

This helps cut down on the rush of breakfast time.  Assemble the night before and let it rest overnight in the fridge.  Next morning 35 minutes later, you're good to go!

1 - 16 oz. French Bread loaf
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 T. maple syrup
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup 2% reduced fat milk
2 T. granulated sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract

Cut 10 (1 inch thick) slices of bread. Reserve remaining bread for another meal.

Stir together brown sugar, melted butter and syrup. Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Whisk together eggs and next four ingredients. Arrange bread slices over pecans; pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread 35 - 37 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.

To serve, flip the slices over so pecan/praline gooey-ness is top side!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Caribbean Fruit Salad

2 cups quartered strawberries
1 medium banana, sliced diagonally
1 medium mango, cubed
2 kiwi, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tsp. grated orange zest
Juice of 1 medium orange (about 1/3 cup)
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 T. sugar

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly brown the coconut for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Arrange the strawberries, banana, mango, and kiwi on a platter.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Pour over the fruit.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Savory Bread Pudding with Bacon

Another one of those wonderful Sunday mornings to have an unrushed breakfast on the deck.

8 eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
1 T. thyme leaves, plus a sprig or two for garnish
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
6 thick slices bread cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Break the eggs into a medium sized bowl and whisk until well blended. Add half and half, yogurt and sour cream. Blend until smooth. Stir in cheese, mustard, salt, pepper and thyme. 

Lightly coat a large shallow baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Layer the bread cubes evenly. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and top with bacon crumbles. 

Bake for 30-33 minutes until browned and bubbly. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jamaican Super Moon Fun

I've been craving Jamaican jerk chicken.  Last night was the Super Moon.  You don't know about the Super Moon?  Please google.  You'll be glad you did.  First day of Spring.  Wow....all these great events happening in one weekend? 

First some pictures of the table and my plate, then I'll move on to individual recipes and pics.

Starting at the top, black beans over quinoa, grilled jerk chicken, fried plantains, stir fry veggies with jerk seasoning.

Let's start with the fried plantains.  Thinly slice plaintains.  I mean thin.  Like potato chip thin.  Heat an inch or two of canola or vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat and add a few handfuls at a time.  They'll brown quickly so watch them carefully.

Drain on a plate lined with several paper towels and season with sea salt while still hot.

The next recipe is for a jerk seasoning that I added to the black beans after cooking and in the last few minutes of the stir fry.

1 scotch bonnet pepper or habernaro (make sure you handle these VERY carefully....wear gloves!)
2 scallions
1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 t. fresh ginger
juice of small lime
1 t. olive oil
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 t. dried thyme
4 cloves of garlic
2 t. allspice

Grind everything in a food processor or blender (add a little water if needed)

In a wok, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil over high heat.  Add chopped vegetables of your choice.  I used shredded purple cabbage, bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli and carrots.  Quickly stir fry the veggies.  You want them to be crisp.  Add 3 - 4 t. of the blend and coat well.  Turn off heat.  Serve over quinoa.  (Cooked according to package directions.)

See a prior post about the wonderful attributes of quinoa!

Feel free to use canned black beans that have been drained and rinsed well.  These were some that Sweet Harold grew in the garden last year.  I slow cooked them all day in chicken broth.  I added a few teaspoons of the seasoning blend a few minutes before serving.

Here they are all together.

Now to the main event.  This recipe is courtesy of Simply Recipes.  One word:  YUM!

1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
2 Tbsp dark rum
2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
4 green onion tops, chopped
1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons molasses
1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise (NOTE:  I used 6 leg quarters)
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper

Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender.  Pulse until mostly smooth.

Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish.  Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well.  Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well.  Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan.  Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken.  If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce.

Preheat grill to medium high.  Sprinkle chicken halves with salt and pepper.  Place chicken halves, skin side down on the grill grates.  Cover.  Cook for approximately one hour, keeping the internal grill temperature between 350°F and 400°F, turning the chickens occasionally and basting with marinade, until the chicken halves are cooked through.  The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh.  Transfer chicken to platter.  Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

The drink of the night?  Planter's Rum Punch

Planter's Rum Punch dates back to the Jamaican Sugar Cane Plantation days.  Perfect accompaniment to the spicy heat of the jerk seasoning.

1 cup crushed ice
3 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

Combine the ice, orange juice, both rums, lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.  Shake well and pour into a tall, chilled glass.  Garnish with lots of fruit in a fun way.  We went for the tiki hut look!

The Fat Irishman Corned Beef Sandwich

St. Patrick's Day is always a celebrated holiday at our house due to the McMillan ancestor who decided that undergoing a 4 month trip across the Atlantic was preferable to starving in Ireland.  

In the past we've had corned beef dinners, corned beef panninis, an authentic Irish breakfast, shepherd's pie, Irish coffee.....you see where this is going. This year's meal was only going to have Sweet Harold and yours truly in attendance, so we decided to build a sandwich that incorporated corned beef, Irish cheddar, potatoes, cabbage and tomatoes. After I posted the pictures on Facebook and started a "Name the Sandwich" contest, here is the result: The Fat Irishman

I cooked a nice corned beef in the crock pot all day Wednesday and let it get nice and cold in the fridge overnight. This made it very easy to slice with the meat slicer. 

The bread was a loaf from the grocery story bakery which we thick sliced and added a nice layer of coarse grain mustard. I heated some sliced corned beef under the broiler just long enough to melt the Irish cheddar.

Then in the interest of time and because Sweet Harold was starving, I cooked a nice pan of Ore Ida crinkle cuts instead of frying potatoes. Add a nice pile of these to the base of the sandwich.

I mixed about 2 parts of cider vinegar with 1 part canola oil and added some caraway seeds, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tossed that with a nice helping of thinly shredded green cabbage. I let it blend while the fries cooked. Then added a nice heaping helping on top of the fries.

A couple of thinly sliced ripe tomatoes


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Easy Yeast Rolls

There is double pleasure when making and serving these little rolls.  They are not only delicious, but the batter (when refrigerated) can be kept up to one week. You can serve these throughout the week without any additional prep work on your part!

This recipe will make 18 - 24 rolls

1 pkg. dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees )
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
4 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup oil

Suggested toppings:  grated cheese, dried dill, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, Italian seasoning, parsley

Mix together yeast, warm water and sugar.  Set aside for 5 minutes.

Add egg, mixing with a whisk.  Add flour, mixing well.  Blend in oil.  (Batter will be thin!)

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Bake 7 - 8 minutes.  Sprinkle with toppings if desired, and return to oven.  Bake 3 - 7 minutes longer.  Refrigerate unused batter.  Stir well each time batter is used.

Beef & Cheese Mini-Empanadas

This is a quick version of empanadas.  If you'd like an easy snack food for your kids or late snack with your friends, this is a good one to try.

1 lb. ground chuck
1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1 envelope taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
2 tubes crescent rolls
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese

Brown ground chuck, onion and jalapeno until meat is cooked through. 

Add taco seasoning mix and water and cook until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat.

Unroll crescent rolls being careful not to separate.  Press seams together firmly.  Using a small biscuit cutter cut circles out of dough. 

Place 1 t. meat into each circle and top with a sprinkling of cheese.

Carefully fold over dough into a half moon shape and press edges together with tines of a fork.  Prick top of empanada with fork.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat baking sheets with cooking spray and carefully place empanadas on baking sheets.  Cook for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. 

Serve with chopped cilantro, sour cream, salsa and/or thinly sliced green onions.

5 Spice Tortilla Chips

Oh, these little chips have all sorts of possibilities.  You can mix/match, add/delete spices and seasonings to suit your taste and mood.

Cut 12 6-inch tortillas into 8 wedges each. Mix 2 T. vegetable oil with your favorite seasonings.

I started with:

1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1/8 t. cayenne
1/8 t. ancho chili powder
1/8 t. chipotle chili powder
1/2 t. salt

Toss the tortilla wedges until well coated. 

Working in batches, spread on two baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 - 22 minutes.

Then grab some salsa or guacamole and enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lolly's "Cure What Ails You" Chicken Noodle Soup

Sweet Harold has had a busy week as always. Granted, dealing with me is a full time job, but I digress. We had great plans for this weekend, but as always, life doesn't go as planned. When he woke up  this morning, he had a fever. I insisted he go straight to the doctor. Well, after almost making it through the worst cough/cold/flu season this area has experienced in years.....he has the flu. Yes we both had a flu shot, but I guess if it wants you, it gets you. 

Perfect opportunity to drag out the soup pot and make a nice batch of Chicken Noodle Soup. This soup Laughs In The Face of Campbell's Canned Wannabe. 

4 quarts water
3 chicken breasts
2 t. chicken base
1 T. butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 small carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
salt and pepper
1 t. ground thyme
2 T. flour
1 cup frozen green peas
8 oz. linguine noodles, broken into fourths
1/2 cup half and half

Bring water to a boil and add chicken breasts and chicken base. While chicken is cooking, dice vegetables and heat olive oil and butter in medium skillet over medium high heat. Add veggies and garlic to the skillet and add a little salt and pepper along with the thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft. Add flour to skillet and stir until golden brown, about 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

When chicken is done, remove from broth and let cool slightly. Shred chicken.  Add vegetables to broth and bring to a boil. Add frozen peas and noodles and cook until done, about 8 - 10 minutes. Add chicken and half and half and heat through. Taste to check for need for additional salt and pepper. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cider Vinegar-Braised Chicken Thighs

I love all things vinegar.  Vinegar based BBQ sauces, vinaigrette salad dressings, love them all.  When I came across this recipe in Food & Wine February 2011, I knew it was one I had to try.  Sweet Harold's eyes watered a little every time he passed through the kitchen while the chicken was braising, but I was in vinegar heaven.  It mellows out beautifully during cooking and just leaves a nice zing!

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds chicken thighs, fat trimmed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 T. all purpose flour
1 cup cider vinegar
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 T. unsalted butter
2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley
2 T. snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large enameled cast iron casserole, heat the olive oil.  Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole, skin side down.  Cook over moderately high heat, in batches if necessary, turning once, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter.

Spoon off all but 2 T of the fat in the casserole.  Add the carrots, garlic and leek and cook over lower heat until crisp tender, 5 minutes. 

Add the flour and stir for 1 minute.  Add the vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, 3 minutes.

Add the broth, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin side up. 

Transfer the casserole to the oven and braise the chicken for about 50 minutes until cooked through.

Preheat the broiler. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up.  Broil on the middle rack of the oven until the skin is crisped and golden, about 4 minutes.

Simmer the sauce over moderate heat until reduced to about 4 cups, 10 minutes.  Stir in the butter until melted.  Add the parsley and chives and season the sauce with salt and pepper.  Return the chicken to the casserole, skin side up; and serve over buttered rice or couscous.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Agnolotti with Artichoke Sauce

I was happily surprised at how quickly this dish came together. A good tip to remember is get the water on to boil for the pasta before you even begin to get the rest of the ingredients together. Your supper will be on the table super fast!

1 14 oz. artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup half and half
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
kosher salt
1 cup frozen peas (do not thaw)
1 t. finely grated lemon zest
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 pound refrigerated cheese ravioli
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Combine the artichokes, half and half, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/4 t. salt in a large skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and continue to cook, covered, until tender, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Discard the garlic clove.

When the large pot of water boils, add the ravioli and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta and transfer to the skillet with the sauce.

Add the parmesan to the skillet and gently stir until the pasta is coated. Thin the sauce with some of the reserved cooking water. Stir in the basil.

Moroccan Spiced Pastitsio with Lamb and Feta

This recipe is from the March 2011 Bon Appetit magazine. Ground lamb wasn't available during the grocery shopping trip, so I settled for ground pork. The ingedient ras-el-hanout can be found in specialty food stores or you can google and make your own mixture which is what I did. 

2 T olive oil
1 1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound ground lamb
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 T dried mint
1 1/2 T ras-el-hanout
1 T tomato paste
3 t. ground cumin, divided
1 t. ground cinnamon
3 cups whole milk, divided
8 T (1 stick) butter, divided
6 T all purpose flour
3 large eggs separated
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 pound penne pasta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add lamb, cook until browned, breaking into small pieces, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice, mint, ras-el-hanout, tomato paste, 2 1/2 t. cumin and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until lamb mixture is thick, stirring often, 15 - 18 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 2 cups milk to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm. Melt 6 T. butter in heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour; whisk until smooth. Reduce heat to medium low; cook until roux is pale golden, whisking often, 3 to 4 minutes. Gradually add warm milk to roux whisking until sauce is smooth. Whisk 1 cup milk with 3 egg yolks in medium bowl; whisk into sauce. Whisk in feta and 1/2 t. cumin. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat to medium low; simmer until slightly thickened, mashing with potato masher to break up cheese. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter deep 14 cup baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain pasta; return to same pot. Mix 2 T butter into pasta. Add egg whites and 1/4 cup Parmesan; stir to blend.

Spread half the pasta into dish. Spread lamb mixture over. Top with remaining pasta. Spoon sauce over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Place dish on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 - 10 minutes before serving.