Sunday, March 23, 2008

My first Easter feast!

Chad and I had his mom over for Easter dinner today, so I had the chance to cook my first full holiday meal on my own. Kinda scary, but it turned out great. I had decided to do a Southern menu, with ham, macaroni and cheese, squash casserole, fried okra, cucumber salad and cornbread. Everything went well together, and most everything was delicious. Chad and I are still working on our fried okra recipe, so I'm not posting that yet (but we did still eat it, coated with ketchup because Heinz makes anything taste delicious!).

Apricot-Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

This was my first attempt at making a ham and it turned out pretty good. I don't know how much the glaze added to the ham...I didn't recognize a strong flavor, but the overall taste of the ham was awesome. I love ham on holidays, it reminds me of my granny. The glaze is originally from All-Recipes.

Apricot-Brown Sugar Glazed Ham

Fully-cooked ham (I used a 5 lb. bone-in ham)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Place the ham cut side down onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Mix together the brown sugar, apricot jam and mustard powder in a small bowl (I used apricot preserves so added a little water to make it thinner). Brush onto the ham using a pastry or barbeque brush. Reserve any leftover glaze. Enclose the foil around the ham and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 2 hours in the preheated oven. Apply the remaining glaze 20 minutes before the ham is done.

Squash Casserole

This was our favorite thing on the table this year, and will definitely be added to my holiday dinner casserole rotation. It's from Paula Deen, with a slight modification to kick it up a notch!

Squash Casserole

6 cups large diced yellow squash and zucchini
Olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
black pepper
garlic powder
Emeril's Essence
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Saute the squash in a little oil over medium-low heat until it has completely broken down, about 15 to 20 minutes. Place the cooked squash in a colander. Squeeze excess moisture from the squash. Set aside.

In a medium size skillet, saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients (spices to taste) together except cracker crumbs. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Macaroni and Cheese

I love mac and cheese and when I decided to make it for Easter, I knew I was going to go all out (meaning full fat!), so I searched and found this recipe on Food Network. I made a few substitutions for convenience and price, and probably shouldn't have. I used bagged shredded cheddar and 6 cheese Italian blend, and I thought the sauce was a little gritty. I think it would have been better with higher quality cheeses. Now I know...

Macaroni and Cheese

1 tablespoon salt, plus more for pasta water
1 pound large elbow macaroni
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
16 oz. shredded cheddar
6 oz. shredded 6 cheese Italian blend
2 cups panko

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In large pot filled with water add 3 pinches of salt and the macaroni and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and let cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Sprinkle flour over butter and cook 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat, whisking until a roux or paste forms. Add cold milk and whisk vigorously until dissolved. Cook sauce on medium-low heat until thick and bubbly. Add heavy cream, all cheeses, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Cook until cheeses are fully melted, stirring occasionally.

Add cooked macaroni to cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Place macaroni mixture in a 13 by 9 baking dish and top with bread crumbs. Place in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Chocolate Eclair Cake

My friend Kelly made this at our last Cooking Club, and I thought it was the perfect dessert for Easter because it was light (since we would already be stuffed from dinner) and quick (since we weren't getting home until Easter morning). I put a healthy tag on this because I used reduced fat graham crackers, fat-free cool whip and 1% milk so it can't be too bad for you!

Chocolate Eclair Cake

1 box of Graham Crackers
1 8oz light cool whip
2 small packages of instant vanilla pudding
3 cups of milk
1 can of chocolate frosting

Using the milk, mix the packages of instant pudding then add in the cool whip and mix together. Put one layer of graham crackers along the bottom of a 9x13 pan and pour half of pudding mixture on top then put another layer of graham crackers topped with the remaining pudding mixture. Make a top layer of graham cracker and top with chocolate frosting. Refrigerate to chill. Feel free to top with fruit of your choice…strawberries, blueberries, etc.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Heaven on a Plate (or Penne with Goat Cheese-Tomato Sauce)

It seems like I have a pattern of where I find fabulous recipes...Cooking Light or Elly's blog. This is one from Elly, and it was one of the best pastas I have ever made (so said Chad!). It was easy to make, and tasted like it came from a top-notch Italian restaurant. I can't wait to make this for my friends and family!

Penne with Goat Cheese-Tomato Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 (4-5 oz) hot Italian sausages, casings removed (I used shrimp because I had some in the freezer)
1 small onion, diced (I used shallots)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 tsp. (or to taste) crushed red pepper flakes
a few tbsp of wine or broth (not necessary but it's good for deglazing)
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen peas (didn't use these as I'm not crazy about peas in pasta)
3 Tbsp. fresh basil (more for garnish if desired)
1 small (4oz) log goat cheese (SuperTarget had a peppercorn goat cheese, so I tried that)
salt and pepper
10-12 oz. penne, cooked

Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When shimmering, crumble in the sausage and saute until browned. (I sauteed the shrimp, then removed and kept warm. I added it back towards the end of cooking). Add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes before adding the mushrooms and garlic. Once the mushrooms and onions are tender, add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute before adding a few splashes of broth/wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the browned bits.

Add the crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer to combine the flavors, 10 or 15 minutes. Add the peas and heat through for a minute or two. Stir in the basil and the goat cheese. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the goat cheese has melted into the sauce. Season to taste if necessary and combine with the cooked pasta.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp

I decided that Chad and I don't eat enough seafood, so last week I was searching for something to make other than K.Q.'s tilapia, which we love (see previous entry for that). I thought shrimp would be quick and easy, and after some searching found this recipe from Bobby Flay on Elly's blog. It was everything I thought it would be...easy, fast and delicious. Plus Chad was really happy because we had shrimp, zucchini and salad, so he felt like it was healthy and light.

Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Shrimp

1large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 chopped green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large zucchini, cut into half-moons

Place shallots, ginger, garlic, soy, lime juice, and sugar in a food processor and process. Add the green onion and oil and process until combined. Season with black pepper, to taste. Place shrimp in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Preheat a grill to high. Skewer shrimp and zucchini, and grill for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.

Creamy Chicken with Artichokes

I had marked the Chicken and Asparagus in White Wine Sauce from Cooking Light, so when Chad requested chicken with artichoke and a creamy sauce, I went to that recipe and made some modifications, and voila! Creamy Chicken with Artichokes was born. I think this would be good with some sun-dried tomatoes thrown in as well.

Creamy Chicken with Artichokes

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle chicken breasts evenly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour. Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add wine, broth, garlic and artichokes to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; cook 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. If sauce needs to thicken, mix 2 tablespoons of broth with 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and add to sauce. Remove from heat; stir in juice. Serve sauce over chicken.