Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dinner 1-2-3! A Meal In Three Easy Steps!

Here's another quick and easy dinner idea from the December 2009 issue of Everyday Food; "Chicken In A Pot".
You'll rely on this hearty chicken dinner again and again. Total time to prepare, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, most of that is unattended cooking time.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a 5-qt dutch oven or heavy pot, combine 1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth and 1/3 cup dry white wine. Rinse and pat dry a 3-4 lb whole chicken, then rub the chicken, all over, with one tablespoon of room temperature unsalted butter and season generously with coarse salt and ground pepper. Tie legs together with twine. Place chicken in pot and bake uncovered for about 30 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, toss 2 leeks (white and light green part only, sliced lengthwise, thoroughly rinsed, then cut into 2" pieces), 5 carrots (cut into 2-1/2" pieces), 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled, with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil; season with coarse salt and pepper..
Remove the pot from the oven and add the vegetables. Bake until chicken juices run clear when pierced between breast and leg or an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let chicken rest 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, set a steamer basket in a large pot filled with 2 inches boiling water. Place 1 pound new potatoes, halved or quartered (if large) in basket, cover, and steam until tender, about 15 minutes. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken and vegetables along with the pan juices and whatever accompaniments you'd like. Here, I've served mini-cornbread loaves. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dinner Idea For Some Of That Leftover Holiday Ham!

Need a quick and easy way to use up some of that holiday ham? Try this delicious dinner dish: Bow-Ties with Peas & Ham

The entire meal takes 20 minutes, from start to finish! All you need is an onion, some frozen peas, cream, a box of bow-tie pasta and some left over ham cut into strips!

Like all pasta dishes, get that water boiling and start cooking that pasta! You'll want it al dente! When cooked, drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, melt 3 tbls. of unsalted butter over medium heat and cook your onions until soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Next add the peas and cream, stir and simmer until it's slightly thickened, another 3-4 minutes.

Now, toss in your cooked ham strips, and simmer just til the ham is heated through, about 1-2 minutes.

Mix that sauce with the pasta and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top!

The Most Amazing Cheesecake!

Who doesn't love a good cheesecake? I know I do. For some reason, cheesecakes are something I rarely bake. This holiday season, I wanted to make one for my niece as this is her favorite dessert!
This recipe was created by Susan Sugarman, former deputy food editor of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. It was originally featured in the Martha Stewart 2002 Holiday Baking Special Issue, titled "Susan Sugarman's Cream Cheesecake". It was then featured in the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook under the title of "New York Style Cheesecake" (made with a chocolate cookie crust). Though not the healthiest dessert out there, it certainly is rich, creamy, and delicious!

The ingredients consist of seven, yes seven bars of cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla all baked atop a vanilla cookie crust! The finished cheesecake weighs about 3-4 lbs!!

Making the crust is simple. Cream together some butter & sugar, then add some egg yolks and vanilla. Press onto the bottom of a spring-form pan, and bake at 350 til it's golden brown.

Now beat all that wonderful cream cheese in a mixer until it's light and fluffy! Then on low speed, add a little flour and the sugar.

Add your 5 eggs, one at a time!

Next, on low speed, mix in the sour cream and add the vanilla.

Pour the batter on to the prepared crust in a spring-form pan that has been buttered on the sides! Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 90 minutes, lower the temp to 325 and bake another 12-15 minutes until the center is set. Turn off the oven and let sit in the oven, with the door ajar, for another hour. This prevents the top from cracking.

I had about a cup of leftover cheesecake batter so I baked that in these small silicone fluted molds.

When the cheesecake is completely cooled, keep in the pan, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. The remove the ring of the spring-form pan carefully. Cut, serve and enjoy!
I guess you can say I'm a "purist" as I like my cheesecake plain, without a topping.

Now I did find a variation of this Cheesecake Recipe online and you can find it here: New York-Style Cheesecake. This version uses 1 bar less cream cheese and the chocolate cookie crust. It also has an orange topping. This recipe, along with the recipe from the Baking Handbook also uses a water-bath to bake the cheesecake in. The original recipe does not use the water bath and I find it unnecessary.

Holiday Baking 2009!!

As much as I love baking throughout the year, no other time of the year is my baking more prominent than during the Christmas Holiday Season. I love giving gifts of cookies and other treats to friends and family and since this year was dedicated to the "homemade" and the "handmade", gifts of homemade sweets just seemed like a "good thing"!

I generally pick a few recipes from literally hundreds that I have saved, online or in recent publications I receive. The following is a sample of some of the items I did this year:

Festive Holiday Bars

Italian "Oil" cookies (an old family recipe)

Here are some treats boxed up for my employees and friends. Made up 60 of these altogether consisting of 4 different items each!

I was also asked to bake and donate an item to be sold at a Charity Bake Sale. The item I made was the "Gingerbread House" Cake featured in the 2009 Martha Stewart Living Holiday Baking Issue.
This consisted of a gingerbread cake with chocolate butter cream icing and adorned with actual gingerbread pieces for the roof shingles, trim, windows and door. Though the version in the magazine had a more "log cabin" look, I was going for a whimsical, cartoonish look!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays To You All!

Sending out Holiday wishes to each and everyone of my friends and family, and looking forward to a wonderful New Year full of good things!!