Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Bars


Looking for an easy but interesting dessert to wow friends or family members? Try this salty and sweet combination! Now that summer is upon us, I'm sure some of you need a dessert idea to bring to a pot-luck party or a BBQ, right? Well, this is it. I found this recipe on www.foodandwine.com, one of my favorite websites. The creator of this recipe is Grace Parisi, a writer for the website. She was born and raised on Long Island, just like yours truly, but that is not the only reason why I think she is awesome. I look up to her because she did NOT go to culinary school but has a kick-ass job as Senior Recipe Developer at Food and Wine. Grace, can't you hook me up? That's my dream too!

Honestly, I would not change anything from this recipe as printed below, except to add one ingredient. I think it needed more salt. Not just any salt though - fleur de sel (french sea salt). It would be great sprinkled on top right after it comes out of the oven and is still warm - yum! That is my only "complaint" if you will. That means - try this recipe!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups pretzels, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, allowing overhang on the 2 long ends.
2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with both sugars at medium speed until light, 1 minute. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients.

Stir in the chips and pretzels.
3. Spread the batter in the pan and top with the sprinkles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden; the center will still be a little gooey. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

4. Run the tip of a knife around the side of the pan and lift the bar out using the parchment paper. Cut into 24 squares and serve.

For anyone interested in seeing 1,150 more recipes and 95 articles by Grace Parisi, check them out here: http://www.foodandwine.com/chefs/grace-parisi. I'm not kidding. She even has a cookbook, which I just realized while writing this blog post, called Get Saucy. Clearly she is amazing.

Tutti Mangia!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine & Pancetta Green Beans

Martha Stewart is kinda one of my idols. Despite her shortcomings (*ahem* jail time), she has some pretty darn good recipes. One of her recipes that I just tried out was this chicken dish. Of course, me being myself, I modified it, but it still turned out great! I just like to complicate things in the kitchen.

Martha's recipe had the base ingredients covered but I wanted more! I added extra veggies such as carrots, celery and onion. I love extra sauce on EVERYTHING (I mean who doesn't?) so I left most of the ingredients the same except cut the amount of chicken in half. It tasted like a cross between a spring coq au vin and a deconstructed chicken soup. Whatever you want to call it, I couldn't get enough! I hope you decide to make it for dinner one night.

4 bone-in skinless chicken thighs
Salt / Freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices, plus fresh
lemon juice
2 tbsp cold butter
3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Cooked rice, for serving (optional, but necessary in my opinion)

1. In a 12-inch skillet with a tight-fitting lid, arrange thighs, bone side up; season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes. Put chicken aside on a small plate. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the hot pan (add more oil if necessary). Saute vegetables for about 10 minutes until softened. Add chicken thighs back into pan along with the wine and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook, 30 minutes.

2. Turn chicken bone side down. Place a lemon slice on each piece; cover and continue simmering until tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add a few more splashes of wine if you'd like (personal touch HAHA). Add butter, parsley and lemon juice (to taste but I added the juice of one whole lemon); stir until butter has softened and sauce is smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken with sauce and, if desired, rice. Serves 2 with leftovers.

My leftovers consisted of vegetables and rice only -  which was so good the next day for lunch! I am a rice fanatic just like my mother. (Love you mama!) Because the lemon and wine flavors had the chance to soak into the rice overnight, it actually tasted better... For those of you who do not like chicken thighs (aka dark meat), you can certainly try this out with white meat chicken breasts. I happen to really like the flavor that the chicken thighs have, especially with the bone in. If you try it differently, please let me know the outcome - I love hearing cooking stories - good or bad!

When I made this dinner, I also made a lovely side dish of Pancetta Green Beans from my go-to girl Dorie Greenspan. This recipe came from her cookbook, Around My French Table, which I've made my case in previous posts on why to buy it. (i.e. Salted Butter Break-Ups, Savory Cheese and Chive Bread and Banana Bundt Cake) In staying true to my "French Friday's with Dorie" cooking club, I will not be posting that recipe but you can e-mail if you are interested in replicating it. Of course I own the book - that and 100+ others (womp womp).

Dorie Greenspan wrote, “This simple dish is made special with the addition of a little sauteed pancetta.  It adds a speck of saltiness, another texture, and elements of elegance and surprise.” I could not have said it better. Tutti Mangia!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

Looking for a new pasta recipe for dinner this week? You should definitely try this one out... it takes about a half hour to both prep and cook this meal. I was lucky enough to have Shaun lend a helping hand in the kitchen for this one. I left him at the stove as I ran around chopping and dumping ingredients into the skillet. I have to admit, he is getting much better at helping me in the kitchen! That is as long as the Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox or now Celtics since they are in the Playoffs, oh and sometimes golf, are not on TV. I am happy nonetheless.

This recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, December 2008. Tony Rosenfeld, who happens to be the co-founder of b.good in Boston, created this recipe. b.good is a delicious and healthy fast food chain that I happen to like a lot. They have 7 locations in and around Boston now. If you have not tried it yet, go there - they have yummy baked fries and sweet potato fries - you won't miss the deep frying at all. Tony also has two cookbooks worth checking out - 150 Things to Make with Roast Chicken and 50 Ways to Roast It and Sear, Sauce and Serve. He is also featured in magazines and newspapers, which you can see on his website, tonyrosenfeld.com. Okay, okay, enough about Tony (I think I've made it clear that I think he's a pretty cool guy) - here is the recipe -->

Kosher Salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2-3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced
2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup drained canned diced tomatoes
1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
8oz (1/2 box) tri-color ziti or pasta of your choice
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crumbled, about 5-8 minutes. Add the mushrooms, scallions, rosemary, red pepper flakes, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms soften and start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the baby spinach, tomatoes and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then cover and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the sausage is heated through and the flavors are melded, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions until it's just al dente. Drain well and add to the sauce along with half the Parmesan. Cook over medium heat, tossing for 1 minute. Serve sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan and some black pepper. Serves 2 (well, Shaun and I).
This recipe is easily adapted to feed more than two people - make more pasta and add more veggies! You may or may not need a little more liquids for the "sauce" as well. It was a delightful dinner that was easy to make. There are not many spices involved but the sausage gives the meal a ton of flavor. When you make a dish that requires simple ingredients like this one, it is important to use quality ones. The sausage and Parmesan cheese are the most prominent flavors here so I did not skimp when buying them. Please don't use grated cheese sitting on a shelf. That's all I ask! Tutti Mangia!

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