Passionately Pursuing the Good Life

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 Recipe Round Up

As the season of giving thanks (and pie!) approaches, I take a moment to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for. Health? Check! Love? Check Check! Good food? Well, thanks to some truly amazing food bloggers and reliable Food Network chefs, that gets a hearty check, too! I am truly thankful for the wealth of food bloggers and recipes at my disposal online. Where I may have felt that I couldn’t live without the Food Network a few years ago, it seems lately that a lot of my inspiration to try new recipes comes via the Interwebs!

Here are a handful of my favorites so far this year.

Recipes from the Pioneer Woman

Penne a la Betsy

Ahhh…this is my favorite kind of recipe – delicious, quick enough for a weeknight meal, and fairly healthy (depending on how much cream you decide to use). This dish is very comforting. Use the Barilla Plus pasta for an added nutritional boost and a side of veggies and you’ve got a really nice meal.

Modifications: Just a pinch of red pepper flakes (or more depending on your spice preference) to the onions as they cook. The sauce is fairly sweet so I like the dimension that the spice brings to it. Additionally, I live in fear of burnt garlic so I don’t add the garlic until after the onions have cooked down.

Olive Cheese Bread

You can definitely file this under the category of “Not Even Remotely Healthy.” Though, olives are kind of healthy…right? This is major decadent goodness, and works really great as an appetizer for a party, especially since you can mix the olive/cheese/butter spread a few days in advance.

Modification: I think you can actually cut the spread ingredients in half. I made the full recipe but wound up using a lot less of it on the bread and it was still very rich.

Recipes from Giada De Laurentiis

Asian Chicken Salad

I LOVE this salad! It’s perfect for an easy weeknight meal because there’s no cooking as long as you grab a rotisserie or other pre-cooked chicken from the grocery store. Just chop your veggies, slice the chicken, whisk up the dressing and assemble!

Modifications: A couple of ingredients here are not vital. I’ve made this salad a number of times without cabbage and I’ve never managed to acquire Thai Basil, but it’s still delicious. I also use regular white sesame seeds instead of black ones.

Lasagna Rolls

This is a great party dish for a couple of reasons – one, it’s vegetarian if you omit the prosciutto (which is not crucial to the recipe) and, two, you can assemble it the day before and put it in the oven an hour or so before your guests arrive. I also love the idea of lasagna "rolls" because it provides you with a perfect portion to dish out. Plus it was scrum-dill-iumcious!

Modifications: I followed a lot of reviewers’ suggestions and doubled the b├ęchamel sauce so that there would be plenty to cover the bottom of the pan. I had a little left over but I agree that you need just a little more than the original recipe provides. As mentioned, you can leave out the prosciutto to make it vegetarian, or you can even add cooked sausage to it for a more classic lasagna taste.

Pasta Primavera

Here’s another great vegetarian meal. There is an unusual amount of chopping prep-work here, but once you get through that the recipe is very easy to complete. Since it’s fairly simple, this is one of those recipes where it’s really important to use good ingredients (i.e., fresh farmers’ market vegetables and really good parmesan cheese). Plus you can stray from the actual veggie ingredients here and use whatever is in season.

Modifications: There are quite a few changes here. First, I’m not crazy about raw tomatoes so at the halfway point when you stir the vegetables, I throw in the halved cherry tomatoes so they can cook down a little bit. I also add a couple of cloves of chopped up garlic at the beginning. In place of the Herbs de Provance, you can pretty much use any seasoning blend that, as Pioneer Woman says, makes your skirt fly up. I’ve been using a blend from Penzey’s called Paris Morning. A couple of crucial notes here – you really need to make sure your oven is HOT when you put in the veggies, or they won’t caramelize properly. Also, the Food Network link has a video which I found helpful to see the shape in which she chopped everything.

Recipes from Annie’s Eats:

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Many comments on this link claim that these are really “Monster Cookies.” Whatever they are, they are delicious and also gluten free as there is NO flour used in this recipe! I thought the use of pretzel M&Ms was quite genius (although in hindsight pretzles probably have gluten so omit those if your goal is gluten free). And this is the kind of recipe that can be a blank canvas to whatever you like or have on hand to put in…nuts, other kinds of candy, etc.

Modifications: I’m not a huge fan of raisins, so I used dried cranberries instead and was very happy with the result. Also, my cookies where a bit puffier than what Annie’s appeared to be in her pictures. I wound up liking them that way because they were kind of soft inside. But if you prefer a crunchier cookie I think you need to pat them down a little before they go in the oven.

S’Mores Cupcakes

Oh, man…if you are looking to impress, this is the cupcake to do so! Dramatic in design, and super delicious! There were multiple steps to this recipe, but honestly as long as you’re organized (and have a small kitchen blow torch) I don’t think it is too difficult for your average baker.

Modifications: None. It’s perfection!

Chicken Enchilada Roll Ups

I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for an appetizer for Fourth of July that could be served at room temperature. They were very well received, though I think the brand of chili powder I was using was extra hot because they came out a little picante! It takes a bit of practice to get the rolling technique down (go ahead and insert your adolescent “rolling” joke here). You want to make sure and roll them tight so that when you cut them they stay intact. Yummy, delicious, and overall a fairly low-maintenance appetizer. Win!

Modifications: If you have sensitive palates (or insanely hot chili powder like moi) you might want to halve the amount of spice.

Recipes from Sing for your Supper:

Easy Mexican Casserole

Self designated food snobs (sometimes referred to as “foodie,” ack I hate that word), like to diss on the casserole as it’s an easy target. But you know, it’s darn hard to beat the comfort that comes from a good, solid casserole. And this is a good one. Really simple to prepare with good flavors and the added bonus that it seems to get better the next day! Perfect for a fall weeknight, or even a nice easy Sunday dinner.

Modifications: I made none, though I'm sure you could play with this a bit - use turkey instead of ground beef, use seasoned black beans, etc.