Sunday, February 26, 2012

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a lot of favorite cookie recipes: favorite peanut butter cookies, favorite meringue cookies, and favorite butterscotch chip cookies, to name a few. The one elusive recipe was for chocolate chip cookies. I'd tried a lot of recipes and sampled even more, but none of them were perfect. Then I met my husband. His chocolate chip cookies are truly amazing! I don't know WHY they're so good, but they are. They aren't much to look at- flatter than normal (nothing I have tried has fixed this!) and kind of dingy looking from the molasses, but they're perfect. Soft on the inside with chocolate chips that somehow remain melty, and a tiny bit crunchy/chewy on the edges. What's more, they actually stay soft and delicious for a while, unlike some cookies that go stale after a day or two. I implore you to make them, even if you already have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Here is what my husband has to say about his cookies: "I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies with my family as long as I can remember – standing on a chair in order to reach the mixer is a happy memory for me. I merrily made the same recipe until all the way to college where I learned that you can make your own brown sugar – one cup white sugar and one tablespoon molasses. This shocked me, because I hate storing brown sugar and having it turn all granitelike and hard to work with. I immediately made a batch, and they didn’t turn out at all. The molasses/white sugar substitute is quite a bit wetter than bagged brown sugar. After some tweaking, I finally balanced the recipe again."

Update:  These are also amazing made with about 2 cups of roughly chopped Andes Mints instead of the chocolate chips!





Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 C butter
1/2 C shortening
2 C sugar
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
2 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
1 T molasses
2 1/2 C flour
2 C semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place butter, shortening, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat until fluffy. Mix in salt and baking soda, then eggs, vanilla, and molasses until thoroughly combined. Mix in flour until a dough has formed, then mix in chocolate chips. Roll dough into golf ball sized balls (or use an ice cream scoop) and arrange on prepared cookie sheets with approximately 3 inches between cookies. Bake until barely golden and just set in the middle, about 10-15 minutes. Cool on the sheets for about 10 minute until you can transfer them to cooling racks. After they've cooled completely, store the cookies in an airtight container.

Yield: about 2 dozen large cookies

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lime Green Smoothie

We love smoothies. I used to make them almost every day for breakfast, but then we moved into an apartment and I worried that the sound of the blender would wake up the neighbors in the morning. Plus, my husband and I don't usually get up at the same time during the week so we couldn't share. Normally my smoothies would consist of a banana, a cup of sweetened yogurt (vanilla, strawberry, whatever), some fresh or frozen chopped fruit, and juice to thin it. Yum indeed. This past week I decided to start making smoothies again for lunch, but with added spinach because it's good for ya and you supposedly can't taste it in the finished product. Guess what? You really can't taste it! The smoothie tastes great (I love the lime) and the only indication that it contains spinach is that the smoothie is a frightening shade of olive green and looks like nothing you would ever want to put near your mouth. EVER. For that reason, I decided not to post a photo because my goal here is to encourage people to try my recipes, not send them screaming into the night.

Quick note: You can take a lot of liberties with the recipe and use pretty much any combo of fruit that you want. This week I used frozen chunks of mango, strawberries, and pineapple, but next week I think I will try a berry blend. You can use fruit from the freezer section at the store (which is what I do because come on, it's February in Interior Alaska and there aren't many likely fruit choices in the produce aisle) or fresh fruit, frozen or not. You can even toss in a second banana instead. As for the liquid: milk, juice, almond/rice milk, or probably even water would work. Of course, if you use juice, the finished smoothie will be sweeter. I've been mostly making them with milk and find that the added lime juice helps the smoothie seem sweeter, which is probably just my wacky tastebuds. I make my own Greek yogurt pretty frequently and plan to do a batch in the next couple of days so I'll try using that for 1/2 C of the liquid and will let ya know how it goes.

Lime Green Smoothie

1 banana, peeled (obviously)
1 big handful of fresh baby spinach
about 1 C chopped fruit (about 5 ounces by weight)
3/4 C milk
2 T lime juice

Place all ingredients in a blender, cover, and blend until completely combined.

Yield: about 2 1/2 C, which makes 1 big smoothie or 2 little ones.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black Forest Cheesecake

My mom always told me that desserts are a woman's realm and guys don't really like desserts. Especially cheesecake: she declared it to be the girliest dessert of all. Well, know what? Mom was dead wrong. My husband could basically survive off of desserts (his dad and brother, as well), and his all time favorite dessert is, you guessed it... cheesecake. He also loves Oreos and cherries, so I decided to surprise him with this Black Forest Cheesecake for him in honor of Valentine's Day. I ended up having a terrible cold on Valentine's Day so didn't make it until the day before yesterday, but he loved it and declared it to be the best cheesecake he's ever had. I don't know about that, but it IS good. It was actually the first cheesecake I ever made back when I was 16 or so, and my family loved it, too! The recipe is from page 64 of a book called Recipe Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook that is chock full of tempting looking goodies.

Quick note: It's kind of tough to tell when a cheesecake is done because it will still be jiggly in the center and if you stick in a toothpick, it will still come out wet. I just bake it for exactly as long as the recipe says and both times I've made it, it's turned out just fine.

Black Forest Cheesecake

20 oz Oreos (1 15 oz package and a third of another package)
1 T butter at room temperature
1 C cottage cheese at room temperature
2 8 oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 C sugar
4 eggs
1 C sour cream at room temperature
2 T lemon juice
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 C cornstarch
1/2 C melted butter
16 oz can cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 325 and rub butter on bottom and sides of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. Pulverize Oreos in food processor. Dust sides of springform pan and press about a cup and a half of crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Set the rest of the crumbs aside.

Place sugar and eggs in a the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with whisk attachment until smooth and fluffy. Place cottage cheese and cream cheese in food processor and process until as smooth as possible. Add to sugar and egg mixture and blend until combined. Add sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cornstarch, and butter, and whisk just until smooth (don't over beat!).

Pour half of the cheesecake mixture into the prepared springform pan, top with half of the reserved Oreo crumbs, then half of the cherry pie filling. Top with remaining cheesecake mixture and the rest of the Oreo crumbs. Bake in preheated oven 70 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 to 2 more hours.

Cool cheesecake completely in fridge, then cover with aluminum foil and let set several hours before serving, or ideally until the next day. When you're ready to serve the cheesecake, top the entire thing or the individual slices with the reserved cherry pie filling.

Yield: about 10 servings

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Update: 2/22/16:  I now have several mac and cheese recipes posted on my blog, and this one is my husband's favorite.  It's the ultimate mac and cheese recipe and what we both consider to be the title recipe of my blog.

It has occurred to me that I have not yet posted a SINGLE macaroni and cheese recipe on this blog, even though I named the blog after mac and cheese! I've even made macaroni and cheese since starting the blog, just haven't added the recipe for some bizarro reason.
 
As implied by the title, I love macaroni and cheese. Love it. My level of adoration is a little embarrassing, seeing as I'm almost 27 years old, but whatever. Macaroni and cheese is too perfect not to love. Over the years I have tried a multitude of recipes and have a couple of favorites. The one I'm posting here is a slight alteration of one from AllRecipes and is one of the best I've ever had. This is a baked mac and cheese. Usually baked macaroni and cheese is not very creamy, but this one most certainly is, thanks to the entire brick of cream cheese that you stir into the sauce. It's also very rich and cheesy (more than twice as much cheese as pasta will do that!), and just... good. Reheats great, too. If you love saucy, cheesy, creamy macaroni and cheese, I suggest you give this one a try.
 
Story time: People are so fond of this mac and cheese that I often bring it to potlucks, and I always bake it in the same Fiesta dish. We actually call it the mac and cheese bowl because it's the main thing I use it for. Anyway, few months ago, we brought this mac and cheese to a potluck at some friends' house and ended up leaving the leftovers there when we had to leave early. A couple of days later, we were back at their house and when I peeked in their fridge, I found my mac and cheese bowl inexplicably half full even though it had almost all been eaten up. Magically replenishing mac and cheese bowl? Sadly, no. They just loved it enough that they made some themselves!
 
Quick note: Excess heat makes cheddar cheese get gritty. To make sure your mac and cheese is smooth and wonderful, be sure to add the cheddar cheese to the sauce when the pot is off of the burner and the sauce is no longer boiling. The cheese will also get gritty if you bake it too long, so just bake it long enough to make the topping golden.
 



Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
 
8 oz macaroni
1 t salt for water
1/4 C butter
3 T flour
2 C milk
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 T dijon mustard
8 oz cream cheese
12 oz shredded medium cheddar
 
Topping:
4 oz shredded medium cheddar
2 T melted butter
1 C cornflakes, crushed (you can use panko or cracker crumbs instead if you would prefer)
1 t dried parsley
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 2 quart baking dish. Boil pasta in large pot with 1 t salt. In a medium sauce pan, make a roux with the butter and flour. Let cook while stirring for a minute or two. Stir in milk a little at a time, making sure sauce is smooth after each addition. Add salt, pepper and mustard, then stir in cream cheese until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. In a small bowl, stir together butter and crushed cornflakes and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake for about 20 minutes or JUST until topping is golden, then sprinkle with parsley. You can leave off the topping and just do the extra cheese and parsley if you want.
 
Yield: about 12 servings as a side dish

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

I have never been fond of cutout sugar cookies. They all just seem so... bland. And boring. Blah. And the beautiful royal icing people use to decorate them is just as bland and boring and blah. It's a shame really because making sugar cookies and decorating them is FUN! Lucky for me, I finally came upon a recipe for cutout sugar cookies (and glaze!) that I think are delicious. Unglazed, they have great flavor and texture and are crunchy. After they've been glazed and have sat in the cookie jar for a day or so, they become softer and even more delightful.

Unsurprisingly, the recipe is from Christy at Southern Plate! How I love that blog. My version is only ever so slightly adapted from hers. Basically, I added a little bit of butter and lemon extracts to the dough to jazz up the flavor since let's face it, sugar cookies are almost by definition very mild. You may be thinking I'm crazy for even wanting to use butter flavoring. I don't blame you since I thought it was weird as heck before I bought it for another Southern Plate recipe because Christy used it and I trusted her judgment. Hopefully you will trust me and give it a try, but if not, that's okay! The cookies will still be good since the vanilla and lemon are what you actually taste, the butter flavoring just enhances things a bit. So, if you don't like cutout sugar cookies, I suggest you try these. Maybe you still won't like cutout sugar cookies, but maybe you finally will!

Quick note: My dough was a tiny bit difficult to work with. It wanted to come apart some as I rolled it out and I had to be careful when moving the cutouts. It actually seemed to roll out easier once it warmed up a bit. Thankfully, it was still a fun dough to work with and I was able to easily patch together the dough that broke off. Patched cutouts baked up fine and you couldn't even tell once they were iced! If your cookies don't turn out perfect, don't stress- this is supposed to be enjoyable! Take your cookies elsewhere if anyone fusses at you because they don't look professional :o)

Here are my "lovely" cookies. Yes, I made pink manatees and red hearts for Valentine's Day. Finally, a use for the manatee cookie cutter I bought! My husband works with a group of geeky dudes and I thought they would like them. He asked that the cookies be made a little more manly, but how much manlier could they be? "Manatee" already has "man" in it! I'm considering adding tiny bow ties- that would make them manlier, right?



Sugar Cookie Cutouts

2/3 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t lemon extract
1/2 t butter flavoring
2 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Cream together shortening and sugar, then beat in egg and extracts until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until combined.  If the dough seems too crumbly, you can mix in water half a tablespoon at a time, or flour one to two tablespoons at a time if it seems too wet.  Be careful not to over mix or the cookies will be tough. Form dough into a disk, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate 1 hour.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (depending on your preferences) and cut out with cookie cutters. Use a very thin spatula to transfer the cutouts to parchment paper lined cookie sheets and place about an inch apart. Bake on parchment paper lined cookie sheets until just barely golden around the edges, 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Let cookies cool on sheets for about 10 minutes and then finish cooling on cooling racks.

Yield: This really depends on the size of your cookie sheets! I got 9 manatees and 13 hearts. The manatees were pretty big and the hearts were a little on the small side. I'd guess about 30 average sized cookies.

Glaze:
2 T butter
1 C powdered sugar
1/4 t vanilla, lemon and butter extracts
1 1/2 T milk

In microwave, melt butter in a glass measuring cup or cereal bowl. Stir in powdered sugar, then extracts. Add milk and stir until smooth. You want the consistency to be pretty thick (like Elmer's Glue, yum!) so it doesn't pour off the cookies, so add a little more powdered sugar or a tiny (as in 1/2 teaspoon increments) bit of milk if necessary. Tint with food coloring and spoon over cookies, using the back of the spoon to spread the glaze. Top with sprinkles if desired. Let cookies sit out until glaze is completely dry (this will take a couple of hours), then you can stack them up in a cookie jar or tin.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Monkey Bread from Scratch

I love cinnamon rolls and other cinnamony things, but my husband might love them even more. He's a great guy, so I decided to surprise him with monkey bread for breakfast. If you've never had it before, monkey bread is little balls of dough coated in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and baked in a bundt pan. Eating monkey bread is basically like eating the inside of a cinnamon roll, which we all know is the best part! In the past when I've gone out of town, I've made him monkey bread with canned biscuits, but I wanted to do it from scratch this time and this Martha Stewart recipe looked like a great one to try. Along the way I made a few changes to streamline the method, I had to make more of the cinnamon sugar mixture coat all of the dough, and I changed the glaze to something I thought would taste better. The monkey bread turned out amazing! Really, truly excellent, if I may say, and without question better than the kind made with canned dough. The bread part was soft and tender, the brown sugar-cinnamon-butter part was gooey and wonderful, and the glaze was creamy and flavorful. My husband said it's better than cinnamon rolls and we may or may not have been reduced to licking our plates a little bit. I really, really hope someone will feel inspired to make my version of this great recipe, because you will not be disappointed!

If you're afraid of working with yeast, this is probably a pretty good recipe to start with since the dough will be coated with cinnamon sugar and let's face it, most things would taste good like that. My best advice for the dough is to make sure it rises enough (before baking it should have approximately doubled in size), but don't let it rise too much or the dough will fall and the texture will be funky. Regardless of the time of year, I always have my dough rise in the oven. I pop in the bowl of dough, turn the oven to 300, count to 45, and turn it off. All ovens are different, but for mine, this provides a perfectly warm environment for the yeast to do its magic! If you open the oven door a lot, you'll probably need to warm it more than once.

Quick note: As much as we like how this turned out, it is admittedly impractical to make for breakfast because of the rising time. I tried to be smart and stuck the bundt pan in the fridge overnight, thinking it could rise in there and I'd be able to just stick it in the oven in the morning, but that didn't exactly pan out. The dough only rose a little overnight, and because it was cold, it took two hours to finish rising in the warm oven! So, don't do what I did or breakfast will be very late and you'll end up fixing scrambled eggs while you wait. Next time I make it I'm going to try completing the entire recipe up through the last rising and stick it in the fridge when it's almost doubled in bulk. Hopefully it will be ready to go in the oven immediately in the morning. If this works out, I will update the recipe with what I did!

Also, sorry about the not-so-pretty picture, every time I make this recipe a little bit sticks to the bundt pan.  Doesn't compromise the flavor, though!



Monkey Bread from Scratch

for dough:

1/4 C warm water (about 105-110 degrees F if you want to get specific)
1 t sugar
1 packet yeast (2 1/4 t)
2 T butter
3/4 C milk
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 t salt
about 3 3/4 C flour

for cinnamon sugar:
1 stick butter
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 T cinnamon

for glaze:
2 T butter
2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

Proof the yeast in 1/4 C slightly warm water with 1 t sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for 5-10 minutes. Yeast mixture should look creamy. Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, then add 3/4 C milk and microwave until slightly warm (again, between about 105 and 110 degrees F). Stir into yeast mixture along with sugar, egg, and salt. Stir in 3 C flour by hand, then add 3/4 C more and knead with dough hook until a nice, barely sticky ball of dough has formed. You can add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time if it's too sticky, or water 1 teaspoon at a time if it's too dry. Once dough is ready, form it into a ball and pour on about a teaspoon of oil, turning to coat. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm spot to rise for 20 minutes, it's okay if the dough does not rise a ton.

Melt butter in one bowl and stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in another. Grease a 10 inch (12 cup) bundt pan and sprinkle about 4 T of the sugar mixture in the bottom. Tear off walnut sized pieces of dough, roll into balls, dip in butter, and roll in brown sugar mixture. Place balls in bundt pan. To make things faster, I roll about 8 dough balls, then put them all in the butter then all in the sugar mixture. Do this with all of the dough, then sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture on top of the balls and pour butter on top. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, which should take about 30-60 minutes, but may take longer if your kitchen is cold.

When the dough has doubled in size, preheat the oven to 350 and bake the bread until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Let bread rest in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, then whisk in the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. You can pour it on the entire loaf of bread, over individual servings, or pour it in tiny bowls for dipping.

Yield: About 8 to 12 servings

Monday, February 6, 2012

Garbanzo Sandwich Spread

Yesterday I came across this recipe and had to give it a try. It looked interesting, I already had the ingredients, and I need to bring lunch to school three times this week so it seemed like a good choice! Of course I changed it a bit to better suit my tastes, but it turned out quite well. Basically I made it the same way I make tuna salad and egg salad. The texture is surprisingly similar to that of tuna salad and I think it tastes quite good, too. You should definitely give it a try if you're a vegetarian. Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I still plan to make this for myself. It would be great on toasted wheat bread (or a bagel, mm!) with assorted veggies (I'm thinking tomato, cucumber, and alfalfa sprouts), or wheat crackers.

Quick note: I dislike the crunch of raw onion and celery in things, but feel free to add them instead of the onion and garlic powders if you want!

15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
4 T mayonnaise (you can use light, fat free or vegan)
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 t dried dill
1/4 t garlic powder
1/4 t onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Place the beans in a flat bottomed bowl and mash with a potato masher. It shouldn't be completely smooth, but you don't want whole beans. Stir in mayonnaise and other ingredients, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: Enough for 3 or 4 sandwiches

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Slow Cooker Cheese Lasagna

Over the years I've made many lasagnas from scratch. They've always been quite labor intensive what with making the sauce and boiling the noodles and everything, but they always turn out pretty well. When I decided to make a recipe for lasagna in the crock pot using jarred sauce and uncooked noodles, my expectations were pretty low, but I figured it would be worth a try because my husband LOVES lasagna.


Much to my surprise, the lasagna ended up being pretty much the best one I've made! It took only about 10 minutes worth of work and the result is pretty near perfect: lots of noodles, lots of tasty cheese, yummy sauce, not too dry or too wet, nice and browned around the edges. Needless to say,  My husband loved it and asked if I would just make this all the time. For this recipe I used a jar of spaghetti sauce that had been in my pantry for a couple of years because it was about to expire, but I'm excited to try it with my homemade spaghetti sauce that I cook in huge batches and freeze. I wonder if it will be even better that way!


Quick note: I used a round 4 quart slow cooker. The shape and size of yours will determine how many layers of everything you can make and will probably also impact how wet or dry the lasagna will be. Just use your own judgment!



Amazing Slow Cooker Cheese Lasagna


26 oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Mushroom Prego)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t salt
1 C water
1 egg
15 oz container ricotta cheese
1/2 C grated asiago cheese
2 C mozzarella, divided
1 t dried basil
1/2 t salt
about 12 oz lasagna noodles (the regular kind you're supposed to boil, NOT the oven ready kind)


In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg, then stir in ricotta, asiago, 1 C mozzarella, salt, and basil. In a separate bowl stir together spaghetti sauce, garlic, water, and salt. Grease slow cooker. Pour in a layer of sauce, a double layer of noodles (break to fit crock and arrange noodles in opposite directions like a windowpane), and a layer of cheese mixture. Repeat until ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of noodles, cheese mixture, and enough spaghetti sauce to completely cover noodles. I make 4 layers in all. Cover and cook on low until lasagna is tender all the way through, 4-6 hours.


When it's finished cooking, sprinkle the reserved cup of mozzarella on top. Carefully lay a paper towel over the top of the crock and then replace the lid. The paper towel will keep condensation from dripping onto the cheese. Cook until cheese has melted.
Yield: 8-10 servings

Oven Pancake

During the week, my husband and I go our separate ways at breakfast time since we're rarely getting ready for work/school at the same time. At least one day each weekend, though, I like to make us a nice breakfast. Sometimes I make waffles, pancakes, French toast, or crepes, but the one I make the most is an oven pancake because the dude loves it and it's very quick and easy (a theme with me!). If you've never had one before, it's very good, but not really like regular pancakes because it's much denser. Until today, I'd been making a recipe from AllRecipes, but I decided to try this one from Our Best Bites. My husband likes the old recipe more, but I prefer the new one and think it would appeal to more people, so that's the one I'm sharing. A lot of cooks seem to be very loyal to the recipes they've been using forever, but not me! I have no qualms about switching to a different one if I like it better :o) The new recipe is less eggy and I love the little hint of vanilla that I decided to add.

As for what to serve the pancake with, we love berry syrup (the kind from the farmer's market!) and whipped cream, but things like maple syrup, jam, peanut butter (really!), powdered sugar with lemon juice, fresh berries, mini chocolate chips, and Nutella are all great. The recipe at Our Best Bites includes a recipe for a very tasty looking berry sauce.

Quick note: I always bake an oven pancake in a glass dish, but I'm sure it's even better in a 10 inch skillet! We actually have one, but try as I might, food still sticks to the darned thing and I've given up for the time being. Also, according to Sara at Our Best Bites, you can bake the batter in mini muffin tins and get puffy itty bitty oven pancakes. That sounds really good and I will need to try it soon!


Oven Pancake

2 T butter
2 eggs
3/4 C flour
3/4 C milk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t vanilla extract
toppings of your choice

Place butter in an 8 by 8 baking dish and stick it in the oven. Turn oven to 400 degrees and let the butter melt while you prepare the batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. When butter has melted, swish it around the dish to coat, and pour in the batter. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cut into squares and serve with toppings.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tofu Bites

This is a very good Asian inspired tofu dish that I've made many times over the past couple of years after I adapted it from the version on AllRecipes. It's quick, easy, yummy, and the way I make tofu most often!  We even like it when it uncooked, it's so yummy.  The flavor is kind of a cross between teriyaki sauce and barbecue sauce.  You can either bake it or cook it on the stove.  Both are great, but go for the pan frying method if you want crisper tofu.  Cooked that way, it would be a good recipe to try on a reluctant tofu eater because the tofu isn't too soft and the sauce is quite flavorful and appealing.  Either way, it is perfect with steamed rice and Garlic Roasted Broccoli made with sesame oil instead of olive oil. The two baking dishes can be in the oven together.

Quick note: In spite of what the original recipe says, I've never been able to get the tofu golden brown or crisp in the oven. It stays pretty soft, even if you bake it for an hour. Baking it longer than 30 minutes or so does make the sauce start to burn a bit, so you'll want to line the pan with aluminum foil unless scrubbing baking dishes for hours is your idea of a good time.

Here's a photo of the tofu prepared on the stove.  I scooped up the tofu cubes with a slotted spoon and had the extra sauce on the side to go in Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu.


Tofu Bites

2 T ketchup
2 T honey (or maple syrup to make it vegan)
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T white vinegar
1/2 t hot sauce (Sriracha is good!)
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder or 1 minced clove
2 T sesame seeds or chopped cashews (optional)
16 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (get the water packed kind in the refrigerated section!)

To bake in the oven (resulting in softer tofu):
In a medium bowl, stir together ketchup and honey, then stir in soy sauce a little at a time until all is added and the sauce is smooth. Stir in all remaining ingredients except tofu. Add cubed tofu, toss to coat, and let marinate on the counter for 5 minutes if you're in a hurry or covered in the refrigerator for a few hours if you have the time. When you're ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 375 and line an 8 by 8 inch pan with greased foil for easy clean up. Pour in tofu and bake 15 minutes, stir, then bake 15 minutes longer.

To cook on the stove (resulting in crispier tofu):
In a medium bowl, stir together ketchup and honey, then stir in soy sauce a little at a time until all is added and the sauce is smooth. Stir in all remaining ingredients except tofu.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high, then add the tofu and saute, stirring occasionally, until tofu is light golden and crisp all over.  This will take 15 to 20 minutes.  If you're using the sesame seeds or cashews, add them at the end and saute for a minute or so until they're golden.  Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until it has thickened a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

 Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chicken Pasta Toss

I clipped this recipe from an issue of Taste of Home some time ago and decided to make it tonight, with a couple small modifications as usual. Very glad I picked it, because it turned out awesome! We both loved it. It was so fast and easy to make, the chicken and sauce part were done before the pasta. There isn't a whole lot of sauce- it just coats the spaghetti really- but the sauce is very flavorful. It isn't very healthy what with the cream, but will be a great quick dinner to make every once and a while and is good enough to make for guests if you don't want to waste time in the kitchen. Also, I think it would be very good with 3/4 lb sliced mushrooms instead of the chicken.

Chicken Pasta Toss

12 oz spaghetti
2 T butter
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 to 3/4 lb cubed chicken breast
1/3 C sliced green onions (I use kitchen scissors)
1 C whipping cream
1 t salt
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried sage
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t pepper
1/2 C grated parmesan
2 T minced fresh parsley (kitchen scissors are also good for this, or you can use 1 t dried parsley)

Cook pasta in a large pot of water with 1 teaspoon salt. While it cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and saute the garlic for 30 seconds or so. Add the chicken and green onions and saute until chicken is cooked through. Add whipping cream, salt, and seasonings (including parsley if you're using dried). Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. When pasta is cooked, drain thoroughly and then add to skillet. Toss to combine, then toss in parmesan and fresh parsley.

Yield: 4 servings