Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jalapeno Relleno Bake

I am my own worst enemy.

Me and my inability to read recipes correctly. Or the ability to read recipes correctly, but the inability to pick up the correct ingredients. Who knows what's going on in my head. My thoughts are probably drifting toward my next meal and not focusing on what's happening in the present.

The reason for this tirade? I really wanted to make the chile relleno bake that I had seen on the Circle B Kitchen blog. I had a recipe for it. I went shopping for the ingredients. I came home and made it. My roommate and I promptly gagged and choked from the heat of the dish. What the heck?

I've never had a chile relleno before. I know, what am I doing trying to make a chile relleno bake then, right? I like to jump headfirst into things and this is just my way of doing it. OK? So I had no idea how this thing was going to taste, but I was surprised by how much it burned going down. Now before you stop reading, I didn't say that this dish tasted bad. It tasted great. But it was super spicy. And if you're kinda into that, keep going...

About a week later, as I was sifting through my food porn folder, I happened to shuffle through some pictures that I had taken of the Chile Relleno Bake. And I realized that I hadn't used chiles in the dish. I had used jalapenos. Yes, the lightbulb is now on.

The culprit

So now I have a nice little Jalapeno Relleno Bake recipe to share with everyone.

Jalapeno Relleno Bake
slightly adapted from Circle B Kitchen's Chile Relleno Bake

Print Recipe

  • 6 oz shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 6 oz shredded taco blend cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 7-oz can diced jalapenos (I bought a can of whole jalapenos and diced them myself)
  • 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa
1) Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Combine the two types of shredded cheeses.

3) Spread 3/4 of the cheese in the bottom of the baking dish.

4) Sprinkle the chopped jalapenos over the cheese. Try to get it in as even a layer as possible.

5) In a bowl, beat the eggs together. Slowly add the flour, salt, and milk.

6) Pour this mixture over the cheese and jalapenos in the baking dish.

7) Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the dish.

8) Top with the salsa.

9) Bake in the oven for ~45 minutes, or until the center is set.

10) Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with an extra drizzle of tomatillo salsa over each slice.

No, this little lady won't win any awards for beauty, but each bite of this casserole is creamy, cheesy, and spicy...a wonderful combination in my book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tomatillo Salsa

This is one of my favorite. salsas. ever.

Not only is it green (I like the color green), but it's also tangy and spicy and perfect over a piece of grilled chicken or eaten on it's own with a tortilla chip.

I was first introduced to this little gem when I visited my friend, Matt, in Austin, TX a while ago. He pulled out a batch of this stuff and I knew I needed the recipe.

Except that he doesn't really use recipes. But he was able to give me some guidelines and recommendations so I could run with it. Here ya go!

Tomatillo Salsa
from my friend Matt

Print Recipe

  • ~12 tomatillos, chopped
  • ~10 jalapenos, chopped*
  • ~4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • dash salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
1) Add all items into a blender until creamy.**

2) Pour the salsa into a saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes.

3) Let the salsa cool, then use as desired!

*You can add more or less, depending on how spicy you like it. I'd probably start out with ~6 jalapenos if you're not sure. Don't worry. The heat really mellows out when you simmer the salsa.

** The blender chose this precise moment to crap out on me. Thus I ended up using my immersion blender to make this salsa happen. Still worked out perfectly!

I've heard of variations in which roasted tomatillos have been used for the salsa. I haven't tried this yet because it will increase the time it takes for this salsa to get into my mouth. But you let me know how it tastes if you do roast those tomatillos.

I've got the perfect plan for this salsa...Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Penne Alla Vodka

I'm so excited to tell you all about this dish because I think it's going to be a new fave.

Actually, it's already my new fave. I guess I just need to tell you about it then.

A while ago, on Twitter, I randomly saw someone reference Rocco DiSpirito's latest cookbook "Now Eat This". Well, it probably wasn't that random. I follow a bunch of foodies so I'm sure it was bound to happen sooner or later. To satisfy my curiosity, I looked up the cookbook and saw that each of the recipes in the book was 350 calories or less. Now I'm not on a diet, but there's nothing wrong with eating healthy. And of course if there are fewer calories involved, I feel so much better about going back for seconds!

Now, it's time for me to make an admission of guilt: I added calories back into this dish.

Yep, I did that. But in my defense, I was trying to use up items that I already had in the apartment. And for some reason (I don't know why!) these items weren't as healthy as the ingredients which were called for in this dish. But they could still act as substitutes, so I went ahead and used them. I grabbed regular pasta instead of whole wheat pasta and used up some compost spaghetti sauce instead of using Rocco's Low-Fat Marinara Sauce. See, that wasn't so bad, right?

Penne Alla Vodka
adapted from Rocco DiSpirito's No Cream-No Cry Penne Alla Vodka
(serves 8)

  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup compost spaghetti sauce (something like this)
  • 3 cups Tomato Basil spaghetti sauce
  • crushed red pepper
  • 2 7-oz containers 2% Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until pasta has the desired texture.

2) In the meantime, add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until transparent, 3-5 minutes.

3) Add the spaghetti sauces and crushed red pepper to the saucepan.

4) Bring to a simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat.

5) Stir ~1/2 cup of marinara sauce into the yogurt to temper it and prevent the yogurt from curdling.

6) Stir until the mixture is smooth, then whisk the mixture back into the marina sauce.

5) Add the drained penne pasta, marinara sauce, basil, and cheese in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

I actually forgot to add the crushed pepper in Step 3 when I made this, but I just added it in at the end. If you wanted to, you could also brown some ground beef (or other type of meat) in the saucepan before adding the sauce.

This dish was creamy and comforting in the best way possible. I didn't even notice that the yogurt replaced the cream. And if you love the tomato-basil combination, then this recipe will be your new best friend, as it is mine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bailey's Espresso Cupcakes

I think I've figured it out.

You know how I made those Mocha Cupcakes before? And they weren't very mocha-y?

Well, perhaps it's because I used instant coffee instead of instant espresso. I tend to do things like this a lot. It happens. But I finally found instant espresso in the grocery store and I needed to put it to good use.

Hoboken St. Patrick's Day usually takes place on the first Saturday of March. Since my roommate and I were having a brunch party, I decided to remake the mocha cupcakes for this event. I decided I'd use espresso this time to increase the caffeine kick. And no cup of coffee is complete on St. Patrick's Day without a little Bailey's to top it off. Hello, new cupcake idea!

Bailey's Espresso Cupcakes
adapted from Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake recipe
(makes ~24 cupcakes)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 rounded tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
1) Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.

2) Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in mixing bowl.

3) In another bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4) With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in several increments. Mix ingredients together for another 2 minutes to blend completely.

5) Dissolve the espresso powder in the boiling water.

6) Stir the boiling water into the batter. The batter will be thin.

7) Pour batter into cupcake liners. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.

8) Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost with Bailey's Espresso Frosting (recipe below).

Bailey's Espresso Frosting
adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Bailey's frosting
  • 6 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 4 - 5 cups confections sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) Whisk the espresso powder into the Bailey's Irish Cream. The powder will dissolve a bit, but not entirely. This is fine. Set this mixture aside.

2) Whip the butter using an electric or hand mixer for several minutes. You want the butter to look almost white and be very light and fluffy.

3) Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Slowly.
4) When the frosting is thick, drizzle in the Bailey's and espresso mixture. Whip until combined. If the frosting is too thin at this point, add another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
5) Pipe or spread on the cupcakes.
I could eat these all day. These cupcakes have two of my favorite ingredients: caffeine and alcohol. Unfortunately, the espresso doesn't really shine in the chocolate cupcake, but 1) it really gets a chance to shine through in the frosting (along with the Bailey's!) and 2) a little bit of espresso really makes a chocolate cupcake taste more like chocolate. Really. You should try this cupcake with and without espresso and I'm sure you'll be more impressed with the cupcake that has the espresso in it.

So what's not to love? This cupcake is the perfect compliment to brunch. An even more perfect compliment to a St. Patrick's Day brunch!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Walnut Butter Sauce

I think I might have been Italian in a former life.

While I do adore all things French (today I'm really into these cupcake liners from Meri Meri), I'll totally shove a plate of pasta in my face any day.

And let's not forget gnocchi. Cause it is definitely not off limits.

Remember that Basil Gnocchi that I made a while ago? Well, I've been meaning to make another batch of gnocchi since then. When I saw Closet Cooking's recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi, I knew that I needed to make this. And of course I needed to modify the recipe slightly. Instead of pumpkin, I decided I would use butternut squash. You know, cause I have a slight obsession with butternut squash.

I had been thinking of making the Brown Butter and Sage sauce that was on the Closet Cooking website, but that very same week I received the latest Food Network magazine. And it was all about Italian food. How perfect, right? I flipped through the pages as I usually do when i first get the latest issue. And one of my flips landed me on a page displaying a variety of pasta sauces. The one that caught my eye was the Sage Walnut Butter sauce. And I knew I needed it in my life right now.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
adapted from Closet Cooking's Pumpkin Gnocchi
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree (see below)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
Make the puree:
  • 1 medium butternut squash

1) Cut the butternut squash in half.

2) Remove the seeds and pulp from the butternut squash halves.

3) Roast the squash in the oven at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until softened. (I don't think it matters whether or not you roast the squash cut side up or cut side down. I roasted mine cut side down and it was fine.)

4) Once the squash is cool, scoop out the squash meat and mash into a pulp with a fork.

Note: You can make the puree a day ahead if you want to save some time.

Make the gnocchi:
(makes 8 servings)
  • 2 cups butternut squash puree (recipe above)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
1) If your puree is really wet, simmer it in a sauce pan to dry it out a bit and then let it cool down.

2) Add the egg yolk to the butternut squash puree and mix gently.

3) Add the salt and nutmeg to the flour and stir to incorporate.

4) Add enough of the flour into the pumpkin puree to form a soft dough that is not too sticky to work with.

5) Knead the dough for a minute and then roll it out into long thin rolls, which are about 1/2 inch thick.

6) Cut the rolls into 1/2 inch pieces, then roll the pieces in flour, lightly shaking off any excess.

7) You can give the pieces ridges by rolling them over a fork (or gnocchi board, if you're fancy). This step is optional, so I skipped it.

8) Cook the gnocchi in salted, boiling water in small batches until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes.

9) Remove and set aside to drain.

10) Toss with Sage Walnut Butter (recipe below).

Sage Walnut Butter
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup water (preferably the starchy water in which the gnocchi was boiled, but regular water works fine as well)

1) Combine the vinegar, honey, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper in a small pot and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes. Set this sauce aside. Cover to keep warm.

2) Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.

3) Add the sage and walnuts and saute until the nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes.

4) Turn the heat to high and ladle in 1 cup of water.
5) Cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.

6) Toss with gnocchi to incorporate.
7) Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the gnocchi.

I love gnocchi, but I will admit that I didn't absolutely love this dish. However, I believe this is mostly due to user error.

Yeah, it was probably me.

The gnocchi was more of a "firm pillow" instead of "light as a feather", but I think it might have had something to do with me kneading the heck out of it instead of using a gentler touch. I mean, I came up with pillows of fluffy Basil Gnocchi before, so I guess this just means I need more practice. Which also means it's going to be time to make more gnocchi in the future.

But. This doesn't mean that the gnocchi didn't have a great flavor. Cause it did. The butternut squash was present in each bite and the sage walnut butter provided a warm, nutty coating for it all. The balsamic drizzle at the end finished the dish off with a nice tang.

So I definitely need to perfect my technique here. But since I spent all day playing with dough, I think I'll need a little rest period before I go at it again!