October 9, 2016

Pasta e Fagioli

It's been Soupy Sundays for the past two weeks, this week featuring Pasta e Fagioli!  It was actually pretty windy and chilly all day, and this soup definitely hit the spot.  It's a great soup for a Sunday, too, because it takes less than 30 minutes to put together and you can relax and watch football the whole day!  Some people put a lot more ingredients in this soup, like celery, carrots, onions, kidney beans, spinach, etc. but in my opinion, this soup gets pasta, bacon (or pancetta), and white beans in a nice hearty tomato broth.  That's it!  Don't go crazy.  Pasta e Fagioli literally means "pasta and beans" - so leave it alone.  I'm usually known for having a laundry list of ingredients for my recipes, so it'll be nice to share a recipe that doesn't require you get your paycheck before making it.

What You'll Need:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 10 slices bacon, thick-cut, diced'
  • 2 tablespoons sherry wine
  • (1) 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 cups chicken broth, divided
  • (2) 15.5-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound ditalini pasta

1.  In a large stock pot, heat butter over medium-high heat until melted, and add bacon.  Cook bacon until no longer chewy, but not crispy.  Deglaze the pot with sherry wine, using a wooden spoon to release all the brown "bits" from the bacon off the bottom of the pot.

2.  To the pot, add crushed tomatoes, 6 cups of chicken broth, white beans, and bay leaf.  Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes to let the flavors "marinate".

3.  Finally, about 20 minutes before serving, add ditalini pasta and stir well to ensure the pasta noodles don't stick - to either the bottom of the pot, or to each other.  Add the rest of the chicken stock while the pasta is cooking, because it may suck up a lot of your broth.  Add broth until desired thickness, and let it simmer away until pasta is cooked and you are ready to serve.  Be careful not to let the pasta overcook. 

Remove bay leaf before serving, and serve with grated parmesan cheese on top, of course!

October 3, 2016

Apple Pie Cheesecake Braid

I truly had forgotten how much I enjoy being in the kitchen.  My new house doesn't have central air (which is a LOT more difficult to deal with then originally thought!), so cooking this summer was just simply out of the question.  Then, starting the new school year at work has been one of the busiest yet!  The upcoming week is going to be seriously crazy, so I am so thankful for this relaxing weekend that I had to cook up some new fall recipes and share them.  This apple pie cheesecake braid is super easy, but really perfect for this season -- especially if you're not #basic and are looking for a dessert sans pumpkin!  Also, if you possess a lot more finesse than I do when it comes to desserts, your braid will be so much prettier ;-)

What You'll Need:
  • 6 gala apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons prepared caramel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch chips (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped (optional) 
  • 2 Pilsbury classic pizza crusts

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, caramel, half the vanilla extract, salt, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine until apples are well coated.  Set aside.

2.  In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, cream cheese, confectioner's sugar, and the rest of the vanilla.  Using a hand mixer, mix ingredients until smooth.  For a fun twist, fold in butterscotch chips and pecans - or one or the other to your liking - these ingredients won't change much.

3.  Roll out your pizza dough onto a flat surface, covered with a floured sheet of foil or parchment paper.  You can't just put it on your counter, because it will be too difficult to move to a baking sheet.  Using a paring knife or pizza cutter, slice horizontal lines about 2 inches in on each side of the pizza dough, leaving a 4-inch space in the middle.  Repeat with the second crust.

4.  Down the middle of the dough, spread cream cheese mixture evenly over both crusts.  Do the same with the apples, reserving the delicious leftover caramel liquid.  Starting at the top, fold the top of the dough over, and grab one slit from one side and cross over to the other.  Alternate, grabbing another slit from the other side, and cross over the original.  Repeat over and over until you get to the bottom, where you can fold the bottom portion of the crust up, and then cover with the last two slits.

5.  Drizzle remaining liquid from apples over the top of each braid.  Sprinkle with white sugar and extra cinnamon.  Bake in a 375-degree until the pizza crust is cooked through, and golden brown.  When you remove from the oven, let braid rest for at least 10 minutes so the insides don't come running out when you cut into it. 

Enjoy with vanilla ice cream, extra caramel, chocolate sauce -- hell, you can throw some bourbon on there!  That's a recipe for another day...

Philly Cheesesteak Soup

What a great day to be back! And what a great recipe to start this beautiful fall season.  I've spent the past few months away from my blog moving into a new house, starting a new school year at work, and making numerous doctor's appointments for the newest little future Community Plate contributor!  Baby Harris is due to make her arrival on December 29, so the blog may take a turn after the holidays from delectable eats and crazy concoctions to homemade baby food and family favorites.  To my readers who waited for my next post since mid-July, I appreciate you, and I hope you enjoy the newest recipe for this creamy soup!  Just a little taste of home for this Jersey girl living in Baltimore. 

What You'll Need:
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 white onion, small dice
  • 1 green pepper, small dice
  • 8-ounce package mushrooms, rough chop
  • 2.5 pounds chuck roast, cut in chunks
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint light cream
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup + 1 can water
  • 3 cups shredded provolone cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese

1.  In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.   Saute onion, green pepper, and mushrooms until very soft.  (Well... I have to saute them until very soft because my hubs doesn't like either onions or peppers, so it needs to seem like they're not there.)  Add chuck roast to the pot, and stir until browned on all sides.  Add beef stock and cook over medium-low heat until simmering.

2.  In a separate pot, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add flour and whisk until flour is incorporated and golden brown.  Stream in cream and whisk until smooth.  Add cream of mushroom soup and water and again, whisk until smooth.  Gradually add cheese, whisking continuously until you have a beautiful smooth cheese sauce.  Add salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.

3.  Add the white cheese sauce to the large pot of soup.  Add cream cheese and stir until cream cheese has melted into the soup and there are no lumps.  Add potatoes.  Season soup to taste and continue to cook over medium-low heat until potatoes are tender and soup is nice and thick.  The longer on the stove, the thicker the soup will become.

Enjoy with some extra cheese and homemade croutons right on top to drive home that "cheesesteak" feel!

July 13, 2016

Pizza Tater Tots

It's about 328 degrees here on the East Cost in good old Baltimore, so you shouldn't be wearing them - but if you are, prepare to have your socks knocked off!  Homemade tater tots are some of the easiest things that you can make to save yourself from the expense and additives (dextrose, disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate, "natural" flavoring, etc.) of store-bought stuff.  The best thing about tots is that SO MANY different things taste great with potato, you can come up with your own version of tater tots as often as you'd like!  I made Jalapeno Cheddar Tots previously (on my blog, too!), but these pizza tots may outshine them.  Between the spicy pepperoni, creamy cheese, and all those good dried spices you'd find on a pizza - you won't know if you're eating pizza rolls or tater tots.  

What You'll Need:
  • 3 pounds white baking potatoes
  • 3 cups pepperoni
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1 tablespoon each, dried oregano, dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups vegetable oil, for frying

1.  Begin by boiling the potatoes until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from water and let cool, enough to handle.  Using a box grater, shred potatoes into a bowl lined with cheesecloth or kitchen towel.  When all shredded, wrap and squeeze the towel until all the excess water is removed from potatoes.  Set aside.

2.  In a food processor, add pepperoni and pulse until chopped into a fine mixture.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add spices, cheese, and reserved potatoes and toss until full incorporated.  Sprinkle with flour and ensure mixture is nice and dry, easy to form tots.

3.  Begin to form your tater tots.  The easiest way is the slide them back and forth between your hands, and then press both top and bottom to form the cylinder shape.  (Or, if you're like my friend Jake, just give up entirely and make them into balls.)  You want the cylindrical shape so people know they're tots!  Makes about 5 dozen regular-sized tots, or about 16 MACHO TOTS (in which I stuffed with cheese -- pictured above.)

4.  Once you've formed all the tots, heat oil in a large pot to 350-degrees.  Drop your tots in batches, making sure they don't fall in and stick together.  Fry for about 3 minutes, until the outside becomes crisp and golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Sprinkle with some extra Parmesan and serve alongside marinara sauce for dipping.

June 4, 2016

Chicken Alfredo Pizza

All hail, the holy grail: PIZZA.  I live and breathe pizza.  It's like a sandwich, but better.  More versatile.  More exciting.  Easier to eat.  I am just obsessed with pizza.  And I'm obsessed with creating all different kinds.  The best part is taking everyday meals and turning the into pizza - like tacos, cheesesteaks, and pasta dishes!  Join this easy weeknight meal of chicken Alfredo, and turn it into a creamy, rich, decadent pizza that everyone will love!

What You'll Need:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 16-in. pizza crust 
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
  • 2 cups Italian blend cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped

1.  In a saucepan, melt butter and saute shallots and garlic until shallots become soft and translucent.  Stir in cream and heat until simmering.  Stir in Parmesan cheese, and whisk continuously until cheese has melted through and there are no traces left, or else it will clump.  Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

2.  Baked pizza crust in a 425-degree oven until the crust starts to turn slightly brown.  Remove from oven and top liberally with Alfredo sauce.  Layer with shredded cheese, chicken, and broccoli.  Return to the oven on a perforated pan or pizza screen (or directly onto the rack for crispy crust!) Bake until edges are golden brown and crust is to your liking!  Enjoy by dipping pizza into the extra Alfredo sauce - mmm, mm!