Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chocolate Truffles ~ 2.23.10

I know it's Lent and all, but well, Valentine's Day slipped by the wayside with all the snow we were pummelled with and this is such an easy and sweet recipe... I just had to share it with you today

In fact, we'll be sharing it with all our moms at MOPS today as this is our special craft for the month of February-- truffles!

I've tried a few truffle recipes this month and this is still, by far, my favorite. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough truffles are a close second. My least favorite were the truffles made with chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk- blah. Not good.

This recipe was shared with me by a friend whom I've never had the chance to meet quite yet.  We became friends via an online message board over 7 years ago!  You can visit her blog and see her amazing photog skills. She's taking a photo a day throughout the year.

Chocolate Truffles

1 box Devil's Food cake mix (not pudding in the mix)
Ingredients called for on cake mix box

Bake the cake in a 9x13 pan and cool. Crumble in into smithereens in a large bowl. This is VERY cathartic.

Melt in a saucepan,
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup apricot preserves**

Mix those in the saucepan until glossy and then pour over your crumbled cake mixture. Mix until gooey. Form into 1- 1 1/2 inch balls and refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours.

If you haven't eaten them all, dip them in melted almond bark (or buy the confectionary wafers) and place on waxed paper. Chill and store in closed container.

In the photo above, I drizzled mine with a Chambord glaze that comes from another favorite cookie recipe: Chambord Fudge Cups. They were the hit of our wedding years ago!

I haven't tried this yet, but I'd be interested to see how these taste with other preserves mixed in them.

**You do not taste the apricot at all. You'd have no idea that was in there at all! Do note that when you're forming the cake balls, sometimes you'll come across a big clump of preserves... I just pull that out and add a little more cake mixture.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Welcome Lent ~ Homemade Macaroni and Cheese ~ 2.17.10

Another family favorite!

Today being Ash Wednesday, we are abstaining from meat. I think most of us who remember the lents of our childhood will recall that there was certainly a lot of Macaroni and Cheese, Pizza and Fish Sticks consumed. We try to mix it up a bit over at the Costain house with our Sweet Potato Burritos, pasta dishes and few other faves but macaroni and cheese will always find its way on our lenten menu.

While I do like the convenience of a boxed mac 'n cheese for those emergency situations (by the way, we prefer Annie's), there's just nothing like homemade.

Tonight I did a hybrid of Pioneer Woman's mac 'n cheese (from her new cookbook) and my old faithful America's Test Kitchen recipe (which follows). I think I'll stick to old faithful though. While her sauce sure was cheesy deliciousness, I like the fact that I don't need to whisk too much and I can just throw it all in the pot and voila... mac 'n cheese. I still used evaporated milk even though her recipe calles for whole milk and I added a little onion powder to the pot as well.

This recipe is quick and convenient and worth the few extra minutes it takes to make. I serve mine up with peas- gosh I love the little burst of green sweetness with each cheesy pasta bite. I hope you enjoy this, too.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

A heavy-bottomed pot that distributes heat evenly is essential here. If you're in a hurry or prefer to sprinkle the dish with crumbled common crackers (saltines aren't bad either), you can skip the bread crumbs.

Serves four as a main course or six to eight as a side dish

Toasted Bread Crumbs

1 cup fresh bread crumbs from French or Italian bread
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

2 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I always use a pound- way too cheesy for me)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces sharp Wisconsin cheddar, American, or Monterey
Jack cheese, grated (about 3 cups) ( I like a combo- depends on what I have on hands, too)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix bread crumb ingredients (crumbs, salt, and melted butter) well in small baking pan. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, mix eggs, 1 cup evaporated milk, pepper sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, pepper, and mustard mixture in small bowl; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat 2 quarts water to boil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and macaroni; cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite. Drain and return to pan over low heat. Add butter; toss to melt.

4. Pour egg mixture over buttered macaroni along with three-quarters of the cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt. Gradually add remaining evaporated milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Love Day~ 2.14.10

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they're right if you love to be with them all of the time. 
- Julia Child

incidentally, this photo was taken at a wonderful pizzeria that served true Neopolitan style pizza. The owner moved to Jersey, I believe, and it is no more. I have wonderful memories of that pizza place... mmm...and those days of living in Bellevue, PA.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dinner and Dessert ~ 2.12.10

Two foods that spell love in my book are steak and ice cream. For some reason, they just resonate with Valentine's Day for me and this is the perfect time of year to share them with you!

As I was looking back through my archives at She's a Crafty Pumpkin, I came across these two recipes. They're too good not to share. The first is from Eating Well magazine (fabulous publication, BTW) and the second for sweet Elise at Simply Recipes. These were originally posted way back here at my "other place".

Beef Stroganoff with Portobello Mushrooms

Meaty portobello mushrooms add to the richness of this meal without adding a lot of fat and calories. Ensure the tenderness of the flank steak by slicing it against the grain.

Makes 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each
ACTIVE TIME: 40 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes

2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
1 pound flank steak, trimmed

4 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy- I used cognac- the little bottles you buy at the liquor store were a perfect size
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley, divided

1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add steak and cook until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (The meat will be rare, but will continue to cook as it rests.) Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut lengthwise into 2 long pieces then crosswise, across the grain, into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are very tender and lightly browned, 8 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Stir in broth, cognac (or brandy) and vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer, and continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture is thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in sour cream, chives (or parsley), the sliced steak and any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 329 calories; 16 g fat (5 g sat, 7 g mono); 56 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 26 g protein; 2 g fiber; 383 mg sodium. Nutrition bonus: Selenium (42% daily value), Zinc (31% dv), Potassium (18% dv), Iron (15% dv).

And the next recipe was supposed to be a nice treat for my family (mom, dad, sister, niece) on Sunday night, but someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to freeze the ice cream container. So it was a no go.

However, it was AWESOME the next night and we still have some left!!! If you'd like, click on the recipe title and it will take you straight to the recipe. Elise always posts pictures of the process (love that). And although it was a bit labor intensive, it was worth it. And honestly, I'm not going to have much time for fun in the kitchen sooner than later- I need to get these recipes out of my system before the boys arrive! (remember, it's a repost... from right before I had the twins!)

Butter Pecan Ice Cream- via Elise at Simply Recipes

6 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans

Special equipment needed- ice cream maker

1 In a medium sized heat-safe bowl (metal, ceramic, or glass), whisk together the egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.
2 Pour the cream into a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and set a medium-mesh sieve on top. Set aside.
3 In a medium thick-bottomed saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter cook it, stirring constantly, until it just begins to brown. Add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar completely melts.
4 Slowly add the milk, stirring to incorporate. It will foam up initially, so make sure you are using a pan with high enough sides. Heat until all of the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let boil or the mixture may curdle.
5 Whisk in hand, slowly pour half of the milk and sugar mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to incorporate. Then add the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk sugar mixture.
6 Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden or heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula, about 5-7 minutes.
7 Pour the custard through the sieve and stir it into the cream. Add vanilla and stir until cool over the ice bath. Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
8 While the mixture is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lay out the pecans on a roasting pan in a single layer. Bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool. Once cool, roughly chop the pecans and set aside. Note, if you want an extra punch to this ice cream, brush the pecans with melted butter and sprinkle with salt before roasting.
9 Once the ice cream mixture is thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
10 Once the ice cream has been formed in the ice cream maker, it will be fairly soft. Fold in the chopped pecans. Put in an airtight plastic container and place in the freezer for at least an hour, preferably several hours. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften it before serving.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

So go and cook up something delightful this weekend, your family will thank you for it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

3 Dressings for you ~ 2.10.10

A repost from She's A Crafty Pumpkin... adding my recipes over here, gradually.

I love salad and making your own dressing is as easy as can be! The first one has no recipe card... read on:

On a day to day basis we make the same salad dressing for our salad. It's what I grew up eating and couldn't be simpler- no blender necessary. It's a taste thing- you taste as you go.... add a little extra pepper here. No lemon that day- no problem, leave it out. There are four constants in it though: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vinegar (balsamic or red wine), Salt and Pepper. couldn't be simpler!
It's a combination of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar (or Red Wine, aka every day vinegar), salt, pepper and a dash or two of lemon juice (depending on whether or not I have lemons in the fridge). There are no measurements it's purely a taste thing. I start with the EVOO, then I season, mix, then add the vinegar, taste, usually add more salt and serve. You won't believe the difference that lemon juice makes. All the flavors just perk up and it's soooooo good. Try it!

Growing up we NEVER had an assortment of salad dressings. Occasionally I buy that Raspberry Pecan dressing for a little mix up or a poppyseed for those nights I don't feel like making the poppy seed dressing. Otherwise, we stick to our basic oil and vinegar dressing.

When Vinny isn't around, I make this next dressing. It's on the sweet side- which I love and it's all emulsified in the blender- so simple.

Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

1/4 c honey
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbs minced red onion
1/2 Tbs Dijon mustard
S & P to taste
Olive Oil- I prefer Extra Virgin and it's @ 2 Tbs.

Place first 7 ingredients in the blender and blend w/ the oil till emulsified. Serve! Store remainder in fridge.

Now, this other one is from allrecipes.com. I love to make an Asian Inspired salad every now and then and I always have these ingredients in my pantry.

Asian Dressing

2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1 Tbs sesame oil
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 Tbs. rice vinegar (seasoned is fine)

Combine and chill for 30 minutes.

Pour dressing over iceberg lettuce, chicken, green onions, peas, peanuts, mandarin oranges- your choice! Can add fried Chinese rice noodles (to prepare, heat a skillet w/ a few Tbs of oil, break off a bit of the noodles and add to the skillet and fry them. They'll puff up in the skillet so add a few at a time. Drain on paper towels and add to dressed salad at the last minute).

So there, you have a few new dressings to add to your repertoire.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I love Basil ~ 2.3.10

My favorite scent, flavor and herb is BASIL! And seeing this photo reminds me that spring is not too far away and that in the not so distant future, I'll have pots of beautiful basil blooming all around my deck!

Here's a tried and true recipe from my files that uses basil in a muffin! I'm including a lightened up version that I've yet to try- so if you do, before me, post a comment with your review. These muffins are great made MINI- perfect for afternoon tea.

Zucchini and Basil Muffins

Makes about 22 muffins


1 cup veg. oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. freshly gr. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup grated unpeeled zucchini
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pans lightly.

Combine oil and sugar in a mixing bowl; beat well. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Add to the sugar mixture; stir just until moistened.

Fold in zucchini, basil and lemon rind.

Spoon into muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 min.; remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.

-Recipe from Art in the Kitchen;Westmoreland museum of Art; submitted by Carol Vallozzi

However, if you're trying to watch your waistline and using a FULL CUP OF OIL is making your eyes cross a bit, here's a lightened version from a friend on the cooking light bulletin board. you can check out here reviews of the lightened version by clicking on the link.

Modified Zucchini and Basil Muffins

Makes about 12 large muffins

1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. freshly gr. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 small grated unpeeled zucchini (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
grated rind of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pans lightly.

Combine yogurt and sugar in a mixing bowl; beat well. Add the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Sift flours, baking powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Add to the sugar mixture; stir just until moistened.

Fold in zucchini, basil and lemon rind.

Spoon into muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 min.; remove the muffins to wire racks to cool completely.

originally appeared on She's a Crafty Pumpkin, 7.6.06