2011, Recipes 114 & 115: Streusel Pear Tart and Three-Way Ginger Snaps

 Streusel Pear Tart
Recipe courtesy of Wendy Kalen and Lori Longbotham at Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • 1/2 recipe Perfect Pie Crust or 1/2 pkg. (14.1-oz.) refrigerated piecrust (1 crust)
  • 6 firm-ripe anjou or bartlett pears (about 3 lbs.)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. apple pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
  1. Unroll the piecrust into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the crust against the bottom and sides of the pan, trimming the top as needed so it is even with the rim. Refrigerate.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°. Peel, core and cut the pears into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp. flour, the apple pie spice and salt. Toss the brown sugar mixture with the pears to coat, then spoon into the prepared piecrust.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel over the pears.
  4. Place the tart on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the top is browned and the pears are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm.

    Results: Meh. The pears were a little firm for my taste. I've also found I don't like loose streusel very much. It's just a bunch of sugar on top. The crust also tasted a bit salty for some reason. I like Martha Stewart's pate brisee better. Other people liked it. I thought it was just okay. I did like the impressive look of the tart, though so I will definitely be making a tart again!

Three-Way Ginger Snaps
Recipe courtesy of Nick Maligeri in "The Modern Baker"

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies before baking
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil
1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. If you only have one oven rack like me, set it in the middle of your oven.
2. Mix the flour with the ground ginger, baking soda, and salt.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and continue beating until smooth.
4. Decrease the mixer speed to low and beat in half the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and paddle.
5. Beat in the grated ginger, crystallized ginger and the honey. After they are incorporated, beat in the remaining flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the dough.
6. Roll 1/2 tablespoon of the dough between the palms of your hands to make a little sphere, then roll it in a shallow bowl of raw sugar. Place it on one of the prepared pans. Continue with the remaining dough, keeping the subsequent cookies about 2 inches apart on all sides. Make sure these are small and spaced. They spread a lot.
7. Bake the gingersnaps until they spread and become deep golden, 15 to 20 minutes. After the first 10 minutes, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans from back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives off strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation. If you're working with only one rack, just turn your pan from back to front after the first 10 minutes.
8. Slide the papers off the pans to cool the cookies. If you have only one more pan of gingersnaps to bake, readjust one of the racks to the middle level for baking.
Results: Y'all. These are some of the best ginger snaps I've ever had in my whole life!!! They're so gingery and delicious! I LOVE the crystallized ginger. Everybody went nuts over them. If you store them in the freezer, you can eat them straight out of the freezer and they stay fresher longer.


2011, Recipe 113: Sausage Brioche Dressing

Recipe courtesy of Claire Robinson
  • 1 brioche loaf, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound pork breakfast sausage (no casings)
  • 4 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cross cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 cups stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage leaves
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread the brioche on a baking sheet and put it in the oven until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the sausage and break it into pieces with a spoon. Cook until browned, then transfer it to the bowl with the brioche. Add the celery to the sausage drippings and cook until softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Put the sausage into the brioche bowl. Stir in the stock and sage and mix until the brioche absorbs most of the liquid. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the dressing to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and cook, uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover with foil and bake until golden brown on top, another 20 to 25 minutes.

Results:  I made this for Thanksgiving and it was AMAZING!! Use brioche!! It's egg-y and fattening and delicious!!! Simple but amazing!! Did I say it was amazing?? It was amazing!! The next morning, it inspired me to create my new favorite post-holiday breakfast: dressing with a fried egg. I'm drooling right now!!


2011, Recipes 110-112: Casseroles and Such: Cabbage Casserole, Stuffed Shells and Stuffed Mexican Peppers

 Cabbage Casserole
*Combination of several recipes
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced  
  • 1.5 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes
Cook the cabbage in boiling salted water until crisp-tender. DO NOT OVERCOOK. It will continue to cook in the oven and you want your cabbage to be a little firm. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add ground beef and spices and brown. Drain. Drain cabbage and place half in a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Top with half of the ground beef, add half of the tomatoes. Repeat layers. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. 

Results: Quite yummy! Rashan is alternately scared of cabbage because of bad experiences as a kid but he liked this, too.

Stuffed Shells
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 (16 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
  • 4 cups large curd cottage cheese
  • 12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pinch garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook shells according to package directions. Place in cold water to stop cooking. Drain.
  2. Blend cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, mushrooms and garlic powder in a food processer. Rub the dried herbs in the palms of your hands to pulverize them, and stir into the cheese mixture. Stuff mixture into the shells using a ziploc bag with a corner snipped off.
  3. Spread 1/3 of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 15 x 10 inch pan. Place shells open side up, and close together in pan. Spread remaining sauce over top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 35 minutes, or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. 
Results: I made this recipe because Rashan requested it and hated every minute. I found it overly time consuming for the result. Some of my shells broke so I ended up just mixing it all together like a casserole. I think this also needed another flavor. Maybe spinach or meat. 

Stuffed Mexican Shells
Recipe courtesy of Jasgirl at Allrecipes.com with a few modifications
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, divided
  •  4 large poblano peppers
  •  2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. Brown ground beef over medium heat with spices, breaking it apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 8 minutes. Drain excess fat. Stir in the cooked rice and 1/2 of the tomatoes; mix until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. Mix in half of the cheese.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the poblanos in half lengthwise. Remove stems, membranes, cores, and seeds. Place a steamer insert into a large saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place the peppers into the steamer insert, cover the pan, and steam until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Place the steamed peppers into the prepared baking dish, and fill lightly with the meat filling. Spoon the remaining tomatoes over the peppers and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot, 25 to 30 minutes. 
Result: Delicious! I might make a casserole-type version of this one again tonight!


2011, Recipe 107-109: Vegan Black & White Bean Soup, Black Salt Asparagus, Chipotle-Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Since I'm quite behind, I'll do a bunch of sides in one post. You could use these for a weeknight meal or holiday meals. I think you'll like them!

Vegan Black and White Bean Soup
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 8 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can white beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Cook the onion, celery, garlic, and thyme together in the hot oil until the celery is soft, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the black beans, 4 cups vegetable broth, and the cumin to the pot; mix to combine. Stir the white beans, the remaining vegetable broth, and the sage into the mixture; bring to a gentle boil and simmer 30 minutes. 

Results: Very yummy! I would suggest adding a teaspoon of celery salt. Here's a secret... my version wasn't vegan... ore even vegetarian. I don't like vegetable broth (barely glorified water) so I used chicken broth.
 Black Salt Asparagus
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon black sea salt, or to taste
Preheat the oven broiler. Set the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler.
Place the asparagus spears on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with black sea salt.
Broil the asparagus until tender and starting to brown, 6 to 10 minutes. 
Results: I got some black lava salt for our wedding. Loooooooved this recipe! So yummy! Rashan said the black salt tastes exactly like regular salt. I think it's saltier so there!

Chipotle-Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 whole canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can of peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Add peppers, sauce, and salt and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately. 

Results: I now know if I didn't like this recipe, there's no hope for me and sweet potatoes as a side dish. Rashan loved it. I did not. Blech. But that's no fault of the recipe.


2011, Recipe 106: Sausage and Potato Casserole

Recipe courtesy of Cooks.com

1 lb. pork sausage meat
3 c. cubed raw potatoes
3 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 c. milk
1 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
Fry sausage in a large skillet, use a large spoon or fork to break up and stir the meat while it cooks.

As soon as all pink color is gone, push meat to one side and brown potato cubes slightly in the sausage drippings. Stir potatoes and sausage together, sprinkle flour over mixture. Stir until flour is absorbed by the fat. Add milk to cook and stir until thickened slightly.

Pour mixture into a 2 quart casserole. Sprinkle cheese and paprika over the top, cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until potatoes are tender.

Results: I drained the sausage and reserved a little of the fat to fry the potatoes in. I wanted something simple but I thought this was just okay. I've become more accustomed to more complex flavors. This fell quite flat. Typical of recipes from this site.