Thursday, January 28, 2010

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Ever since the Squash tasting party, I've eaten more than my fair share of Butternut Squash Polenta. Recently, I decided that I should find a new way to get this delicious and nutritious squash into my diet and what better place to start than Mac and Cheese? As good as Mac and Cheese is, super nutritious it is NOT - it's basically a yummy tasting filler-food. But Butternut Squash has many wonderful healthy qualities to contribute to the all-American favorite food and nobody - especially the children - will have any idea it's in there - unless you tell them, of course, and why would you do that?!

I don't necessarily make it my mission to hide healthy food in my dishes, but when it's as brilliant and delicious as this one is, I'm all about it!

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

One Pound Macaroni, such as Tubatini or Mini Penne Rigate
One Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
One Medium Onion, finely chopped
One Teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 Tablespoons Flour
2 Cups Chicken Stock
One Medium Butternut Squash, cooked
One (10 ounce) Box Frozen Cooked Butternut Squash, defrosted
One Cup Half-and-Half or Cream
2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
Black Pepper

Cook pasta until al dente.

While pasta is cooking, heat a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and finely chopped onion. Cook the onion in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 minutes more. Whisk in stock. Then combine with butternut squash until warmed through and smooth. Stir in cream or half-and-half and bring sauce to a bubble. Stir in cheese in a figure eight motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper.

Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce.

Butternut Squash cooking note: You can buy the 10-ounce package of butternut squash in the frozen vegetable section of your grocery store, OR I like to place an actual medium sized squash in a crockpot with a cup of water and cook on high for three hours. The squash comes out perfectly perfect. Just cut in half, separating the top from the bottom, then peel the skin away with a knife and scoop out the inside seeds. Many times I cook the squash days ahead. Choose your own path.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake!!!

Do you want to be the most popular girl at the party?

If you do, you don't have to show up in the trendiest outfit or funkiest shoes to get anyone’s attention. In fact, you can even leave your personality at home, because you won't need it to be the hit of the party when you show up with this little number.

No dessert I've ever made has received as many accolades as this one has. So, if you want to knock off someone’s socks today, dust off that springform pan of yours and get baking.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

1-1/2 Cups Chocolate Wafer Crumbs
(I like Paul Newman Alphabet Wafers)

1/4 Cup Melted Butter

1/4 Cup Semi-Sweet Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips
1/4 Cup Whipping Cream
3 (8 oz each) Cream Cheese, softened
One Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Baking Cocoa
3 Eggs
One Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1-1/2 Cups Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips
1/4 Cup Whipping Cream
One Teaspoon Vanilla

Combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into 9-in greased springform pan. Bake @ 350 for 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce heat to 325.

Over low heat, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth; add cream and mix well. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat cheese and sugar until smooth. Add cocoa and beat well. Add eggs on low until combined. Stir in vanilla and chocolate mixture until blended. Pour over crust. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until center is almost set.

For the topping, melt chocolate chips over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in cream and vanilla and mix well. Spread over the filling. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen and then remove the sides of the pan. Stand back and take a good look at the beautiful masterpiece you've created.


I made this cheesecake for the first time when our family had a dessert making contest at Christmas one year. It competed against Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter Pretzel Cheesecake, and Praline Cheesecake. I only mention this because…...I WON FIRST PRIZE!!! And it’s been a winner ever since!

Even after making this cheesecake for many years, the one frustration I've had is with the topping. I typically make my cheesecake days before an event for convenience, which works really well. The problem I've had is that the topping cracks under the knife every time I attempt to cut a slice. I have tried tweaking the topping to make it do what I want, but getting the perfect slice has been unobtainable – until now!

Now, I bake the cheesecake, freeze the cheesecake, de-thaw the cheesecake, and THEN I make the topping - which takes like three minutes - and pour it over the top an hour or so before serving. This way, the topping has set, but has not gotten hard – so NO cracks in the top when slicing.

This is the model dessert for the Making Food Disappear theory. I cut this into bite size pieces and brought it to a 30th birthday party where there was lots of fabulous food and two beautifully decorated cakes. I strategically placed my cheesecake bites on the bar where a group of men had gathered and then I walked away. The plate was picked clean in ten minutes! Ta-Da! Making Food Disappear!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reindeer Munchies!

This yummy little snack shows up every Christmas at our homes. It is highly addictive, very easy to throw together, and makes great gift jars for teachers, the postman, the UPS man, the bus driver, the swim name it. Everybody loves Reindeer Munchies! It's one of those snacks that you keep coming back to until the bowl is empty. But here's the great can make it any time of the year! Sheri just dubbed them Reindeer Munchies one Christmas to be festive...and they've been called that in our families ever since. So even though Christmas is over, please try won't regret it!

We prefer to use the cereals listed, which can always be found at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and other health food stores...or sometimes at Kroger, Giant Eagle, or Meijer in their Natural Foods section. OR you can certainly substitute any other cereals you KNOW how we feel about winging it! Feel free to make it as written below, or add things you think might make it even better. We like to add dried apricots, cherries, or cranberries to ours for a little zing...but it's perfectly perfect as the basic recipe as well.

Reindeer Munchies

1/2 Box Barbara's Puffins Corn Cereal
1/2 Box Vanilla Almond Crunch Cereal
1/2 Cup Brown Rice Syrup or KaroSyrup
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
One Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Cups Pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Mix cereals in a 9x13 pan. Combine syrup, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda and pour over cereal mixture. Stir to coat.

Bake one hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Spread out on a baking sheet to cool. When cool, break into pieces, and enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Red Chicken Curry

Do you like your chicken hot? Your bird a little spicy? Your poultry full of fire? Us too!
This recipe is quick and easy and sure to warm your tummy on a cold winter day. The curry paste, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper make this a piquant chicken dish, but don't worry, there will be no eye-watering while eating - we don't believe in that sort of nonsense. No, this dish has the perfect amount of warmth and flavor.

And to make this dish super special and unique we're cooking the chicken IN coconut milk. Why? Because it's super healthy for you and it's something different, that's why. Dessicated coconut, coconut oil and Coconut Milk are all truly good for you, so be not afraid.....use them!

Red Chicken Curry

1-1/2 Cups Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
2 Tablespoons Sugar
12 Ounces Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, sliced or cut into 2-inch pieces
Crushed Red Pepper for garnish AND for heat
Green Onion, cut for garnish

Heat a wok or large skillet and add the oil. When the oil is hot, swirl the oil around the wok until it is slightly coated, then add the garlic and stir-fry for 10-20 seconds, or until the garlic begins to brown. Add the curry paste and ginger and stir-fry for a few more seconds, then pour in coconut milk.

Cook the coconut milk mixture for 5 minutes, or until the milk has curdled and thickened. Stir in the sugar. Add the cut chicken and cook 5-6 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked sufficiently.

If the sauce is thinner than you would like, scoop out 1/3 cup of the sauce and stir in one tablespoon cornstarch - mix well. Add back to the wok/skillet and continue stirring until sauce thickens.

Feel free to serve over rice or pasta, but I personally like to serve it over the Butternut Squash Polenta. Sprinkle a small amount of crushed red pepper on top for fire!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Garam Masala Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Yes, we posted this recipe before, but it's so good it's worth repeating AND it's like FIVE degrees outside so soup is definitely in order. And then there's the holidays...we've both been busy having fun and haven't had time to post new recipes, so you get soup! Good soup, that is.....

We have no idea what you’re going to think after reading the list of ingredients below, but we're going to beg you to try this recipe because we can almost guarantee that you have never made or tasted a soup like this one before.

Its flavor is so unique and divine that you will most certainly impress your friends with it. We love to make it for others and watch them take a small soup bite, then another, maybe one more, and then say, “Oh my – that’s good – what’s in there?”

Toot Toot!
(that’s us tooting our own horn)

Let’s start by freaking out over the amount of butter that’s going into the saucepan and get it over with. It is what it is and it will all be worth it in the end! With that said, drop all six tablespoons of butter into the pan over medium heat. As it slowly melts, add the garlic and garam masala (more on this spice down below). Then lower the heat and add the crushed peppercorns, salt, and nutmeg.

To really get things going, add the chicken, mushrooms, leeks, and corn. Cook these guys for about five to seven minutes or until chicken is cooked through – stirring constantly.

When that’s done, remove from the heat and transfer half the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add the water and process for nearly a minute.

This soup is going to look a little nasty right about now, but you’ve got to hang in there with us. I mean, you can see from the photo above that this soup isn't real pretty when it's all dressed up and posing for a picture, so it shouldn't be a big leap to think it would be super ugly during the prep phase. But trust us, when we say the beauty lies deep, deep below the surface within the flavor and we're almost there.....

Pour the "less than esthetic" puree back into the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

To make the soup look prettier and taste a little bit richer, lower the heat and add one cup of light cream and stir it in. Grab a ladle, a bowl, and a big old spoon and dig in, because this soup tastes best when straight from the stove, piping hot, with a little garlic bread on the side.

Did we tell ya?

Toot Toot!

Garam Masala is an Indian spice that can be found alongside everyday spices in most of your local grocery stores. It is comprised of a variation of black pepper, cloves, cardamon, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and nutmeg. This is a spice that definitely steals the show in anything we add it to. It’s what makes the flavor of this soup so unique. We highly recommend adding Garam Masala to your seasoning rack because it won't be the last time you see him...

One day, the leeks in the produce department looked so pitiful that we couldn't bring ourselves to pay good money for them, let alone eat them, so we used scallions instead.
Totally doable...

Garam Masala Chicken and Mushroom Soup

6 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Garlic
One Teaspoon Garam Masala
One Teaspoon Crushed Black Peppercorns
One Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
8 Ounces Chicken, Skinned and Boned
One Medium Leek, sliced
Generous One Cup Sliced Mushrooms
1/3 Cup Whole Corn Kernels
1-1/4 Cups Water
One Cup Light Cream
One Teaspoon Crushed Dried Red Chilies, to garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic and garam masala. Lower the heat even more and add the black pepper, salt, and nutmeg.
Cut the chicken pieces into very fine strips and add to the pan with the leek, mushrooms, and corn. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Transfer half of the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add the water and process for about one minute.
Pour the resulting puree back into the saucepan with the rest of the mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and stir in cream.
Serve Hot.