Sunday, September 30, 2012

Twix Brownies

My youngest son recently turned 21. The night before his birthday I asked him if he wanted anything special. And, much like a nice Italian son, he asked for a special dessert—Twix brownies. Problem was I had never heard of such a thing. He knew exactly where to go on the internet to find the recipe and was more than happy to go to the store to buy the ingredients. There I was, on the eve of my son's 21st birthday, happily baking a batch of Twix brownies! I am, after all, in my happy place when I bake, and baking on request makes my happy place even happier! So, here is the recipe for the Twix brownies. I encourage you to make them for your kids and maybe you’ll be lucky enough for them to “special request” them one day! —Lisa

For the brownies you'll need:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 ¼ cups sugar 
3 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 cup flour
12 fun size Twix bars, cut into thirds

For the caramel sauce you'll need:
10 caramel candies
2 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8-by-8-inch baking pan with foil and coat with nonstick spray.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large bowl for 3 to 4 minutes until the butter is melted.  Stir until all the chocolate is melted. 

Whisk in the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt.  Add the flour gradually until just combined.

Spread ½ the batter into the pan. Add a layer of chopped Twix bars and cover with remaining brownie mix.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Do not over bake.

Cool completely. Just before serving, prepare the caramel sauce: 
Put the caramels and heavy cream in a bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the caramels begin to melt, stirring frequently. Continue to do this until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.  Drizzle over each brownie. 

You’ll  need a BIG glass of milk to go with this decadent dessert...or a beer if it's your 21st birthday!

Lisa's son, Jimmy, right, celebrates his 21st birthday with his
friend Lenny and a batch of Twix Brownies

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas a la Jill

I had a craving for Mexican one day, and not knowing much about preparing Mexican food (other than the occasional chili recipe) I thought I'd tackle chicken enchiladas. This is my version with a slight Italian flair. —Jill

You'll need:
1 package whole wheat tortillas (you can substitute corn tortillas or whatever flavor you like)
1 lb. ground chicken
1 small jar mild salsa
2 cans tomato sauce
2 packages low-sodium taco seasoning
1 can northern beans (drained and rinsed)
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese (you can use cheddar or a Mexican cheese blend if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brown the chicken in a skillet until almost completely cooked. Add salsa, tomato sauce, and one packet of taco seasoning. 
Add the beans and stir.
Scoop chicken mixture (about 1/4 cup) in a wrap and roll.
Place in a baking dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray and drizzled with a little of the tomato sauce. 
Do this with all of the wraps and place them in a row in the baking dish. 
Mix the other can of tomato sauce with second packet of taco seasoning and drizzle over rolled enchiladas. Top with cheese and bake 20minutes. 
Serve bubbly hot and top with your favorite toppings like sour cream, red onions, lettuce, or chopped tomatoes. Olé!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jennifer's Bolognese Sauce

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” For years, making Bolognese sauce has scared the daylights out of me. My mother never made it, and the only time I’ve tried it was in restaurants. I always figured, “If Paula couldn’t do it, I’m definitely not going to be able to do.” And then it happened, an epiphany if you will. I was at hot yoga and did a move that I never thought was possible. That night on the drive home I said to myself, “If I can do that, I can make Bolognese.Let the research begin!” I was surprised to find how many differing opinions there were—white wine or red, ricotta cheese or parmigiano, rigatoni or mafalde.  So I decided to use my better judgment, and this is what I’ve created. Hope you enjoy! —Jennifer

Helpful hint: This is a very labor-intensive recipe, and unless you have a sous chef who will do all the chopping for you, I suggest that you chop everything the night before to cut down the preparation time. The sauce needs to cook for 4 hours, so anything to make your life simpler…

What you’ll need:
1 can (28 oz) of Tuttorosso diced tomatoes (or any brand you prefer)
2 large carrots
2 large stalks celery
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
¼ lb pancetta
2 lbs meat (just over ½ pound of veal, ½ pound of beef, ½ of pork)
1 cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
2 cups Half & Half
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Kosher salt 
1 tbsp pepper
Ricotta for serving

Chop the carrots, celery, garlic, onion and pancetta. Make sure they are finely chopped and uniform so it cooks evenly.

In a large sauté pan melt butter and add olive oil.

Add the carrots, celery, garlic and onion. Cook for about 5 minutes over high heat. 

Add the pancetta and cook for another 10 minutes on high heat.

Lower the heat to medium. Mix the meat and separate into three large chunks.  

Add the meat, separating the pieces as they cook.  

When the meat is cooked through turn the heat to high.

Let the meat cook steadily on high heat to create caramelization. Make sure you don’t burn the meat, checking it every now and again. Depending on your stove, 12-15 minutes should work.

Lower heat to medium and add red wine, and begin scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all that delicious caramelization off the bottom of the pan. Cook away the wine for about 4 minutes.

Add the can of tomatoes (with water), Half and Half, beef broth, salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 hours with sauté pan half covered.  Mix every so often.

Serve over rigatoni, add a dollop of ricotta cheese and enjoy! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mussels with Parmesan, Parsley, and Breadcrumbs

The tomato soup and veal dish were voted off the island. Broiled mussels with parmesan, parsley, and breadcrumbs got your top vote so, being true to my word, I attempted the recipe from my new cookbook “Frame-by-Frame Italian.” I brought the finished product to my mother’s house on a night she happened to be making salmon, tilapia, and steamers (we call them piss clams) so it was a great seafood dinner. And these mussels were a big hit with everyone so I’ll definitely be making these again. I think this would be a great addition to the Christmas Eve table. —Diana  

What's great about this cookbook is that
it shows  a picture of  each step.
You’ll need:
2 lbs mussels
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbsp dry white wine
¾ cup breadcrumbs (the recipe called for fresh white breadcrumbs. I used regular out-of-the-canister breadcrumbs)
1 lemon rind, finely grated
3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the broiler to high. Clean the mussels by scrubbing or scrapping shells and pull off any beards. Discard broken shells and any that refuse to close when tapped.

Heat half the oil in a large pan and fry the shallots and garlic for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the mussels and wine.  Cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan for 2-3 minutes until the mussels have opened.

Discard mussels that remained closed. All mine opened…yay! Drain the remaining mussels, reserving the cooking juices. Discard the top (empty) shells. If necessary, boil the juices to reduce to three tablespoons. (I didn’t do this and used a little more than three tablespoons to add to the breadcrumb mixture and then dumped the rest.)

Mix together the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, parsley, parmesan cheese, and the reserved cooking juices with salt and pepper. Arrange the mussels into a baking pan and then spoon the breadcrumb mixture into each mussel half shell. Sprinkle the remaining oil over the mussels and cook under the preheated broiler 2-3 minutes until bubbling. Serve immediately. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Spinach Salad with Shrimp, Strawberries and Blueberries

I adapted this salad from one I had recently at a chain restaurant. The hot shrimp wilted the salad ever so slightly and the flavor was so delicious. But you know me. I wanted to change it up a little so I added some extra “stuff,” including fruit, nuts, and cheese. Give this a try with your own favorite toppings. This is a salad that you can make every night a different way and never get bored! —Lisa

2 bags baby spinach, washed
2 cups strawberries, sliced thin
1 ½ cups blueberries
½ bag of glazed walnuts
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 bag (about 1 ½ lbs) large frozen shrimp, tails off
3 tbsp. lemon curd
1 bottle mango salad dressing
Heat the lemon curd in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and stir well until the curd is melted and covers all the shrimp. Cook until shrimp is pink and curled.

Now it's time to put together the salad.  Start with the spinach and then add the strawberries and blueberries and mix.  Sprinkle the glazed walnuts and cheese over the salad. Add the shrimp (not the liquid) right before serving. Toss with salad dressing. Enjoy!