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January 28, 2015

Chicken and Vegetable Lasagna with Goat Cheese Sauce

Use what you have in the refrigerator and freezer. Running to the store every time you decide to cook will end up costing you more than you think. I keep several staples available, both canned and frozen. I froze bell peppers and basil pesto from the garden this past summer and I always have fresh vegetables and onions. I also keep several kinds of cheese on hand.

This is what I made and it was yummy!
Chicken and Vegetable Lasagna with Goat Cheese Sauce

Serves 6


9 lasagna noodles, cook about 2-3 minutes less than al dente (will continue to cook in the oven)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup premade roux
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup mix of green, red, and/or yellow bell peppers, diced
4 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon basil pesto
2 cups diced chicken, cooked
1 cup broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 medium onion, peeled and sliced
4 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated


Preheat oven 350 degrees. Place 3 lasagna noodles in 9x13 casserole dish. Lightly brush with olive oil

For the vegetables
While the oven is preheating toss the mushrooms and onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil and place on baking sheet and roast in oven. Remove when ready to assemble and add to sauce

Place carrots in microwave steamer with 1/2 inch water. Add broccoli if fresh, (if frozen do not precook broccoli). Cook in microwave for 2-3 minutes to steam until slightly tender. Drain the water into the sauce.

To make sauce
Heat roux (see note)in pan on medium heat. Slowly add chicken broth and stir until thickened. Add goat cheese, pesto, and red peppers, season with salt and pepper. Go light on the salt. Simmer until ready to use. Can make the day before and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

To assemble
Layer 1/2 of the carrots, broccoli and chicken on top of the lasagna noodles. Pour 1/2 of the sauce over the broccoli. Top with 1/3 of the cheeses. Add next layer of noodles and repeat with vegetables, sauce and 1/3 of the cheese. Top with last 3 noodles.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, add remaining cheese. Back in the oven, uncovered for 5-6 minutes until cheese on top melts.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. This will allow the juices to thicken.

Cooking Wiser
To save time make a large batch of roux and freeze in 1/3 cup containers. Take out of freezer to thaw when ready to use.

Posted by terri at 03:01 AM | Comments (0)

Tuscan Style Beef Stew

My dinner guests loved this recipe. How do I know? Because they said so and they asked for the recipe. Anytime someone asks for the recipe that tells me they enjoyed. It is a favorite from Cook Illustrated, but check out my notes because I made a few notes that might be helpful.
For one, you can use onions if you don't have shallots. Shallots are in the onion family but are formed more like garlic. They are slightly milder than onions and you'll probably notice that shallots cost more.

Serves 8


6-8 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (750 ml) bottle Chianti Classico
1 cup water
4 shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled and crushed
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch


Toss beef and salt to taste together in a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, tomato paste, anchovy paste and remaining beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2-2 ½ hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.

Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towel. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.

Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 15 minutes.

Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low and return beef to pot and stir in cornstarch wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve with crusty bread and extra cracked peppercorns on the side.

What about the wine? I served the stew with a good Chianti Riserva. Many people will tell you that using the same wine to drink with the meal as you cooked with isn't always the best. In this case there is enough difference between a Riserva and a Classico that it works really well.

Cooking Wiser:
I don't salt the meat prior to cooking. I add the salt after the meat starts to brown. I think it keeps the juices inside the meat better.

Fond is a French term used for stock. In this case they are talking about the liquid and brown bits in the pan created during the browning stage.

I brown all of the meat in two batches then add the next set of ingredients.

If you don't have a fat separator just set the liquid in the refrigerator until the fat comes to the top and hardens (or prepare up to this step then refrigerate over night).

The original recipe calls for boneless short ribs. I use short ribs with the bone in and this adds so much more flavor. You don't really need the gelatin if you have bone in ribs. I realize they are going for a thicker sauce but reducing and adding cornstarch worked fantastically with the bone in ribs.

If you don't have shallots, chop a small white onion and sauté it until golden, that will add the sweetness the recipe is aiming for.

Posted by terri at 02:27 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2015

Chicken Piccata Done Right

From Cook's Illustrated 2013 issue, this is the best Chicken Piccata recipe I've found. To create strong, fresh lemon flavors add the lemon at the end of the cooking time and the sauce is thickened with butter- NO flour.

Serves 4


  • 2 lemons
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced


    Adjust oven rack to lower middle position. Heat oven to 200 degrees

    Halve 1 lemon lengthwise. Trim ends from 1 half and slice crosswise no more than 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; set aside

    Place flour in shallow dish. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Working with 2 of the breasts at a time, dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off excess and transfer to cutting board and cut chicken into 2 inch cubes.

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Place half of the chicken in skillet and cook until lightly browned on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer; transfer to platter in oven. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to now empty skillet and repeat with remaining chicken

    Add shallots and garlic to now empty skillet and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and lemon slices, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and capers, bring to simmer and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute. Off heat, add butter and whisk until butter melts and thickens sauce. Stir in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

    Cooking wiser
    Be careful not to burn the garlic, it will become bitter
    Adding the capers and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process keeps the flavors fresh.
    Using chicken broth instead of the traditional wine normally used in this recipe decreases the sharp acid flavor.
    The original recipe calls for using cutlets. I find those to be too thin. Also cubing the chicken will save time.

    Make it your own by adding 1/4 cup pitted and chopped black olives to sauce or increase fresh ground pepper to add a little peppery spice.

    Posted by terri at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

    Recipes Perfected

    When looking for a particular best recipe no one does it better than Cook Illustrated magazine. Anytime I need a recipe for cooking class that is the first place I go. They provide solutions for common problems and tips for improving, plus great explanations why some things work and some don't. Here are some of my favorites:

    Chicken Piccata

    Tuscan Style Beef Stew

    Foolproof New York Cheesecake

    Best Grilled Hamburger

    Really Good Pumpkin Bread

    How to Stir-Fry Asparagus

    Posted by terri at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

    January 21, 2015

    Curried Bean and Pepper Soup

    This isn't your everyday bowl of beans. Curry, allspice and ginger provide a very flavorful soup and the peppers add color, texture and more flavor.

    Serves 6


    1 medium onion, sliced
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    1-15 ounce can tomato sauce
    ½ teaspoon curry powder
    1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
    ¼ teaspoon ginger, ground
    1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    3 medium sweet bell peppers (yellow, red and/or green), sliced into bite size strips
    1-15 ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    1-15 ounce can cannellini beans (or chick peas), rinsed and drained
    Kosher salt to taste
    1 ½ cups water
    1/3 cup sour cream


    In a large saucepan cook and stir onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato sauce, curry powder, allspice, ginger, and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minutes. Season with salt if desired.

    Add sweet peppers, drained beans, and water to the soup mixture. Bring to boiling, reduce heat.

    Cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until sweet peppers are tender, stirring occasionally.

    Optional: Dollop with sour cream and serve with cornbread or serve over rice.

    Posted by terri at 02:41 AM | Comments (0)

    Beef, Beer, and Barley Stew

    Try this uniquely different stew, topped with a horseradish herb relish and roasted beets.
    The flavor profile begins with sautéed onions and beef, browning the beef until it has a nice crust on all sides. Barley, a hardy grain is added with carrots and mushrooms.

    Serves 6-8


    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 pound beef stew meat
    1 teaspoon salt, divided
    ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    2 bay leaves
    ½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    2 cups carrots, sliced 1 ½ inch thick
    2 cups parsnips, sliced 1 ½ inch thick
    ¾ cup uncooked pearl barley
    5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
    16 ounces mushrooms, quartered
    2 cups water
    4 cups beef broth
    2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    1-12 ounce bottle dark beer ( such as stout)
    For garnish:
    3 small beets, washed
    3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
    2 tablespoons prepared horseradish


    Heat oil in a stockpot over medium high heat. Sprinkle beef with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Add beef to pan, sauté 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Add onion, bay leaves, thyme to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Uncover, stir in tomato paste. Increase heat to medium high. Add carrots, parsnips, barley, 4 garlic cloves and mushrooms. Sauté 3 minutes. Add beef, water, broth, Worcestershire and beer. Adjust seasoning with remaining salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, covered for 1 ½ hours. Discard bay leaves.

    While stew is simmering, place beets on roasting pan and bake in preheated 400 degree oven. When tender, remove and cool. Peel and slice into each into 6 wedges.

    Combine parsley, thyme garlic and horseradish. Ladle stew into bowls and top each with beet wedges and parsley horseradish mixture.

    Posted by terri at 02:25 AM | Comments (0)

    Corn Spoon Bread

    So good and so easy to make; this recipe is a old time favorite. At my recent Glass Bazaar cooking class I was amazed to hear, "oh I haven't had spoon bread in ages" or "I love spoon bread, I used to eat it as a kid all the time."
    Well that is proof enough for me. We need to get back to our roots.

    Serves 4


    1 cup milk
    1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup shredded Cheddar, divided
    1 cup canned corn kernels, drained
    1/2 cup chopped green onions
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
    1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes


    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cornmeal, and salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.

    Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, the corn, and the green onion. Temper the eggs by slowly whisking some of the hot milk mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir the tempered eggs into the milk mixture.

    Pour the mixture into a 1-quart baking dish. Top with pieces of butter and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

    Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set and cheese is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve immediately

    Posted by terri at 02:05 AM | Comments (0)

    Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt

    These buttery cheese crackers were dreamed up by Anna May, a member of the online community Food52 who lives in West Dorset, England. The sables are an excellent party snack because they come together quickly and can be made in advance.

    We enjoyed these at our recent wine club dinner. They were delicious and amazing with the Petite Syrah.

    ACTIVE: 20 MIN


    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
    7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    Pinch of cayenne
    1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


    In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the rosemary and salt. Pulse until a crumbly dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mortar, pound the rosemary with the salt until blended.

    Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Arrange the sables 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake in the middle and lower thirds of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden; shift the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Sprinkle the hot sables with the rosemary salt and let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer the sables to a rack to cool completely.

    MAKE AHEAD The sables can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.

    Posted by terri at 02:01 AM | Comments (0)

    January 11, 2015

    Feta and Dill Galette with Lemony Spinach Salad

    Try something different for dinner tonight. Instead of serving crackers or bread with your salad this version provides a salad, carbs, and cheese all in one.

    A galette is usually a flat cake made with a flaky pastry dough, a common French tart. It can be savory or sweet, topped with fruit, jam, nuts, meat and/or cheese.

    Make your own version by using a different cheese, adding sausage, crumbled bacon or even diced chicken. Might I also suggest using goat cheese and shrimp or crab.

    The possibilities are endless!

    Feta and Dill Galette with Lemony Spinach Salad
    Serves 6-8


    2 large eggs
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped plus ½ cup dill sprigs for the salad
    1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
    ½ teaspoon Kosher salt and more to taste for the salad
    Black pepper, fresh ground, to taste
    1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
    1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
    4 small handfuls baby spinach, washed, dried, large stems removed
    3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

    In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, chopped dill, lemon, zest, salt and pepper.

    On a lightly floured surface, gently roll out the pastry until it measures about 11 by 13 inches.

    Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a baking mat. Lay the pastry on the baking sheet, wet the edges with water and fold over a ¾ inch border.

    Distribute the feta evenly within the border and carefully pour the egg mixture over the cheese. Bake until the pastry is puffed and brown on the edges.

    Slide the galette off the pan and cool on a rack. Move to a cutting board and cut into desired pieces. Place on serving plates.

    In a large bowl, toss the spinach and dill with the olive oil and lemon juice until evenly coasted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (or use lemon pepper mix). Arrange a handful of spinach on each galette and serve with more lemon to taste.

    Cooking Wiser Tips:

    For a healthier version, substitute the cream for 2% milk or evaporated milk

    Go light on the salt, the salt in the feta is usually enough

    Posted by terri at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

    January 05, 2015

    Vegetable Tart

    This tart was delicious and the presentation was inviting, beginning with a flaky crust that was filled with roasted vegetables and creamy goat cheese.

    Serves 6-8


    For the crust

    6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
    6 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
    6 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1 inch pieces
    3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

    For the filling

    1 1/2 cups butternut squash, diced 1/2 inch
    3/4 cup carrot, sliced 1/2 inch thick
    3/4 cup leek, sliced, white and light green parts only
    3/4 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
    3/4 cup cauliflower, coarsely chopped
    1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    4 ounces goat cheese or cream cheese, softened
    1 large egg beaten, or olive oil

    For the crust
    Turn the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

    Combine the flour with the butter and cream cheese with a pastry blender or in a food processor until the dough begins to clump together.

    Transfer the dough to a well floured work surface and gently knead once or twice to help it come together.

    Dust a work area and roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick round pie shape.

    For the filling
    Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking dish.

    Toss the vegetables and rosemary with salt and pepper. Roast until fork tender, about 30-40 minutes.

    To bake the tart spread the goat cheese on the dough, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Transfer the dough to a floured baking sheet.

    Spoon the vegetable mixture on top of the cheese, mounding it slightly in the center.

    Fold the edge of the dough over to the edge of the filling to create pleats that are 1 1/2 inches wide.

    Brush the pleated dough with the beaten egg or oil.

    Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 35-45 minutes.

    Transfer to a rack and let cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before serving.

    Posted by terri at 03:44 AM | Comments (0)