Thursday, April 12, 2012

Taco Pasta

I have seen this recipe on Pinterest for a while, and have been meaning to make it.  I finally made it this week, and it's good!  It is basically like a homemade Hamburger Helper, but way better.  I used medium salsa and it was a bit spicy for me, so next time I will use mild and some hot sauce on the side.  For the cream cheese, I used the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking Creme, and it was easier than waiting for the cream cheese to melt.  Enjoy!

1 lb ground beef (I used 94% lean)
8 ounces small pasta
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup salsa
1 packet taco seasoning
3 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Shredded cheese for topping

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  Once the meat is cooked through, drain off the excess fat and mix in garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the salsa and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream, and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with shredded cheese and more sour cream and salsa if desired.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Potato Gratin

This is another recipe we used at our cooking class at Williams-Sonoma.  These potatoes are amazing!  The Gruyere cheese was distinctive, but not overpowering.  These would be great to make with just about any meal.  I used the mandoline from Williams-Sonoma, which I purchased the night of my class, and it sliced the potatoes evenly and quickly.  It is very sharp though!  I ended up with a kitchen wound, but all is good!

2 cups heavy cream
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/16" thick slices
4 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded (I used 6 oz)
1 Tbs chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a shallow 2-quart ceramic baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk until just blended.  Add the potatoes and toss gently until evenly mixed.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.  Using your fingertips, spread the potatoes in an even layer, pressing them lightly so the absorb the liquid.  Sprinkle the cheese and then the parsley evenly over the top.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden, the gratin is bubbling, and the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, 15-20 minutes more.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. 

Romaine, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Salad

My mom and I took a cooking class a couple weeks ago at Williams-Sonoma, which I highly recommend, and we learned how to make this salad during the class.  We both loved the salad so much, we decided I would definitely be making this for Easter.  It is different enough to make you excited to eat a salad, rather than the same boring toppings.  One thing the instructor specified was to make sure you get a good Gorgonzola cheese.  I got the Gorgonzola dolcelatte at Whole Foods, and it was perfect.  It was rich, but certainly not overpowering.  Also, when you wash the lettuce, make sure you dry it best you can to make sure the dressing sticks.  Enjoy!

For the walnut vinaigrette:
7 Tbs walnut oil
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs aged balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup walnuts, preferably halves
3 heads romaine lettuce, leaves separated and torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup red or black seedless grapes, halved (optional)
2 small pears, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 to 2/3 lb Gorgonzola dolcelatte cheese, at room temperature, broken into bite-size pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make walnut vinaigrette, in a bowl, whisk together the walnut and olive oils, balsamic and sherry vinegars, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Toast, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Transfer to a small bowl, add 3 Tbs of the vinaigrette, toss lightly, and let stand for 15 minutes before assembling the salad.

Place the torn romaine in a large bowl.  Add the marinated walnuts and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.  Toss well.  Divide among individual plates, and top withe the grapes, pears, and cheese.

Serves 6.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

My dad's side of the family is from Scotland, and for years he has been talking about wanting to go there.  It honestly comes up in conversation at least once a week with my family.  My mom decided to surprise my dad with an amazing trip to Edinburgh at the end of this summer to celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary, and his birthday.  For Easter, we made him a Scottish themed basket to tell him about their upcoming trip.  To go along with telling him, I made Scottish Shortbread cookies for dessert.  I have never made them before, and they turned out great!  I looked at lots of recipes, and they are all so similar.  I think next time I will add some vanilla to add a different flavor.  Enjoy!

My dad's Easter basket

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup butter at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all ingredients well (it works best to use your hands). Dough will be stiff.  Press into a 9 x 9" buttered dish.  Prick top with a fork (I did every 1/2").  Bake until pale golden brown on the edges.  Be sure not to over-bake.  Cool and cut into squares.