Wednesday

Make ahead Bacon and Cheese Potato Gratin ~


If you are like me and are having guests for either dinner or a Holiday, you love dishes that you make ahead. And there aren't many successful potato dishes to make ahead though, but this is one of them.  I've made this dish for a few years now, and it works well when I bake them half way the night before and finish them the last hour before I want to sit down to a meal.  By the way, this dish tastes fabulous with the cheese and the bacon too.  It fits all of my categories, easy and excellent!

I don't recommend doing it more than one day in advance though.  The color of the potatoes may turn brownish on you.

If you have a food processor, this dish is extremely simple to make. If not, you can either thinly slice the potatoes or use a mandolin on a fine setting.

Here's the recipe:

4 cups of thinly sliced red bliss potatoes, (I don't peel them)
2 cups of grated cheese, Swiss or Gruyere (even cheddar will work)
3 cups whole milk or light cream (I use whole milk)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 lb. bacon, finely chopped
2 T. butter
1 T. vegetable oil
3 T. flour
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Place a dutch oven on medium heat on stove top, add oil.  Add chopped bacon and render fat, until almost gone and you are left with brown bacon meat.  Turn heat down to low and remove bacon, set aside on a paper towel.  Add chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes to soften.  Add butter and flour, stir and cook for just a minute.  Add milk and stir, then add salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.  Turn stove to medium heat while stirring and bring to a simmer.  Add cheese a little at a time, stirring in between so it melts into sauce.  Turn off heat.
Put cleaned potatoes into your food processor until all are sliced and add into the cheese sauce.  Stir with wooden spoon until all potato slices are covered.  Stir in bacon bits.  
Pour potato mixture into a 9 x 13 (or similar) size baking pan and sprinkle with grated cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.  Take out of oven and let cool.  Place into the refrigerator overnight.
Two hours before serving, bring potatoes out onto counter to bring to room temperature.  One hour before serving, remove foil from potatoes and place into a pre-heated, 375 degrees oven for one hour.  Take out of oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  

You can do this dish all at once, but it will need to cook for 2 hours.  Remove foil the last half of baking though.

Thursday

Dark Chocolate Almond Macaroons ~



Like many people, I love the Smitten Kitchen blog.  She thinks of a new twist on even the simplest recipes, things that are right in front of your nose.   Dark Chocolate Macaroons is just one example.  I make the regular ones and dip them in chocolate and everyone loves them.  But, these are taken to a new level of scrumptious.

I added my own flair, which I love as well.  Instead of vanilla extract, I use almond extract.  I wanted more of an almond joy kind of flavor!  And these don't disappoint.

Here's the link to Smitten Kitchen's recipe, so you can decide for yourself.  She uses a cookie scoop to make hers, but I used a rounded teaspoonful.

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2014/04/dark-chocolate-coconut-macaroons/#more-11739

These are so easy to make and even easier to eat!


I'm linking this to Michael West's blog on Foodie Friday.

http://designsbygollum.blogspot.com/

Sunday

Kathy's Italian Cookies ~





A co-worker Kathy gave me this recipe after she was sharing her story of making them for lots of family functions.  I then begged her for the recipe.  I love good Italian cookies and this one does not disappoint. The only thing I did differently was to add almond extract instead of anise and almond milk instead of regular milk in both the cookie and the frosting.

I wanted an easy dessert for Easter and the added bonus for me is any recipe I can make ahead and freeze.   So I made them yesterday and froze them and then today I defrosted two and had them 1/2 hr. after they defrosted.  They are fabulous!  Thanks Kathy ~


Ingredients
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons anise extract (or almond extract)
1 cup crisco
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk (or almond milk)

For the Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
2 - 3 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon anise extract
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, extract and baking powder.
  3. Add the crisco and milk, then the flouone cup at a time, until well combined.
  4. Pinch off walnut-sized pieces of dough, and roll smooth between your palms.  Flour your hands if the dough is too sticky.  Arrange the balls of dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms of the cookies are a light golden brown.  The tops will still be pale.
  6. Remove from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  7. Combine the glaze ingredients in a bowl until just smooth.  You want it more thick than thin, but still runny.
  8. Dip the tops of the cooled cookies into the glaze, then return to the wire rack, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides of the cookie.  After every 3 cookies you dip, top with sprinkles or else they won't stick.
Makes around 30 cookies.


Saturday

Real women love quiche ~



In the mid 70's, when I was a young bride, I watched Julia Child every afternoon.  She didn't have a fancy show, it was also in my house at least, still black and white.  But boy did she have character.  She was easy to watch and mostly, she was funny.  She never made her audience feel incompetent, or that something was too hard to make.  She convinced me and many, many other women to get into the kitchen and cook good meals.

One of my favorite things to make still is her quiche.  It's not fancy and yet I find it sublime.  I remember during the 80's,  along came that cute cliche that "real men ate quiche".  It was a great statement, but long before that statement, real women ate quiche too and adored it!  I still do.

Thanks for the memories and the great food, Ms. Child.


Here's a link to her recipe for quiche.  I added 3 roma tomatoes, sliced and salted, then patted dry.

http://www.wgbh.org/articles/Recipe-Quiche-Lorraine-7087


Spicy Chicken Thai Soup from Allrecipes ~

Yum!





I was looking for a soup that had all of those luscious Thai flavors I love, while not having to go out to a Thai restaurant.  I also needed it to be able to be made quickly, after all it was a week night.  This soup filled all of my requirements.  The only thing I changed about it was right at the end of cooking, I added 1 cup leftover cooked basmati rice and 2 cups of fresh, chopped spinach. I made it as an entrée and felt without those doing that, it is more of a soup to serve as an appetizer course.  By the way, this soup is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, even though the flavors are spectacular from the start!

I liked steeping the lemongrass, garlic and fresh ginger chunky with chicken stock separately and then straining it into the sautéed chicken, red onion and mushrooms. That way you don't have to chop and mince it, while still maintaining all the integrity of those great flavors.  Makes for an easy dinner on a busy week night.

Here's the link to the recipe on how to make this wonderful soup.


http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-chicken-thai-soup/



Serve with thinly sliced jalapeno peppers and cilantro, if you like a little extra heat like me. 



Quinoa with black beans, corn and cilantro ~





I've been a fan of Southwestern flavors forever!  Cumin, cilantro, black beans are some of my favorite ingredients.  But, I haven't done much with quinoa.  Oh I know, everyone jumped on the bandwagon long ago, touting it's a healthier alternative to rice.  But, I cooked it once a long time ago and it really didn't make me swoon, not the way that rice or pasta does.  

Anyway, I was visiting a friend recently and this is what she wanted to make for dinner.  We've both been looking for healthy, meatless dinners and she chose this one from All Recipes.  Well between us we made it, but I found the directions a little confusing and cooked the quinoa on it's own and when I reread the directions, it alluded  to cooking it all in the same pan.  Her dish came out wonderful and so I brought the recipe home to tinker with it a bit.  I adapted it, to give it more of a kick with red pepper, extra cayenne and cumin.  I also adjusted it to add quantities that I had on hand.  So instead of 2 cups of corn, I added a one pound bag.  I mean really, it's only an extra 1/2 of a cup.

My note:  The first batch I made, I cooked the quinoa seperately and drained about half of the liquid off after the 20 minutes it says to cook it.  Then I added it to the sauteed vegetables.  The second batch, I cooked it as the directions say below.   Cooking the quinoa separately yielded a drier, fluffier grain, which I actually preferred.  But it's  up to yourself.  Both tasted great and reheated well.

This is an easy weeknight dinner that is healthy and delicious!

Here is a link to the original recipe:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-and-black-beans/

Here's my adapted recipe, which I doubled from the original.



2 chopped onions, roughly
1 chopped red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1&1/2 cups of uncooked quinoa
3 cups of chicken broth
1 Tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground, black pepper
1 lb. package of frozen corn, thawed
1 medium bunch of cilantro, chopped

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
  2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.
  

Tuesday

Chocolate Rum Cake ~



Ever since I saw Pioneer Woman's blog post on her mother in law's Christmas rum cake, I was reminded that way back in the 70's it came from a well know rum bottle label.   And there was a chocolate version too.  So when I needed a cake to make for a co-worker's birthday I decided to make this one. I  have been wanting to try the chocolate version, because this particular co-worker loves chocolate.  The recipe is so easy to make and the extra bonus is it's  a one pan dessert.  After you drizzle some the glaze to the cake while it's still inverted, it slides right onto your cake platter when you tip it over too!  Gotta love the ease of this recipe and the flavor is rather boozy, so you gotta love that if you want to love this cake.

If you want to have an over the top cake to impress, just add a little dollop of real whipped cream.  Yum!

Here's the link to the recipe.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chocolate-rum-cake/