GREEN BEAN-POTATO PASTA: Fast & Filling!

green-bean-potato-pasta-textThe hectic holidays are done. Time to relax, but there’s dinner to make. No problem!

GREEN BEAN-POTATO PASTA is a quick and easy recipe that can feed an army. Perfect for potlucks. Of course, you can half the recipe, if you can’t eat it all – unfortunately, this is NOT a recipe that can be frozen. (big frown from the Queen Of Freeze!)

GREEN BEAN-POTATO PASTA – makes about 15 cups

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 7 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
  • 1 lb white potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 12 oz fresh green beans, cut into 1½”-ish size for easy eating
  • 1 lb gemelli pasta (or a skinny tubular pasta, such as penne)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Toast the pine nuts and garlic cloves (unpeeled) either in a toaster oven (which is what I do), a regular oven, or a dry skillet. Whichever you choose, keep an eye on it – the pine nuts go from perfectly golden brown to black in an instant. Remove peels from garlic.

Into a food processor or blender, make a pesto by combining the pine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice. Purée. Set aside.

Steam green beans.

Boil potato cubes in a large pot of salted water. When they can be pierced by a knife (about 5 minutes), remove to a bowl, leaving water in pot. Bring water back to a boil and cook pasta.

When pasta is done, drain over a container to save 2 cups of the pasta/potato water. Return pasta to the now-empty pot. Vigorously stir in 1¼ cups pasta/potato water, potatoes, pesto, butter, and pepper. You want to kind of break up the potatoes to thicken the sauce. Gently stir in the greens beans.

 

 

TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES: A Festive Side Dish!

tomato-spinach-timbale-textDuring the holiday season it’s always fun to make festive foods. I created TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE with a little trepidation since December is NOT tomato season. While supermarket tomatoes generally lack flavor, even during peak times, my worry was for nothing, since the cooking process plus the flavors of the other ingredients brought out the best in these red beauties.

TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALE – makes 4

  • 2 round tomato,  at least 2″ in diameter
  • 6 oz fresh spinach
  • 1 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind)
  • 6 T seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried minced onion
  • 2 egg
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Peel tomatoes by submerging them in boiling water for about 1 minute – until skin starts to split. Remove from water and let cool until the skin can be peeled off without scalding your fingers. Discard peel. Slice tomatoes in half along the equator.

Steam spinach for about 5 minutes, until wilted. Wrap spinach in a paper towel and squeeze out excess water. (I wrap a terry cloth towel around the paper towel – the terry towel maximizes absorption, and the paper towel protects the spinach from lint.)

In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs.eggs-beatenAdd butter, milk, bread crumbs, salt, and dried minced onion.timbales-mixing1Remove spinach from paper towel and chop.spinach-choppingStir into egg mixture.timbales-mixing2Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Butter 4 custard cups or small ramekins.custard-cup-butteredPlace a tomato half, cut side up, in each. Using your fingers, spread open the tomato so it touches the cup sides.tomato-in-custard-cupSprinkle on feta cheese.timbales-fetaTop with spinach mixture to the brim, patting down to get rid of air pockets.timbales-spinachPlace cups in a baking dish and fill halfway with boiling water.timbales-bakingBake at 350º F for 25-30 minutes, until spinach layer starts to brown. Remove from oven. Take cups out of the water bath and place on a rack to set for 15 minutes. To remove the TOMATO-SPINACH TIMBALES, run a rounded knife around edges, then invert, removing cup.

 

WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES – A Chocolate Lovers’ Dream!

choc-crinkle1If you’re craving a rich, chocolate dessert, then look no further. WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES will satisfy your urge, and then some! Warning: they’re a bit messy from the powdered sugar…so just wear white and you’re good to go.

No need to drag out the electric mixer for this one – these cookies are made by hand. There’s even some rolling in sugar to do, so put the kids to work.

WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES – makes 18 to 22, depending on size

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa – sift to get rid of any lumps
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 4 tsp instant coffee crystals
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 4 T butter
  • about 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • about 3/4 cup powdered sugar

In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and white chips. Set aside.

In a small bowl, dissolve coffee crystals in vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar, smashing out any lumps. Add in the coffee/vanilla and mix well.

In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt together the butter and baking chocolate. With a spoon, begin stirring the egg mixture. Dribble in a small amount of the melted chocolate, stirring constantly, to temper the eggs. Slowly add more chocolate while stirring, continuing on until all the chocolate is incorporated. (If you add the hot chocolate to the eggs too quickly, you could cook them.)

Pour the flour mixture into the chocolate and stir until blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool and firm up.

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit.

Fill 2 shallow, wide bowls (such as a cereal bowl) – 1 with the granulated sugar, and 1 with the powdered sugar.

To form cookies, drop about 3 T batter into the granulated sugar (you don’t have to roll them first). With your fingers, start tossing the dough until it’s well-coated with sugar, gently pressing dough into a ball. Then drop into the powdered sugar. Gently toss until it’s well-covered with powdered sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t crowd cookies – you can get about 8 or 9 on a large sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes at 325º F. They probably won’t look done, but remove from oven – they will continue to cook on the hot sheet. Let cool completely on cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.

These cookies taste great for days – if they last that long!

 

PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS – Saving Money Never Tasted So Good!

pistachio-feta-biscuit-textAs a woman who hates waste (yeah – I’m cheap!), I was trying to come up with something to do with leftover feta cheese. True, it can always be a crumbled topping for salad, but I wanted something new. As I was looking for a bread recipe to post, I decided to merge the two. Biscuits! There were also a handful of pistachios lurking about, so I threw them in for crunch.

Once again, my frugality prevailed – PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS were a success! For those of you who have never made biscuits, it’s easy as pie (I felt obliged to use a food simile).

Note: I toyed with the idea of adding in leftover dried cranberries. Next time, I think I will.

PISTACHIO-FETA BISCUITS

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 T baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 T butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup pistachio nuts
  • 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or cream (sometimes I use nonfat, sometime I use cream)

Preheat oven to 500º Fahrenheit. (You will lower the temperature when you bake the biscuits.)

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Cut butter into about 8 pieces and add to flour. Pulse 20 times to incorporate butter. Mixture should be crumbly.

Note:  If you don’t have a food processor, then do this by hand: using 2 knives, cross-cut the butter into the flour mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a fork just to break them up. Pour in milk, as you continue to beat eggs. Set aside 2 tablespoons of this mixture to glaze the biscuits.

Pour the flour mixture into the eggs, blending with a spoon until most of the flour is incorporated. Empty the bowl onto a lightly floured large breadboard or counter. Knead the dough about 20 times to unite all the flour into the batter.

With your hands, shape the dough into a 1″ thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 12 squares.

Note: I prefer to cut squares – it’s faster and there’s no waste. You can cut circles, if you want, then gather the uncut dough and reform it so you can cut more circles. BUT – overworking dough can cause it to become tougher – not a good thing, so after re-gathering one time, just bake the odd bits as is – they’ll still taste wonderful.

Place cut pieces on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased. Brush with the egg/milk you set aside (you probably won’t use it all).

Put sheet in preheated oven. IMMEDIATELY LOWER OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 425º. (I can’t stress this enough!) Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve immediately for best quality.

Note:  Leftovers can be reheated in oven at 375º Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes – until hot to the touch (they’ll brown a wee bit more).

CHILI CHEESE NIBBLES -Easy To Make, Hard To Resist!

chili-cheese-nibbles-textAnyone who owns a television, computer, or has been to a store lately knows it’s the holiday season. People will gather for small get-togethers and big galas. And where people celebrate, there’s always food. (It’s a rule!)

Party food can be tricky business – you don’t want it drippy, crumbly, or something that can’t be cleanly bitten into (you know – like when the entire top layer comes with the bite, slapping your chin with a greasy mess).

CHILI CHEESE NIBBLES are an hors-d’oeuvre that passes all my criteria. Did I mention they’re delicious?! In fact, they are so good (especially hot out of the oven) that I suggest you make extra – especially the crispy edges.

CHILI CHEESE NIBBLES – makes about 20 squares

  • 2  4-oz cans diced green chilies (I use one can mild, one can hot)
  • 12 oz Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 6 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1½ cups)
  • 2 T milk (any kind)
  • 1 T flour
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375º fahrenheit.

Discard excess juice from chilies – there won’t be much.

Grease an 8″x 8″ pan (or its equivalent).

Combine cheeses.

shredded-cheese-in-bowlIn a small bowl, combine the milk and flour to form a smooth paste.

flour-paste In a larger bowl, beat the eggs. Pour the flour paste into the eggs, beating to combine.

flour-paste-into-eggsSprinkle about one-third of cheese (you don’t have to measure) onto baking pan. Top with one can of chilies, spreading evenly. Add half of the remaining cheese, then the other can of chilies, the rest of the cheeses, and, finally, pour egg mixture over chili-cheese mixture, smoothing top.

chili-cheese-directionBake at 375º F, uncovered, for 45 – 50 minutes – until browned. Don’t worry about the edges being too dark – they’ll be discarded into your mouth. Remove from oven and let set for about 15 minutes.

chili-ch-doneRun a spatula around edges and underneath to loosen.

chili-ch-remove1Place a plate on top and flip to remove – it will plop down…hopefully. Then place another plate on top (which is the bottom of the chili-cheese mixture) and flip again. Now, it’s right side up. Here’s the BEST part – cut off the 4 edges and eat them (you won’t be serving them). They are an irresistible crispy, warm, cheesy temptation.

chili-cheese-removeLet the square rest a few more minutes to make sure it’s firm, then slice into squares. TIP: I used a large pizza wheel.