Shrimp Fettucine

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From a fantastic vintage cookbook I grew up with, Jambalaya: The Official Cookbook of the Junior League of New Orleans (1981). When you can find it used, it is well worth the couple of dollars. It occasionally pops up on that Amazon page or eBay. The recipes are all classics, plus many Creole and Cajun dishes you’ve never heard of.  Even without pictures, they’ll make you drool just reading the dish names.

This was an easy 20 minute dinner and a fairly plain and simple one for the cookbook, but last night I happened to have everything on the list at home, even the shrimp. I omitted the mushrooms because I’m the only one in my house that loves them. If I had added them I think shiitakes would have been ideal, as their flavor and shape holds up well in cooking and they produce very little liquid. Lastly, I think a sprinkle of dry white wine or vermouth would make this more dynamic. I served it with a wedge of lemon and tossed some deep fried shallots on there – blammo. Perfection.

You’ll have to unbutton your jeans when you’re done eating.

5 green onions, chopped
2 c sliced mushrooms (I omitted this)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter (American sticks are 8 tbsp – 1/2 c)
2 tbsp oil (I omitted this)
1 lb peeled, deveined, raw shrimp (I only had 1/2 lb)
2 tsp salt
8 oz fettucine (I used closer to 10 oz)
3/4 c grated Romano cheese
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute green onions, mushrooms, and garlic in 1/2 a stick of butter and oil. Add shrimp and saute until pink. Pour off excess liquid. Season with salt (I also added pepper). Cover and keep warm.

Cook noodles in salted, boiling water. Drain. In a saucepan, melt remaining 1/2 stick of butter. Add noodles, cheeses, and cream. Mix well and combine with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and toss. Serve immediately.

*Note: They aren’t kidding about serving immediately. It pales in texture every moment that goes by.

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Almond-Chocolate Cookies

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Before.

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After.

Some time ago, I worked with a woman who would sometimes make these and bring them in for the team. I believe she got the recipe from Crisco by the name “Chocolate Filled Bon Bons”, but I haven’t been able to find it on their site to link to. I am not a fan of Crisco and generally only use it for this recipe, as they are so good I am willing to forgive it. It’s that yummy.

As usual, I alter the recipe a bit, but only a bit… the last bit of rolling it through sugar and almonds. This time around I decided to try out less flour to get it crispier, which worked and came out beautifully; however, the cookies are definitely more fragile. Normally they maintain their ball shape. While this makes for a softer cookie (or bon bon), it does allow the recipient to enjoy the cookie and Hershey Kiss all in one bite.

I made these as a thank you gift to Dave’s office for the beautiful baby gifts they gave us.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening (I prefer to use plain, but you can also use butter flavored)
1/2 cup white sugar, plus about 1/3 cup more for rolling
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (if you prefer, just use more vanilla)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
24 milk chocolate Hershey Kisses, unwrapped (note: the original recipe calls for 48, but I have never been able to squeeze nearly that many out of the amount of dough made from quantities above. Always 24)

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a mixer, cream shortening and sugars until fluffy. Add egg and extracts and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and mix well. On a plate, combine the extra 1/3 cup of white sugar with the sliced almonds and mix. I usually crumble up half of the almonds.

Form into 1 inch balls. Press a Hershey Kiss into the ball so that the Kiss is completely enrobed. Roll each ball through the sugar/almond mixture. Bake for 12-13 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. It is worth mentioning that when baking with Crisco, they often look undercooked when they are in fact done as it should not brown, so be careful not to over bake. Cool on a wire rack. They will need to cool for 5-10 minutes before firming up.

Makes approximately two dozen delicious cookies.

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Welcome to the ugliest pie I’ve ever, ever made. I am the kind of person who likes to cut out little flowers and leaves for decorating and painstakingly crimp the edges of my pies. It’s so hideous I contemplated NOT posting a photo of it. Have I ever made a pie that looked like this? The answer would be no. Not even when I took Home Ec in HS. Please read my notes before attempting this pie crust (which by the way was delicious and worth it).

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From Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Almost every single time I attempt a recipe out of this, even with being a seasoned baker, I have some sort of issue.

For the pastry:
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
4 tbsp vegetable shortening, teaspooned out
1 1/3 cups self-rising cake flour
scant 1/4 cup fine cornmeal
2-4 tbsp salted ice water or enough to bind
squeeze of lemon juice as needed

For the filling:
About 1 1/2 lbs Golden Delicious Apples or other cooking apples
1/4 cup unsalted butter
7 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rosewater (my note: slightly less than 1 tbsp vanilla can be substituted if absolutely necessary)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 scant tbsp cornstarch (I needed like 6 tbsp – perhaps my apples were just very juicy)
12 oz blackberries

For the glaze:
1-2 tbsp milk
1-2 tbsp sugar

You will also need an 8 inch shallow pie plate. See notes regarding this.

Put flour and cornmeal in a bowl, add the cold, diced butter and shortening, and stir gently to coat. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes. As you do so, put your water in a cup with a pinch of salt and transfer to the fridge. Either in a processor or free-standing mixer with a flat paddle attachment, blend your fats and flour until you have a mixture that resembles sandy porridge. Then, gradually process or paddle in the liquid until the pastry is almost coming together (my note: if it comes together too much, it will be too sticky. Add a little flour). Use your hands to form two discs, one slightly larger than the other, then wrap in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before rolling.

Preheat your oven to 375F, Remembering to put a baking sheet in at the same time. Peel, core, and slice apples. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar, rosewater, and cinnamon, then cook the apples in the pan for about 3 minutes remove them to a dish with a spatula or tongs. Pour the caramelly juices into a cup and whisk in the cornstarch to form a paste (note: it doesn’t quite form a “paste” like I would consider a paste – think more like the consistency of Elmer’s glue… which is… a paste. lol).

Line the bottom and sides of the pie dish with the bigger disc of pastry, and put the apples and blackberries into the pie. Pour over the cornstarch-butter mixture and mix carefully if there wasn’t much. Roll out the smaller disc of pastry, dampen the edges of the pie with water, and put the pie lid on top. Crimp the edges, either by hand or using a form, to seal. Decorate as desired with any scraps.

Glaze with milk and cook for 30 minutes, by which time the still slightly knobbly top should be golden. Sprinkle with sugar when it comes out of the oven, and leave for about 15 minutes before cutting it.

Serves 6.

Notes:

First – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen self-rising cake flour. Just self-rising flour or cake flour. Cake flour doesn’t have any additives like self-rising flour, so I looked up how to convert flour into self-rising. The general consensus was around 1 cup of flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt, so with this recipe calling for 1 1/3 c cake flour, I thought I’ll stick with the amounts in that equation and not increase to compensate for the extra 1/3 cup. The baking powder was fine, but it was too much salt. Next time, I’d go with 1/4 tsp.

Second – I didn’t have fine cornmeal, but I did have regular cornmeal, so again being the genius I am, I thought I would simply use my pestle and mortar to grind it as fine as I could. Guess what? That’s practically impossible. I did manage to get it the texture down finer, but not by much. This made the crust a little bit crunchy, which was not desirable. Take the time to find finely ground cornmeal!

Third – 8″ pie dishes are not common in the US. Most standard pie dishes are 9-9.5″ here. I ended up having to double the pie crust recipe, which I didn’t fully realize until it was too late (I did suspect) and had to make another batch in a mad, panicked dash around the kitchen, which resulted in me not being able to dedicate another 20 minutes for refrigerating. This meant my top crust has way too soft to properly roll out. This is why it came out so ugly! Either because of the larger pie size or perhaps my oven wasn’t the right temperature, but I ended up having to bake this thing an extra 30 minutes, which was crazy. Remember to use more apples if using a larger pie dish.

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Me attempting to grind cornmeal… yeah right.

Macaroni & Cheese

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Caution: macaroni and cheese is not that appealing close up and under bright lighting.

If there is something every human should master, it’s a handmade macaroni and cheese. My general rules for a great mac are that it must:

– use a bechamel sauce base,
– have goat cheese for a little tanginess,
– have more than one kind of cheese,
– must have something of the onion family in it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I still buy Annie’s boxed mac ‘n cheese from time to time for Nevan – but if you’re going to make it from scratch, you may as well take your time and go for gold.

My method is a bit of combination of two of Martha Stewart’s mac ‘n cheese recipes from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, but mostly it’s the “Macaroni and Four Cheeses” recipe. Here is my little version with proportions halved from her recipes. Serves 5-6 people.

4.5 tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing casserole dish
2.5 cups milk
1/4 plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups grated extra sharp or sharp cheddar
1/2 cup Gruyere, Parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese
10 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced OR 1 leek, white part minced
5 oz goat cheese
1/2 -3/4 lb your favorite mac ‘n cheese pasta
1 cup panko (optionally, you can make your own buttered breadcrumbs)

Optional:
1/2 cup blanched broccoli, run under cold water and chopped
1/4 cup diced turkey ham or bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

If you are using leeks instead of scallions, cook lightly in a little butter until soft and set aside. If using scallions, they do not need to be cooked.

Warm your milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Whisking constantly, gradually add the warm milk, allowing a portion to absorb before adding more. Cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally.Remove the white sauce from heat, add salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.

While you are making the white sauce, boil your pasta half way in salted water, then rinse under cold water.

Gently stir in half of the cheeses into the white sauce. Fold in your scallions/leeks and optional broccoli and meat. Stir in the boiled pasta, then turn out into your prepared casserole dish. Crumble the remaining goat cheese over the top, sprinkle remaining grated cheeses, and cover with panko.

Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot.

Brownie Hearts and Brownie Bites

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest months ago (courtesy of Kate), mostly for the cute idea of cutting out the hearts and then making little truffle balls with the scraps. I was really in the mood to bake something chocolaty today, so I decided brownies it is! Then I found I was *gasp* out of boxed brownie mix. Yes, I admit it. I love boxed brownie mix. I lurve it. It’s so damn tasty, even though it’s made with kind of yucky stuff. When I found the pantry would not yield my precious red box of joy, I decided I’d try and make them from scratch. And then I remembered Harry used all the white sugar. There’s like 2 tbsp left in the house at the moment. Since I don’t use sugar, I didn’t notice we were out when I went shopping on Tuesday.

Normally I’d just run out and get some, but I’m working from home and don’t have the luxury of popping out to the store. Even if I went out on my lunch break, but the time I got back, I wouldn’t have enough time to actually bake the suckers.

I was sad. So, so sad. No brownies for me.

Then I took a look at the recipe I pinned, and I realized I had most of the ingredients (it only calls for brown sugar!). The only thing I didn’t have was baker’s chocolate (or even chips… oh the horror!). I did, however, have unsweetened cocoa powder. I immediately googled how I could sub, and I found a few different ones (most called for shortening). I decided to give it a shot. Then, when I pulled out my Trader Joe’s cocoa, it had the conversion right on the damn package! 6 tbsps of cocoa plus 1 tbsp oil is equal to 1 oz baking chocolate. Voila!

So during my 15-minute morning break, I whipped these up and threw them in the oven. 38 minutes later, I had a yummy batch of homemade brownies. Winning!

Recipe adapted from marthastewart.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa and 6 tbsp canola oil (OR 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate)
  • 3 extra large eggs plus 1 extra large egg white (or 4 large eggs)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa, colored sugar, etc for decoration

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan (I use shortening but butter can be used as well). In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, cocoa, and oil. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir.
  2. Beat eggs and vanilla into the melted chocolate with a wooden spoon. Beat in flour and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Turn the brownie cake out onto a baking sheet, and flip over onto a work surface. Cut out the brownies with a 2 1/2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter. Dust with cocoa if you like. Form the scraps into 1-inch balls, and roll them in the coating of your choice.

Prep time: 15-20 min

Bake time: 35-40 min

Yield: 12 hearts and about 30 bites

brownies brownie bites