All posts by DaretotasteJennifer

Double-Fried Plantains — A Salty and Sweet Tasty Snack

DOUBLE-FRIED PLANTAINS — ONE TASTY SNACK

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Yellow plantains peeled and sliced on an angle in 1/4 inch pieces.

Not to be confused with Plantain Chips, which stem from the green plantains and are sliced paper thin with a mandoline, fried plantains are soft, sweet and salty, and a perfect snack. Not to mention, they are VERY easy to make, it just takes a couple of steps.

Ingredients:
3 Yellow Plantains sliced thick
Canola Oil (375 degrees)
Kosher Salt

First, peel the plantains. (If the peel is difficult to remove, you can slice the plantain peel down the middle and soak in some warm water.) Once the peel is removed, slice the plantains on an angle about 1/4 of an inch thick.

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Smashed after the first fry… about 3 minutes.

Heat some Canola or Vegetable Oil to 375 degrees. Fry about 10 Plantain wedges until they turn slightly darker. See photo to the left.

Allow the plantains to cool for a few minutes. Using parchment paper, cover the plantains. Then take the back of a spoon and apply pressure onto the plantain wedge. This way, the back of the metal spoon won’t stick to the plantain and rip them in half. Once all the plantains are smashed, drop them back into the fryer until they’re golden brown. Like everything you fry, season with kosher salt as soon as they are removed from the fryer. Rest the smashed wedges on paper towels to remove some of the excess oil.

Note: As you know I’m not a fan of resting anything fried on paper towels. I find it leaves the finished product soggy, but not these!

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Final product after the second fry and seasoned with Kosher salt.



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Low Fat Chicken Salad… Salad

Last week I met a new friend for lunch at Tap Trailhouse in Boston’s historical Faneuil Hall District. And as usual, while I was eating I said to myself, “Hmm… I bet I can make this at home.” So I did.

It’s that time of year when I, like most others, finally start to eat healthy after a not-so-healthy New England winter. Last year around this time, I lost 15 pounds and couldn’t have felt better. After filming “The Taste” in Los Angeles, I ended up putting half of those pounds back on, 7 to be exact. So the winter food fest is officially over!

Yesterday I posted a recipe for turkey chili that is 95% fat free. I added about a cup of brown sugar and served it with sour cream and cheddar cheese… but those were the only truly fattening things in the recipe. I cook the turkey separately and drain any fat that may be left at the bottom of the pot. This time, I used extra lean turkey so there was barely any fat to drain. And last I checked, vegetables, beans and tomatoes are pretty damn good for you.

The key to making healthy but TASTY food is the herbs and spices you use. The Chili is a perfect example. I put so many different spices in the turkey you never noticed for a second there was no fat. But back to the chicken salad…

I had this salad for lunch and it was delicious, filling, healthy and different. I altered the recipe a bit by substituting the sliced almonds for pine nuts, and I shredded iceberg lettuce instead of using whole romaine leaves. So there are two ways you can change this salad… lettuce and nuts can be switched.

Ingredients:

Salad:
1/2 lb. Boneless Chicken Breast baked, diced
1/2 C Celery chopped
1/2 C Pine Nuts
1/2 C Dried Cranberries
1/2 Head Romain Lettuce shredded
1/4 C Red Onion diced, optional
2T Mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper

Dressing:
1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 C Olive Oil
1 Shallot diced
1T Sugar
Salt and Pepper

Prepare all of your ingredients: Dice the red onion (optional), shallot and celery, dice the chicken, and shred the lettuce. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, celery, onion (optional), pine nuts and cranberries and toss with the mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
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In a separate bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients well. You can whisk until slightly emulsified or you and put in a sealed jar or bowl and shake!

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In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the desired amount of dressing. Top with the chicken/cranberry mixture.

End of story. The moist chicken, sweet cranberries, and crunch of the celery and pine nuts with the creamy mayo is a perfect combination with great textural balance. The lettuce should be dressed JUST ENOUGH. Don’t let it take away from the flavor of the actual chicken salad.

Remember: You can always add more of an ingredient but you can very rarely take away. As Chef Ludo said to me in “The Taste” finale, “GO EASY WITH YOUR SALT!”  Well, that goes for pretty much everything, not just salt.

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Side Note: The best way to cook the chicken is to place two boneless chicken breasts on a foil pan or small oven-safe dish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. If you need to cut the chicken in half to see if it’s cooked properly… go for it. Chill the chicken for at least a half hour. You really don’t want to serve anything warm with cold mayonnaise.

Enjoy!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Marble Yogurt Loaf — It’s Kinda Low Fat. Kinda

If you’ve ever lived in New York City (like me.. 10 years in Greenwich Village) or visit frequently, you’ll notice that not only is there a deli on literally every corner of the city, but every deli sells Marble Loaf Cake. It’s very odd. If you think I’m lying… next time you’re in NYC make an attempt to check out a deli and you will find the famous Marble Loaf Cake. Promise! It’s weird.

I miss so many things about NYC… The pizza, restaurants, nightlife, subway rides and walks simply running errands, the cheap manicures and pedicures ($25 for both), sample sales, having a meal alone and leaving with five new friends… and so much more. NYC changed my life, so much that I have an apple tattoo on my right wrist. Oh yeah.

Well, I also miss the Marble Loaf Cake. Again, weird. I know. So… I googled a recipe and made one myself. The first one came out like a brick, but I know exactly what I did wrong. I used the wrong size pan and the temp of my oven was a little too hot. So, as usual, the second time was a charm. I got up off the couch around 9 p.m. last night and said to myself, “let me try to make that damn cake again.” And I’m so glad I did.

unnamed-18I altered the original recipe from the book, “Chocolate and the art of low fat desserts.” I found the recipe online since I don’t bake and couldn’t even begin to write a baking or dessert recipe myself. In baking, as most of you know, everything needs to be exact. But as I mentioned before, if things don’t come out the way you like, there are certain things you can adjust, such as the amount of chocolate, nuts, and sometimes even the flour etc. The only things you likely can’t adjust is the baking soda, baking power, etc. But we won’t get into that since I honestly don’t know enough about baking.

Ingredients:

Dry:
1 3/4  C Flour all purpose
1t Baking Powder
1/2t Baking Soda
1/2t Salt

Wet:
6T Butter softened
1 C Sugar
1 Whole Egg
1 Egg White
2t Vanilla
1C Plain Yogurt

Marble:
1/3 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/3 C Sugar
1t Vanilla
1/4 C Coffee or Espresso (wet)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. No higher. I found this cake comes out better when it bakes at a low temp. In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. I recommend sifting them but you don’t have to. In a mixer, or in a large bowl (using a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar. Add the egg. Beat for another minute. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat for about five minutes until it’s light and fluffy. LIGHT AND FLUFFY!

In a small bowl, combine all of the marble ingredients. This should be a very loose and wet consistency… so don’t fret.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and alternate with the yogurt. For example… put half of the dry ingredients into the wet bowl, then add a half a cup of yogurt, then add the rest of the dry, then the remainder of the yogurt. I have no idea why… that’s what it says and I know literally nothing about baking, so just do it. 🙂

Grease and flour a loaf pan. Pour the cake batter to fill about a THIRD of the pan. Pour half of the marble mixture over the cake batter, and with a butter knife (or other flat, kitchen object) swirl the marble mixture into the batter. Cover the marble with the remainder of the cake batter. Top the cake batter with the remainder of the marble mixture and swirl it again.

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Note: I screwed up the first loaf because I filled the pan with too much batter. You want to leave about a THIRD of the pan open so the cake has room to breath and rise. So do not fill the pan to the top or it’ll burn and the consistency will be way too heavy. We are going for a light and fluffy cake here!

Place the cake on the middle rack and check on it after 30 minutes. It’s not done… but take a look. It shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes… but keep tapping the top middle of the cake and you should be able to feel if there is wet batter in there. It’s not brain surgery… does it feel done? Yes. Then it is. None of this wooden toothpick crap…. JUST FEEL IT.

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Cupcakes:
I had a little extra batter left so I decided to make a few cupcakes. I hate cupcake wrappers. They are so 1980 and just so lame. So I cut up some parchment paper and used that instead. Here’s what I did:

Cut a sheet of parchment paper into four blocks. If you don’t have sheets and you have a roll, slice off a sheet the size of an average cookie sheet, then cut it in fours. Press the sheets into a cupcake tin and coat with baking spray. Using an ice cream scoop (for size consistency), add a scoop of batter followed by a tablespoon of the marble mixture. With a butter knife, swirl the marble mixture into the batter.

Mine are a mess… but I’m a mess so it’s par for the course.

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No frosting necessary! ENJOY! 



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Chipotle Rice Bowl — At Home

Nobody needs to tell me how delicious Chipotle is. You see a Chipotle and say to yourself, “Hmm… should I?” EVERY SINGLE TIME. Trust me, I know. I’m right there with you. Well… while you can  never completely mimic your favorite fast-food or restaurant favorite, every so often I have “Chipotle at home” night.

Again, back to what I’ve said in the past about food shopping… take mental inventory of your kitchen when planning a meal and you’ll find that a full dinner cost you less than $10 with leftovers because you used up STUFF in your cabinets and fridge you thought you had zero use for.

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For me, I had a ton of brown rice in my freezer I wanted to steam (yes, frozen bags of brown rice are the best! They cost $1.00 and take about 4 minutes to steam in the microwave), two green peppers that were about to die, and a tomato about to turn into a pile of goo. So what did I buy? I bought two avocados and a small tub of sour cream. It cost me about $5.50. I had cheese, onions, a bit of cilantro, and boneless chicken in the freezer.

First, I marinated the chicken for a couple of hours in a zip lock bag in the fridge:

Ingredients:

Marinated Chicken:
1 lb. Boneless Chicken diced
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1 T Paprika
2 t Cumin
2 t Coriander
1 T Smoked Chipotle Powder
1 t Onion Salt
1/2 t Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper
1/4 C Olive Oil

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Next, I sautéed two onions and two green peppers in about 1 T of Grape Seed Oil (flavorless), and the chicken in a separate pan. (I didn’t need to add any oil to the chicken pan since it had been marinating in the Olive Oil). I then diced up my half-dead tomato and shredded the lettuce.

In a medium bowl, I made guacamole.

Guacamole:
2 Avocados squashed
2 T Fresh Cilantro chopped
1 Lime juiced
Salt

Note: I usually add chopped tomato and small dices of red onion to the guac, but since we are already using tomato and onions in other places, I omitted them both. 

Other ingredients:
1 Bag Brown Rice steamed
2 Medium Onions roughly chopped
2 Green Peppers roughly chopped
2 T Grape Seed Oil
1 Tomato diced
1/2 Head Iceberg Lettuce shredded
Cheddar or Jack Cheese shredded

unnamed-14Note: To make things look nice on the table, I put the shredded cheese, tomato, guacamole and chopped cilantro in little plastic bowls. (Obviously you don’t need to dirty more bowls.)

The hard part is done! Now it’s time to eat. I served the chicken, rice, and peppers and onions in separate bowls as well since some of the people I had over for dinner didn’t want peppers. Again, like Chipotle, everyone likes different things in their bowls, salads and burritos.

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I started with brown rice on the bottom followed by chicken and the pepper and onion mixture. I then added cheese so it melts on top of the hot ingredients. Then I went cold… Tomato and lettuce. I put dollops of guacamole and sour cream on each side of the bowl and finished the whole thing with fresh-squeezed lime and some extra cilantro.

DELICIOSO!!

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Beef Stew — Mmm Mmm Good

I have no idea why I decided to make beef stew… but I did. Well, I kind of know why. I was walking through the supermarket and my new thing is talking to myself while I stare at food and say, “hmm… what can I make with that?” And sometimes, food comes packed in ways that makes you say, “Yes! This is what I wanted to eat.” Or in my case, “I wonder if I can make this?”

I saw the package of cubed beef that read, “Beef for Stew.” And BOOM… next thing I know I’m loading the cart with carrots and potatoes. Believe it or not, the rest of the ingredients I had at home. With that, here’s a tip: Before you go grocery shopping, make a mental note of your kitchen inventory. That way, while you’re roaming the isles, cooking ideas will pop into your head. For instance, I knew I had some boneless chicken and tortilla wraps on my freezer, so I when I saw the green and red peppers on sale, I immediately thought, “fajitas.” That’s on the menu for tomorrow!

Back to the beef stew. I read a few recipes and had the key ingredients in mind: Beef (obviously), carrots/celery/potatoes, fresh herbs and red wine. With that, I knew I could play around as long as I had those. I had no idea if this was going to come out… good or bad… but I have to say, it was perfect. I didn’t write anything down but I’m pretty sure these are the approximate measurements. You can’t screw it up… promise.

Ingredients:
2 lb. Chuck cubed
4 Potatoes russet, peeled, cut in chunks
4 Carrots sliced in chunks
4 Celery Stalks sliced in chunks
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
2 Large Onions roughly chopped
6 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
2 t Fresh Rosemary chopped
1/4 C Fresh Parsley chopped
2 T Tomato Paste
2 T Vegetable Oil
2 T Olive Oil
2 C Red Wine (half bottle)
4 C Beef Stock
1/4 C Flour all purpose
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot, bring the Vegetable Oil to temperature… You can substitute Vegetable oil here but I cook everything in Olive Oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper… a lot of salt! Then coat the beef with flour. Drop the beef into the pot of hot oil and cook until the meat is seared on all sides and the bottom of the pan is covered in flavor bits. Yum! Note: It is very important to BROWN the meat! This is how you will get the most flavor out of your stew.

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Once the  meat is brown, remove from the pot and set aside. Add the  Olive Oil, garlic, carrot, celery and onion and cook the vegetables for about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Once the vegetables have sweated, put the meat back in the pot and stir.

Add the fresh herbs: Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley and Bay Leaves. Add the red wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to remove all the flavor bits. (incase you don’t know, this is called deglazing the pan… and probably one of the most important stages of this dish… that and browning the meat!)

Let the alcohol in the wine cook out for about 5 minutes on high heat. Add the tomato paste and stir. This is what your pot should look like… kind of a gooey mess of brown wine broth. Perfect! We built the flavor, now lets thin it out.

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Add the beef stock and an additional 4 cups of water. Stir. Close the lid and come back in two hours. Taste for seasoning (salt). Add more if it needs it… and it usually does. Here is when you want to add the potatoes. And here  is another side note.

When it comes to adding multiple vegetables to any dish… I think it’s important, even in a soup or stew, to make the vegetables different shapes. I cut the carrots and celery into typical chunky slices, but cut the potatoes into asymmetrical shapes. This way, the potatoes stand out and the vegetables don’t look the same while you’re eating. Remember… you eat with your eyes first!

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So go ahead and add the potatoes… and again, cover the stew and come back in another hour. After a total of about three hours, it’s done. It was probably done an hour ago but the longer it cooks, the better it’ll taste. It’ll also taste even better tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. And it will tighten up a tad bit, so if you feel it’s a bit too thin right now, you can either add a little cornstarch (mix about a Tablespoon of cornstarch with a cup of the beef stew broth then add to the pot) or just ride it out. Here are two photos of the stew, one day apart. You’ll notice the difference.

Fresh Beef Stew after three hours of cooking.
Fresh Beef Stew after three hours of cooking.
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The same Beef Stew after one day of refrigeration.

 

That wasn’t that hard, was it? Enjoy!!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Sunday Snack Time: Buffalo Chicken Wontons

It’s Sunday. You probably have to go to work tomorrow… and if you live in New England, you probably have to get into a cold car in the morning or even walk in the painful cold to your office.  So if you’re like me, on Sunday’s I like to eat a bunch of crap and lounge around and obsesses about how I hope tomorrow will never come. Sound familiar?

If so, I have the perfect snack for you to make at home that will fit right into your lazy day. They look intimidating, but they are super easy and very tasty! You’ll wish I posted this sooner… but I had to wait until “Bullied Into Cooking” was sold out. Technically, I have six left to sell, but I don’t think giving away a recipe or two will hurt.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the process… so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb. Boneless Chicken
2 T Olive Oil
8 oz. Cream Cheese
4 oz. Bleu Cheese
1/2 C Buffalo Sauce
1 Package Wonton Wrappers
Canola Oil for frying 
Blue Cheese Dressing Optional, for dipping
Salt and Pepper

Rinse the chicken under cold water to clean. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces. The size isn’t that important because you’ll be chopping it up into tiny pieces after it’s cooked (if you don’t have a  food processor.) Cook the chicken in the olive oil… or if you have a grill, grill it! Even better. Us city folk don’t have grills so it’s usually not an option. (Enter sad face here)

Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the heat and set aside. Now I’ve told you 100x to invest in a small food processor, and if you’re reading this, hopefully you just said out loud, “I did.” If not, well once again, you just have to work a little bit harder than everyone else.

Place the chicken chunks in the food processor and PULSE until they reach a granola-type consistency. Think about what you want your wonton filling to feel and taste like! Ignore the exact recipe… cook for yourself! If you like the pieces of chicken bigger, make them bigger! If you like them smaller and the center of your wonton mushy, keep pulsing! Season the chicken again with salt and pepper.

If you do not have a food processor, have fun chopping that chicken by hand!

In a medium bowl, combine the buffalo sauce, cream cheese and blue cheese (crumble). In another bowl, add the chicken from the food processor or your table top if you chopped it by hand. Slowly add the cream cheese/buffalo sauce mixture to the chicken. If you want a lot of sauce, add it all. If you prefer the sauce on the light side, add as little as you’d like. But remember, you can always add more… but you can’t take away.

Place your wonton on the counter and lightly cover the edges with water. Fill the wonton wrapper with about 1 tablespoon on filling, fold over the wonton and seal the watered edges tightly so it forms a triangle. Repeat until there are no more wonton wrappers or you run out of filling… or until you just don’t feel like doing it anymore.

Leave out as many wontons as you’d like to cook that day. You can go ahead and freeze the rest in freezer bags. Make sure you date the bag with a sharpie so you don’t end up cooking and eating these in five years. Trust me, they won’t taste very good.

Heat some canola oil in a medium skillet. Once the skillet is warm to the touch, drop in the wontons. Cook on each side, about 2 minutes, until the wrapper bubbles and turns golden brown.

Dip the wontons in either more buffalo sauce or blue cheese dressing! And… chow!


Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

There’s Only Two Weeks Left To Make Macaroni and Cheese

If you live in Boston, I’ll assume you are just as miserable as me due to the horrific weather that has taken over our lives. If you live in the city, like me, you can’t move your car or you’ll get in a fight over a parking spot when you return, you can’t walk your dog without his paws hurting or his legs getting covered/splashed in mud, you don’t want to exercise, you certainly don’t want to eat healthy… you get the point. Miserable.

Well, the good news is, spring is only 15 days away. Mark your calendars… March 20th is the day! And I have a rule when it comes to food and spring time: No more fatty cooking. What does that mean? It means if you want to be on board with this plan, you have less than two weeks to make macaroni and cheese.

So lets not waste anymore time.

Ingredients:
1 lb. Pasta elbow, spiral or anything with lines
4 C Milk
4 T Flour
4 T Butter
1 Onion small, diced
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/4 lb. American Cheese
1/4 lb. Cheddar Cheese
1/4 lb. Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 lb. Gruyer Cheese
1 t Nutmeg ground (fresh if possible)
1/4 C Parmesan
2 C Breadcrumbs
4 T Butter melted
1/4 C Parsley fresh, chopped
Salt and Pepper

First, lets talk macaroni. I HIGHLY suggest using any dry pasta that has lines in it: Ziti with lines, rigatoni with lines, spiral pasta with lines, etc. Why? Because the cheese sauce will stick to the inside of the lines and hold up much better than any pasta without lines. To take it one step further, I HIGHLY suggest spiral pasta. And yes, you can buy spiral pasta with lines… Double score! Also, there is NO need to use fresh pasta. Don’t spend the money, don’t waste the money, just don’t even go there. Period.

In a sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic in the 4T of butter until the onions are soft. Note: don’t omit the onions and garlic… they are the base of this sauce and they are giving you a base of flavor to build off. So… just do it. Once the onions are somewhat soft, add the flour. Stir. Cook the flour mixture by constantly stirring over medium heat for at least two minutes. Do not let the flour turn brown! Once it starts to change color, take the pot off the heat and add the milk.

So yes, add the milk. Over HIGH heat, bring this to a boil. You have just created one of the five mother sauces, béchamel.

Wiki:
Béchamel sauce
 also known as white sauce, is made from a roux (butter and flour) and milk. It is one of the mother sauces of French cuisine and Italian cuisine. It is used as the base for other sauces (such as Mornay sauce, which is Béchamel with cheese).

Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper… about a teaspoon of each. Taste! Yum, right? And to think we haven’t even added the cheese yet!

You MUST bring this to a boil so it can reach it’s full thick consistency. Once it covers a wooden spoon, add the cheese, minus the parmesan. Stir and cook over low heat until all the cheese has melted.

Bring your pasta to a boil (in well-salted oil) as well and cook until it is al dente. The pasta is gong to cook in the oven a second time, so make sure you do not overcook the pasta or it’ll be way to soft and gooey.

Melt the other 4T of butter. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Drizzle in the butter and completely coat the breadcrumbs.

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Fill a 13″ casserole dish with the cooked pasta… and follow by pouring in the cheese sauce. Make sure all of the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce! Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with the buttered breadcrumbs.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have turned a light brown.

Easy! Now hurry up… you have 15 days to make this! The clock is ticking.



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

The Secret Is Out: Marinara Sauce and Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is like pizza. Every restaurant makes it different, everyone at home has their own way of slicing, breading and frying (or non-frying) the eggplant.,AND… everyone has a different way of layering and serving, too. I, personally, love my way. In this recipe, I made my own marinara sauce but using your favorite jarred sauce is fine. I try to make as much as possible from scratch but that doesn’t mean you have to overachieve.

I’m here to show you the one and only way to make eggplant parmesan. Why is this the best way? Well… because I’ve cooked and eaten it every way under the sun and found this is BY FAR the most successful.

Here is the recipe with lots of notes and tips:

Eggplant Parmesan:
1 Large Eggplant sliced THIN
2 C Flour 
4-6 Eggs beaten
1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese deli/sliced
Marinara Sauce recipe below
Parmesan Cheese grated
Olive Oil for pan-frying
Fresh Basil chopped
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Powder optional

Marinara  sauce:
2 – 16 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 Large Onion chopped
8 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/3 C Olive Oil
1/2 C Fresh Parsley chopped
1/2 C Fresh Basil chopped
Salt and Pepper

First, the sauce. In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft… about 10 minutes. Remember, do not burn the garlic, or the onion for that matter. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onions are soft, add the tomatoes. As if you were rinsing the cans out, use water to get all of the tomato out of the cans while adding about half of one can of water to the sauce.

Let the sauce simmer for at least a half hour. Add the fresh parsley and basil and simmer for another 30 minutes, or longer, on low heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If the sauce is a little to acidic (bitter) for your liking, at a pinch of sugar.  

Now, the eggplant. Slice one end of the eggplant off and place it cut-side down on the cutting board for stability. Cut the eggplant in half the short way. Then with a very sharp knife, (Because you  need to cut through the skin of the eggplant) slice the eggplant into thin planks.  Stack them and set them aside.

Once the eggplant is sliced, lay each piece down and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder (optional). It’s important to season the eggplant before frying… so don’t forget this stage!

Set up your dredging station. In two separate bowls (or as shown below, square or circular foil pans) add the flour and beaten eggs. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to medium temperature. Drop each slice of eggplant first in the FLOUR, then in the EGG. Yes, you heard me correctly… flour the egg, not the other way around. TRUST ME. Fry until golden brown. Let rest on a wire rack to avoid any sogginess and season with salt.

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Cover the bottom of a square casserole dish with one ladle of the marinara sauce. Layer with the eggplant, completely covering the bottom of the dish. Follow with a layer of mozzarella cheese slices and grated parmesan. Repeat this process until you run out of eggplant… finishing with mozzarella cheese. Note: You should get about 4-5 layers out of this recipe.  

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Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and slightly browned.

As I always say, let cool and stuff your face!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Better Than Ballpark Pretzels

Oh yeah! You thought the onion soup and the tater tots were good… wait until you make these fool-proof soft pretzels. Seriously, now I know why I gained 5 lbs. this winter (after losing 15 last summer!) — I cannot stop making these and eating these. I eat them for breakfast, for snacks and at night. I’m certainly paying for it now, that’s for sure.

With this recipe, I add both salt and sesame seeds, but you can use one or the other if you choose. I love sesame seeds so that’s just my own personal twist. I don’t see why you couldn’t use cinnamon and sugar, too, but I’m not a sweet lover. I’m all savory. But use your imagination. I’m sure you could bake them until they are almost done and then top with melted cheese… The possibilities are endless! And as you know, this is what I preach. I want everyone to cook to their own tastebuds, which is why I’m not a huge fan of measuring when it comes to savory. Of course in baking you have to be exact, but feel free to cook things the way YOU like them. You are the boss!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C Water warm
1 T Yeast Active Dry
4 1/2 C Flour All Purpose
3 t Salt kosher
2 T Sugar
5 T Butter melted
1 C Baking Soda
2 Eggs
beaten
Sea or Kosher Salt for topping
Sesame Seeds for topping – optional

In a large bowl, or mixing bowl of a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment (HIGHLY RECOMMEND) add the warm water. My rule of them with the temperature of the water for yeast breads is this: Is it too hot that you wouldn’t take a bath in it? Then don’t kill the yeast with scorching hot water. The water should be warm enough to activate it, but not kill it. Think bath water, not jacuzzi!. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it rest for about 10 minutes. It should turn a bit foamy. Once it’s rested, add the salt, sugar and butter. Mix. Again, I HIGHLY recommend using a mixer. It truly makes this and any bread recipe for that matter much easier.

Add the flour little by little. I like to add one cup at a time, ending with the last half cup. After all of the flour is incorporated, you need to kneed this dough like a maniac on a non-floured surface. Yes, it’s tedious and your arms are going to kill you, but it has to be done. You need this dough to be soft and stretchy to obtain that famous pretzel texture. If you’re using a mixer, which I hope you are, switch to the dough hook at this stage.

Kneed the dough for at least 10 minutes. You can use the same bowl you mixed the ingredients in for the next step… which is greasing a bowl with vegetable, canola or olive oil, and resting the dough for at least an over. Cover the dough with saran wrap and a towel to keep it warm.

After one hour, or longer, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a non-floured surface. Now the fun begins!

First, how awesome is this dough? Yes, I’m a food dork. But do you notice how stretchy and shiny it is? These are the kind of things that excite me in life… I love this dough!

Cut a good chuck off the loaf and roll it into a snake-like size. From this point on, you can be creative and form your pretzels into any shape you want. I’m not a fan of the original shape so I twist mine like this: Fold the snake in half and twist it like a Twizzler, that’s the best way to describe it. Then take the bottom part of the twisted dough and feed it through the hook/circle at the other end.

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IMG_8012Yes, boiling. Boil a large pot of water with the baking soda. Using a spider or a large slotted spoon, drop each twisted pretzel into the water for about 30 seconds, then place the pretzel on a baking sheet that’s been lightly greased with baking spray. Sprinkle each pretzel with your desired topping – salt, sesame seeds, or both. It’s OK if you spill all over the baking sheet… as you can tell, I did. It really doesn’t matter. Plus it’s no secret I’m a mess in the kitchen.
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IMG_8031Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. You can tell when they are done because they’ll turn the prefect shade of brown. And again, if you want them lighter and softer, cook them less. Obviously just make sure you’re not eating raw dough. Also, one more note, try to make the pretzels as close to the same size as possible so they cook evenly.

Now stuff your face!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

The BOMB French Onion Soup: What Everyone Orders But Never Makes

The Onion Soup Dilemma is real. Why is everyone so afraid to make onion soup at home, yet they order it every single time it’s on the menu? I never hear anyone say, “I’m going home to make some onion soup.” Let’s try to change that, shall we.

I have to admit it did take me a few times to master this recipe, but that’s been pretty much the standard procedure with all of my recipes. I buy a bunch of ingredients, cook all day, screw it up, throw everything down the garbage disposal, go back to the store, spend more money, and try it again and again and again until I get it right.

Most soups are one-pot deals. This one, however, I found comes out better when it’s made in two pots… well, one pan and one pot. You really need a large-surfaced bottom to caramelize the abundance of onions you’re going to use, and I’ve found that a pot just can’t give you that bottom space. You’ll see.

Now that I know how to make it… I find myself cooking onion soup at least twice a month. Each time, however, I add more onions. It just never seems to be enough and I am continuously shocked at how much they cook down to almost nothing. Again, you’ll see.

Here is the recipe with notes:

Ingredients:
8 Large Onions sliced
6 Cloves Garlic chopped
4 T Butter
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Fresh Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1 t salt and pepper each
4 C Beef Broth
1 C Vermouth dry
2 t Beef Bouillon for extra flavor
French/Italian Bread sliced & toasted
Swiss Cheese sliced

1. In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in the butter and olive oil FOR ABOUT AN HOUR… stirring every 15 minutes or so. Add the thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Your onions will go from white to brown in about an hour. The key is to sauté them low and slow. In case you think you have too many onions, you don’t. Trust me. After about 45 minutes, you’ll literally look at the pan and say, “where the hell did all my onions go?”

You want some of the onions to caramelize darker than the others on the bottom on the pan… because when you add the alcohol, it’ll scrape up all those flavorful bits and send your soup to a whole new level.

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Once the onions are brown, add the vermouth. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all those yummy bits we talked about earlier into the mixture. Let this simmer for about 15 minutes until the alcohol is completely burned off.

Transfer the onion mixture into a pot. Remove the bay leaves.

I hate this step. I am a firm believer in one-pot soups. I hate having two pans to clean or two pans to crowd my dishwasher… but it is what it is. 

How we doing? Good.

Add the beef bouillon and stir into the onion mixture. Now everything should be super brown! Add the broth/stock and let simmer for another 10 minutes.

TASTE IT. What does it need? More salt? Add it. Is it too rich? Add some water. Are you wondering where all the onions went? I told you. Add more next time.

The last step is to toast slices of French or Italian bread for the top of the soup. Some people use croutons but… To me, that’s lame. You can put the bread in the toaster if it fits, but I like to cut a thick piece off a loaf, brush with olive oil and toast in the oven. It’s another step, but sometimes the little things are what make your final product delicious. I’m also extremely spoiled in the North End of Boston where I can buy a loaf of fresh bread on every corner.

Ladle the soup into an oven-safe bowl. Place the toast on top of the soup, submerging only the bottom portion of the bread. Cover the bread with two (or more) slices of Swiss cheese. Place the entire bowl under the broiler and melt the cheese. (You can also use parmesan or Gruyere cheese.)

That’s it. Now eat it.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen