Thursday, November 26, 2009

Garlicky Knots

Leonardo's Pizza in Gainesville, Florida makes the most amazing rolls. What makes them over-the-top awesome is not-so-much the roll itself, but the garlic butter dipping sauce that they serve with the rolls. Since I no longer live in Gainesville, I had to figure out how to make something similar to be able to enjoy these yummy treats. Betty Crocker to the rescue! The recipe for the dough is Betty's dinner roll recipe, but I rolled the dough into a rope and tied it into a loose knot shape. My own version (though not quite as delectable) of the garlic butter sauce follows.

(Does this runner look at all familiar? Maybe I need to invest in a new one...)

3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups bread flour (you can use all-purpose flour in a pinch)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/2 cup very warm water
1/2 cup very warm milk
1 egg

1. Stir together 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, butter, salt, and yeast. Add the water, milk, and egg, and beat on low for 1 minute. Turn up to medium speed and beat 1 additional minute. Add enough of the remaining flour until a dough ball forms.

2. If you have a stand mixer, change from the beater attachment to the dough hook and knead for 6 minutes. If you don't, you'll have to get a workout here. Add flour as necessary to keep the dough from getting sticky.

3. Spray the bowl that you initially used to beat the dough with cooking spray, put the dough ball in, spray the dough with cooking spray until covered, and cover the bowl with a towel. Allow to rise for about 1 hour. If you poke it and the imprint of your finger stays in the dough, it's ready to go.

4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Separate it into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope approximately 6 to 8 inches in length (slighty wetting your hands prior to rolling each piece helps). Loosely tie the rope into a knot and place either on greased cooking sheet or in the cups of a muffin tin (spray those with cooking spray, too). Cover and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes.

5. Bake for 12-14 minutes at 375 degrees.

Garlicky Sauce

5 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. kosher salt (or about 1 tsp. regular salt, if you don't have kosher)
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. parmesan garlic spread mix
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vinegar

Whisk the ingredients together in microwave-safe bowl. Cover loosely and microwave for 10-15 seconds, or until it starts to bubble a bit. Whisk again to combine. If you have an immersion blender, you could use it here to combine the ingredients a bit better (and they'll stay combined for longer).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Congratulations to me! I recently defended my doctoral dissertation to my graduate committee, which means that I will hopefully have much more time to cook. More time for me to cook, in turn, leads to more posts to my, yay to those of you who point your browsers here occasionally for recipes or menu ideas. After the longer-than-I'd-like hiatus from blogging due to the craziness surrounding my dissertation, I am hoping to make publishing to my blog a more regular occurrence. Not to mention, cooking in general. This Sunday afternoon was a perfect time to start. And what more perfect, comfort food dish to start with than macaroni and cheese?

I adore carbohydrates, and I adore cheese. What could be better than a combination of the two? Pure make-your-tummy-happy food. My fondness for macaroni and cheese means that I have multiple recipes for macaroni and cheese, which vary based on their ingredients, complexity, and healthfulness. This recipe happens to be one of the none-too-healthy, more complex versions that I make. More complex only because it unfortunately dirties more than one pan, involves the oven, and requires more ingredients than some recipes. It's a good one, though. With the colder weather coming, you may see more versions of this favorite comfort food coming on my blog, too. Yum.

The cheese that I use in my macaroni and cheese varies based on the types that I have in my refrigerator. I have experimented with lots of variations -- mozzarella, parmesan, gouda, swiss, havarti, cheddar, mexican blend, american, even goat cheese that I needed to use up -- and have never come up with a blend that I didn't like. That could either be due to my fondness for macaroni and cheese, or to the fact that cheese is awesome in any form or variety. For the macaroni and cheese shown below, I used havarti slices that I chopped up, low-fat american slices that I also chopped up, shredded mozzarella, and goat cheese (you caught me -- it was the goat cheese that needed to be used up!). Turned out to be an amazing combination.

1 lb. elbow macaroni
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 eggs
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
(or, you could use 2/3 cup half and half in place of the whipping cream and milk. Whatever you have on hand.)
salt and pepper
dash of nutmeg, if desired
2 cups cheese (any variety that you like)
approx. 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
cooking spray

1. Boil the elbow macaroni in salted water until almost al dente. Drain; return to pot. Add butter and stir until macaroni are evenly coated.

2. In an oven-safe casserole dish, whisk the eggs until slightly frothy. Add the whipping cream and milk (or the half and half), salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Stir in the cheeses.

3. Add the cheese mixture to the macaroni in the pot and stir until the cheese starts to melt. Transfer the mixture back to the casserole dish, and top with the panko bread crumbs. Spray the bread crumbs with cooking spray to help them brown. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Spinach Artichoke Mini Quiches

This recipe was inspired by the Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Souffles at Panera Bread. I modify it based on what I have in my pantry or refrigerator at the time, and you can certainly adjust the amounts of the vegetables (or the types, for that matter) depending on what you have on hand. To make the recipe lighter, you could substitute half and half for the heavy whipping cream (also good if you're the type of person who likes h'n'h in your coffee and doesn't feel like purchasing an entire pint of whipping cream to only use half of it).

1/4 cup onion, diced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1/3 can (about 1/4 cup) artichokes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh chopped spinach or 1/4 cup frozen chopped spinach
1/8 cup sundried tomatoes, diced (or roasted red peppers work well)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper (to taste, but you'll probably want to start with about 1-2 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of pepper)
8 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 cans crescent rolls

For the filling, saute the onions and garlic in a frying pan with 2 T. butter or margarine over medium heat until soft. Add the artichokes, spinach, tomatoes or red peppers, and red pepper flakes and continue sauteing until everything is cooked, approximately 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and whipping cream until combined. Add the parmesan cheese and the vegetable mixture.

Dusk a working surface and roll out the crescent rolls into one sheet. Cut the sheet into approximately 12 squares. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray, and loosely arrange the crescent roll squares into the muffin cups (1 square per muffin cup). Pour the quiche mixture over the crescent dough, filling each muffin cup approximately 2/3 full (the quiche mixture will puff slightly while cooking. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes, removing them when the dough is beginning to turn golden brown and the egg mixture is set.

If you're having trouble with the crescent dough browning before the egg is set, you can microwave the egg mixture prior to filling the muffin cups (just be sure to use a glass mixing bowl for the egg mixture). Microwave it for 1-minute intervals, stirring between each interval, for approximately 5 minutes. On the other hand, you can pre-cook your crescent dough slightly (3-4 minutes) prior to filling them with the egg mixture. Pre-cooking the dough will allow it to puff slightly and keep the croissant texture, even after you've added the egg mixture.