Monday, February 28, 2011

Bechamel Sacue with Veggies and Shrimp

I am a huge fan of bechamel sauce and have tried many different variations overs the years attempting to get it just right and finally ended up with this combinations. It's so simple and the best part of this sauce is that you can add various components to switch up the flavor, but keep the same simple, creamy base. Plus, unlike a red sauce which cooks for many hours to sweeten the tomatoes, this bechamel sauce can be made in under 30 minutes and tastes great! But the red peppers do take some time to roast, so skip be sure to put those in the oven before you start your sauce.

2 tbsp flour or Wondra
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup light heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp Pecorino Romano cheese
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

2 large red peppers
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets.
1 lb medium cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb cooked pasta

1. To make a bechamel sauce, start by making a roux. Heat butter and flour in medium saucepan over low heat stirring continually. Be sure to cook the roux for about 3-4 minutes while the butter melts and mixes with the flour to eliminate "floury" taste in the sauce.

2. While the butter and flour are cooking, heat milk, heavy cream, and garlic cloves in a small pot on low heat just until hot. Be careful not to let either the milk or the roux burn.

3. Slowly stir the hot milk mixture into the roux. Add in black pepper, lemon juice, salt, and nutmeg and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, remove the garlic cloves from the sauce with a slotted spoon.

4. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and cheese. Toss with cooked pasta. Your sauce and pasta are ready! You could call it quits right here, sit and enjoy a bowl of pasta. Continue reading if you want to see the extras added to this dish.......


There are so many ways to dress up this dish. For this particular meal, I used broccoli, red peppers and shrimp. Roasting the peppers takes awhile, so you want to begin by roasting them before you make the sauce. You can roast them while you work on the other steps.

1. Simply put two red peppers in the oven on 425 degrees on a baking dish. Let the peppers roast for 35-40 minutes, turn 2x throughout the cooking time to ensure even charring on all sides. Remove from oven and let cool thoroughly. Then remove the charred skins and cut into strips. Be sure to avoid seeds on the inside.

2. Next, blanch the broccoli. This step is quick and can be done closer to finishing the sauce. Boil water in a pot and add broccoli florets. Prepare a bowl with ice and cold water and set aside. Let broccoli cook on a boil for 2-3 minutes, just until slightly tender, but not soft. Remove from water with slotted spoon or spider and place in ice bath for 2 minutes and then remove.

3. Toss in the fresh roasted peppers strips, cooked shrimp, and broccoli to the warm bechamel sauce and pasta. This is one yummy meal sure to please everyone!

Also Featured on Homemaker Mondays and Made by You Mondays

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning is one of those things most people always have in their kitchen. It usually comes stored in individual one time use packets from the store. But if you ever turn over the packet and check the ingredient list, you'd notice that most ingredients are already in your cabinet. So why not make your own taco seasoning seasoning? You can personalize your seasoning, dependent on your heat tolerance and personal taste too. Since this is my recipe, I've added some Italian elements and adjusted it to my taste preference.

3 tbsp paprika
3 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp crushed pepperoncino flakes
1 1/2 tsp salt

Makes about 6-7 servings
1. These directions are very simple. Pour all the measured spices into a large bowl and stir together to mix well.
2. Store in an air tight container and use in place of the store bought taco seasoning on your favorite foods. Approximately 2 tbsp of this seasoning is equal to one packet of taco seasoning.
Source: I first saw this idea on With a Cherry on Top and also used Alton Brown's Taco Potion #19 for inspiration. I tweaked both of these and ended up with this recipe.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stuffed Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes were simply delightful! They were were a perfect flavor combo! For this month's What's Baking challenge, hosted by Dunne from With a Cherry on Top, we were asked to share something Baked with Love. February is one of my favorite months. Not only is it Valentine's Day, but it's also our anniversary! I first made these cupcakes for one of my best friends, Stephanie's birthday, last year and then again for our anniversary recently. I loved the recipe both times I made it and I'll be sure to find another excuse to make them in the future.

2 1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 cup oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp gel food color, approx. (Wilton Red)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white distilled vinegar

10 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice

12 oz cream cheese
12 oz butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cup confectioner's sugar

(Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes)

1. In a medium bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients for the cupcakes: flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar until smooth.

3. Slowly add in the dry mix and blend for a minute or two until fully incorporated.

4. Fill cupcake pan with liners about 2/3 full. Bake on 350 for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Remove from pans and let fully cool.

5. While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare your filling and frosting. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon just until well blended. Spoon filling into a pastry bag with no tip, just a coupler or a large round tip and set in refrigerator.

6. Now for the frosting, start by beating the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Fill another pastry bag with the frosting using any tip you desire to decorate your cupcakes; I used a Wilton star tip. Store in refrigerator until ready. Both the frosting and the filling can be made in advance to save time, just twist the tops of your pastry bags so they are closed.

8. Once the cupcakes are cooled, it's time to make a hole for the filling. Using a small paring knife, cut a cone shaped piece of cake from the top center of the cupcake. Be sure to cut only partially into the cupcake and not all the way down to the bottom. Discard the cones or eat them while you decorate.

9. Using your pastry bag with filling, begin to squeeze filling into each cupcake's cavity just until it reaches the top.

10. Take your other pastry bag full of frosting and begin to ice the cupcakes by making concentric circles starting on the outer edge and working your way inward and up. These cupcakes are best stored in the refrigerator until it's time for your event. Hope you enjoy your cupcakes!

Source: Apple a Day, another great foodie blog

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This dip is easy to make, but tastes like you slaved all day over it! It's become the new appetizer that is most requested at all events! Try it out for your next party or get-together! This dip is thick and creamy with flavors that combine so well and was another Superbowl favorite!

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/3 cup Pecorino grated cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup coarsely chopped canned artichoke hearts
4 cloves roasted garlic (See bottom of post)
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. roasted red pepper flakes

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate.

2. Spread mixture in a small baking dish and sprinkle extra parmesan and pecorino on top.

3. Bake 35-40 minutes on 400 degrees.

4. Serve warm with sliced Italian bread, crackers or chips and enjoy!

How to Roast Garlic- Roasted garlic has mild flavor compared to raw, but still adds that great garlic taste!

1. Cut off the very tops of the garlic bulb, but leave the rest of the skins on. You can leave entire bulb in tack if you plan to roast the whole thing. If not, seperate the cloves you want. You can roast the whole bulb and save some of the roasted garlic for a later use.

2. Brush some olive oil on top of the garlic bulb and place it on a baking sheet covered in foil. Cover with more foil.

3. Bake for 40 minutes or so on 375 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool.

4. Remove the roasted garlic by separating the cloves and squeezing out the garlic. The garlic will be soft and pulpy.

5. You can either store these in a sealed container or smash it into a paste using a fork.

Source: Annie's Eat (one of my go-to websites for all things food)

Wisconsin Wings

What better for Superbowl celebration than wings that support your team! Go Greenbay! These wings were delicious with a crunchy coating and carried our love for the Packers! My father and brother are lifelong Packers fans and were so excited for this Superbowl! We decked the house in green and yellow everything. We even found my dad's Greenbay football helmet from high school! My hubby and brother made a "cheesehead hat" out of cardboard and paint while Mom and I coooked in the kitchen. If they wouldn't kill me, I'd post photos of them wearing it! It was a great game with lots of good food and these wings were a hit!

3/4 cup finely crushed cracker crumb (I used Ritz toppers)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken wings, split and tips removed
1/3 cup Dijon mustard

1. Combine the cracker crumbs, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper in a bowl.

2. Using a pastry brush, spread a coat of mustard of the chicken pieces and then roll in the crumb mixture until fully coated.

3. Lay chicken pieces on a greased baking sheet and on 350 for 35-40 minutes.


Parmesan Garlic Wings

These wings are simple and mild, quite yummy, and made especially for those who don't like the hot, spicy kind (aka my mom). In college, my hubby (boyfriend at the time) and I discovered Buffalo Wild Wings. We fell in love with the wings and my favorite was by far their Parmesan Garlic Wings. We always bought a bottle of this sauce whenever we go. Even now when we take a roadtrip, we will gladly take a quick detour in exchange for a bottle of sauce to bring home. So for the Superbowl, I wanted to make a few different kinds of wings and these were a must have! I made the wings a little healthier by bake them instead of frying. I will say, it did not taste quite like the sauce we had become accustomed to, but it was still very good. I think it was lacking some seasoning and I'll try this recipe another time with some changes and see if I can get to closer to the actual BWW recipe.

2 lbs chicken wings and drumettes
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1. You can use either fresh or frozen wings. Frozen wings are already prepped and separated, but if you are going to fresh route you will need to prep the chicken. First, chop off the wing tip using a sharp knife so it will not burn. Then separate the drumette and wing by cutting through the skin and joint with a knife.

2. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease it. Bake the wings on 400 for about 40-45 mins. Turn the wings over halfway through baking time. Broil the wings for just a minute or two after baking to crsip them up a bit and give them more of a "fried" texture.

3. Mix all other ingredients into a large sealable bowl. Once wings have cooled slightly, add them to the warm sauce, cover and shake until welly coated.

4. Pour on a platter and serve with the classic celery and ranch.


I'm Back to Blogging!

Hello Readers! I'm back! I apologize for the brief hiatus here. I still love my blog and readers, and I will continue to update it as much as possible. Sometimes life can be full of unexpected occurrences and you never know when they will arise. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. It was a big surprise, not the good kind unfortunately, but we all have high hopes for her recovery and are doing our best to help her through this time. I appreciate any and all thoughts and prayers for my Grandma.

No worries though, I'm still cooking and baking when I get the chance and have a few overdue recipes to share with you. Please excuse the forthcoming posts with events and recipes from earlier months and occasions. Just a quick update about the past month or so. My hubby and I are hoping and praying to own a home in the near future! I can't wait to be have more space and a larger kitchen wouldn't be upsetting either. We are waiting to see what happens and will be sure to share info with you all once everything is finalized! My grandma finished her first round of radiation and we are waiting on some scans to verify how effective the treatment was. She's anxious about the further treatments and we hope the scans will bear good news. My wonderful hubby and I celebrated our two year anniversary quite recently as well. He's so good to me! He brought me home daffodils to plant at our new home (fingers crossed) and gorgeous lilies! I made him pappardelle topped with alfredo sauce and grilled chicken and followed that with waffles for dessert topped with ice cream, sauces, and berries. And I'm thankful for having readers enjoy my ramblings and recipes for one year via this blog! I'm hoping to have belated blogiversary post in the next month with a favorite family recipe I've been excited to share. More posts soon to come!