Monday, August 8, 2011

Smoked Sausage & Pasta Casserole

Last night's dinner was wonderful. It had a few of my favorite things all rolled into one. Let's just start by saying, I love casseroles. Most of the cooking in one or two dishes and you have time to wash the prep dishes while its baking. Also, only one serving platter and its the same dish you baked it in. Then, we are brought to one of my biggest ingredient obsessions which is CHEESE!!! If you've read my blog for a little, you have to know my love affair with carbs (potato or pasta, I'm not picky) and CHEESE which is, more often than not, an ingredient in most casseroles!!! This casserole also contains two lesser known loves of mine, smoked sausage and FRONIONS!! I usually use turkey smoked sausage but used regular for this recipe. Also, I now know from this recipe that there is such a thing as Cheddar french-fried onions. I must find these things however, I made this recipe last minute so I just used the original variety that I had in my pantry and just added some cheddar along with the mozzarella cheese. This one was a hit, including the day after!

Smoked Sausage & Pasta Casserole
Adapted from Taste of Home

2 c. uncooked farfalle pasta,
       (original calls for penne)
1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into 1/4" slices
       (I cut the slices in half moons)
1.5 c. 2% milk
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of
        celery soup, undiluted
        (I used cream of mushroom)
1.5 c. french-fried onions, divided
0.75 c. shredded mozzarella cheese,
0.5 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 c. frozen peas

Cook pasta 1-2 minutes shy of package directions to allow for a little sauce absorption during baking. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown sausage over medium heat for 5 min.; drain. In small bowl, combine the two cheeses. In a large bowl, combine milk and soup. Stir in about 0.5 c. onions, 0.5 c. (heaping) of the cheese mixture, peas and sauteed sausage. Drain pasta; combine with sausage mixture.

Transfer to a greased 13" x 9" baking dish. Cover and bake at 375F for 25 - 30 min or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining onions and cheese. Bake, uncovered, 3 - 5 min longer or until cheese is melted.


**Sharing on Melt in Your Mouth Monday & Jam Hand's Recipe Sharing Monday**

Saturday, August 6, 2011

PB & Jelly Ice Cream

The highlight of my week was, by far, using my ice cream maker for the first time! My husband bought me an ice cream maker for my birthday last year. The kind that you can either hand crank or use an electric motor for but, either way, you need ice and rock salt. I hadn't taken the time to break it out of the box yet since I was a little intimidated, to say the least. But, I consider myself an adventurous cook in other areas, why not make myself an old-school ice cream maker aficionado too. (Note: You don't have to use this kind of ice cream maker. Use what you have/prefer and be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Also, something to keep in mind if you are using the ice/salt kind, it's hard to find rock salt in the middle of the summer. Plan ahead!)

Being that I have a certificate in baking and pastry arts and I bake for a living, including doing work for a catering department on a regular basis, I am NOT afraid of making sauces such as creme anglaise. I've known for a while that, a classic creme anglaise made with egg yolks provides a base for making any ice cream. Growing up, on a occasion, my mom would break out the ice cream maker on a snowy day. She too had a machine that required ice (or snow) and rock salt, but she always used those mixes for an ice cream base that you bought in the store. I wanted to make my own, from scratch. So, as usual, I jumped on the web looking for recipes in a 'go big or go home' mindset. I couldn't start with plain old vanilla so my first homemade ice cream recipe search, PB & Jelly.

It is DEFINITELY worth making ice cream from a creme anglaise base. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the mix packs. They are delicious. But, I found out from tackling this approach that, when using a creme anglaise, the ice cream doesn't melt down to milk like most store bought ice creams or other recipes. Making the creme anglaise means that, as it melts, it melts back down to the same consistency sauce you started with. A creamy, almost custard-like sauce! Therefore, the last bite, melted or not, is almost just as wonderful as the first. Just make sure you heat your sauce until almost boiling and thickened. This will kill the bacteria that may exist in he eggs and thicken your sauce. It also becomes thicker upon chilling in the fridge. Also, if you do accidentally boil the mixture and get a grainy, curdled consistency from the eggs, quickly pour it through a fine strainer and blend with a little milk (in a blender or with a stick blender) and you can almost always bring it back to a velvety texture. It might also help to put your bowl or sauce pot into an ice water bath (bowl filled with ice and water) to quickly stop the cooking process so it doesn't go too far.

So here it goes folks! The most amazing thing I ate last week.... possibly all month!!! It really isn't as scary as it sounds and you HAVE to try it! The result is SO worth it!

PB & Jelly Ice cream
Recipe adapted from The Frozen Fix's Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice cream but I TOTALLY want to try he original recipe too!

1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups whole milk (I only keep 2% milk in the house so I used 2 c. heavy cream and 1 c. milk)
.5 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
.5 cup peanut butter, heaping (I used chunky but, upon freezing, the peanuts got a little chewy, your
About .5-1 cup jelly (I used my mom's freezer strawberry jelly)

In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, milk and sugar over medium heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Just before the cream and milk come to a simmer, gradually add about half of the liquid while whisking constantly. This will temper the eggs so that you don't scramble them when adding into the pan. Add the egg mixture back into the pot with the rest of the cream mixture. I switch to a heat resistant spatula at this point so you can keep scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. Continue to stir until the liquid forms a thick custard that coats the back of the spoon. You'll know it's ready when you can run your finger across the back of the spatula and nothing drips over the line your finger drew. Remove the custard from the heat and pour into a separate bowl (possibly using an ice water bath as described above). Add the peanut butter, mixing until all the peanut butter melts. It may take a minute or two for this to happen. I prefer to chill it overnight at this point. Once, your mixture is good and cold and finished thickening, pour into your ice cream maker and process as directed by the manufacturer's instructions. When it's done, layer the peanut butter ice cream in a container with layers of the jelly in between. I swirled it a little by hand before freezing to harden the rest of the way (but you could enjoy it immediately if you don't mind the soft ice cream). When you scoop the ice cream, you'll get the ice cream and jelly swirled together.

This recipe made approximately 5.5 cups!


**Sharing on Melt in Your Mouth Monday & Menu Mondays**

Another Smoothie: Green Style

It's been a couple weeks since I posted again and, looking back through the pictures, it's hard for me to decide where to start. So I'll start slow, but yummy! I made another delicious, and healthy, smoothie concoction worth noting again. Basically, just throwing whatever I had available into my bullet large cup attachment and it turned out awesome again. Even my husband agreed he'd drink one! He described it as looking like Christmas in a glass (because of the green-spinach and red-strawberry flecks). But this drink is anything but Christmas tasting. The fruits make it the perfect summer drink!

Here's the basics of how this one went. I was working on pureeing some avocado and freezing it, so I first pureed the avocado flesh (adding a little fresh lemon juice to keep it from browning). I then took out most of the avocado and put into the freezer for later use (possibly for another delish smoothie). After I did this, I skinned and pitted one fresh peach. I then added a handful of frozen strawberries and the same of raw baby spinach. Finally, I added about 6 oz. of mixed berry Greek yogurt and blended it all together. The mixture turned out a touch thick, so I added a splash or two of milk to make it a good, drinkable consistency.


Since this post turned out a little short, I thought I'd also share with you a little more insight to me. While I LOVE cooking at home, my professional life consists of being a full-time baker at a local college. While I don't currently do cakes on the side for a profit, every once in a while a friend or organization will ask me to supply the cake for a party or event as a gift or donation. This is a recent cake I did for the first birthday of a daughter of a couple of great friends! I like how it turned out and Mommy to the birthday girl seemed very pleased! Liliana also enjoyed delving into her own, over sized cupcake! Another day of making people happy and seeing smiles on people's faces complete!