Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Super-Sized 7-Layer Casserole

From Rachel Ray today!

1 package corn tortillas or any color corn chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or cooking spray
1 box elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, grated, divided
4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped, divided
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle of beer
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes with chilies, drained
3 cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese, divided
2 cans vegetarian spicy refried beans
5 to 6 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 limes, zest of 1 and juice of 2
2 avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot sauce to taste
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup chopped olives with pimientos
1 bunch scallions, chopped

Aired on: March 31, 2009

Yields: 12 servings

Preheat oven to 400˚F.

If using corn tortillas, cut them into thin strips about 1/2 inch thick, and place them onto a baking sheet. Toss them with some vegetable oil or spray with cooking spray and season them with salt and ground pepper. Pop them into the oven and cook until crispy and golden, about 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water up to a boil over high heat. Salt the water then add the noodles and cook to package instructions.

Place a large skillet over medium high heat with a tablespoon EVOO. Brown the meat, then add in the onion, 4 cloves grated garlic and 2 jalapeños, and cook until tender.

Season the meat and veggies with chili powder, coriander, cumin and tomato paste. Let the meat mixture cook for a minute or two with the spices, then add the beer and let that cook down for about 4-5 minutes. Reserve.

While the meat is cooking, make the cheese sauce: In a saucepot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and give it a stir to combine with the butter. Cook for a minute or so then whisk in the milk. Cook until thickened.

Drain the can of tomatoes with chilies and add them to the thickened milk mixture. Fold in 2 1/2 cups cheese and the reserved noodles. Season with salt and pepper, and reserve.

In another saucepot, heat up the can of refried beans with a little bit of water.

To build the casserole, spread the beef mixture out in the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with the refried beans and finish it off with the mac and cheeses and the remaining cheese. Pop the casserole into the oven and bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

While the casserole is baking, make the salsa: Mix the plum tomatoes, remaining jalapeño peppers, red onion and cilantro in a small bowl. Season with salt, lime zest and juice, and reserve.

For the guacamole sour cream, scoop the flesh of the avocados into the bowl of a food processor and add the sour cream, lemon juice, remaining 2 cloves grated garlic and hot sauce. Process until creamy.

Once the casserole comes out of the oven, top it with the crispy corn strips and shredded iceberg lettuce. Top with the salsa, then the guacamole sour cream and finally the chopped olives with pimientos and scallions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

From Everyday Food
Gwendolyn Richards, Calgary Herald
Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

1 cup (250 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 tbsp (25 mL) granulated sugar for sprinkling

For lemon filling:
4oz (125g)barcream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1-1 1/2 cups (250 mL-375 mL) icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, icing sugar, lemon zest and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add flour (dough will be stiff); finish mixing with a wooden spoon. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap; pat into a disk about ½-inch (1 cm) thick. Wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

Unwrap dough; place on a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick (if dough cracks let it warm up slightly). Cut out cookies with a 1½-inch (4 cm) round cutter (re-roll scraps once, chilling if too soft). Place 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on two baking sheets; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until barely beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool.

For the filling, in a small bowl, mix cream cheese and zest until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup (250 mL) of icing sugar, mixing until smooth. Mix in remaining sugar as necessary to create a firm but spreadable filling. Form sandwiches: Place about 1 tsp (5 mL) filling between two cookies, sugared sides facing out; squeeze gently.

Makes 36 cookies.

Read more of Gwendolyn Richards' culinary adventures on her blog: patentandthepantry.word-press.com.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Homemade Samoas (a.k.a. Caramel de-Lites)

1 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt at a low speed, followed by the vanilla and milk, adding in the milk as needed to make the dough come together without being sticky (it’s possible you might not need to add milk at all). The dough should come together into a soft, not-too-sticky ball. Add in a bit of extra flour if your dough is very sticky.
Roll the dough (working in two or three batches) out between pieces of wax paper to about 1/4-inch thickness (or slightly less) and use a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter to make rounds. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and use a knife, or the end of a wide straw, to cut a smaller center hole. Repeat with remaining dough. Alternatively, use scant tablespoons of dough and press into an even layer in a mini donut pan to form the rounds.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. If using a mini donut pan, bake for only about 10 minutes, until edges are light gold.
Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Using the spatula or a small offset spatula, spread topping on cooled cookies, using about 2-3 tsp per cookie. Reheat caramel for a few seconds in the microwave if it gets too firm to work with.

While topping sets up, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each cookie into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle finished cookies with chocolate.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.

Note: These cookies are fairly time consuming to make, but if you take your time and have fun with them, the results will be worth it. That said, if you want something a little bit quicker, try baking a batch of Samoas Bars instead, which require no rolling and cutting of the dough!