Iron Chef Mommy

The journey of a mother and wife in her very own kitchen stadium

Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

See that girl…watch that scene…she is a ziti queen!

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 24, 2010

Well, I do apologize. Things over this way have been slightly left of crazy the past week or so. Madeline’s birthday was wonderful! She enjoyed everything! We had a small family get together on Saturday the 16th for her. Unfortunately, I was battling a slight cold earlier in the week, and Brett somehow caught it and it turned into something quite nasty. So he spent her birthday party in bed asleep, half whacked on cold medicine. Poor guy. She had a wonderful time though, and we took LOTS of pictures 🙂

So, since she’s only 2, we didn’t do anything big for her party-wise. I ordered a tray of sandwiches and a Dora cake and made a tray of my (now famous) baked ziti. I love ziti. It really is the best dish – so easy to throw together in a short amount of time, but perfect for a get together and it’s a dish that makes people think you really slaved for hours. In reality, it takes about 15 minutes to put together and about a half hour in the oven. Amazing. I made a tray for her party, then two days later, I made another tray. I guess I should elaborate a bit.

I am a part of a wonderful group of women – we have a playgroup called Tri County Tots. Our kiddos get together to socialize and do fun stuff… and we get mommy time that is usually much-needed. It’s great. Well, we do our best to organize meals when moms bring a new baby home – it’s hard enough getting adjusted so we try to help out. On January 10, my dear friend Kristin gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Genevieve Grace. She’s soo teeny – just a little peanut! So Monday was my day to bring her a dinner. I had made sauce that Friday in anticipation of Madeline’s party, so I made a bit extra and made a tray for Kristin with some delicious Italian bread. She was more than grateful, and I got to hold baby Genevieve, which was a high point in my day – she was smaller at a week old than Madeline was when she was born – I couldn’t believe it (she was over 9 pounds though lol).

Anyway, since my ziti is always a hit when I make it, I’m sure whoever you make it for will love it too!
Enjoy!

Baked Ziti

First you should have:

16 ounces red sauce (see my sauce recipe HERE)
1 pound ziti
12-16 oz shredded mozzarella, divided (use the whole milk stuff for this recipe. The part skim just doesn’t cut it)
15 oz Ricotta cheese (again, whole milk)
1 egg
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 tbs parmesean cheese (more to taste)

Then you should:
Boil pasta – about 5 minutes in boiling water. Pasta should be almost hard. Don’t overcook it, otherwise once it’s baked it will taste like mush. Not fun.

In a large bowl – add the ricotta, egg, 8 ounces of mozzarella, parsley and parmesean. Stir together until creamy. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with some of the sauce. When the pasta is finished, drain it, then run pasta in colander under COLD water. This will slow the pasta from continuing to cook while you prep it. Plus, it’s easier to handle, since it won’t burn your fingertips off. Toss about 1/4 of the pasta into the bottom of the dish, on top of the sauce. Throw the rest of the pasta in the bowl with your ricotta mixture. Toss it around, then add roughly 6-8 ounces of sauce and stir until mixed. Pour the whole mixture into the baking dish. Add a few more spoonfuls of sauce (not a lot – you can always add sauce to the dish after it comes out of the oven) and top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes – until cheese is bubbling at top.

Add the rest of the sauce as needed and serve!

See? I told you it was easy 🙂

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Posted in Baking, Birthday, Cheese, Meal, Meat, Pasta, Quick, Sauce | 1 Comment »

Two years ago a princess was born

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 14, 2010

Well, my first order of business….

Happy Birthday Madeline!
Yup, my precious little girl is 2 today! I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I’m the mommy of a 2 year old – more so, I can’t believe I’m so lucky that she’s mine. She’s still (I think) too young to understand her birthday, but we had fun today none the less. It started at 3am when she ventured into our bed… so she did get a happy birthday from Brett before he left for work around 6. We got up and headed out this morning – we had a nice day together. We headed to get her 2 year pictures taken… much easier said than done. We did get some nice ones, but it was tiring! We did a bit of shopping, had some lunch, and I took her to Build A Bear where we built a dog for her birthday (against my better judgment because we have MORE than enough stuffed animals here), but she’s the birthday girl!

So what to make the birthday girl for dinner? Well, I had a request from a friend (Thanks Allison!) to please try to duplicate Panera’s $8 a bowl mac and cheese. I love it, so I thought that would be something great that I could try to make. I know that their mac and cheese is a mix of Vermont White Cheddar with a “hint of American” as noted on their menu, but that’s about all I knew. So I figured I had my work cut out for me. I tried to think of what went into my own mac and cheese, and here’s what I came up with:

First you need:

12oz pasta shells
4 tablespoons of butter
8 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk*
8-10 oz grated Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
2-3 oz grated American Cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Then you should:

Cook pasta about 2-3 minutes shorter than package directions and drain. They should still be a little harder than al dente.

In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over med low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour, then slowly add milk a little at a time, whisking all the way. Bring to a boil for a minute or so, then turn heat down and add grated cheese, whisking in as the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper.

Pour pasta and cheese into oven safe pot or 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

**Now, for my edits. This was a really good first attempt, at least in my book, for not having any recipe to go off of, other than what cheeses were in it. I used 1% milk, but I bet whole milk would be better. You might want to either add another 1/2 cup of milk, or maybe beat an egg into the mixture to make it a little creamier.

The taste of it was pretty much there, but it wasn’t as creamy as I’d hoped. This could be either because of too little milk/butter, or the fact that when I pulled it out of the oven, I kept it covered and on the table for roughly 15 minutes to cool a bit before I started scooping it out. I wonder if I had dug into it right away if that would have made a difference. Well, I tried! If anyone makes this, feel free to add any edits/suggestions, because I plan on making this again soon. It was yummy!

Then came dessert for my baby girl. I had cupcakes from yesterday, but thought I should make fresh ones. It turns out it didn’t really matter, because she was so tired, she blew out the candle on a funfetti cupcake from yesterday and ate the frosting, then decided she was ready for bed. But since I didn’t know that was going to happen, I decided it was time for me to tackle something I’ve been dying to try to make – Red Velvet Cupcakes.

A note to all of you out there – be sure to read the WHOLE recipe when deciding to tackle it. I had the dry ingredients sifted before reading that I needed buttermilk. Shit. Shit. Luckily, I remembered someone on the food network saying you could actually whisk your own if you really really had to.

So who’s recipe did I make? One of my favorite chef’s – and yours – Bobby Flay!

Bobby Flay’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

* 15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
* 13 ounces granulated sugar
* 1 1/4 cups buttermilk***
* 3 eggs
*2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red food coloring
* 1 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple cider can both work)
* 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1/8 cup water

For the cream cheese frosting:

* 1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
* 1 pound butter, room temperature
* 2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

Line a 16-cup cupcake pan with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
For the cream cheese frosting:

Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

The frosting can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator up to a week.

Frost cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.

***okay. So, a few things. I had no buttermilk. So I took 1 cup of milk and whisked about 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar into it. I think it worked well enough. I’ve also read that you could use milk and then substitute baking powder for baking soda. Good luck.
Also, you need a shitload of food coloring. I used all that I had and they weren’t quite dark red enough. But I have to say, they tasted awesome. And they look pretty good too, don’t you think?

Now that the birthday is over, kitchen is cleaned, I’m sitting down with yet another cupcake and watching Project Runway, while my poor husband, exhausted from a long day, is passed out on the couch. We’re having a family party for Madeline on Saturday so he’ll get that whole day with his baby girl.

Posted in Baking, Birthday, Cheese, Cooking, Cupcakes, Dessert, Dinner, Meal, Miscellaneous, Musings, Pasta, Savory, Stove-top | 1 Comment »

Mac and cheese…a la… me?

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 8, 2010

Mac and cheese… one of my favorite foods.  I grew up on Velveeta, from my mom, and yes, ate my way through my fair share of Easy Mac when I was just a broke student at the University of Scranton, but I’m way past that. I’ve tried a few different recipes for homemade macaroni and cheese, and none of them really spoke to me like a real comfort food can. After thinking of which parts made each dish yummy, I tried my hand at my own original recipe. It’s simple enough for even the most novice of cooks, but it can be doctored with different types of cheeses depending on your taste or preference. Also, I find that sometimes, recipes can be geared towards a larger amount (4, 6, or 8 people) and I either have a ton left over that doesn’t taste the same when it’s reheated, or it ends up getting lost in a Tupperware in the back of the fridge. This is the perfect amount for the 3 of us – there’s usually just enough left for Madeline for lunch the next day, with whatever vegetable we had with it the night before.

My own Macaroni and cheese

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
5 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (use 3/4 to 1 tsp if using unsalted butter)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 2/3 cups milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 ounces Velveeta cheese, cubed
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

Directions:

Elbow macaroni cooks in about 8 minutes to tender, 6 minutes to al dente. I usually cook it about 5 – otherwise once you bake it, it’s all a little mushy. Always undercook it a bit when you’re going to bake the pasta.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the salt and pepper, and whisk in one tablespoon of flour at a time until smooth. Continue to whisk as you slowly add the milk. Bring to a boil for about a minute or so, then slowly add the cheese – the shredded first, then the cubed, whisking the whole time.

Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Pour in pasta, then add cheese sauce. Mix together. Melt the last tablespoon of butter, add the breadcrumbs to form a crumbly mixture and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

Posted in Baking, Cheese, Cooking, Dinner, Meal, Pasta, Stove-top | 1 Comment »

Happy 2010!

Posted by ironchefmommy on January 2, 2010

Happy New Year (and new decade, for that matter!). It’s been a whirlwind of a week here and I have so much to do, but I did want to share a few things to start the new year in a great (tasting) way!

A little back story on the first dish, well, dessert. As some of you know, my husband has an amazing palate. He can taste such minuscule differences in dishes and is very picky about flavors. I knew that when I wanted to get better at cooking and baking, he would be my biggest supporter – and toughest critic. I knew impressing him would be hard…call it part of the challenge I guess.

Brett’s favorite cake in the whole world is angel food cake. I got the idea back in September when deciding what to do for his birthday. He decided he wanted to go out to a favorite restaurant of ours, Gregory’s, for a yummy dinner and then come home for cake and presents. Brett declared that he wanted angel food cake. I could have just searched online, but my dear friend Marilla from Cupcake Rehab has always posted delicious recipes so I figured I’d ask her first. Sure thing, she got back to me immediately with one. This cake is AMAZEBALLS. It’s light, airy, with that small hint of almond-y taste that the best angel food cakes have. It’s also surprisingly easy to make. It’s become my go-to recipe anytime Brett requests one (which is usually once a month). He was stuck on a roof all day on Wednesday in 45 mph winds and freezing weather so I thought this would be a nice thing for him to come home to. It came out the best it has so far… absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sugar
12 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Note: For those not use to making angel food cakes Don’t get any yoke in the whites, if you do throw out and start over. Separate the egg in a glass first. Then if no yoke pour into measuring container.
DO NOT GREASE PAN.
Heat oven to 375°.
Sift the cake flour and 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar; set aside.
Combine the extracts in a small bowl; set aside.
Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until it forms peaks.
Add the other 3/4 cup of sugar slowly, then beat on high until stiff peaks form.
(If you have a mixing guard for your mixer bowl now would be a good time to attach it.)
Beating on LOW, add flour mixture and extracts slowly.
Make sure you fold in the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl.
Spoon into an angel food cake pan.
Move a knife through batter to remove air pockets.
Bake 30-35 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly with finger. It will feel more dry than sticky.
Invert pan onto a tin funnel to cool completely.
To remove the cake from your pan run a knife around the rim of the cake pan just to get the ‘crust’ away from the pan. Then firmly spank the sides of your pan. You could use a knife but this sometime tears the sides of the cake. Invert onto your serve plate then take the knife to the now top which was the bottom of your pan and gently cut cake away from the pan insert. No need to cut around the center tube as you just give the cake a gently but firm tap or downward shake on to the plate. Or you can pick up plate while holding onto the pan insert with your thumbs and firmly strike the bottom of the plate onto a folded towel. (Just give it a slam down on the towel/table).

*Another Note – use at least the middle rack of the oven, if not one higher. This will prevent the top of the cake (which bakes as the bottom) from becoming too browned.

On we go to New Years Eve… we had planned a night in since Brett was on call until midnight, and we’re not really big New Years people. I made one of our favorites – buffalo chicken dip. Be warned – it’s delicious and you will have NO problem eating the whole plate of it yourself with a bag of Tostitos. It’s nothing fancy, but utterly delicious.
Use a 9 or 10″ pie plate
Preheat oven to 350.
Layer the following in order:
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 can 12 oz chunk white meat chicken breast (or fresh cooked chicken breasts if you prefer)
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup hot sauce (Red Hot)
Shredded cheddar cheese to cover dish
Bake it for 25 minutes. (I find putting it on the top oven rack for 35 minutes is better. It’s cooked all the way through to the middle)

Hope you enjoy these recipes! I have one for the double chocolate chocolate chip cookies I baked for New Years that came out amazing as well. Stay tuned!

Posted in Appetizer, Baking, Cheese, Chicken, Cooking, Dessert, Holiday | 6 Comments »