Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chicken Lasagna with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese

What is it about lasagna that we  never seem to tire of it?  I was perusing my favorite food blogs and came across Kevin's lasagna recipe ( which caught my eye.  A flavorful twist on a classic dish.  Layers of pasta bursting with the flavors of goat cheese, tomatoes, chicken, roasted red peppers and b├ęchamel sauce. Topped off with mozzarella cheese and baked till brown and bubbly. 

All the flavors worked beautifully together and this updated lasagna dish can serve a family or crowd,

Chicken Lasagna with Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Lasagna
Serves 4-6
Recipe From Closet Cooking

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1-(14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken (cooked and shredded)
Handful of fresh parsley (chopped)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
6-ounces goat cheese
3 large roasted red peppers (note: I used jarred roasted red peppers)
8 lasagna noodles
1 cup feta cheese
1 cup mozarella (grated)

1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

2.  Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

3.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

5.  Reduce the heat and simmer until sauce starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.

6.  Mix in the chicken and parsley and set aside.

7.  Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it is bubbling, and it has turned a light golden brown.

8.  Mix in flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown.

9.  Mix in milk, nutmeg and goat cheese, and heat until it thickens.

10.  Lightly grease the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish.

11. Place a layer of noodles* followed by 1/2 of the tomato sauce, followed by 1/2 of the feta, followed by 1/2 of the roasted red bell peppers, followed by 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.  repeat a second layer in the same fashion and top with a final layer of noodles, the remaining bechamel sauce and top with mozzarella.

12.  Bake in a preheated 350 Degree F. oven until the top layer is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes.

* To form one layer of noodles in the 8-inch square pan, cut two noodles 2/3 way down and use the 
2-1/3 noodles to make a full row.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Isle of Pines Cocktail

Lift your glass and revisit a time when it's okay to simply relax and enjoy! It's okay, if it is only Thursday.

Isle of Pines Cocktail
Makes 4
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup white rum
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
Ice cubes

Bring pomegranate juice and sugar to boil in heavy small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Cool syrup.

Pour 2 tablespoons syrup, 1/2 cup rum, and 1/4 cup grapefruit juice into cocktail shaker.  Fill with ice; shake vigorously.  Strain into 2 martini glasses.  Repeat to make 2 more drinks.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Mags at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Italian Beef Stew

It's Sunday, it is cold and I am still cooking hearty and comforting dishes.  I tackled a lighter version Italian style beef stew that was delicious.  The house was filled with the aroma of beef stew simmering on the stove.

It is important to build a flavor foundation by combining the meat and other aromatic ingredients.  The brown bits in the bottom of the pan, when scraped adds a flavorful complexity to the stew.

Adding another flavorful addition like wine to the pan helps to concentrate the flavor.

Your result:  A bowl of  deep flavored, healthy, hearty stew.

Italian Beef Stew
Serves 8
Recipe from Cooking Light

7 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dry red wine (note: don't use wine that you would not enjoy drinking yourself)
3-3/4 cups chopped seeded peeled plum tomato (about 2 pounds)
1-1/2 cups fat-free, lower sodium beef broth
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1(8-ounce) package cremini mushrooms, quartered
3/4 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1.  Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan.  Add onion and chopped carrot; saute 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic; saute for 45 seconds, stirring constantly.  Remove from pan.

2.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan.  Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper; dredge in flour.  Add half of beef to pan; saute 6 minutes, browning all sides.  Remove from pan.  Repeat procedure.

3.  Add wine to pan, and bring to a boil, scraping pan.  Cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 5 minutes). return meat and the onion mixture to pan.  Add tomato and next 6 ingredients; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Uncover, and stir in sliced carrot.  Simmer uncovered, for 1-hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally.  Discard bay leaf.  Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

If you have ever made fresh chicken stock, you will know that there is no comparison to the store bought variety.  Fresh chicken stock makes an incredible base for the ultimate chicken soup, and the magic of this broth lies in the fresh herbs and vegetables, that along with the chicken is simmered slowly to perfection.

This is the soup that is affectionately known as Jewish penicillin. This is what a Jewish grandmother  believes would help relieve your cold and flu symptoms.  She also believes that this would be good for your upset stomach.  A soup made with this much love is proof that there is a therapeutic effect in enjoying a bowl of hot and steamy chicken soup.

If you are not familiar with matzo, it is a flat bread which is part of the Jewish culture.  This bread is traditionally eaten at Passover when people of the Jewish faith do not eat leavened breads.  However, this bread is used in many recipes throughout the year.

There are three keys to making matzo balls that are not equivalent to hockey pucks.  First, is to whip the egg whites.  Second use as little matzo meal as possible.  The third and final key is using a small amount of rendered chicken fat from preparing the chicken broth.

If you choose to not make the matzo balls the chicken broth is rich and is ideal to serve as is, or with noodles.

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls
Makes 6-quarts stock, serves 10, plus extra for the freezer
Recipe from Ina Garten

Recipe for Chicken Soup

3 5-pound roasting chickens
3 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
6 carrots, unpeeled and halved
4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
4 parsnips, unpeeled and cut in half (optional)
20 sprigs fresh parsley
15 sprigs fresh thyme
20 sprigs fresh dill
1 head garlic, unpeeled and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns

To serve:
4 cups 1/4-inch-diced carrots
4 cups 1/4-inch diced celery
1/4 cup minced fresh dill
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Matzo Balls (recipe follows)

Place the chickens, onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, thyme, dill, garlic, and seasonings in a 16-20 quart stockpot (note: I used 2-8-quart stockpots).  Add 7 quarts of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer, uncovered, for 1-hour.  Remove 2 of the chickens and allow to cool slightly.  Remove the breast meat from both chickens and set aside.  Return the remaining chicken and carcasses to the pot and continue simmering, uncovered, for 3 more hours.  Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and chill.  Remove the surface fat, then reheat the stock as follows, or pack in containers and freeze.

To serve the soup, return the stock to the pot and reheat, adding the diced carrots, celery, dill and parsley.  Shred the reserved chicken breast meat into large pieces and add to the stock.  Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes to cook the vegetables and reheat the chicken.  Season to taste and serve as is, or ladle each serving over 2 warm Matzo Balls.

Recipe for Matzo Balls

4 extra-large eggs separated
1/2 cup good chicken stock
1/4 cup rendered chicken fat, melted
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for egg whites
1 cup matzo meal

Whisk together the egg yolks, chicken stock, chicken fat, parsley and salt.  Stir in matzo meal.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff.  Whisk them into the matzo mixture until it is smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick.

Form balls the size of golf balls by shaping them with 2 spoons, rolling them with your hands, or scooping them with a small ice cream scoop.  Drop them into the simmering chicken stock and cook for 30 minutes, or until fully cooked and puffed, turning once.  Remove and serve hot in chicken soup.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Christine at Fresh Local and Best

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Honey-Citrus Glazed Cod with Grapefruit-Orange Relish

It's cold here in the sunshine state, which is hard to imagine as citrus is at its peak. What better way to add a little sunshine to your day, than preparing a meal that would typically be enjoyed on a summer's day.  Preferably you would be on the back of a boat, with a cold cocktail in hand, listening to Reggae music.  Okay, I digress.  Everything about this dish is bright and fresh, it is like serving up a plate of warm sunshine.

The recipe called for cod which no doubt would be lovely, but fresh cod in Florida is not readily available. We decided to use grouper which is abundant in the Gulf Coast and it worked really well.

Honey-Citrus Glazed Cod with Grapefruit-Orange Relish
Serves 4
Recipe from Bobby Flay

1/2 cup orange blossom honey
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
Kosher salt
4 (8-ounce) cod filets
2 tablespoons canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Grapefruit-Orange Relish (recipe follows)

1.  Whisk together the honey, orange and lemon zest and juice, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before using.

2.  Heat your grill to high.

3.  Brush the cod with the oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper.  Place the cod on the grill and grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 3-4 minutes.  Brush the top of the fillets with the honey glaze, turn over, and continue grilling until just cooked through, 3-4 minutes longer.

4.  Remove the cod from the grill, glaze side up, and brush with more of the glaze.

Recipe for Grapefruit-Orange Relish

2 fresh oranges, peeled, sectioned and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium grapefruit, peeled, sectioned and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced 
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons orange blossom honey
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the oranges, grapefruit, onion, orange juice, vinegar, honey, oil and parsley in a medium bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Let the relish sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.  The relish can be made 8-hours in advance, covered and refrigerated.  bring to room temperature before serving.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

King of Snake Cocktail

This cocktail will cure whatever ails you.  The chopped ginger and chile-infused vodka lends a spicy bite to this flavor packed cocktail.

King of Snake Cocktail
Makes 2
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1 1/3-inch slice peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 cups ice cubes
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chile-pepper flavored vodka (such as Absolut Peppar or Stolichnaya Pepper)
2 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur
Crushed ice

Muddle ginger and sugar in cocktail shaker until paste forms.  Add all remaining ingredients except crushed ice; cover and shake 15 seconds.  Fill 2  old-fashioned glasses with crushed ice.  Strain cocktail into glasses and serve.

Note: I could not resist using martini glasses (which I keep handy in my freezer).  However, I have enjoyed this cocktail in an old-fashioned glass with crushed ice which gives this drink a really fresh taste.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Mari @Once Upon a Plate

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Jennifurla

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Sunday Supper- Chicken Paprikash

I am attracted to recipes that provide comfort and can be served family style.  The Winter months are a real opportunity to prepare dishes that are also hearty, stick to your ribs, type of meal.  

A few weeks have passed since we have been able to host Sunday Supper with friends and family with the rush and exhaustion of the holidays.  This would be just the kind of food that would be passed around the table, served on a huge platter.

I prefer to serve this dish over large egg noodles and next time will skip the dumplings.

Chicken Paprikash
Serves 4
Recipe from Saveur

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into 6-8 pieces, skin removed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 Italian frying pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 large yellow onion, minced
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1.  Bring an 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil.  In a bowl, whisk 2 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon salt; form a well in the center.  Add egg and 1/2 cup water to well; stir to form a dough.  Knead in bowl until smooth, about 1 minute.  Using a teaspoon, scoop walnut-size portions of dough into pot.  Boil dumplings until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Drain dumplings and rinse in cold water; cover with tea towel and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, season chicken with salt and pepper.  Put 1/2 cup flour on a plate; dredge chicken; shake off excess.  Heat oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven oven over medium-high heat.  Cook chicken, turning once, until brown, 8-10 minutes.  Set chicken aside.  Add paprika and half the pepper, along with the tomatoes and onions, to pot; cook, stirring, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and broth; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, turning chicken once, until fully cooked, 12-15 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons flour and sour cream; whisk in 3/4 cup of sauce from pot.  Stir sour cream mixture into sauce in pot.  Remove from heat.

3.  Melt butter in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat, add dumplings and parsley, and cook, tossing occasionally, until hot, about 2 minutes.  Serve chicken garnished with remaining peppers and dumplings on the side.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Butternut and Apple Harvest Soup

I enjoy making soups this time of year especially soups that showcase the seasons fall vegetables.  Not too mention that I am recovering from a food coma from the holiday eating and soup does a body good.

The flavor and color foundation of the butternut squash is enhanced with carrots, apple and onion.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Butternut and Apple Harvest Soup
Serves 4
Recipe from Allrecipes

2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks (white and pale green parts only). Chopped.
1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 cup diced carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 quart chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives

1.  Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in leeks and onions, and cook until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add potato, squash, carrots, apple and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

2.  Carefully puree the soup in batches in a blender or an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. Once the soup has been pureed, return it to the pot and stir in wine and cream.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper; simmer gently for 5 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped chives.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Megan Carroll at

Sunday, January 2, 2011

French Toast Souffle

The Knapp Family is a big family and a Christmas gathering is an exciting time for everyone.  The focus is on family, food and fun.  The table is filled with traditional family favorites and the eating festival begins Christmas Eve and continues well into the next evening.

On Christmas morning, my sister-in-law hosted a fabulous breakfast for family and friends.  One of the main dishes that she prepared was a wonderful french toast casserole.  The casserole is a blend of eggs, cream cheese, vanilla, and maple syrup which makes for a delightfully rich breakfast treat. 

French Toast Souffle
Serves a crowd
Recipe prepared by MaryJane Whitten

1 bakery loaf of butter crusty bread-10 cups cut into 1-inch cubes
8 (ounces) low-fat cream cheese, softened
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
2/3 cup half and half cream
1-1/4 cups maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1.  Place bread cubes in a lightly greased 9x13 baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in milk, half and half, 1/2 cup of the maple syrup, and vanilla until mixture is smooth.  Pour cream cream cheese mixture over the bread; cover, and refrigerate overnight.

3.  Remove souffle from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Bake uncovered, for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Pour remaining 3/4 cup maple syrup over souffle, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve warm.