Win the Way To Your Man’s Heart – Chicken Tetrazzini

Live for yourself and you will live in vain; 
Live for others, and you will live again.

Bob Marley

When I first heard about Susan Mallery’s Win the Way to Your Man’s Heart recipe contest I instantly knew what Esq. would pick. Despite my instantaneous conclusion I asked him anyway, and wouldn’t you know, I was right on the nose! What is this magical dish that is a guaranteed man slayer? Well if you read the title, you would know, but if you don’t feel like scrolling up or breaking your saccadic rhythm this delicious dish could be nothing other than Chicken Tetrazzini.

Esq. is a big fan of casseroles, as I think many men, nay, everyone is. Who doesn’t love lasagna, shepherd’s  pie,  or Santa Fe chicken casserole. It is my best approximation that casseroles derive their high yumminess quotient from the multilayered soup like flavor from the ingredients baking together in a sauce, textural superiority from the crunchy baked top bits and creamy middle, and finally their sheer nurturing made with love essence. I might be reading way too much into casseroles, but as the meal that you bring to loved ones and friends in times of need, is a staple of holiday dinners, and are often a beloved childhood favorite casseroles seem to be one of the best ways to let someone know you care. Ponder on that the next time you sit down to a lovingly prepared squash and zucchini casserole!

Part of this competition required that the recipe be easy to recreate and not overly involved. Well, my normal Chicken Tetrazzini recipe is based around an involved homemade béchamel sauce that is to die for, but has gobs of ingredients and becomes all consuming. To me it is totally worth it to spend the extra bucks and time for this wonderful creamy white wine sauce, but on a Thursday I really don’t have that kind of time and I was nearly positive that the sauce would immediately eliminate me from the competition. Instead of this wonderful fresh, rich, and flavorful sauce I used Cream of Mushroom. Send me to the Gulag!

Well on second thought, please don’t, because the dish actually turned out quite wonderfully, with the difference only abundantly apparent to only the most experienced tetrazzini connoisseurs.

For a chicken tetrazzini of your very own may I recommend starting by thawing frozen peas. How can you not love produce that comes wrapped like a present?

Unboxed and Unwrapped Peas

While the peas are defrosting break your spaghetti noodles in half so that you will have more manageable bites when it comes time to enjoy this wonderful man trapping meal.

Noodles and a Puppy

In another pan, as the noodles cook, I sauteed mushrooms and onions that would help to make up for the flavor that would be missing by using cream of mushroom soup instead of making my own sauce.

Caramelized Goodness

Once the mushrooms and onions had caramelized to a lovely brown I removed them from the pan and threw in some chicken to cook with several traditional  italian spices.

Sizzling Chicken

Once all of the ingredients are cooked and ready to be combined in the the casserole dish it is time to get that crunchy, buttery, herby topping ready. My personal preference is to use panko as opposed to breadcrumbs, because they stay crunchier longer and the chunks are a little bigger. To the panko I added torn parsley, shredded asiago, and butter to the topping mix.

Topping in the Making

Once everything is combined and topped with the panko mixture it is into the oven until the top beings to brown and the sauce beings to bubble…if you can wait that long!

Bake Till Crunchy

This chicken tetrazinni does not come out in the usual casserole square block form when it comes time to plate. Instead we ended up with lovely bowls full of absolutely fabulous pasta delight. Be still my heart.

Make Your Man Swoon Tetrazzini

Enjoy!

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 box spaghetti noodles, broken in half

2 cans cream of mushroom soup

3 medium sized boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tbs oregano

1/2 tbs parsley

1/2 tbs rosemary

10 oz frozen peas

1 medium videllia onion

8 oz sliced mushrooms

Topping

1 cup panko

3 tablespoons hand torn parsley

3/4 cup shredded asiago

3 tablespoons melted butter

Set frozen peas out to thaw.

Preheat oven to 400º.

Boil halved noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain water and set aside noodles.

Saute chopped onion and mushrooms with salt and pepper in a little bit of olive oil until browned. Once browned, set aside in bowl with cream of mushroom soup.

Combine chicken and spices in the sautee pan and cook chicken until lightly browned. Add chicken to the bowl with soup.

Add defrosted peas to the soup mixture and stir until combined.

Mix the soup mixture with with the noodles in bowl or in a greased casserole dish. Spread contents evenly in a the baking dish.

Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl. Evenly sprinkle mixture across the top of the casserole.

Place the casserole in oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until top browns and the casserole is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes & The Cupcake Pen Review

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
Charles Dickens

Here it is…the long awaited Carrot Cake Cupcake and Cupcake Pen Review.

TaDa!

I recently spent wayyyyyyy too much time browsing Amazon’s cooking tool’s section. I eventually decided there were two items I could not let pass me by. The Cupcake Pen and a Gnocchi Board. I had every intention of trying out the gnocchi board tonight, but my sweet potato gnocchi turned into, well, just sweet potatoes. I will, at some point, get around to trying out my other new found cannot live with out cooking utensil.

Back to the cupcake pen. While this might be the very definition of a faddy one use item, if you are trying to bake of 200+ cupcakes for competition, I am here to say you can’t live without the cupcake pen. The pen, as it shall be referred to from here on out, is most useful for avoiding drips on the pans from spooning out each individual cup by hand. I have use mini ice cream scoops in the past, but have had a lot of trouble with the spring coming loose and becoming unusable, this time I decided to go another route. In order to really put the pen through its paces I use the chunkiest batter I know, Carrot Cake, to test its batter distribution capabilities.

Personally, if I am eating carrot cake I need it to be moist, full of texture, and have great multi-dimensional flavor profiles. When it came time for me to create my carrot cake recipe my secret weapon was mixed fruit bits rehydrated with rum. If one is in need of a secret weapon, may I recommend alcoholic fruit in tiny cubed form.

Rehydration

Once the fruit plumped up full of flavor I drained off the rum and tossed the bits into a food chopper with the pre-shredded carrots to ensure that everything is brought down to about the same size for consistency purposes.

Chop Chop!

Once you pulse and scrape down the sides several times you should end up with a lovely concoction of tiny fruit and veggie bits.

Chopped Carrots and Fruit

In the mean time, I mixed my wet ingredients on a med-high speed until well mixed and creamy.

The Good, The Bad, and The Wet

Off to the side I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl. The dry ingredients include the flour, baking powder, and multitudinous spices

The Dry Goods

Slowly the dry ingredients were combined with the wet until the batter became a lovely off white color with flecks of brown spices.

Mmmmm Batter!

Once the batter is well mixed and free of clumps its time to add the tasty bits of fruit, carrots and toasted walnuts to the mix.

Crunchy Bits

With the filling fully mixed it was time to pour into the pen. Surprisingly, only a little bit dribbled over the side, as you can see below.

Spillage

For the most part the pen worked great and filled the cups up evenly. I did have a bit of an issue when large chunks of walnut would block the filling from getting out, but it never clogged. All in all I think it stood up to the test, and I am looking forward to using it with a normal, less chunky batter.

The Work of the Cupcake Pen

Once the batter was distributed I threw them into the oven and let bake for just around 10, or until they turned a delightful brown.

Carroty Goodness

While the cupcakes were cooking I whipped up what I was hoping to be a nice light and fluffy pineapple cream cheese frosting. Instead, what I got was a equally delightful pineapple cream cheese glaze that let the wonderful flavors and sweetness of the shine through.

Finished Product!

Once these cupcakes were done I was so thrilled with the results! These are now the best, by far, carrot cupcakes I have ever eaten. I might stick to a traditional frosting in the future, but the pineapple undertones of the glaze really made the cupcakes remain nice and light. I hope you enjoy!

Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes

2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tbs ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsps ground ginger

1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

4 eggs

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups white sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups diced carrots

1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit

3/4 cup dark rum

1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

Pineapple Cream Cheese Glaze

1/4 cup shredded pineapple

2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup cream cheese

Preheat oven to 325º

Soak mixed fruit bits in dark rum until pieces have plumped, at least 30 minutes.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Set aside.

In a mixer beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in 1/4 cup at a time.

In a food processor chop the carrots and mixed fruit until they are well diced.

Fold in the toasted walnuts and diced fruit and carrots until fully incorporated.

Pour into a lined mini cupcake pan and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick can be inserted and removed cleanly.

Loco Coco Pie

This light looks good on you
Morning came early
Sitting on a park bench
That’s older than my country

- Minus the Bear

As I mentioned yesterday I I made two pies. I thought I shared with you my favorite that would be a lock for yummiest pie ever made. This just in, if you let a coconut pie sit overnight it goes from good to AWESOME! While I am totally stoked that I now have two killer pies in my repertoire now I have to decide which one is the winner.

The Loco Coco pie is a creamy coconut pie with a few bells and whistles, namely espresso powder and chocolate chips. This pie is based off of my favorite guilty pleasure Starbucks concoction: Grande Coconut Coca with half syrup. Next time I order I might just have to ask if they have a pie shell on hand.

For this pie I highly recommend a deep dish pie crust, whether you make the crust or you buy  it is up to you. What isn’t up to you is putting a cookie sheet under the pie while it is baking. Trust me, you want, no you need the cookie sheet to catch excess liquid as this is a runny pie until it is fully baked, even then it takes overnight to fully settle and not be runny.

Burned Spillage

Because I was trying to get the pies completed at a decent hour last night I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and didn’t drive around town trying to remember where I had seen unsweetened coconut flakes. While the unsweetened variety would probably be closer to my caffeinated inspiration, the easy to find standard coconut flakes will do just fine.

I combined all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stirred until everything was incorporated.

Coconutty Goodness

Pour the ingredients into an unbaked deep dish pie crust and place in the oven.

Loco Coco

It is almost hard to comprehend how easy this recipe is, actually it isn’t hard at all, because its easy! I think the hardest part is actually letting the pie sit overnight until it is ready to eat. When I made the pie we cut into it nearly immediately and it was a little soupy, but letting it sit developed the coconut flavor and all the juice had time to absorb.

Pre-Absorbtion

Love, love, love it! I will take the pie over the drink any day. My slice today was heaven on a plate, and totally worth the extra day.

I think I am still leaning towards the Mocha Nut pie for contest entry, but let me know what you think. Which pie would you choose?

Loco Coco Pie

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup shredded coconut

2 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons flour

1 tbs butter melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder

1 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour filling mixture into an unbaked pie shell.

Cook for 40 minutes. Cool overnight.

 

Mocha-nut Pie

You can’t live with ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em. There’s something irresistible-ish about ‘em. We grin and bear it ’cause the nights are long. I hope that something better comes along.

-The Muppets

When we last left off actually talking about food there were two pie competitions looking for entries. Not only did I attempt a pie for these contests tonight, I attempted two!

Maybe it has been the long days recently, but I was really craving a coffee influence in the pie I created for contest. I thought about the seasonality of a pie for entry into a contest in April and ultimately decided that coffee is a year round beverage that is a foregone conclusion at the end of a meal, so why not create a decadent pie?

Have I ever mentioned that having a Starbucks located in the lobby of my place of employment, which is probably one of the worst things ever to happen to me? If I had failed to mention that, let me just take the time to explain how hard it is not enjoy a wonderful caffeinated beverage when every time I step out of my hidey-hole office the scent of fresh coffee smacks me in the nostrils. Actually, I don’t think I even have to really explain this phenomenon. When you are tired and need a break and there is a Starbucks in your face constantly you are going to develop a nasty coffee addiction.

I have a usual, Grande Red Eye black, in layman’s terms a coffee with two espresso shots, no cream, no sugar. When I am looking for flavor over caffeine I usually tend to go for a grande coconut mocha with half chocolate and coconut syrup. What I end up with is a delightful Mounds like beverage that can cure a caffeine headache and sweet tooth in a hot second.

When it came time to create a pie I couldn’t help but try to recreate my favorite drink in pie form. I had two divergent ideas that eventually lead to two different pies, wonderful in their own little ways. My personal favorite was the Mocha-nut pie which if you continue reading you will learn all about.

The Grand and Glorious Mocha-nut Pie

I knew I wanted a blend of a derby and/or pecan pie with tons of chocolate and coffee flavor, however, I was more than willing to loose the gooey layer associated with both pies and replace it with more textury goodness.

Pie Time

I started with a frozen pie crust, yes, I am fully aware I am a horrible cheater, but come on, who has time to make a pie crust for an experimental pie. Yes, I know how to make a pie crust, but if I am not even sure its contents will be edible I will save the homemade pie crusts for the important pies in life.

If you to want to be a cheater like me, but make your pie look a little more homey, ditch the preform crust waves and instead pinch the top of the crust between your thumbs. Instantly your pie will go from store bought to made with love. See below!

Homemadish Pie Crusts

To make the pie filling I combined two slightly beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons of espresso powder, one cup of brown sugar and a half cup of melted but not en fugeo butter.

The Makings of a Yummy Pie

Once combined add one and half cups of toasted pecans. While it would be very easy to skip the toasting process (5 minutes at 350°), DON’T!!! Toasting brings out a much more developed and pungent flavor than you would ever get with your standard untouched nuts.

Toasted Pecans

Additionally, add one and a half cups of semi sweet chocolate morsels and 1/4 cup of corn starch to the mix. Stir until combined and pour into an uncooked pie shell.

Magic

Let the pie cook for about 45 minutes, and now this is the hardest part, let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Patience

Once cool you will have a to die for pie that takes your standard pecan or derby pie to the N-th degree. Espresso power not only adds the wonderful aromatic flavor of coffee, but also enhances and develops the chocolate flavor.

Died and Gone to Heaven

It would be hard for me to truly express how much I love this pie, other than to say it is my new favorite that I would gladly trade for my morning Red Eye for a slice.

I also made a Mocha Coconut Pie, but it isn’t quite perfect yet so I will have to put of sharing until at least tomorrow. This coconut pie is no slouch and is no doubt going to be worth the wait.

Enjoy!

Mochanut Pie

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter melted

2 tablespoons espresso powder

2 eggs slightly beaten

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup corn starch

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Toast evenly distributed pecans on a baking sheet for five minutes.

Combine sugar, butter, espresso powder, and eggs in a bowl.

Once combined add pecans, corn starch and chocolate chips.

Pour mixutre into uncooked pie shell. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream for a to die for treat.

 

 

Sweet n’ Healthy Recipe Contest – Sweet Potato Hash

Where am I?
I feel as though I’ve been here before
Maybe I’m just walking round and round
It’s a beautiful day to be aimless.

-Jump Little Children

After a weekend of yummy, but not necessarily healthy food, Sunday night called for a nice light and healthy dish that would start the week off right. In deciding what to make tonight I scoured the contest possibilities, and decided that the Sweet n’ Healthy contest was right up my alley. This contest asks entrants to come up with a kid friendly, vegetarian, or no sugar added recipes with sweet potato as the main ingredient.

Sweet Potato Contest

I had been waiting awhile to enter this contest, mostly because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go, dessert or entree. Tonight, in need of a healthy option, my choice became very clear. Entree it is!

Originally, my heart was set on a sweet potato pot pie, despite how yummy this sounded, and I how can taste its potential even now just thinking about it, I ultimately decided to go a lighter, easier route, and created a veggie rich sweet potato hash.

Sweet Potato Hash

According to one definition, a hash is a mess, a muddle or jumble. With a base of cubed sweet potatoes this hash can be any sort of jumble you would like for it to be for anytime of day. Tonight it was an entree, but with my leftover sweet potatoes tomorrow morning it could be a whole new animal with breakfast. However, watch for a blog entry soon on sweet potato gnocchi in dessert form!

Leftover Sweet Potatoes

For this hash there is an abundance of veggies, but it really is the sweet potato that brings it all together and makes it a meal and not just a side dish. In addition to the taters, the hash includes; baby bella mushrooms, edamame, red bell pepper, and Brussel sprouts, however, any vegetables could be included to suit your tastes.

The base of this dish begins with olive oil, red peppers, onions and garlic. You can use butter, however, since I was already making a vegetarian dish I decided to take it once step further and make it vegan by simply emitting any sort of animal products. I did cheat a little by topping my personal bowl of hash with a dash of goat cheese, there is a reason I am not vegan folks.

Flavor Base

While the everything cooked to a state of juicy, translucency, I got to work cubing sweet potatoes. One thing I learned tonight…glass cutting boards were invented by someone with sadistic tendencies.  Cutting up raw sweet potatoes is not a particularly hard task, but when your knife goes through and slams into glass the sound is ear splitting! Note to self, buy Esq. a wooden cutting board, stat!

Cubed Sweet Potato

Next to be chopped were the Brussel sprouts. They need to have their stems removed, be chopped in half and have their outer guard leaves removed.

Brussels Ready for their Close Up

While chopping, Esq., went to work prepping the edamame by boiling them in salted water until just cooked.

Edamame Ready To Go!

With the onions, garlic, red peppers, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and Brussles sprouts in the pan it was time to throw a lid on it and let it cook till sweet potatoes were tender and starting to brown.

Almost Ready

At the very end we threw the edamame in to come up to temperature, and it was ready to serve.

While we were waiting...

To make a real meal out of the hash we placed a healthy serving on top of a bed of spinach, which along with edamame, provided all the protein one needs for a complete meal. On top of the hash a added just a bit of crumbled goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Ready to Eat!

It was such a satisfying meal. I really think Meatless Mondays might just become a thing in our house with options like this!

The facts:

  • Sweet potatoes are virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium. One cup (200 grams) of cooked sweet potatoes has 180 calories.
  • Sweet potatoes provide many other essential nutrients including Vitamin B6, potassium and iron.
  • Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.
  • On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.

With all of that handy dandy info why not make today a Meatless Monday with my Sweet Potato Hash?

Sweet Potato Hash

2 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 large sweet potatoes, cubed

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms

1 1/2 cups Brussels sprouts

2 cups frozen edamame

Salt

Pepper

1 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp rosemary

In a large skillet heat olive oil, onion, garlic and red bell pepper on medium heat until onion is translucent.

In a pot of boiling water add edamame and cook until just tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms to skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Add additional seasoning Cover and cook on medium for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once sweet potatoes are cooked until they are beginning to brown and can be cut easily by fork remove from heat and stir in edamame.

Serve over baby spinach and dressed with crumbled goat cheese, or as is.

Enjoy!

Post “Beyond Breakfast” Recipe Contest – Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy
-Benjamin Franklin

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!
I hope no one forgot to wear their green, and if you did then I hope you get pinched! As a Columbia native St. Patty’s is a holiday that is near and dear to my heart. Making the trek down to 5 Points for the epic extravaganza is just something you do here. When I was little I would go for the parade, the petting zoo, or the butterfly fries.

Yum!

Those fries are amazing, and I still go back and get those every year, but these days its more about grabbing a green beer, a free green bagel and listening to good music. I can’t even begin to tell you why, but everything is just better when it is green!

Go Green!

Not really sure how to transition topics, other than to tell you that you will be green with envy that you didn’t get to try my Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie with a Post Shredded Wheat Crust…

A Post Post

After spending entirely too much time yesterday trying to find a way to create a savory entry with my personal favorite of the Post cannon, Shredded Wheat, I gave up. Instead, I decided that I could probably make a pretty mean pie crust by pureeing the shredded wheat with some butter and sugar.

Breakfast of Champions

Now that I had the foundation for my plan I just needed to wrap my mind around what I wanted to use as a filling. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the beautiful weather outside this evening and looking forward to spring with its warmer weather and all of its bright and fresh flavors on the horizon.
In my twisted little mind, if Spring were a fruit it would be an Apricot. I am not really sure if I think this because it is one of my all time favorite fruits, or if its bright orange hue and sweet mellow flavor just scream spring! Either way apricots are an amazing fruit because they are so versatile. My first real experience with apricot was as a jammy topping on top of my mom’s mini cheesecakes. I loved how well the tanginess of the cream cheese paired with the vibrancy of the apricot, and ever since I have been on apricot patrol sampling anything and everything apricot .

My Tasty Friend

When I decided I wanted to go ahead with apricot as my base profile the very next thing that came to mind was creating a tangy frozen greek yogurt base to make the apricot flavor really pop!
First I started with the crust. In a food processor I pulsated 8 large shredded wheat pieces until they were completely broken down into a sawdust like texture, appetizing, I know…

Shredded Shredded Wheat

Next, I slowly added in a room temperature stick of butter until the crust started to stick together.

Powdered Sugar Time

Once the butter was added it was time to add powdered sugar to help bind and add just a hint of sweetness.
At this stage I realized the crust needed to be more moist, or else it was going to be very apparent that you were eating crushed up Shredded Wheat and there would be a bit of the  splinters in the mouth effect.
In order to moisten the crust I added half a cup of the heavy syrup the apricots came in, and last but not east, almond extract.

Post Crust Paste

I processed the crust mixture until it was paste like.

Gettin' Crusty

Then I dumped the pie crust paste into the center of the pie pan and worked it out to the edges to make a proper crust.

Into the Oven!

Once the crust was evenly distributed it was time for the oven!

Things I <3

While the crust baked, I emptied the apricots into a bowl and used a potato masher to make what could most closely be related to apricot jam.

Apricot Mush w/ Cardamom and Vanilla

Into the bowl I added vanilla and cardamom, maybe just a dash to much cardamom at that. Luckily, because this is a frozen pie the intense flavor will lose some of its edge to the cold.
An entire container of 0% greek yogurt was stirred in, as well as a little bit of sugar to help intensify the apricot flavor.
The filling was complete, easy as that.
When the crust came out of the oven it was spongy, however, once I let it cool for a few minutes it firmed up into a texture very much akin to a graham cracker pie crust.

Ready to Fill

Once the crust had a chance to cool I poured in the filling and the waiting game began.

Times I Wish I Had the Power to Insta-Freeze

In case you were wondering, I lost. I didn’t really think it fair to write a blog entry about an item I never actually tried. The filling was nowhere near frozen, but it had gotten quite chilled. The cardamom, indeed, lost its intense edge and instead brought a spice note to the bright and tangy apricot yogurt pie. Overall, I think it was a great success, and will be a perfect go to on a hot summer’s day.

My Desperation Slice...is melting

Tomorrow I will let you know what the real deal super frozen pie taste like, but tonight I sleep and dream of Spring and apricots!
Frozen Apricot Yogurt Pie
Post Shredded Wheat Crust
8 large shredded wheat biscuts
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 powdered sugar
1/2 cup apricot heavy syrup
2 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Pulse the shredded wheat until it reaches a fine consistency. Slowly add butter and powdered sugar to the mix until it is clumpy.
In order to turn the mixture from clumpy to pasty slowly add apricot syrup while the ingredients are being processed.
Once the crust reaches the desired consistency add almond flavoring and cinnamon.
In a well greased pie plate, spread out crust till it creates and even crust.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the crust turns gold brown. Remove from oven and cool before filling the pie.
Frozen Apricot Yogurt Filling
18oz apricots in heavy syrup
16oz 0% greek yogurt
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup of sugar
Mash drained apricots with a potato masher until the desired level of chunkiness is achieved. Mix in yogurt, cardamom, vanilla, and sugar. Once combined pour into cooled pie crust and place in freezer until frozen through.

Feasting on Art Recipe Contest – The Art of Grilled Cheese

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending.

- Jim Henson

I had little to no desire to cook tonight, well let me rephrase that… I had little to no desire to think overly complicated thoughts tonight, and that completely shot trying to make an entree out of Post Cereal. Any time my mind had a chance to wander today, which wasn’t too often, was spent trying to suss out a way to use Shredded Wheat as breading on chicken. Every which way I thought of resulted in chicken shrouded by a layer of tiny wheat splinters. Not appetizing.

Instead of torturing myself with cereal, I spent some time searching the Contest Cook website in search of a category that would yield a more palatable meal. I passed by the Feasting on Art Contest once or twice immediately discounting the entry upon the assumption that this would require elegantly artistic plating, and that was just not in the cards tonight. When I went back and read the description, however, I was sold.

Feasting on Art is a really unique blog that takes paintings of art and turns them in to wonderful recipes. As you might imagine, and I invite you to check out, there are beautiful pictures of wonderful sounding food. For the blog’s second birthday the author invited readers to interpret a painting and submit their recipes.

Feasting on Art Inspiration

The painting in question is Floris Gerritsz van Schooten , A Still Life of Cheese.

The only required ingredient was cheese, however you could use the bread and currants seen in the picture if you wished. When I think bread and cheese I think Grilled Cheese. How could you not!?!

Grilled Cheeses!!!

For my grilled cheese I made sure to use a garlic Italian “artisan” bread.

Artsy Fartsy Bread

In order to get the beautiful, brown crust there was butter, a lot of butter.

Paging Paula Dean

I piled the bread high with mozzerella, havarti, and an extra sharp white cheddar to make sure there was an excellent ooze factor.

Bread + Cheese + Butter = Great!

I have always loved grilled cheese, but I am often entirely too impatient to actually make it, as I crank the heat way up high and end up with burned bread/butter and still firm cheese. Tonight, I took my time and kept the heat right above medium and slow cooked the sandwhiches until the cheese began to drip down the sides and the bread was crunchy perfection.

Grilled to Perfection

I have heard that is required by law to have tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and wanting to remain a law abiding citizen I happily obliged. Can I call it making tomato soup if I combine two different kinds? I didn’t think so…

Cheater, Cheater, Tomato Soup Eater

The grilled cheeses really hit the spot and were perfect for this lazy evening. Mozzarella really shouldn’t be over looked when going for a dramatic, fancified grilled cheese. Every bite results in a dramatic string of cheese falling from your mouth back to the plate, letting everyone around you know that you are eating a GREAT sandwich.

So Good, You Need Another Look

If one wanted to be very literal interpreting the painting, might I recommend a currant jelly with a goat cheese, brie and havarti sandwich. I seriously contemplated the idea, but the ingredients required would have resulted in a $20 sandwich, so yeah…no.

I hope you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to mix any cheeses you have in your fridge to create your own “artisan” grilled cheese sandwich.

Artisan Grilled Cheese Sandwich

8 slices of italian garlic bread (for four sandwiches)

8 oz mozzerella

8 oz havarti

8 oz extra sharp white cheddar

1/6 cup of butter

Cut four 1/2 inch thick slices of bread. Cut cheese into thin slices. Layer cheese in an alternating pattern on the bread.

On medium heat half of the butter in a skillet. Place sandwich hardest  cheese side down and cook for 5 minutes.

Place reserved butter on top of uncooked bread before flipping the sandwich. Flip sandwich.

Cook for 4 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown and crunchy and the cheese is melty.

When life hands you Ramen…

Well I wouldn’t trade my life for diamonds or jewels

I never was one of those money hungry fools

- John Denver

When life hands you Ramen, make Ramsagna!

Normally when I cook I go for the gusto. I love using great ingredients and spending hours slaving away until the meal is just right, but in this moment I am feeling a wee bit duped. For $1.50 a person and about 20 minutes of prep time I can make a pretty mean traditional lasagna, only with ramen, instead of lasagna noodles.

But why would someone use ramen noodles you ask, well that’s a great question. Thank you for asking! I am entering Budget 101‘s Ramen Noodle Mania Contest! The second I found this opportunity I couldn’t help but think back to high school, when I first really discovered the joys of Ramen. I think at one point during Sophomore year I ate Ramen everyday. Don’t you know I had to get my sodium fix! I think I actually burned out on ramen well before college, leaving me fewer options for those cash strapped times after Tripple T’s, 356, and Java City raided my bank account.

For some reason the second I read Ramen Noodle Mania Contest my heart was set on making lasagna. I always enjoyed not disturbing the noodles from their perfect square until they began to unfold on their own. In my mind, if you could cook the ramen until just before it unravels you could unfold it to a sheet perfect for creating strips in lasagna. I definitely think I had a few skeptics when I discussed the idea in the proceeding hours after it first popped into my head. I was undeterred.

My original plan was to use the ramen instead of lasagna noodles, but to treat the rest of the lasagna like I normally would, including fresh basil, garlic, onions, and other fresh ingredients. Upon reading the details of the contest I quickly realized this would not be the way to go, and instead used all dry spice agents that I could find in my cabinet and canned and/or store brand ingredients that I picked up on my way home from work.

The more basic the ingredient the cheaper it tends to be, so I picked up tomato sauce and tomato paste instead of a premade pasta sauce.

Tomatoey Goodness!

Once the tomato products were combined I raided the spice cabinet, while trying not to use anything fancy that those subsisting on a ramen diet would find extravagant. I added salt, pepper, dried onions, oregano, parsley, and garlic powder.

Spice Mosaic

The biggest splurge for the meal was italian sausage. If one were really on a budget it could be easily substituted with ground beef.

Italian Sausage

Personally, I think the sausage is what makes lasagna lasagna. Ground beef is exceedingly bland compared to all of the included seasoning you get with hot italian sausage. The package I picked up just happened to be on a fairly significant sale, so the price differential was a non factor.

Sizzling Sausage

Once the sauce is made and the sausage is sizzled, line the bottom of a greased casserole dish with tomato sauce and drop a block of dried noodles into boiling water. The key is to wait until the underside is just done and then flip the noodle patty over to finish cooking. I removed them from the pot with a slotted spatula and unfolded them so they resembled a long strip and slid them in rows ontop of the sauce.

Boiling Ramen Patty

Cover the noodle layer with the ricotta. I found the best way was to scoop out the ricotta and then break it of into little bits that can be scattered about and then smoothed out.

Ricotta Layer

Next comes your sausage and/or ground beef. Make sure to evenly distribute, no one wants a piece with one spec of sausage!

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm Sausage!

Cover over the lasagna goodness with an additional layer of sauce.

Layer Upon Layer

Repeat the noodle strip process until the entire pan is covered. Unfolding the noodles and placing them was way easier than I ever suspected. We were 6 for 6 in our ramen to noodle strip conversion.

Almost Done!

Cover the noodles with your last layer of sauce, and finally, add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, and its ready for the oven.

Ready for the Oven!

Because everything is precooked, the Ramsagna only needs to go into a 350° oven for about 40 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is browned in areas.

Look it's a Ramsanga!!!

One factor I was a bit worried about was its cut-ability, as lasagna is already a bit tricky, but with a thousand strands of noodles it might be impossible to remove from the pan, and once removed it might slide all over the place. Luckily, by using a knife to cut out the piece it came out just fine, and when it cooled a little the Ramsagna held together just fine! Not to mention it tasted exactly like what lasagna tastes like in my head, only it has the texture of spaghetti.

The Insides of a Ramsagna

This truly is a super easy, cheap, and tasty meal that I would love to have again…like for lunch today!

Tonight’s Ramen Adventure is going to be a Faux Pho, check in tomorrow to see how it goes!