Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chobani Night: Veggie Mac & Cheese

Girls night! For our book club (that we don't read books for) we decided we would have a food theme of Greek yogurt. This has thrown us all in a loop trying to figure out what we can swap the yogurt in for, or for what recipes already call for the yogurt!

What we made tonight:
  • Plain Chobani with some olive oil, salt and pepper and consumed with pita chips. 
  • Plain Chobani with quartered grapes, peanuts, and a scoop of jelly and and a scoop of peanut butter. I ate it with wheat thins.
  • Mango Chobani combined with guacamole and crushed almonds then topped with spicy corn relish served on wheat thins.
I decided on a veggie mac & cheese casserole. I've made my godmother's mac and cheese recipe before, so I figured this one wouldn't be too different. This recipe is adapted from the Chobani website and from this recipe for Confetti Mac & Cheese. It is a tangy mac and cheese that could be due to the cheeses and the yogurt. I don't know, I've never had Gruyère before. I added in the veggies to bulk up the recipe but also so we could pretend we ate something healthy.

If you are making this ahead of time (the day before), use lots of the milk and cheese as it will absorb into the noodles and not be as cheesy. The recipe below does not reflect the addition of more milk and cheese. If you were curious, I would add in an additional cup of cheese and probably a few splashes of milk to get to a creamy consistency. 

Melted butter, Add flour, It will clump.

Added Milk, Spices, and Cheese. It is thick!

Pre Broil
Veggie Mac & Cheese Casserole
Makes 1 9x9 pan

3 cups pasta (I used ziti)
2 tbsp of butter
3-4 tbsp of flour
1 1/2 cup 1% milk
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 heaping cup of Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 heaping cup of mild white cheddar, shredded
1 6  oz container of plain Greek yogurt
Panko breadcrumbs
about 1 - 2 cups of frozen veg of your choice

Cook pasta according to box directions, but 1-2 minutes less than al dente.

Melt butter in frying pan or sauce pan. Add in flour and whisk. Slowly add in milk and whisk to remove clumps. (I don't have a whisk, I used a spatula and mashed the lumps outs). Once a smooth slightly thickened sauce add in ground mustard, garlic powder, and black pepper as well as the cheese.

Remove from heat. Stir in pasta, yogurt, and optional frozen veggies. Pour into 9x9 pan. If you are eating it that night, top with bread crumbs and pop under broiler for a few minutes to get the bread crumbs golden. If you are making this ahead, omit the breadcrumbs. When you are ready to heat the mac & cheese, top with the bread crumbs, cover with tin foil, and heat in 350F oven for 30 minutes or until hot. Take off foil and broil for a few minutes, until top is golden.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Let the turkey have its day!! Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope you spent it with your family and friends and had delicious things to eat.

This is my first cheesecake making experience. I'm quite certain my next cheesecake will go much smoother! For example, I will buy all 3 blocks of cream cheese at the same time instead of going out twice!

I purchased a springform pan months ago and have been waiting for a recipe that needs it. This recipe was a winner since I could use my food processor AND the springform pan. Here was the original recipe base and inspiration for the pumpkin cheesecake.

I omitted the cloves as I didn't have any, substituted the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt, reduce the white sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup, and used dark brown sugar instead of light since that is what I had.

I loved this crust and will be using this in the future for other pies and cheesecakes.

Lessons Learned
  • Read all the directions. Seriously.
  • Do research on cheesecake making - there are many techniques and only you can decide what will work best for you! Here some links: Prepared Pantry, Allrecipes
  • Start with room temperature ingredients (take cream cheese out of the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour prior to using)
  • The general cheesecake rule is 1 egg : 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • Beat the cream cheese for about 5 minutes so it is creamy, smooth, and light - otherwise you end up with lumpy cheesecake batter
  • If you DO have lumpy cheesecake batter, whirl it through your food processor (or fine mesh sieve...if you have one)
  • Adding flour makes it more cake like vs a more dense/creamy/rich/custard texture without it
  • Reduced fat ingredients can prevent it from setting. Also - its cheesecake, don't worry about it being healthy
  • It is done when the center (about 2 inches wide) is still jiggly but the rest of the cake is set (I have no idea if this was the case after the 1 1/2 hours was up, but it was lovely when I took it out of the oven at the end of the process)
  • I put a pan of water underneath the cake to help with the moisture and humidity - ideally will also help reduce risk of cracking
  • Preheat oven to 350F, put cake in, reduce heat to 250F. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for another 3 hours then see if it is close to room temp and then put into fridge - If you cook it like this, start early! Starting at 8 was not my most brilliant plan.
  • Flip the base of the springform pan upside down - so the rim is underneath. This will allow you to run a knife between the cake and the bottom and easily slide it off. You also can use a circle cut out of parchment paper on the base as well.
    This edge should face down for easy of removal
Future Ideas and Inspiration
  • Other cookies or crackers for the crust (biscotti, ginger snaps)
  • Add different spices or nuts to the crust (ginger, walnuts, macadamia nuts)
  • Making a plain cheesecake to top with a fruit compote (blueberries or strawberries!)
  • Try it without the flour (texture test!)
Good luck, Happy Cheesecake Making/Eating, and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Add butter, brown sugar, & cinnamon
Press into pan
Fill pan with cheesecake, bake!


Pumpkin Cheesecake
One 9" Cheesecake

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 sleeve = 1 cup of crumbs)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (heaping)

3 (8oz) packages cream cheese
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (heaping)
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg (heaping)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (heaping)

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • In food processor pulse the graham crackers. Once pulsed into crumbs add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined. Press crust into the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
  • Beat cream cheese until smooth. 
  • Add pumpkin, eggs, yogurt, sugar and spices. Blend until combined. 
  • Add flour and vanilla, and beat until well combined. 
  • Pour filling into prepared pan.  
  • Put cheesecake in and turn down heat to 250F. Bake cheesecake 1 1/2 hours. Leave it in the oven for another 3 hours, try not to open the door. Put it in the fridge overnight, serve chilled. Top finished cheesecakes with whipped cream.
The cheesecake can be stored in the refrigerator up to 2 days.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chicken & Veg soup

I'm on a soup kick if you hadn't noticed. I also adore veggie soups, the veggies add so much flavor to the chicken broth.

I find this to be a very filling soup and also can be assembled quickly. One of the changes in timing is the chicken. If you have left over, rotisserie, chicken in smaller bits... it shortens the time. I generally start with a frozen chicken breast, so that increases my cooking time.

Spices can be easily adjusted. I use 1 heaping tsp poultry seasoning and a bay leaf, as well as salt & pepper, but you can be specific with the thyme or rosemary too, I just don't...Sometimes I add in a tsp of oregano too.

Green beans, zucchini, broccoli, celery, carrots, cut them up!
 Cut veggies. Heat oil in a large pot. When hot add in carrots, celery, and kale stems. Let them soften for a few minutes. Add spices and chicken now.
 Add broth, green beans, zucchini, broccoli and cook for about 5 minutes.
 Add beans and kale when everything is cooked. These ingredients just need to heat through. The zucchini could be added in here if you want too.

Serve over pasta, rice, or as is!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Celery & Carrot Soup

I make soup and then end up with extra celery and carrots! I could eat them plain.. but no thanks. Instead I decided I'd find a new soup recipe to make up. Ta da!

Celery and Carrot Soup!

5 carrots, sliced them up, not peeled.
4 stalks of celery, sliced them up, includes leaf part
1/2 Onion/onion powder, 1 tsp
2 small cloves of garlic, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cups chicken/vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine

Heat some oil in a pot. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add in celery and carrots, tarragon. I also added some oregano (a few shakes). Stir and let this start to soften for about 5-7 minutes. Add in broth and white wine (I used Riesling) and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

I pureed a few ladles of the soup and then added it back in.

Serve hot!

This made enough for 2 servings.

I could imagine using less broth and making it into a thicker sauce and using it on pasta. Or with a nice turkey club sandwich on the side. Or maybe add some ginger too! I thought about adding in some cream, I've never made a cream based soup though so I didn't know how much to put in. I think it would have added a nice dimension to it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Spinach Puffs

Light little cloud puffs with spinach and feta... the perfect combo. This recipe is similar to Greek spinach pie (Spanakopita) but without layering the filo dough. I didn't change much from the original recipe except that I used onion powder and omited the dill. I used a light cream wash instead of an egg wash.

This looked and tasted as good as I hoped. I might make these in mini muffin tins for some holiday appetizers!

This is also a recipe that can be adapted very easily. You could do fruit and cream filling, add meat (like bacon!), change the cheese, mini quiche, etc. I imagine the spinach filling would also be good in a fried ravioli... I'll keep you posted if I try any of these!

 Also, spray the muffin tin well because some stick to the bottom and are not possible to remove without squishing them.

Spinach and Feta
Mix with the rest of the ingredients
Once the egg was added
Keep this chilled, otherwise it sticks to the surface

Spray the tin, add the squares, add in the filling

Fold the corners into the center, used a light cream wash

Spinach Puffs
Makes 9 puffs

1 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp minced garlic (1 big garlic clove)
salt & pepper
1 egg
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and rolled out lightly

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray muffin tin with non stick spray.

Using your hands, squeeze spinach until dry, forcing out as much water as possible to prevent soggy filling. Mix spinach and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.

Roll out puff pastry and cut into 9 squares (for a regular muffin tin). Place a square in each muffin cup, pressing into bottom and up sides and leaving corners pointing up. Divide filling among cups. Fold corners into the center. DO AHEAD Spinach puffs can be assembled 3 hours ahead. Cover puffs and chill.

Brush with a little bit of egg/milk/cream to help golden up the puffs. Bake until pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Let puffs cool in the pan for a few. Then flip the tray over and knocked them out. Serve warm or room temp.