Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash

WOW! It's almost 2012 and I still haven't seen any snow stick to the ground this winter. Today, on New Year's Eve, it's almost 50 degrees! Unbelievable!! Definitely still feels like fall...

With that mindset, I made this really fast and delicious Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash. It reminded me of fall with it's smooth and toasty flavors and was simple enough to be made for a quick lunch. Hurry! Make this before it starts feeling like winter again! :)

Cheese Ravioli with Butternut Squash

Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled and cut into 1/2-in. pieces
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp small fresh thyme sprigs
1 16-oz pkg cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen) - I prefer fresh goat-cheese ravioli
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the squash, season
with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, uncovered, tossing occasionally, until the squash is tender and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to package directions. Transfer the ravioli to plates, top with the squash mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fig and Ham Foccacianini

I LOVE sandwiches. I mean, who doesn't? Carbo-loading with delicious ingredients and the options are endless. Although, I will admit, sometimes I get stuck in a PB & J rut. Recently, I started watching "Next Food Network Star" and loving Jeff Mauro. He won last season ( I have to say "spoiler alert" if the info is a year old??) and his recipes are really creative and interesting when it comes to composing a yummy sandwich.

Here, I adapted one of his panini recipes and it turned out delicious. It combines the traditional flavors of ham and cheese with a unique twist - using sharp Italian cheese and fig spread to make it out of this world.

To make this recipe even faster and easier, feel free to use prepared (read: store bought) fig spread. IF you've got the time, I included the recipe for homemade fig spread.

Fig Spread:
2 cups dried figs, stems removed and halved
3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

4 squares focaccia bread
8 ounces Italian sharp cheese, such as Fontinella, or asiago, sliced
1 pound black forest ham, thinly sliced
Olive oil, for brushing

For the fig spread: Bring the figs, 1 cup water, balsamic and sugar to a simmer in a small pot. Simmer until the figs rehydrate and the liquid reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Once cool, place in a food processor and puree until smooth, 20 to 30 seconds.

For the sandwich: Preheat a griddle over medium-low heat or heat a panini press. Slice 1 focaccia square in half. Place a thin layer of the fig spread on the inside of both halves. Place a couple slices of cheese on the bottom, and then place 4 ounces ham on top. Close and lightly brush the bread with olive oil. Griddle the sandwich until golden and warm, about 4 minutes a side. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Recipe adapted from "The Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pan-fried Potatoes and Green Beens

This is one of those side dishes that always brings me back to summer barbeques in my parents' backyard. This is a really simple, easy side dish that goes well with all sorts of main dishes. It can be grilled in the summer or made indoors during cold winter months.

Pan-fried Potatoes and Green Beens
3-4 potatoes, sliced thinly (any will work, I really like Yukon golds)
1 red onion, sliced thinly
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into large pieces
4 Tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste.

In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter. Add the potatoes and cook until just beginning to become tender (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Cook until the veggies are tender-crisp and the potatoes have a nice, brown crust on them. (To get this crust, move them as little as possible - allow that cast iron skillet to work its magic!) about 6-7 minutes more. Serve alongside your favorite main course!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

One-Minute Nutella Cake

Throughout the blogosphere, I've discovered the joys of "One-Minute" microwave cakes. My tastebuds danced in delight (as my waistline grew weary!). These cakes are truly amazing. They're little one-pot wonders that help curb even the most intense dessert craving.

This dessert combines one of my favorite ingredients - Nutella, with a moist and delicious cake. I could eat this every night of my life!

One-Minute Nutella Cake

4 tablespoons self-raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons nutella
3 tablespoons skim milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 egg
Nonstick Spray

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk lightly with a fork until combined and smooth. Pour into an oversized microwave safe mug or ramekin that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Microwave for a minute watching as the cake rises in the mug, stopping if it is about to overflow and continuing a couple of times for 10 second intervals till cooked. [Don't be tempted to overcook. The cake virtually finishes cooking in that first 1 minute rise]


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake

Not to be outdone by "One Minute Nutella Cake," this peanut butter cake screams decadence. It's rich, creamy, and oh-so-peanut-buttery. This is for the true peanut butter lover.

Go ahead. Indulge - you deserve it...and no one's watching! :)

One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake

1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (give or take)


In a small bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, baking powder, peanut butter and flour. Pour batter into a greased ramekin. Microwave for 30 seconds.

While the cake is microwaving, stir together milk and powdered sugar, adding more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken frosting. **This step is optional...I actually preferred the cake without the icing, but my husband like it with....totally up to you!

Remove cake from ramekin (or don’t), pour frosting over top.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Praline-Pecan Banana Bread

I often have to hide bananas into desserts - particularly breads, since my husband doesn't really like them. However, I'm slowly breaking his will by increasing the banana flavors in truly amazing dishes. This is definitely one of them.

The banana flavor is pronounced, but not overwhelming here. What really makes this dessert shine and brings them coming back for more, is the Praline-Pecan topping that's poured over the bread before it's baked. The flavor seeps into the bread and permeates throughout while creating a sweet crust on top.

You will never look at banana bread the same way again!

Praline-Pecan Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup Praline-Pecan Sauce
3 ripe large bananas, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8-cup loaf pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, sour cream, 3/4 C of Praline sauce, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. Over mixing the batter will yield a tough, rubbery bread.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and pour the remaining 1/4 cup of Praline sauce over the top of the batter. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 - 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one - 9 inch loaf

*If you do not have or can't find Praline-Pecan sauce, you can substitute caramel sauce and add pecans.

Pecan-Praline Sauce

2 cups unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
3 pounds light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add the pecans and mix well. Bring to a boil. Cook until the pecans begin to change color. Be careful! This mixture will foam over, so use a large saucepan.

Add the remaining 1 cup butter and mix well. This will cool the pecan mixture and stop the cooking process. Remove from heat.

Combine brown sugar, whipping cream and cinnamon in a saucepan and mix well. Cook over low heat until blended, stirring constantly; increase heat. Cook to 230 degrees on a candy thermometer. Stir in pecan mixture. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix well. Remove from heat.

**Just remember this makes a LOT of praline sauce - probably more like 12 cups. However, it freezes amazingly well and keeps that way for a long LONG time. :)