Monday, August 29, 2016

Zucchini and Onion (or Any-Vegetable-Combination-You-Want) Crescent Pie

Andrew and I have become suburban farmers. We planted some vegetables this summer hoping to turn our not-so-green thumbs around, and low and behold, we have zucchini and squash growing! We've already enjoyed a homegrown stir-fry dinner, so in an effort to find other creative ways to use up our bounty, I opted for this zucchini and onion crescent pie the other night. It had to be good; it won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 1980!

Crust me, you're going to like this. ;)

What’s especially fun about this recipe is how interchangeable it is. Short on zucchini, but you have mushrooms and eggplant? Or broccoli? Or bok choy? Go ahead and swap the veggies out, still cooking them before adding them to the filling. It’s a very forgiving recipe; it can handle it.

The herbs called for give this pie an Italian flavor, but you can also have fun varying the seasonings, adding in cumin and chili powder, or rosemary, perhaps. It’ll all be delicious! I bet taco seasoning would be good. And onion soup mix, too! Maybe even ground beef or sausage. Each time you make this and adjust the ingredients, it will become an entirely new creation and never get boring.

Before I leave you to your cooking, I just have to comment on an interesting step in the recipe that I hadn’t seen before. It asks you to spread yellow mustard on top of the crust before you fill it. When I first read this, I thought, “How odd!” Although I never questioned it or hesitated for a second. The result when you take your first bite is enhanced flavor and in particular, a next-level savoriness. And apparently not all spell checks think savoriness is a word, but I assure you it is; it must be. It’s exactly what I need to describe the use of mustard.

So head to Trader Joe’s to purchase a tube of crescent rolls, or visit any major grocery store for Pillsbury’s version of the dough. You’re well on your way to pie for dinner.

And wish us luck in our suburban farming endeavors. We’re currently attacking our cucumber leaf mildew problem with a vengeance. We must emerge victorious. I want homegrown cucumbers!

Zucchini and Onion or Any-Vegetable-Combination-You-Want Crescent Pie
Adapted from a recipe by Millicent Nathan of Boca Raton, Florida, on the Pillsbury Bake-Off website

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 cups zucchini, thinly sliced (or any other vegetable of your choice!)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese (cheddar or muenster or jack or some combination would all work fine!)
1 can (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (Pillsbury brand or Trader Joe's)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat the butter or oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the zucchini and onions, and any other veggies you've selected. Cook 15 minutes until the veggies are tender and starting to brown. Stir in the parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and oregano. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly.

In a large bowl, add the eggs and beat well. Stir in the shredded cheese. Gently stir in the cooked vegetables, taking care not to break the vegetables. Set aside.

Now prepare your baking dish. Choose either a 9 or 10-inch glass pie plate, a 12x8-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish, or an 11-inch quiche pan. I recommend using a glass dish because it's easier to see when the crust is fully cooked. Open the tube of crescent rolls and separate the dough at the perforation marks into 8 triangles. Press these pieces into the baking dish so that the entire bottom and sides are covered. Seal the edges together so there are no holes for the filling to leak through. Using the back of a spoon, spread the yellow mustard all over the bottom and sides of the crust. Pour the egg-cheese-veggie mixture into the baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil to protect the crust, then return to the oven to continue baking for another 10-12 minutes. Insert a knife or cake tester into the center and if it comes out clean, the pie is done. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Saute the veggies and then add in the herbs. Set aside...

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and then add in the cheese...

Add in the veggies, then set aside...

Press the dough into your pie dish, sealing all the seams...

Spread mustard over the bottom and sides of the crust...

Pour the filling over the crust and spread it around so it's evenly distributed...

Bake at 375 degrees F for 18 min uncovered, then cover and bake another 10 minutes...


Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Crunchiest, Brunchiest Hash Brown Casserole

I'm a brunch fanatic. I love everything about getting up on a Sunday and taking my time with an assortment of breakfast treats. A combination of hot and cold food items, some sweet, some savory, all delicious. This is the way to my heart. Turns out I have a dessert tube and a brunch tube in addition to the normal anatomy. And hey, I always justify pigging out a little extra at brunch because it's a combo meal, taking care of both breakfast and lunch all in one sitting. I won't eat again till dinner, save an afternoon snack, so I deserve to have streusel coffee cake alongside eggs and potatoes.

In my dream brunch scenario, there's an egg dish, a baked good of some sort, hot coffee (greasy spoon quality definitely suffices!), and crispy hash browns. Pancakes or French toast are also always welcome. As are a bowl of fresh fruit, a glass of orange juice, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, and waffles. I think this brunch is quickly turning into a smorgasbord!

To fill the hash brown requirement of my unicorn brunch, my mom makes a yummy casserole of frozen shredded potatoes, cheddar cheese, onion, cream of celery soup, and sour cream, plus a heavenly topping of French's fried onions for the ultimate salty, crispy factor. I love this casserole.

It takes just a few minutes to mix the ingredients together, and then it bakes in the oven for more than an hour while you prep the rest of the meal and set the table. When you bite into the casserole, it's cheesy and crunchy and oniony and perfect. And it makes a lot! One recipe fills a 9x13-inch glass baking dish to the brim and serves a village, or 8 happy campers easily.

Hash Brown Brunch Casserole
Recipe from my mom Joyce in our family cookbook

1 (2-lb.) package frozen hash brown potatoes, unthawed
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
3 cups (approx. 12 oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 (6-oz.) can French's fried onions (Trader Joe's sells their own version of this during the holiday season)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish.

Combine the hash browns, cream of celery soup, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and chopped onion in a large bowl. Stir to combine and break apart any large chunks of frozen potato. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and gently press across the top to spread the mixture to the corners and fill in any gaps.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the top is slightly golden. Take the dish out of the oven and sprinkle the fried onions evenly over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until the fried onions are golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: I sauteed about a cup of sliced button mushrooms and stirred them into the mixture before baking. I'm sure you could also add bell pepper or another veggie! Or even sausage.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Stir the first five ingredients together in a large bowl...

Press the filling into a greased baking dish and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes...

Then sprinkle fried onions on top and bake another 5 minutes...

Serve warm...

So good!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bread Bowls: A Sad, Sad Fate for Unlucky Beautiful Loaves of Bread

I never thought I could be heartbroken from the mistreatment of a loaf of bread, but this (overly dramatic, hilarious, but ultimately sad) video does it to me! In the case of Bread Bowl vs. Bread Intact, I vote for Bread Intact. I've come to the conclusion that anyone who eats a bread bowl does not fully grasp the beauty of a perfect loaf of crusty, artisan bread. Where's the respect?! I would never want a bread bowl to be the fate of something I painstakingly handcrafted in the kitchen, something that strives to have the perfect crumb, so moist and delicate, for all to appreciate via slices. Imagine spending hours, or even days, executing your craft, only to have the top of the loaf carved off like the top of a pumpkin for Halloween and the bread filling in the center savagely ripped out. Ouch!

And to make things worse, are bread bowl criminals users, in order to make room for the soup or dip that goes inside the loaf, tossing the bready filling in the trash? What a tragedy! A crime! A shonda!

Watch the video above and then tell me, has this changed your perception of the classic bread bowl?

via Clickhole

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Time I Met One of My Baking Heroes, Marlene Sorosky, and Tried Not to Creep Her Out Too Much

Marlene and me

How does one possibly prepare for the moment when she comes face-to-face with her hero? That was the challenge I faced a little over a week ago when I attended a cooking class taught by one of my baking heroes, Marlene Sorosky. I booked the class weeks in advance. I knew the day was coming. I had time to mentally prepare, to brace myself. But no amount of time would be enough. The anticipation was killing me. Here are the main thoughts that ran through my head for the weeks, and especially the days, leading up to that all-important meet and greet:
  • What should I wear?
  • How do I not freak her out, since I'll undoubtedly be unable to contain my excitement?
  • Do I tell her about my blog? 
  • Do I tell her that I've been chanting her name for years? And when I make something from one of her cookbooks, I simply say, "This is a Marlene Sorosky."
  • What do I say to her? 
  • Do I bring my cookbooks to class to have signed? I have ALL of them. All 8 of them! In fact, I have two different editions of the same cookbook, plus an extra copy of one because I forgot I already owned it when I spotted it again at a store, bringing the total to 10 books. Hmm, maybe that would be a bit much?
  • Do I ask her to lunch?
  • Do I ask to take a picture with her?
My collection of Marlene Sorosky cookbooks. They are all autographed now!

Well, the day of the class finally arrived, and after agonizing over all these tough decisions for so long, I had to come up with a plan. Time was a'ticking. Here's what I ended up doing:
  • I wore a cute red cardigan and dark wash jeans. I looked polished but approachable.
  • Honestly, I probably did freak her out a little bit. I had a grin that took over my face. It was so large it was bumping into walls as I made my way into the classroom.
  • I told her about my blog, and how I've mentioned her in past posts. I told her that I've made countless recipes from her books, and my husband practically knows her by way of the food I've served him and referring to each item as "a Marlene Sorosky."
  • I brought all 10 cookbooks to be signed. I have no shame! I knew I would regret not having brought all of them later, and who needs unnecessary regrets!? The amazing thing was, she happily signed all 10 cookbooks! And she wrote a unique, different message in each one. She is so wonderful! I chatted with her for awhile, told her which of her books were my very favorite and named specific recipes that have become some of my go-tos. Her Kosher-for-Passover Spinach Matzah Quiche has even turned me into a hero to my relatives for 8 days every year.
  • I did not ask her to lunch. That's where I drew the line.
  • I did ask to take a picture with her. She cheerfully obliged! 
  • Oh, and during the class, she asked for volunteers to come up to the front of the room and demonstrate peeling an apple with the apple corer/peeler appliance. I did that, too. Why? So I could later say I've cooked with Marlene Sorosky. There's video to prove it.

So there you have it. My dream encounter with my baking hero, a chef and cookbook author whose recipes are sheer perfection, whose demeanor and personality are unstuffy, fun, and witty, and who has the cookbook sales (more than a million books sold to date!), internationally renowned honors (i.e. James Beard Award Winner, beating out Martha Stewart among others), and famous friends (the late, great Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and more) to validate my otherwise seemingly unwarranted obsession with her. To some, meeting a Kardashian, or a hunky movie star, or a famous rock star, would be the ultimate encounter. To me, there are a handful of cookbook authors who might as well be rock stars. Marlene Sorosky is my rock star. I'm just waiting for the paparazzi to realize that.

Marlene is signing every single one of my cookbooks!

Marlene signed a different message in each of my cookbooks!

One of the oldest cookbooks in my Sorosky collection

Visit Marlene Sorosky's website here:

Follow Marlene Sorosky on Facebook here:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Apples and Honey Ice Cream for a Sweet New Year

Shana tovah! Happy New Year!

I always look forward to this time of year because it centers around family and food. Mmmm. Two of my favorite things in the world! And it just feels like a really special time. All the fine china comes out, the pretty tablecloth, the fancy candlestick holders, and the house looks extra tidy. The aroma of incredible baked goods or sweet apricot chicken and praline pecan-topped kugel waft through the rooms.

About a week before the holiday, in true "Mom fashion," my mom sent me an extremely ambitious detailed menu for the three Rosh Hashanah meals: Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner, Day 1 dinner, and Day 2 dinner. Whew! That's a lot of cooking! Her menu must have been three pages long! In addition to multiple entrees, kugels, soup, vegetables, salad, chopped liver, and challah (everything from scratch!), she had a variety of desserts included in the list, such as rugelach, apple pie, and honey cake. I offered to help her prepare a bunch of the recipes in her menu. But in true "Marni fashion," I added to the list. Somehow, I find there's always room for more dessert...

I wanted to make ice cream for Rosh Hashanah, so I started to think about appropriate flavors for the holiday. Really, anything sweet would probably suffice, since this is a holiday all about sweetness. But could I be more spot-on with my flavor choice? Yes. Apples and honey! The question then became, how the heck do you infuse those two flavors into an ice cream base? I decided to make a honey ice cream by swapping out the typical granulated sugar called for in ice cream and replacing it with half a cup of honey, and then I caramelized some apples to stir in during the churning process. It worked out great! This ice cream is everything I hoped it would be! The essence of Rosh Hashanah captured in ice cream!

"Apples and Honey" Ice Cream
A.K.A. Honey Ice Cream with Caramelized Cinnamon Sugar Apples

Honey Ice Cream
Adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup honey
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and place a strainer over the bowl. Set aside.

In a saucepan, warm the milk, salt, and honey.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Pour some of the warmed milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so you don't cook the eggs and accidentally turn them into omelet! Continue adding the rest of the warmed milk into the egg yolks until all of it is combined and you've warmed the egg yolks, then pour all of this egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook the egg-milk mixture over low heat, stirring with a spatula constantly until the mixture thickens into a custard and coats the spatula. You can tell it is done if you swipe your finger down the back of the coated spatula and it leaves the mark of your finger.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the heavy cream, then stir to combine. Cover and chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Once chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker. When the ice cream is almost fully churned, add the caramelized apples (see recipe below) by dropping them down the opening of the ice cream maker and allow to churn for 1-2 more minutes to incorporate. Transfer the ice cream to freezer containers and freeze until set. Enjoy!

Caramelized Cinnamon Sugar Apples
Recipe by Happy Go Marni

3 baking apples such as Gravenstein or Granny Smith
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Squeeze the lemon juice into a medium bowl. Peel and thinly slice the apples and chop into 1-inch long pieces. As you are chopping, place the pieces into the bowl and turn to coat the apples with the juice so they don't brown. Stir in the sugar and cinnamon until well combined.

In a skillet, melt the butter and add the apples. Cook on medium heat until the apples are softened and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally so the apples don't burn. Allow to cool completely before stirring into the ice cream maker.

Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery
Honey ice cream base is ready to be chilled for at least 6 hours...

Once the ice cream base is chilled, churn in ice cream maker...

Add the cooled caramelized apples to the ice cream maker in the last 2 minutes of churning, just long enough to incorporate the apples into the ice cream...

Allow the ice cream to set further in the freezer, then scoop and serve!

So creamy and delicious. Apples and Honey Ice Cream!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bean There, Done That: Easy Flourless Garbanzo Bean Cake

Apparently I have a thing for beans in cakes! Several years ago, I blogged about a cake that calls for a can of baked beans. Rolled eyes aside, it was a huge hit. Fast forward to today and I am excited to share another hit, this time one that calls for canned garbanzo beans that you puree in the food processor before adding into the batter.

The cake is very moist, and can be eaten with a fork or your fingers. It reminds me of a spice/snacking cake. If I hadn't seen the recipe before I tasted it, I would never have guessed it contains garbanzo beans; I'd be fooled!

So many great things about this recipe. It's a great dessert to serve to guests who are on a wheat-free diet as it contains no flour. The orange flavor really comes through, and goes so well with cinnamon and the light texture. My hubby and I were also admiring the perfect crust edge that forms on the outside of the cake, and unlike brownies where everyone (at least in my family!) is fighting over the edge pieces, with this cake, everyone gets a slice that has some edge!

With so many reasons to make this cake, and only one reason not to (Beans in cake? Are you nuts?), try it out! You'll be so pleasantly surprised that you may want to start experimenting with other odd ingredients in cakes. Or maybe you'll convince yourself that garbanzo beans in all forms work in baking and you'll invent the first ever hummus cake. Unless I invent it first! :)

Easy Flourless Garbanzo Bean Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Jane Milton in Mexican: Healthy Ways with a Favorite Cuisine

2 (10-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Cinnamon Sugar Topping: 1/4 cup sugar combined with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5" or 8x4" loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the garbanzo beans in a colander and rinse them. Shake out any excess water, and then rub a handful of garbanzo beans at a time in between the palms of your hands to remove the skins and discard them. You'll need to repeat this step several times until you've gotten the majority of the skins off. It's ok if a few are left on.

Transfer the skinned garbanzo beans to a food processor and pulse until smooth. Place the pureed garbanzo beans in a medium bowl and add the beaten eggs, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest, and orange juice. Stir just until combined. The mixture will be thin and runny.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. You may want to check after an hour as ovens vary. Also note that it may take longer if you use an 8x4" loaf pan instead of the larger 9x5". The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Use a sharp knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the the pan and then invert it onto the wire rack. Place the rack over a plate or waxed paper and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the cake. Let the cake cool completely before serving. Goes great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or fresh fruit!

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Drain the garbanzo beans and remove the skins...

Puree the garbanzo beans in the food processor until smooth...

Transfer the puree to a medium-sized bowl and add the eggs, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest and juice. Stir to combine...

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan...

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes...

Invert the cake onto a wire rack...

While the cake is still warm, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top and then let cool completely before serving...

Slice and enjoy with ice cream or fresh fruit!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saag Paneer Lasagna: When Indian and Italian Foods Collide!

What do you get when you cross Indian food with Italian food? No, this is not the lead up to a joke's punchline. You get something utterly delicious that I've now made multiple times and can't live without! Really! I keep craving it. It's sooooo good and so easy to make! Saag Paneer Lasagna.

"Mamma mia masala!"

What I discovered through making this dish is that lasagna, at least to me, is more of a process, a template, than a very specific thing. You can easily replace the marinara sauce with another sauce, the veggies with other veggies, the protein with other protein, and so on. And that's basically what this recipe is. Trader Joe's sells a delicious Indian Masala Simmer Sauce that makes a perfect substitute for Italian lasagna's traditional marinara. And instead of ground beef, zucchini, onion, and other veggies you might find in Italian lasagna, go for spinach and peas that pair well with the Indian sauce. That's all there really is to it! Because the ingredients don't require much prep (Ha! You do have to open the jar of Masala Simmer Sauce....the horror!), the whole dish comes together in minutes. And it's fun to assemble the layers! Do it with your kids! Your spouse! Your cat! No, not your cat.

The epiphany that lasagna is no more than a template recently drove me to experiment with enchilada sauce. And it worked. Of course it worked! I will be sharing my cross between Italian food and Mexican food soon. Chicken Enchilada Lasagnas are a-comin'. But for now, go forth and make Saag Paneer Lasagna and see what all the hype (that I manufactured) is about.

Saag Paneer Lasagna
Adapted from a recipe by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati in the Cooking With All Things Trader Joe's Cookbook

1 (16-ounce) box dry "no boil" lasagna noodles
2 (15-ounce) jars Masala Simmer Sauce from Trader Joe's, or 30 ounces other tomato-based sauce with Indian spices
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped spinach
1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or canned peas, drained
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese (fat free or low fat work just fine)
1 (16-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degree. Spray or grease a 9x13" baking dish, preferably one with tall sides. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the Masala Simmer Sauce across the bottom of the dish with the back of a spoon. Place a single layer of the lasagna noodles on top (maybe 3 or 4 sheets). Set aside.

To make the filling sauce, start by thawing the spinach. Place the spinach in a fine mesh strainer (most pasta colanders seem to be problematic for me because their holes are too large and the spinach will fall through). Run cool water over the spinach and then squeeze dry. Get as much excess water out as possible so you don't make a watery sauce!

In a medium bowl, combine the thawed spinach, peas, and remaining Masala Simmer Sauce. Stir to break up the clumps of spinach and make sure everything is incorporated evenly.

To assemble the lasagna, start by layering 1/4 of the spinach sauce mixture over the pasta sheets in the baking dish. Then dollop 1/3 of the ricotta cheese over the sauce, using a spoon and an offset spatula to gently spread the ricotta around. Top with another single layer of pasta sheets. Press down against the sheets with your hands to push the layers together more tightly. Repeat the layering process two more times. Finally, spread the last 1/4 of the spinach sauce mixture on the pasta sheets and sprinkle the top with mozzarella.

Cover with foil, creating a bit of a tent or arch over the top so that as the cheese melts, it doesn't stick to the foil. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the foil and return the dish to the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes longer, until the cheese is golden and bubbly. Enjoy!
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