Recipe Test:  Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese

Recipe Test: Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese

Cook's Illustrated Chicken Canzanese


This weekend’s episode was Chicken Canzanese and it looked so good I had to give it a try.  I was not disappointed nor was the family!  The chicken skin was crisp, the interior was moist and the sauce was fantastic.    This is a chicken meal that you could definitely serve to company and was perfect for a nice Sunday dinner.  It isn’t really a mid-week meal as it took too long, but it was well worth it if you have the time.  Of course, since I could easily live on just mashed potatoes and gravy (well except for pizza and maybe some desserts) of course I had to make some mashed potatoes to go with it, and for the almost healthy vegetable, some brown sugar glazed carrots.  (Did I mention the sauce was phenomenal – potatoes and gravy for lunch anyone?)  The recipe for Cook’s Illustrated Chicken Canzanese is here.  It uses simple, fresh ingredients and instructions that were easy to follow.  I did make a double batch and used bacon because I didn’t have prosciutto but otherwise did exactly what the recipe called for.  I give it a full five stars and according to the family ratings – once a week, once a month, once a year and please, please never again – it rated a once a week!

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit

Cheesecake Custard Parfait


I’ve had such good luck with the summer fruits I just couldn’t resist getting more. This time they were even better, the raspberries and cherries were great and  I have never seen such large white peaches – only 5 of them weighed over 4 pounds and they were sweet and juicy!

Giant White Peaches and cherries


Since Son is about to go back to college and of course I bought the industrial size package of cherries, I needed a way to use them fast.  Not a surprise, cheesecake came up but to compromise (since we’ve had several cheesecakes in the very recent past) I decided on the parfait which is simple, no baking (or hot oven) and they just look beautiful.  You can substitute any fruits you have for the peaches and cherries.
Printable Recipe for Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruit
Ingredients:

  • 1 pounds of fresh peeled diced peaches (2-3 medium or 1 giant)
  • 2 cups of pitted and sliced cherries
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup of half and half cream (you can use whole milk if you prefer)
  • 5 tbsp. of sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. of cornstarch
  • 6 ounces of cream cheese (just enough left for the cooks breakfast bagel)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. of almond or vanilla extract
  • 1 cup(s) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound(s) of fresh fruit and cookies for garnish (I used peaches, cherries, raspberries and chocolate drizzled shortbread cookies from the store)
Procedure:
  1. Place peaches, cherries and brown sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft and has released some of its juice – about 15 minutes.  Cover with plastic and set aside in refrigerator.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup of the half and half and the sugar to a boil.
  3. In the bowl of your mixer using the whip attachment, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining half and half together.
  4. With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the boiling milk in a very slow stream into the egg yolk mixture.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisking constantly, cook over low heat for about 2 minutes until it thickens.

    Incorporating the cream cheese

  6. Add the cream cheese and extract and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

    Cheesecake Custard ready to chill

  7. When the custard is well chilled, whip the heavy whipping cream to soft peaks and then on the lowest speed, add the custard in small amounts until it is well mixed.

    Custard and cooked fruit

  8. Remove 1/2 of the mixture to a separate bowl. Add the cooked fruit to the remaining half, gently folding it into the custard/whipped cream mixture.
  9. In serving glasses or cups, layer the custard and fruit custard with fresh peach slices, cherries or other fruits and garnish with a small cookie.
This will make 6-8 parfaits depending on how much fruit and what size cups you use.

Cheesecake Custard Parfait with Fresh Fruits

Blueberry Cheesecake

Blueberry Cheesecake


Cheesecake is always popular around here and I recently got a large container of blueberries.  When I asked what I should do with them, Son’s girlfriend suggested blueberry cheesecake and since she was about to graduate and planned on celebrating at an Italian restaurant it seemed like a great idea for an at home dessert after the meal.  Of course Son (who loves cheesecake but not so much blueberries) forgot to take or mention it so it didn’t make it to the celebration.  I have no doubt it will be eaten anyway!  I recently used this same basic recipe for an Oreo version requested for a birthday and found it is an excellent one, a little lighter texture than my usual favorite (which uses 2 2/1 pounds of cream cheese and no sour cream).
Printable Version Blueberry Cheesecake
Ingredients:
Crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground cookie crumbs (I used the white chocolate peanut butter ones)
2 tbs butter (because these cookies were very moist I didn’t add the extra butter to keep the crust from being soggy, but if you use a dry cookie you should)
9 or 10 inch springform pan
Filling:
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup flour
8 oz sour cream
Topping:
1 lb (about 4 cups) fresh blueberries (frozen or canned works too – if you use canned in syrup, don’t add sugar)
1/2 cup sugar (I like them to stay a little tart so if you want sweet add 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon butter
grated zest from one lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
Procedure:

Cookies in the food processor


Place the cookies in a food processor and grind them finely.

Ground cookie crumbs in the pan


If the crumbs will not stick together between your fingers, add small amounts of melted butter until you can just flatten them together.  Place on the bottom of a springform pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Set aside.
Filling:

Cream Cheese


Beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy, add sugar gradually and keep beating until it is mixed in completely.

Add eggs


Add the eggs one at a time blending well after each egg.

Add vanilla, salt and flour


Add the vanilla, salt and flour and mix until smooth, scraping down the bowl to incorporate all ingredients.

Sour cream


Add the sour cream and mix well.


Pour into prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  When the time is up slightly open the door and let the cake stay for an extra hour without disturbing – no peeking you want it to cool slowly to prevent cracks, although in this case the blueberry topping will cover any that might happen.  After an hour, cover with plastic wrap – not touching the top but over the pan and refrigerate at least overnight.
Topping:

Ingredients for fresh blueberry sauce
Blueberries in the pan

Wash the berries and place in a medium saucepan.  Add the remaining ingredients.

Blueberry popping

Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer to thicken to the consistency you prefer.  A little less time and you will still have some whole blueberries, a little more and a thicker sauce.  Remove the cinnamon sticks and refrigerate, covered until ready to serve.
For serving you can either cover the top of the cheesecake, or serve the blueberries on the side, topping each slice separately.

Blueberry Cheesecake

Maraschino Jelly makes everything better

Maraschino Jelly makes everything better

Maraschino Cherry Jelly

Some things just seem too good to give up even when you get older.  Maraschino cherries are one of those things.  Every kid loves them, they make a soda turn into a Shirley Temple and you just can’t have ice cream sundaes without one.  This recipe has been around forever I’m sure, but is still a great way to keep the taste around.  Because of the recent cupcakes, I had a large jug of cherry juice left so I made a giant batch of jelly (I multiplied the recipe by 4 since I had four cups of juice).

Ingredients:

1 cup of maraschino cherry juice

1/2 cup of sugar

3 TBS liquid pectin

Procedure:

Mix the sugar and juice and bring to a full roiling boil and let it boil for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pectin and boil for another minute.  Pour into jars and sterilize, or if you intend to use it right away, pour into a clean container and refrigerate.

Citrus cream parfaits

Citrus Cream Parfait


While I was visiting the LA Times test kitchen, Noelle Carter was gracious enough to share a great trick with me.  Instead of whipping cream with a whisk or mixer, try doing it in the food processor.  The cream has less air and is more substantial so it holds better and tastes amazing, a little more buttery.  I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out and since I had collected quite a few fruits from my sister-in-law’s trees and the Santa Monica farmer’s market, I decided to make a citrus cream parfait.  I used the lime cream recipe (Printable Lime Cream Recipe) substituting a mixture of lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges to make a double batch.  Use whatever citrus fruits you have, as long as it equals the right amount of juice.  I zested all the fruits because I like things tart, but you can do only some if you prefer a slightly sweeter recipe.

Citrus Cream


Once the citrus cream was ready, I made the whipped cream by adding 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the food processor and processing for a brief (1-2 minutes) time until it was smooth and thick.
Gently fold 1/2 of the whipped cream with 1/2 of the citrus cream.  In dessert cups or nice glasses, add a layer of the citrus cream, a layer of the cream mixture and a layer of whipped cream, then repeat if you are using large glasses.  You could also do it in a single large glass bowl like a trifle.  That’s it!
A double batch of the citrus cream and 2 cups of whipped cream makes 4-8 servings depending on the size of your glasses.

Lime Cream Coconut Pie


The citrus cream is great for desserts or put it in a jar for gifts.  You can use it to make pies, filled cookies, tarts and almost anything you would use lemon curd for, even just on toast or muffins so while I was at it, I also made a double batch of the lime.  I put it in a pre-baked pie shell and sprinkled with some toasted coconut for another quick dessert.
Enjoy.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (from someone who doesn’t like salads) – Daring Cooks (very challenging) Challenge

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

As we have already established, I’m a picky eater.   I generally don’t do salads of any kind mostly because I don’t like condiments – no ketchup, no mustard, no dressing (or anything with vinegar in it), absolutely no mayonnaise and healthy is clearly not my strength so coming up with a healthy potato salad recipe was a big challenge for me. I’m not a big yogurt fan either, but some of the flavored ones are ok so I went with that.  The best part though is that I do love potatoes in pretty much any form so I had something to work with! This was inspired by the sweet potato casserole that usually goes with Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanks to Jami for a great challenge.

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Printable Version

Ingredients for 4 side or 2 main course salads:

2 large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon bacon or regular salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

6 pineapple rings

1 1/2 cup pecans toasted

1 cup coconut (1/2 toasted)

1 6 oz orange yogurt cup

1 11 oz can mandarin oranges

4 large fresh lettuce leaves

1/4 cup dried cherries

1 tablespoon marshmallow cream

Sweet Potatoes for baking

Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.

Drizzle

Drizzle with olive oil

Sprinkle

Sprinkle with cinnamon and bacon salt

Mix

Drizzled and sprinkled

Mix to coat.

Coconut, pineapple and pecans

On a second baking sheet place the pecans, 1/2 of the coconut and the pineapple cut into half circles and sprinkle the pineapple and pecans with brown sugar, cinnamon and bacon (or regular) salt.

Sprinkle

Roast both pans in 400 degree oven for approx 10 minutes until the coconut and pecans are toasted – watch carefully they will go from brown to burned quickly.  Remove them from the pan and continue to roast the sweet potatoes and pineapple for  a total of 30-45 minutes until tender and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and cool.

Roasted sweet potatoes

Roasted pineapple

Drain the mandarin oranges, reserving the liquid.  Mix enough of the liquid with the orange yogurt to thin it to a pouring consistency.

Roasted and ready to mix

Reserve 2 pineapple 1/2 slices and cut the remaining into bite sized pieces.  Mix the sweet potatoes, pecans (reserving a few for garnish), toasted coconut and bite sized pineapple pieces together in a mixing bowl with the dressing.

Plated

On the serving plate lay down the lettuce, add the potato mixture, surround with the reserved pineapple half slices and the mandarin oranges, sprinkle with the untoasted coconut, reserved pecans and dried cherries.

Almost done

Top with a dollop of marshmallow cream.