Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Chocolate Feast!

We celebrated Valentine's Day Saturday night and I cooked up a fantastic dinner! I didn't take pictures of anything except the dessert, though. A recap of the dinner?? I would love to!

(courtesy of Food Network and Sandra Lee)

Spring Salad with fruit and and orange-white chocolate vinaigrette

Cherry Chocolate Mexican Rice

Sirloin Steak with chocolate merlot sauce
This is a picture of all the chocolate I used tonight. TONS. lol I didn't use it all, though, just a few tablespoons here, a 1/4 cup there. I have so many bags in my freezer now, I'll be making chocolate recipes for the next 4 months.

Believe it or not, the chocolate in all these recipes was not strong, at all! It added a nice aroma and really helped kick up the tastes in the onion, garlic and spices used in everything. My least favorite was the mexican rice, but only because I'm not a huge fan of rice.

Dessert. Ooooohh dessert's recipe came courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. It. Was. HEAVENLY. (and totally fattening.) I made a Chocolate Bread Pudding (made with REAL milk!!) topped with vanilla ice cream (REAL vanilla ice cream. none of this fat free sugar free ice milk I've been buying lately!) Whipped cream (made with REAL whipping cream!!) and caramel sauce (this was fat free. gotta watch the calories somewhere, right?)

So, without further ado, i bring you Williams-Sonoma mouth watering, fattening, indulgent Chocolate Bread Pudding. Enjoy!!

(btw, all pictures were taken on my camera phone.... so, sorry if they're terrible!!)

2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
5 eggs
Pinch of salt
5 day-old croissants, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Caramel sauce for serving
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval au gratin dish.

Pour the milk and cream into a heavy saucepan. Place the vanilla bean on a work surface. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the bean in half lengthwise. Using the knife tip, scrape the seeds from the bean, then add the seeds and bean halves to the milk mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 5 oz. finely chopped chocolate until smooth.

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs and salt until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Add the croissants and stir to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes, occasionally pressing the croissants into the custard.

(this is it soaking in the custard. It was all I could do to keep from dipping my fingers into the warm chocolate custard!!)

Stir 3 oz. of the chopped chocolate into the croissant mixture and transfer to the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining chopped chocolate on top. Bake until a knife inserted near the center of the pudding comes out almost clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Accompany each serving with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 8.
this is it!! It came out kind of fuzzy, but those shiny blobs?? that's chocolate!!! imagine eating a giant, warm chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough chunk. That's exactly what it tasted like. I still have a whole dish left, and I'm giving it away to my neighbors and parents. I have no self control and it was amazing!!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Creamy, Cheesy Lasagna

I found a great lasagna recipe on another food blog (thanks, doctorannie!) and tweaked it a bit to fit mine and my husband's taste. The results were delicious...possibly the best lasagna I've ever tasted. This recipe is a lot of work, but if you're a family of two, it'll feed you for quite a few days.

12 lasagna noodles
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage
1/2 lb. ground sirloin beef
1 large white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 8 oz. cans tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 lb. ricotta cheese
5 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add lasagna noodles. Cook appox. 8-9 minutes, stirring carefully occasionally, then drain. Peel and chop onion and grind in food processor. Remove sausages from casings and mash together with a fork. In a large pan, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat over high heat. Add ground onion, garlic, sausage, and ground sirloin, stirring well. Once sausage and sirloin are browned, reduce heat to medium low and add tomato paste, crushed tomato, cream, Italian seasoning, basil, and oregano. Stir well and then lower heat to low and allow to simmer. In a large bowl, combine ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, eggs, salt, and pepper. In a deep 9x13" lasagna pan, pour 2 cups of the tomato and meat sauce and spread evenly. Layer 4 lasagna noodles on top, followed by half of the cheese mixture (be sure to spread evenly), 1/3 of the remaining tomato meat sauce, then 4 more noodles, the other half of the cheese mixture, another 1/3 of the tomato meat sauce, and then finally, the last 4 noodles and the remaining tomato meat sauce. Sprinkle the remaining 3 cups or as much as you need of the remaining mozzarella evenly over the top of the lasagna. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue to cook for 10 more minutes.