Cheese Soufflé

I’ve been looking for a challenge- something to push me a little out of my comfort zone and this recipe just called out to me. I was getting bored of the pasta tosses and grilled sandwiches and wanted to do something different. So after receiving a Julia Child book from my Aunt Liz and the Julia and Jacque DVD’s from my Dad for christmas, I was inspired to try my hand at this soufflé. Julia has a way of talking about and explaining food that make you want to run into the kitchen and cook- pronto. And she makes it all sound so simple and elegant.

And I’ll be honest- it wasn’t perfect. It was pretty. And then I started eating it, and it was yummy! And then I looked up and it was shrinking- like magic- right before my very eyes. Is that supposed to happen? Julia and Jacque made their soufflés, took the towering and piping hot masterpiece out of the oven, and then they took a bite and the camera’s cut away. Did their soufflé’s shrink when the director yelled cut? Who knows- but it was still an awesome lunch!

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Eggplant Parmesan

My aunt Liz is going to kill me. She said so when I told her I posted the Mofongo recipe (which was hers by the way). “But Chris, what if I want to write a cookbook someday? You’re giving away all of my secrets!” So when I asked her for Grandma’s Pumpkin Fritter recipe she wouldn’t give it to me. She didn’t want it to end up on here. (Don’t worry- I’ll get it one way or the other…) But that didn’t stop me from snatching a few recipes from her when I was down there a week ago. She should know better- I’m crafty. If you want to learn someone’s recipe, you can have them email it to you, write it down as they dictate it to you, taste it and try to de-construct it- or you could simply watch and help them cook it. Yes- I helped her cook this eggplant parm and soaked up every last step. Oh, is she going to be annoyed!!

I used to hate eggplant but am slowly starting to like it. This recipe allows the eggplant to shine and tastes really rustic. I made it for Thanksgiving and my dad really loved it- and he’s a tough critic. I made this on Wednesday, before I left for Connecticut, and reheated it an hour before dinner. It tasted even better the next day (Yes- I had a bite before I left for Connecticut and it was good. I couldn’t help myself! The next day- it was really good!)

Eggplant Parmesan – serves 6

2-3 medium eggplants- sliced thinly
1/2 cup flour- for dredging (more if necessary)
1 cup –  italian breadcrumbs
1 cup Olive Oil for frying- total
1 cup – tomato sauce
1 cup – shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup  – freshly grated parmesan
1. Start by cutting the eggplant, lengthwise into about 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices (not too thin, not too thick). Lay the eggplant on a paper towel lined cutting board. Lightly sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for about 20-30 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Get your ingredients for dredging ready in separate plates/bowls (flour, eggs, italian breadcrumbs). Dip the eggplant in flour on both sides, then dip into the egg mixture and allow to drip off. Finally, dip the eggplant in breadcrumbs and make sure to coat well. Continue process until all the slices are well coated.
3. Start heating olive oil (or veggie oil) in a pan over medium-high heat. You want the eggplant to cook as fast as possible because they will soak up the oil quickly, but you also don’t want to burn the eggplant. Cook until browned on both sides- about 5-6 minutes. Add more oil to pan as needed during the frying process. When the eggplant slices are browned, transfer them to a paper-towel lined cutting board or baking sheet.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a pan (I used an 8×8 which I think was a good size for this dish.) ladle a thin layer of tomato sauce in the pan- enough to cover the bottom. Add the first layer of eggplant. Add another thin layer of tomato sauce, and an even layer of shredded mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant and repeat steps. Do this until you have 4 layers of eggplant. Generously top the last layer with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and grated parmesan.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook until the top layer is golden- about another 10-15 minutes. Let the dish rest for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Turkey Chili

I really didn’t know what inspired this recipe. It could have been the crappy weather. It could have been the massive text message my mom sent me a few weeks ago fawning over my aunt’s chili recipe. It could have been my recent obsession with chilies and spices. Either way, I got such an intense craving for it that I almost made it when I got home from work a week and a half ago. I know it would’ve meant that I would’ve been eating at midnight but I didn’t care. I was dying for it. But I waited. And I’m so happy I did.

This chili is special. It’s hearty and comforting and filling and warm and sweet and spicy! Boy was it spicy- but not too much- just enough to clear up your sinuses and give it a little kick. I’m happy I made this last night because I got to enjoy cooking it. Dicing the onions, peppers and chilies, crushing the tomatoes with my hands, and layering the spices was a fun way to experience this dish. And even though it doesn’t take too long to cook, it would’ve been a lot to handle when I come home as a raving, starving lunatic after on one of my hectic work days.

This recipe is a star- don’t underestimate it. If you’ve been looking for a great chili recipe you might be able to stop your search here.

Turkey Chili- 3 servings

(adapted from Ina Garten’s Chicken Chili recipe)

3/4 lb ground turkey
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 yellow and 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 canned chili, roughly diced
1 can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 tbsp, chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt and Pepper- to taste
1 tspn, cayenne pepper
1/2 tspn, red pepper flakes
1 tspn, chili powder
1-2 dashes, hot sauce
1/2 can red beans

1. In a small or medium pot heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and peppers and cook until softened, about 10 mins, stirring occasionally. After the onions and peppers have softened add the chopped chilies, beans, and minced garlic and cook for another minute.

2. At this point you can add your spices. All of my measurements are approximations because I went a little crazy. I also added a dash or two of hot sauce. I wanted my chili spicy!! If you want more spice, hot sauce might be a good option for you.

3. Add the crushed tomato’s and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered for 30 minutes. At this point, if you’d like, you can add the chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice. I suggest it strongly.

4. While the sauce is simmering start browning the ground turkey, making sure to break down the pieces so they are small. This chili is super versatile- you can add ground chicken, beef, roasted chicken or turkey (thanksgiving left-over chili??). Use whatever you have lying around and go crazy.

5. Add the browned chicken to the sauce and stir well. Allow to cook uncovered for another 20 minutes. This would be a good time to put the homemade tortilla strips in the oven.

6. When the chili is ready to be served, top with tortilla strips, a generous helping of shredded cheese, and a dallop of sour cream.

Chocolate and Brie Panini

chocolate and brie panini

I love brie but never really used it to its full capabilities. I used to think it was just a cheese made for a cracker- but not to be used in many other ways. I’ve since been proven wrong. First with a tomato and brie pasta toss which is ultra decadent, and now with this Panini. Who would’ve thought brie and chocolate could go so well together. This snack is sweet and salty and crunchy and gooey- pretty much satisfying on all levels. It may not seem like a match made in heaven, but give it a try once and I swear you won’t regret it!

Brie and Chocolate Panini

2 slices italian bread
2-3 ounces Brie cheese, sliced thinly
2 tbsp semisweet chocolate chips

1. Pre-heat a flat pan or grill pan. You can also use a forman grill or panini press. You can toast the bread slices on it’s own, or lightly brush both sides with olive oil. Grill the bread until lightly toasted.

2. To the bread add slices of brie to each side and top with chocolate chips. Close the sandwich and put back on the pan for another 2 or 3 minutes.


Steak Sandwich with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

Steak Sandwich

I was still dead tired when I got home last night, but I was determined to have that steak. And even though my original plan was to make steak and peppers, on the way home I got inspired. I had gorgonzola, I had steak, and I had a beautiful ciabiatta loaf… I think you know where I’m going with this.
I’ve rarely had steak sandwiches that I enjoyed. They’re either way too dense, way too tough, or not flavorful enough. I wanted something simple but still something delicious. Something that was all about steak and not about fuss. I didn’t have much of a choice. I’d been anticipating this steak for 2 full days now! It had to be good! Really, really good!

Steak Sandwich 2

Steak Sandwich with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

1 ciabatta loaf
1 skirt steak
1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 tbsp gorgonzola
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season steak and gorgonzola sauce
1 romaine leaf
1. Start by making the sauce for the sandwich. Pour 1/2 cup of cream into a saucepan and cook on low. To the pan add 3-4 tbsp of crumbled gorgonzola and 1 tbsp of butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the gorgonzola melts and the cream begins to cook down. Continue to stir every few minutes. Taste and add a dash of salt if necessary.

2. Start heating a flat pan (or whatever pan you normally use to make steak). I had skirt steak which was perfect because it cooks quickly and stays really tender.

3. Season the steaks generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I love the natural flavor of steak, so for me this is all I need to make it taste perfect. Once the steaks are seasoned, rub a layer of olive oil on both sides, about a tbsp of olive oil per steak. Hey, if you have a perfect way to make steaks- by all means, go for it. This is my way to get the steaks perfectly cooked- it works every time!

4. Place the steaks into the now hot pan and allow to sit for about 3-4 minutes or until the steak has browned on one side. For a well done steak, leave in for a minute or two more, but I like mine cooked medium. Turn the steaks carefully and leave in the pan for another 2-3 minutes or more if you like your steak well done.

5. Once the steaks are cooked, place them in a plate and cover with aluminum foil to allow it to rest. In this time, and only if you like your sandwiches this way, toast your bread lightly. I love toasty sandwiches so for me this was a must. When the steaks have rested for about 5 minutes they are ready to be sliced.

6. Now to assemble! On the bottom slice of bread place some lettuce. I would have loved to have used arugula, but only had romaine in the house. I worked with what I had. Add the steak on top of the lettuce and top the steak with a few spoonfuls of the gorgonzola sauce which, after cooking down for the past 15-20 minutes, should be a really nice thick consistency. Cover with the top bread.

Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
This was seriously amazing. Seriously, seriously amazing! Shockingly amazing since it was all completely improvised. This was perfect as dinner, but can be made for lunch. All around? Definitely a keeper!

Macaroni and Cheese Balls

Mac and Cheese Balls

Mac and Cheese Balls

A few weeks ago I cooked something I’ve wanted to make my entire life: I made Macaroni and Cheese from scratch. It turned out so good that I made it again a week or two later with cavatappi pasta and made sure to set some aside in the fridge. I had big plans…

I love the Cheesecake factory. Their menu has something for everyone: Thai, Chinese, Italian, pizza, pasta, and everything in between. They also happen to have killer appetizers. Their Buffalo Chicken Blasts are to die for and their Tamales are heavenly. I fell in love with their Mac and Cheese balls after the first bite. Cheesy, crunchy, gooey- there’s not much better. And, as I do whenever I eat anything that I love, I wondered if I could accomplish this on my own- if I could make the Perfect Mac and Cheese balls myself…

…Back to my plan. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I was going to make the mac and cheese balls a reality. I looked at lots of recipes online and most looked overly complicated. I decided I was just going to jump right in. They weren’t too difficult to make but were a bit messy. However, they were scrumptious and so worth the cheesy mess.

Mac and Cheese Balls

Printable Version

1 cup macaroni and cheese (click link for recipe)
1 large egg
1/2 cup italian breadcrumbs, more if needed
Canola or Vegetable oil- enough for frying

1. Save about a cup of macaroni and cheese from the mixture before baking. Allow to cool completely after mixed with sauce and place in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap until needed.

2. On a pan, lay out some parchment paper. I didn’t have any lying around so I used Reynolds wrap and it turned out ok. Remove large balled mixture and start to form smaller balls. The 1 cup mixture made about 4-5 balls. This is a messy task but so worth it. Place Mac and Cheese balls on paper and cover with plastic wrap. Place in freezer for at least 2-3 hours.

3. When the Mac and Cheese balls are ready to be cooked, start heating canola or vegetable oil to medium heat. Set 2 bowls up- 1 for dipping and 1 for dredging. I used 1 egg, scrambled, and italian breadcrumbs, but I’m sure you could use egg whites and panko as well.

4. Remove Mac and Cheese balls from freezer and dip into the egg mixture. Cover generously with breadcrumbs and place in the hot oil. Fry each until golden brown on both sides, flipping carefully once, and serve immediately with tomato sauce.

Macaroni and Cheese Balls

All I need now is some tomato sauce and a fork!

While I wouldn’t say they were exactly like the Mac and Cheese Balls at the Cheesecake Factory- they came pretty close and were exactly what I was going for. Another win for Christine!

Croque Madame


Croque Madame

I love Paula Deen- but I didn’t always care for her. There was something about the amount of fat and butter used in her recipes that made me a little uncomfortable. However, slowly but surely, I began to change my mind. It started with a 3-minute clip of her making eggs in a basket which completely changed my breakfast menu. Then there was the episode where she had Albert Pujols and his wife making authentic latino food- it was so fun! But the real tipping point? I became hooked on her croque madame.

The first time I saw it I thought- this looks delicious! Then a few days later I was browsing through a french cookbook and saw the recipe again. I took it as a sign. I bought some ham and swiss and proceeded to make the sandwich. It did not disappoint. Nor has it disappointed in the 5+ times I’ve made it in the past few weeks (I fell in love hard). It’s easy to make and great as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Give it a try and fall in love with the recipe (and Paula) yourself.

Croque Madame

adapted from Paula Deen

2 slices bread
3 slices, gruyere or swiss cheese
3-4 slices deli ham
1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium skillet or griddle pan heat 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Place bread in pan and to toast lightly for a minute or two. Remove bread from pan, add another tbsp of butter to the pan and place bread, un-buttered side, down.

2. To the bread slices add 1 slice of cheese to each slice. Place ham over the cheese and close the sandwich. Cook each side of the sandwich until both sides are toasted. Remove sandwich from the pan and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the sandwich. and add another slice of cheese. Put the sandwich on a baking pan and place in the oven.

3. In the original pan, add 1 tbsp of butter and fry an egg to your desired like-ness. Place the fried egg on top of the sandwich and season sparingly with salt and pepper.

I know the mayonnaise sounds disgusting- but I tried it without it and it wasn’t the same. The mayo makes it creamy and adds a lot of flavor. And while Paula cooks up food that is the complete opposite of healthy, it always looks fresh and delicious. And at the end of the day there is one thing you can always say about Paula: she never disappoints.

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