Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Each week my church small group does a potluck lunch and we rotate the entrée. Amazingly, we all love – and tend to gravitate towards – Mexican inspired dishes. A group favorite is chicken enchilada casserole. Since it is such a hit I figured it was about time I experimented with a recipe of my own.

One of the first things I wanted to try was ramping up the quantity of vegetables. I had a bag of frozen southwest blend vegetables that fit the bill. Plus the corn, black beans, chilies, red peppers and onion in the mix added a great pop of color.

enchilada

I also decided to use shredded pre-cooked rotisserie chicken as a time saving step. I typically get more than 2 cups of chicken from the rotisserie chicken I buy, which means I was able to get two meals out of my chicken by using the remaining chicken and bones to make homemade soup.

To build the casserole I layered corn tortillas, my chicken & vegetable blend, cream sauce, and cheese in three layers.

enchiladaCasserole

The resulting chicken enchilada casserole was declared a winner by my family. I can’t wait to make it for our church group!

enchiladaCasserole

enchilada Casserole

enchilada Casserole


Chicken Enchilada Casserole

2 cups shredded, pre-cooked rotisserie chicken
28 ounce can rotel, drained
14 ounce bag of frozen southwest blend vegetables, thawed (~2-3 cups)
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies, drained
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon fiesta lime Mrs. Dash
¼ teaspoon salt
18, 6-inch diameter corn tortillas
3 ½ cups Mexican shredded cheese blend

 

Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by lightly spraying with cooking oil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, drained rotel, vegetables, and chilies; set aside.

Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and whisk to combine. Cook for 1 minute until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add half of the chicken stock, and whisk until combined. Then add the remaining chicken stock, and whisk until combined and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, then stir in the sour cream, fiesta lime Mrs. Dash, and salt.

To assemble the enchiladas, place 6 tortillas in the prepared baking pan so that they cover the bottom of the pan. Spread about 1/3 of the cream sauce evenly on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle half of the chicken evenly on top of the sauce, followed by 1 cup of shredded cheese. Repeat with a second layer of tortillas, cream sauce, chicken, and cheese. Then add a final layer of just tortillas, cream sauce and cheese.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the aluminum foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and begins to brown around the edges and the casserole is cooked through. Remove from the oven, cut into squares and serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I know it is only mid-October, but my brain is on planning for Thanksgiving already.  You can blame it on a multitude of house projects, a few out-of-town guests between then and now, and a few other odds & ends tasks. With the flurry of activities I fear I am going to blink and find my expectant Thanksgivings guests looking back at me, wonder what is on the menu.

Hence, I am going to try to work in new ideas over the next few weeks so that come Turkey Day my preparation is smooth and stress free. First up – an appetizer – Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta.

persimmon

As the weather turns colder, a common grocery store item is the persimmon. For whatever reason, I haven’t experimented much with persimmons until now. The fuyu persimmons, which are shaped like a tomato and are a vibrant orange are ripe and ready to eat when firm (basically as-is from the grocery store), unlike the hachiya persimmons which must be soft before eating. Similar to a vine-ripe tomato a fuyu persimmon can be eaten simply by slicing off the top and remove the slender core.

persimmon

To keep it simple, I mixed the diced persimmon with dried cranberries, and served it over to sweet potato & cinnamon crackers topped with goat cheese that had been flavored with garam marsala and ground cloves. Even my two kiddos loved the snack, so I’m sure it will be a winner on Thanksgiving.

persimmon

I chose the crackers mainly since they went with my theme (they were not sponsored) and because I didn’t want to go to a second grocery store just to find the rye cocktail bread that had been my original intent. If you decide to try my Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta on the rye bread I’d love to hear how it turned out!

persimmon


Persimmon & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

2 Fuyu persimmons
½ cup dried cranberries
10 oz creamy goat cheese
1 teaspoon garam marsala
½ teaspoon ground cloves
48 sweet potato & cinnamon crackers*

 

Remove the stem and core of the persimmons, dice, and add to a bowl. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. In a separate bowl add the goat cheese, sprinkle the garam marsala and cloves over the cheese and stir until well mixed. Lay out the crackers on a platter, then roll ½ teaspoon of the spice goat cheese in a ball, press onto a cracker and top with a bit of the persimmon & date mixture. Repeat with the remaining crackers, cheese, and persimmon mixture. Serve immediately.

*note – if you can’t find the sweet potato & cinnamon crackers, substitute 24 rye cocktail bread squares.

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Mushroom & Cheese Omelet

A typical weekend breakfast in my house involves eggs, and even some mid-week breakfasts too (if you haven’t guessed by now, given all my posts involving eggs). Since we eat so many, we have been on a quest to continually improve the quality of eggs that we purchase. For a little over a month we have been trying pastured eggs from a local rancher. While pricey, the eggs are loaded with higher nutrients than the conventional, supermarket egg (typically double to triple the vitamin E, A, and omega-3 content) since the hens are allowed to roam their pasture freely.

DuckEggs

After speaking with the rancher on my egg drop-off day I was intrigued to try one of her other products – duck eggs. Duck eggs are large, resembling jumbo chicken eggs in size. I found the shells harder to crack and the yolk took up a larger fraction of the egg. While the taste was basically the same, I would say they have a more potent egg flavor.

You may ask why try duck eggs if they don’t have much of a difference in flavor. According to my supplier/rancher, she has heard or three reasons (and I found similar confirmation here and here):

  1. The egg whites are more firm, creating better texture in baked goods
  2. People with chicken egg allergies can often eat duck eggs
  3. They are an alkaline food, which is thought to help fight cancer

Give their large size, I only needed two duck eggs to make an omelet as compared to 3 large chicken eggs. My omelet fillers rotate with what I have on hand, so this time I thought  sautéed mushrooms,  sautéed red onion, and pepperjack cheese would complement each other well. The resulting Mushroom & Cheese Omelet was a great way to start my day. I can’t wait to test the superior baking qualities listed above . . . and the other products my rancher has to offer. Anyone want to share a half of a hog with me?

mushroom and cheese omelet

mushroom and cheese omelet


Mushroom & Cheese Omelet

8 duck eggs or 12 large chicken eggs
8 tablespoons butter
8 ounce sliced, button mushrooms, sautéed
1 large red onion, sliced in half moons and sautéed
8 ounces shredded Monterey jack cheese

 

To make each omelet, first whip together two duck eggs (or 3 chicken eggs). Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Pour in the eggs and let the eggs begin to set. Once the eggs start to set, sprinkle 1/4th of each of the fillers (sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, and cheese) on one-half of the omelet. Fold the other half of the omelet over the fillers. Continue to cook until the egg is set and the cheese begins to melt. Plate and repeat three more times to make 4 mushroom & cheese omelets total.

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Oatmeal with Goat Cheese & Dates

Last weekend I enjoyed a special, Mother’s Day treat. I managed to get away for a gal’s only trip to Napa with my mom and sister.

Napa_May2015

It was a much needed break, and the trip was the perfect blend of relaxation, girl’s time, and food & wine touring. The grapes were just beginning to flower at this time of year, yet it was still beautiful to weave through the valley, enjoy the farms/wineries, meet interesting people, and learn a bit about the history of wine making.

NapaVineyard_May2015FloweringGrapes

Food is just as big of a part of the Napa valley as the popular libation. While we did dine at highly recommended eateries, the morning breakfast bar at our hotel was also a must every day.

The morning spread turned out to be an assortment of fresh baked mini-loaves, made to order waffles, other typical continental fair, and an oatmeal bar. It was the oatmeal bar that surprised us, and the owner’s recommendation of stirring in goat cheese and dates that won me over.

OatmealGoatCheese_Dates

The goat cheese melts right into oatmeal and adds a savory touch to balance the sweetness of the dates (and a dash of brown sugar).

 OatmealGoatCheese_Dates

If goat cheese is a bit of a stretch for you, perhaps one of the other provided stir-ins would be more your style – maybe the chocolate covered raisins? My thought is that if adding one of your favorite toppings (including chocolate) is going to help you eat the oh-so-good-for-you oatmeal, you might as well try it!

breakfastBar


Oatmeal with Goat Cheese & Dates

½ cup dry old fashioned oats
1 cup water
¼ cup goat cheese
1 teaspoon brown sugar
5 pitted dates, chopped

Combine oats and water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 ½ minutes (alternatively, you can make the oatmeal on the stovetop by boiling the water, stirring in the oats and cooking for 5 minutes). Remove from the microwave and stir in the goat cheese until the cheese begins to melt, then stir in the brown sugar. Top with the dates and serve. Makes 1 serving.

Note: At the hotel they boiled the water, cooked the oats for 30 minutes and then kept them warm in a crock pot.

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Spinach Lasagna

The dish that is the best blend of my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s cooking is my Spinach Lasagna. Pasta is a family favorite at my in-law’s house, and lasagna is at the top of the list. This recipe is their typical starting point, serving as the canvas for a variety of fillers.

spinachLazagna

The first tweak I made to the recipe was the cheese filler. Growing up, my mom always made a lighter version of lasagna using cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I have grown to prefer the cottage cheese, since the end result is not overly rich and has the benefit of boosted protein. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a light lasagna, since I tend to go heavy on the mozzarella (I may use more than the called-for pound of cheese. Occasionally. OK, maybe more than occasionally).

Spinach Lazagna

The second tweak I have made is to the timing of the uncovered portion of cooking. I have found that extending the uncovered portion of the baking time results in the perfect amount of browning of the cheese, and a less watery lasagna. This time may vary for different ovens, so make sure you check your lasagna frequently the first time you make it.

Spinach Lazagna

Spinach Lazagna

When my husband and I are missing home, Spinach Lasagna is an easy solution for dinner. For now, the dish makes enough for 2 dinners. However, as our two-year-old-going-on-linebacker gets older I fear I’ll have to make multiple pans to satisfy our family.


Spinach Lasagna

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 large egg
24 ounce container of low-fat cottage cheese
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 jar of your favorite red pasta sauce
1 lb shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375 °F. If not using oven-ready noodles, cook and drain the noodles according to the package directions. Mix the Italian sesasoning and the egg into the cottage cheese. Lightly coat the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with some of the pasta sauce. Place 4 of the noodles on the bottom of the dish, then spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Sprinkle half of the spinach over the cottage cheese, then 1/3 of the sauce, and ¼ of the cheese. Repeat the layering, then top it off with the last four noodles, remainder of the sauce, and the rest of the cheese, in that order. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered or until cheese begins to brown and then 15 minutes covered (or difference of an hour). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Note: I have found lasagna sets-up even better if cooked a day ahead. Once cooled, refrigerate until ready to serve, then re-heat individual slices.

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Port Wine Cheese Soup (a.ka. Pretzel Soup)

Just before Christmas in 2014 my husband asked my daughter what she wanted to eat on Christmas Day. She said, “yummy soup made by mommy. PRETZEL SOUP!”

Pretzel soup?  I had never made pretzel soup before, but like any self-respecting foodie I accepted the challenge. First step – what pairs well with pretzels? Cheese was the first thing that came to mind. As a kid I loved dipping my pretzels into port wine cheese, so why not make a port wine cheese soup with pretzel croutons?

portWineCheese

A bit of sautéed shallots, roux, and equal parts chicken stock and half & half create the base, then an entire container of port wine cheese is stirred in.

The creamy soup gets flavored with some black pepper, garlic powder, and salt before being garnished with fresh thyme and honey-mustard pretzel pieces.

PortWineCheeseSoup_1

While it might not be a soup entirely made of pretzels, the port wine cheese soup pairs perfectly well with the pretzel bites for a stick-to-your-ribs soup. Given the cold weather and snow storms sweeping the country this week, this soup is just the thing to warm you up!

PortWineCheeseSoup_5


Port Wine Cheese Soup (a.k.a. Pretzel Soup)

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 cup diced shallots

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cup chicken stock

2 cups ½ & ½

14 oz jar Port Wine Cheese spread

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Fresh thyme (to taste)

Honey-mustard pretzels bits as croutons (to taste)

 

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft. Add the flour and stir for about 2 minutes, or until just fragrant. Add the stock and the ½ & ½. Bring to a low boil and add the port wine cheese. Cook until the cheese spread is melted into the soup and the soup begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir in the pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Laddle into bowls and serve with fresh thyme and pretzels.

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Healthy Solutions Spice Bends Challenge: Steak & Mushroom Frittata

The first recipe contest I have entered this year is the Healthy Solutions Spice Blends Recipe Challenge.  As a busy, working mom I love the added time-saving feature of premixed spice blends.  With over 15 spice blends to chose from, you are sure to find something your family will enjoy – even those on a low salt or low sugar diet.

It was tough to decide which spice blend to feature, but I ultimately selected the Bold Beef Rub since my mouth watered just thinking of all the new recipes I could create.

My Steak & Mushroom Frittata uses the Bold Beef Rub in two places – as a coating on the skirt steak pieces before they are sauted and as the flavoring in the eggs.

steak-frittata-4

This one-pan breakfast dish is a sure crowd pleaser! The robust flavor of the Bold Beef Rub added great depth to the frittata, and the generous portion of mushrooms and other vegetables made the dish seem hearty without making it too heavy. I’m sure that once you try this steak & mushroom frittata you’ll be tempted to try all of the Healthy Solutions spice blends!

steak-frittata-2


Steak and Mushroom Frittata

6 large eggs

1/8 cup half & half

2 teaspoons Healthy Solutions Bold Beef Rub, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ lb skirt steak, cut into bite sized pieces

½ lb baby Portobello mushrooms, diced

10 grape tomatoes, diced

½ cup diced green onions

1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese (6 ounces)

 

Preheat the broiler. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and 1 teaspoon of the Bold Beef Rub; set aside. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the remaining Bold Beef Rub over the skirt steak pieces and toss to coat.

Melt the butter in a large (12-inch) cast skillet over medium heat. Add the steak and cook, turning often, until the pieces are evenly browned and the meat cooked to medium, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the steak from the skillet and let rest on a plate, meanwhile add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute until browned and reduced in size, about 4 minutes. Return the steak to the pan, then add the diced tomatoes and green onions in an even layer. Pour the egg mixture over the steak mixture and then evenly top with the cheese. Cook over medium-low heat until the sides are set but the top is still runny, about 3-4 minutes. Place the skillet under the broiler and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the eggs are set, puffed, and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

 

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Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

The dessert my husband always makes room for is the cannoli. If he just hears the word his eyes light up in anticipation of one of his most favorite treats. The chocolate cherry cannoli cups I made as a just-because dessert have now earned an equal space in his heart as compared to the traditional version.

CC_cannoliCup2

The first time I made the filling I didn’t have time to make the typical forms, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying them free-form.  A generous bowl in hand, our children thought he was eating yogurt and followed suit with their own miniature bowls. Clearly this family loves their cannoli! It was my husband’s idea to put the filling in chocolate cups, which I have to admit is my favorite way to eat this cannoli filling. Not only do you get a perfectly sized bite of cannoli, it lends itself to a pretty presentation. I don’t think I can get out of having these at all holiday functions from now on.

 

CC_cannoliCup1


Post Update:

As soon as my in-laws saw this post, they begged me to make some for dessert since they happened to be visiting.  I didn’t have time to make more cups, but I did manage to find to good pre-made Belgian chocolate thins and pre-made cups at Cost Plus World Market.

The result was just as tempting as the home-made cups!

 

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ChocCherryCanoliCup_9


Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

2 cups ricotta
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon cherry extract
½ cup shelled, whole pistachios
½ cup mini chocolate chips
36 maraschino cherries, divided
24 chocolate cups*

Place the ricotta cheeses and powdered sugar in a large bowl and stir together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cherry extract, pistachios, and mini chocolate chips to the bowl. Remove the stem from twelve of the cherries and dice the cherries and add them to the bowl. Stir the ricotta mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly mixed. Refrigerate the filling until just before you are ready to serve the cannoli cups. Just before serving, divide the cannoli filling evenly between the 24 chocolate cups and then place one cherry on top of each cannoli cup. Refrigerate any leftovers.
* Chocolate cups can be purchased pre-made, or you can make your own with Wilton’s melting chips and forms. I used only the bottom portion of a 3-D cupcake container mold to make my cups. Following the directions on the mold, I needed 16 oz. of dark cocoa candy melts (about 1 1/3 packages) to make 2 dozen cups.

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Holiday Antipasto Platter

In our family, a holiday meal is not complete without an antipasto platter. Growing up, both my husband and I looked forward to our respective family traditional platter – my family’s included black olives that were quickly devoured by all of the cousins, and my in-laws always had pepperoni or salame. Antipasto, or “before the meal”, platters are appetizers that are an array of cured meats, olives, and cheeses. Some also included other brined or marinated items such as mushrooms or peppers.

This year, my antipasto platter gives a nod to both of our traditional platters while adding a few other items that represent family heritage and our continued exploration into the world of cheese.

Instead of pepperoni, I have sliced up salame (did you know that salami is the plural of salame, but in English we use it interchangeably as a singular and plural word?) veneto, which is a traditionally cured pork salame.

I am trying to resist eating a whole jar of black olives by myself, so I have folded and added the garlic and jalepeno stuffed green olives, my husband’s latest favorite in the olive arena. They really are addictive, but truth be told, your favorite olive would be an equally as tasty replacement.

I have also added cornichons, which are French style baby gherkins. My grandmother of Belgian heritage always had them at family gatherings, holiday or not. I hadn’t had them in such a long time, that when I saw them this year I just knew they had to be a part of my holiday celebrations going forward.

cornichons

We are always on the hunt for a new favorite cheese, so the never-tried-before (and not sponsored, this is really just a random selection) cheese added to my platter was the Sartori Raspberry Bellavitano. It is a Parmesan with a creamy finish and a faint hint of raspberry flavor.

Our spread is rounded out with two types of cheddar – sharp yellow and horseradish white – some gala apples, and cherry tomatoes. Let me know what you can’t live without when it comes to an antipasto platter.  As you can see I am always adding or subtracting to ours!

anitpasto1


Holiday Antipasto Platter

1 cup green olives, stuffed with garlic & jalapenos, drained
½ cup cornichons (~ half of a 10 oz jar), drained
7oz salame veneto, sliced
1 gala apple, cored and sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 oz sharp yellow cheddar, sliced
4 oz horseradish white cheddar, sliced
6 oz of a specialty cheese ( in this case Sartori Raspberry Bellavitano)

Place the green olives and the cornichons in two, separate small bowls.  Place the bowls on a large platter and surround them with the salame slices, apple slices, cheese, and tomatoes.  Serve immediately as an appetizer.

 

 

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Ninja Panini

Ah, the perils of a food blogger. Sometimes a recipe sounds better in your head, and when you try to execute the idea, it is quickly derailed. Point in case – my ninja panini.

Since Ninjas are trained in the art of stealth, I thought it would be a clever name for a sandwich that snuck in some broccoli. What better way to add some extra veggies to your kids diet, all the while fooling them with a fun name?

I started with some chopped up broccoli, diced ham, cream cheese, and shredded cheddar cheese, and stirred them all together to make a filling.

paniniFilling

 

paniniFilling2

I brushed the outside of my bread slices with butter, split my broccoli-cheese filling between four slices of the bread (butter side down) and spread the filling. I topped the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread and then grilled them in my indoor, double-sided grill ( alternatively, you can use a panini press or two heavy skillets).

The result was a golden, crunchy on the outside and deliciously gooey in the inside sandwich. I loved it, but unfortunately the kids were not fooled and didn’t eat much of it. I have actually seen them eat more broccoli serve raw AND without a dip.

ninjaPanini2

The second disappointment was that the other element behind the name – the shape of the sandwich – was also a fail. I had wanted to use my ninja cookie cutters to shape the sandwiches. The cookie cutters aren’t sharp enough and the sandwich the wrong consistency, meaning I was left with more of a blob than a ninja.

ninjaPanini1

Oh well. Failures are just as important to the crafting of culinary skills as successes!


Ninja Panini

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup diced broccoli
½ cup diced ham
8 slices of bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat a panini press.

Place the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, broccoli, and ham in the bowl of a large mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the cheese, broccol, and ham until a uniform spread is formed.
Lightly butter one side of each piece of bread. Turn four pieces of bread bread butter side down and evenly divide the cheese spread between the four slices, smearing it in an even layer. Top with the remaining slices of bread, butter side up. Grill the sandwiches in the panini press for 2 minutes each, or until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted. Remove the sandwiches (makes 4) and serve immediately.

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Asparagus Frittata

This week my husband and I split the grocery shopping in preparation for our Thanksgiving meal. As you can imagine, we ended up with some overlap – in this case asparagus.

asparagusStalk

This wouldn’t have been so bad, except our holiday guests have had to cancel at the last minute due to an everlasting cold, meaning we now have 4 and ½ pounds of asparagus to eat between two adults and two toddlers. I’m sure the week ahead will be filled with all sorts of asparagus salads, sautés, and soups.

The first recipe on my asparagus pare down list was my asparagus frittata. Not only is it a deceptively easy weekend breakfast, but leftovers make for a wonderful treat before rushing out the door for work.

I started with ½ pound of asparagus (woody stems removed) and gently sautéd them, then added some leftover mushrooms and onions from dinner the night before. Next, an egg mixture which included a bit of cream and seasoning was poured on top and finally covered with a bit of feta.

AsparagusF1

 

A few minutes over low heat on the stovetop followed by a few minutes under the broiler resulted in a beautifully, golden asparagus frittata. The whole family enjoyed the special Sunday meal, with the baby out-eating all of us!

AsparagusF2

asparagusFrittata_1


 

Asparagus Frittata

½ lb fresh asparagus
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cooked mushrooms
¼ cup sautéed onions
4 oz feta cheese, broken in pieces

Preheat the oven broiler; Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, and then cut into 1 in segments. in a medium sized bowl mix together the eggs, whipping cream, italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, and pepper and set aside.
Put the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low, sprinkle in the mushrooms and onions, and then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Place the cheese pieces evenly over the top of the egg mixture. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the edges begin to firm and upon inspection the bottom of the eggs is beginning to brown. Remove from the stovetop and place in the broiler and cook for 3minutes longer, until the top is lightly browned and puffed. Remove from the oven, cut into eight wedges and serve immediately.

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Meltology – A Review of Cheese Melting

Cheese is eaten in my house everyday, and it is a common ingredient in my recipes. Meals such as pizza and burgers are best with perfectly melted cheese, but past the more common cheeses of mozzarella and cheddar, my knowledge of how other cheese hold up to heat is a bit limited.

Hence, I decided to do another kitchen experiment. One I would like to refer to as “meltology”. I wanted to answer:

  • How long does it take to melt the cheese?
  • How long does it take to over cook it?
  • How does the consistency and color change with heat?

meltology_time0

For this first experiment, I chose six cheeses. Starting with the upper left corner and going clockwise, they are:

  • Mozzarella
  • Cheddar
  • Cotija
  • Romano
  • Brie
  • Gorganzola

I preheated the oven to 375°F and then viewed the cheeses as 2, 4, 6, 8, 14, and 18 minutes into baking.

Two Minutes

meltology_2minutes

 

 Four Minutes

meltology_4minutes

 

Six Minutes

meltology_6minutesA

 

meltology_6minutesB

 

Eight Minutes

meltology_8minutesA

 

Fourteen Minutes

meltology_14minutes

At 8 minutes the mozzarella was the first to brown, but it was the most forgiving in terms of consistency of texture and rate of browning over the course of heating.

This mini-experiment showed me that gorganzola has an optimal window of heating – by 14 minutes it began to turn an off putting brown.

The cheddar stayed supple, as did the brie, whereas the Romano turned crisp.

The most interesting part to me was the cotija. While I knew going into this that it was considered a non-melting cheese, I hadn’t considered that it would actually brown. The toasted cheese tasted good and had a chewy consistency.

meltology_8minutesB

Cheese melting is largely impacted by the curding process and moisture content.According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, acid curded cheese do not melt, and low moisture means it takes longer to melt and the cheese will not “flow”.

meltologyTable1

While my cheese melting test wasn’t very extensive it did give me a better appreciation of the differences between cheese varieties.  Happy Melting!

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