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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wicked Dessert But OH SO GOOD

For years I’ve relied on the packaged flan mixes. Making my own just seemed too complicated. Then, I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens that made all the difference. It was so easy and SO much better than a box mix. Of course, the difference between half and half and 2% milk may have something to do with it. Given the fat calories, this is a special occasion dish.

Vanilla Flan
3 cups half and half
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ c packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp salt
5 eggs
½ cup granulated sugar

In a medium saucepan, heat the half and half and vanilla over medium heat until steaming.  Remove from the heat and allow to steep for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. 

Combine brown sugar and 1/4 tsp of the salt.  Spoon the mixture into a 9" pie plate and pack it into a firm, even layer.

Reheat the half and half to steaming once it's done steeping.

Whisk the eggs, granulated sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.  Gradually whisk in the warm half and half until well combined.

Slowly pour the egg mixture over the brown sugar.  Some of the brown sugar will float to the top, but as the flan cooks, it will sink back to the bottom of the pan. 

Place the pie pan in a deep roasting pan.  Place the pan in the oven and pour boiling water to halfway up the sides of the pie pan.  Note:  I just baked mine without the folderal of the water bath and it was fine.

Bake 35-40 min until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 30 min then refrigerate overnight or at least 6 hours prior to serving.  Note:  I served mine right away and it was still great but a bit runny. 

To serve, run a knife around the edges and invert onto a serving plate.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I Love Artichoke Hearts!

All of my life I've loved artichoke hearts.  Not too fond of messing with the whole artichokes, but love the hearts.  Thanks to the March 2010 issue of Southern Living, I've found an incredible way to create a lovely creamy sauce for pasta - with artichoke hearts.

Pasta with Artichoke Heart and Pecan Sauce
8 oz farfalle
2/3 c toasted pecans
1/4 c chopped parsley
1 t lemon zest (I accidentally left this out)
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained
1/3 c finely grated romano cheeese
3 oz low fat cream cheese, softened
3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely diced

Bring the pasta water to a rolling boil.  While it's coming to a boil, toast the pecans.  Put the artichoke hearts, romano cheese, cream cheese, olive oil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Whirl them until the sauce is nice and creamy.  Drain the pasta and toss it with the artichoke heart sauce.  Top it with the toasted pecans, the parsley and lemon zest.  Serve with finely grated romano cheese. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ratatouille Inspired

We went to a lovely wine dinner at Binkley's.  Seven courses and seven wines.  Almost everything was magnificent.  I even got VERY brave and downed an oyster on the half shell.  It had blue cheese foam on top so there was extra incentive since blue cheese is one of my favorites.  There was one course that totally fell flat.  He made a deconstructed ratatouille.  It was about the worst stuff I've ever had.  An oily, pretty flavorless broth with a slice of chewy eggplant floating on top.  Yuck.  I went away hungry for the real thing.  The problem was I didn't have the time to make the real thing.  So, I made my own version:

Deconstructed Ratatouille
One large sweet onion, peeled and sliced into four rounds
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1/4 c sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
4 oz goat cheese, preferably a roll, cut into four slices
1 eggplant, peeled, salted, drained and rinsed
2 eggs, beaten
1 c panko
vegetable or olive oil
1/2 c finely shredded romano cheese
1 jar Rao's eggplant marinara

Place the onion slices in a baking dish.  Drizzle them with the olive oil then sprinkle them with the Italian seasoning.  Top with the sundried tomatoes.  Bake for about 20 min at 350.  While the onions are baking, slice the eggplant in rounds about 1/2" thick.  Dip them in the beaten egg then the panko and brown them in the vegetable oil.  When they're nice and brown, remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towels.  Heat the marinara sauce either in the microwave or stovetop.  It should be nicely warm, not hot, hot, hot.  Top the onion slices with a slice of goat cheese and bake for about another 5 minutes. Then, you put it all together... Put a puddle of marinara sauce on each plate.  Put an onion round on the puddle, then top it with a slice of eggplant.  Voila, deconstructed ratatouille that's pretty darned good!


Monday, February 1, 2010


Last week was a week of revisions to old favorites...  After our Sam's club run, we had plenty of goodies in the refrigerator.  I got home Friday evening and was surprised to see Connie's car in the garage.  Usually he's at a bridge lesson about that time.  So, we had a chance for a quick dinner before his bridge game. 

Burgers.  About as quick as it gets.  I took a handful of very lean ground beef and threw it in a bowl with a handful of crumbled blue cheese.  Poured a couple of tablespoons of Andria's Steak Sauce over it and mixed it.  I'd decided to get some onions sauteed for a couple of other dishes, so a big skillet-full of onions was melting away - and smelling awesome.  There was some thick-cut bacon to be used up so I had another skillet of that going.  Hmm, good burger toppings.  Once the burgers were done, I topped them with some sauteed onions, a couple of slices of bacon and drizzled them with barbecue sauce.

Chicken Elegante Sandwiches.  Chicken elegante is normally served over rice.  But, I was in the office and didn't have a way to cook rice.  Had the leftover chicken from Thursday.  So, I took a box of frozen, chopped broccoli and thawed it.  Mixed it with half a can of lowfat cream of chicken soup, an equal amount of lowfat sour cream, some ground pepper and a bit of garlic and a sprinkle of dried minced onion (normally the seasoning is thyme but we didnt' have any in the office.  Then, I tossed in a handful of crumbled blue cheese.  Toasted some bread, schmeared it with a bit of Durkees, put slices of chicken on top of that then topped the chicken with some of the broccoli mixture and some shredded romano cheese and broiled the whole shebang.  Turned out we liked the revision as well as the original!

Crab Sandwiches.  Our buddies Nancy and Jeff couldn't go out Saturday when Jeff had to work late at the last minute.  So, I wanted an ultra quick dinner.  Crabmeat salad sandwiches.  Just mixed celery, diced waterchestnuts and some lowfat may with crabmeat and served them on toasted bread with a couple of slices of cooked bacon and some melted truffle cheese.

Crabmeat Omelets.  For Sunday brunch, I took the leftover crab salad and used it in omelets.  Whipped eggs with lowfat sour cream, some tarragon and some shredded mozzarella.  Made omelets then topped them with crab salad and some steamed asparagus.