Au Gratin Good Time

Brussels Sprouts Gratin

why hello there

When they’re in season, brussels sprouts find their way onto my plate at least once a week. And while I’m HUGE fan of roasting and sautéing those little beauties, that can get boring.

But if you’re looking for a good time, go ahead and add some cheese. Cheese tends to make everything better, right? And brussels sprouts are no exception.

Most grocery stores have pre-bagged brussels sprouts but if they’re available on the stalk, go for that. It might fit a little awkward in your fridge but they’ll taste fresher and last longer.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin
1 lb of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ cup of light cream
3/4 cup of shredded white cheddar cheese
½ cup of breadcrumbs
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

Heat your oven to 400º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the brussels sprouts and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and then roughly chop.

Lightly grease a 9×7 baking dish with cooking spray and then add the chopped brussels sprouts. Add the red pepper flakes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Pour the cream over the top and sprinkle with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Then place dabs of butter around the dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Let cool slightly and then eat.

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Say Queso!

chile con queso

i dip you dip we dip

We can all be little cheesy now and then, right? Right? Just say yes and agree with me and this will go a lot smoother. Probably as smooth as melted cheese. And just as creamy.

Wait, what are we talking about? Oh right. Cheese. As in smooth and creamy chile con queso.

But you know what we’re not talking about? That over-processed brick of “cheese” in that yellow box. If you want to use that stuff, fine by me. You’re just not going to find it here. Real cheese, both cheddar and Monterey Jack, and can be melted and chile’d up just as well as that fake stuff.

Wait, it’s even better than that stuff. No comparison whatsoever.

Chile con Queso
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
½ of a small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies, drained
8 oz of cheddar, shredded
8 oz of Monterey Jack, shredded
½ cup of sour cream
Salt and pepper
Tortilla chips (Scoops preferred)

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Next, stir in the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese a little at a time until melted. Stir in the sour cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the sauce is smooth and creamy and the consistency you prefer. Transfer to a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.


Little Tarts, Lotsa Flavor

mini romesco tarts

bite-sized wonders

These appetizers will have people thinking you’ve spent all day crafting miniature tart shells and a laboring over a special sauce. Well, the sauce is special but super easy. Romesco is a bit like a red (pepper-y) version of pesto, since it has nuts and olive oil, and is made entirely in a food processor. I couldn’t decide which cheese to use, so I bought some mild gouda and this Catamount Hills cheese from Cabot Creamery, which is an Italian cheese that’s like a cross between Swiss and Parmesan. I think I prefered the “bite” of the Catamount Hills, but any cheese that melts nicely would work really well. You’ll definitely have some romesco sauce left, which would make a nice dip for crackers or breadsticks.

Mini Romesco Tarts
1 cup of roasted red peppers, drained
2 cloves of garlic
cup of toasted almonds
cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
24 mini phyllo tarts, defrosted
½ lb of cheese, cut into cubes
Dried oregano

Start by making the romesco sauce: Place the roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, almonds, olive oil, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat your oven to 425º.

Place the mini phyllo tarts on a baking sheet. Spoon a little bit of sauce into each tart and then add a cube of cheese. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the cheese melts. Sprinkle dried oregano over the tarts and serve warm.


Cornbread in a Jiffy

cast iron skillet corn bread

cornbread saving time

Bust out your cast iron skillet, because it’s cornbread time! Like many of you out there, I grew up eating Jiffy Mix corn muffins. That delightfully retro blue box always had a place in our cupboard, and those crumbly muffins still hold a special place in my heart. But – you can make your very own cornbread from scratch in the same amount of time. It’s true. This recipe is pretty traditional, meaning it’s more savory than sweet. Because cornbread is to be eaten during supper, not after.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
– ¼ cup of vegetable oil
– 2 cup of cornmeal
– ½ cup of flour
– 2 teaspoons of baking powder
– ½ teaspoon of baking soda
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– 1 egg
– 2 cups of buttermilk
– ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
– 1 tablespoon of diced chives
– Pinch of cayenne pepper

Heat your oven to 450º.

While the oven is heating up, pour the oil into a cast iron skillet and then place it in the oven until sizzling.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk, and then add it to the flour mixture and stir until well combined. Next stir in the cheese, chives and cayenne.

Take the skillet out of the oven, carefully add the hot oil to the batter and stir until combined. Pour the batter into the skillet and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Slice and eat.


Totes McGoats Cheese Stuffed Chicken

goat cheese stuffed chicken

totally stuffed

Chicken, covered in breadcrumbs, stuffed with cheese. What could possibly be wrong with that? The secret for this goat cheese stuffed chicken is letting the stuffed cutlets chill in the fridge before dipping and dredging in the breadcrumbs. They’ll hold their shape that way, and allow the cheese mixture to set. I used marjoram and rosemary but feel free to use any herbs you like.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
– 4 boneless skinless chicken cutlets (about 5 to 6 oz each)
– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
– 1 medium shallot, minced
– 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped rosemary
– 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped marjoram
– 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
– 2 oz of cream cheese, softened
– 2 oz of goat cheese, softened
– 2 cups of breadcrumbs
– ½ cup of flour
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
– Salt and pepper
– Olive oil

One at a time, place the chicken cutlets between two pieces of wax paper and pound with a meat mallet, or something similar, until lightly flattened. Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rosemary, marjoram and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool, and then combine with the sour cream and goat cheese, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mix until smooth.

Place the flattened chicken cutlets on a clean surface. Put a spoonful of filling near the tapered end of the cutlet, and then roll the chicken over the filling to a form a neat, tight package (or, as a neat as you can get it). Repeat with the remaining cutlets. Place the stuffed cutlets, seam-side down, on a large plate and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When ready to bake, heat your oven to 350º.

Put the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl and combine with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. In another shallow bowl, combine the flour with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper. In a third shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and Dijon mustard together. Working with 1 stuffed cutlet at a time, dredge it in the flour (shaking off any excess), then in the egg mixture, and then coat with breadcrumbs, gently pressing so they stick. Place the breaded cutlets at least 1 inch apart on a wire rack set over a large baking sheet. (Coating the wire rack with cooking spray will help prevent sticking.) Bake until the center of the chicken registers 160º to 165º, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest about 5 minutes, and then eat.


Pumpkin to the Mac

pumpkin mac & cheese

pump’d up

Earlier this year when it was cold and dark outside, I made mac & cheese with cauliflower as a secret ingredient. Now that we’ve come full circle – seriously, I hate daylight savings time – I’ve made mac & cheese again, this time with pureed pumpkin hidden amongst the cheesy goodness. Will you taste the pumpkin? That depends on the power of your taste buds. But either way, there’s nothing more comforting than a hot plate of cheesy macaroni on a chilly night.

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
– 3 cups of elbow macaroni
– 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
– 2 tablespoons of flour
– 2 cups of milk
– ¾ cup of pumpkin puree
– 4 oz (1 cup) of shredded Colby Jack cheese
– 4 oz (1 cup) of shredded Gruyere cheese
– 2 oz (½ cup) of grated Parmesan
– ¼ teaspoon of salt
– ⅛ teaspoon of pepper
– Pinch of ground nutmeg
– ¼ cup of breadcrumbs

Heat your oven to 375º.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow macaroni and cook 1 to 2 minutes less than the directions. Drain and set aside.

While macaroni cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until dissolved. Slowly whisk in the milk and let cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin. Remove from the heat and mix in the cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until smooth.

Combine the cheese sauce with pasta and then pour into a lightly greased baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly and then eat.


Port-OHH-bello Ques-AHH-dillas

ohh ... tastes like steak! (kinda)

Something weird is going on with the weather. We had a mini snow storm not even four days ago, and then yesterday it was in the 50s and sunny. Which is totally bizarre for mid-January in Boston, let me tell you. But the warm(er) weather had me craving something Mexican. Rather than whip up my usual chicken fajitas or chicken tacos, I wanted something cheesier and more comforting. (Because it’s still winter, right?) So these black bean and portobello quesadillas were perfect. Portobello mushrooms are somewhat magical, because cooked and seasoned the right way, they taste a heck of a lot like meat … steak even.

Black Bean and Portobello Quesadillas
– 1 small yellow onion, diced
– 1 jalapeno, diced (or half depending on how hot you want it)
– 2 Portobello mushroom caps, chopped
– 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
– 1 15.5oz can of black beans, rinsed & drained
– 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming spice*
– ½ teaspoon of cumin
– Tabasco hot sauce
– Juice from half a lime
– Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
– Flour tortillas
– Salt
– Olive oil
– Salsa (your favorite jarred or homemade)

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and jalapeno and cook until slightly soft. Add the mushrooms and soy sauce, and cook a few more minutes. Then add the black beans, Arizona Dreaming spice, cumin, a few dashes of Tabasco (and extra salt if you want) and let everything cook for about 6 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through and soft. If they can be easily smashed with a wooden spoon, they’re perfect. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Heat a clean, large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, place one tortilla in the skillet, spoon some of the Portobello and mushroom mixture on top, sprinkle with cheese and cover with another tortilla. When the bottom tortilla is golden brown, flip and fry the other side. It helps to move the quesadilla around the pan so it won’t burn. When browned and crisp to your liking, remove from the skillet, cut into quarters and eat with the salsa.

*Arizona Dreaming is a spice blend that includes ancho chili pepper, garlic, paprika, citric acid, Mexican oregano, cilantro, lemon peel, chipotle pepper, red pepper, cocoa and other great flavors. But you could use your favorite Mexican/Southwest spices instead.