Cooking my way to happiness with Rachael Ray

Broccoli and Cheddar Mac n Cheese

I have spent the last couple of days (or four)  in St Louis at the hospital once again and as I have already said there is just no way to cook anything in a hospital room,  this is the only excuse I will use to not cook Rachel Ray everyday.  Mom is doing good, they checked her out today and now she is in a hotel room for another week were her husband will have nurse duty.  I am recovering from being woken up hourly and smelling like a hospital, it’s all good.

I am exhausted but I feel obligated to cook the broccoli mac n cheese Rachel made on the show today.  My kids were not very excited.  Sorry kids but I love you enough to get you to try new things everyday……you will appreciate me when you are married with your own kids!

Basically this is a mac n cheese made with a sharp cheddar cheese bechamel sauce.  Those of you following this blog know what the bechamel sauce it…butter, flour and milk then mix in the cheese of your choice. In this recipe add garlic to the cheese sauce too.  I grated it with one of those handy-dandy hand graters…’s been a long time since my fingers smelled like fresh garlic, missed it, so good to be back.   Cook a whole wheat pasta al dente then add in broccolini with the pasta for the remainder of the cooking time.  I had never even heard of broccolini till a couple weeks ago and know it is one of my favorites.   That is what I love about  this whole cooking experience.  You try new things and if you love them…they become part of your everyday life and make living so much better.

Basically combine the pasta and brocollini and cheese sauce and call it a day!  Easy clean up and I loved it.  1 out of 3 kids liked it. 


What’s for Dinner…Ranch-Style Chicken Chili

I’m finally back in KC after a long week in St. Louis helping care for my mom after having back surgery.  Thank you for all your positive comments, it is so nice to be missed.  I know I have not cooked a Rachael Ray recipe in a whole week.  I have made it thru cooking since August with some crazy weeks,  but I can’t perform miracles… possible way to cook in a hospital room, which is too bad because hospital food is not good. 

 As my mom taught me….take the bad with a little bit of good.  While I spent endless hours in a hospital room where time stands still, I did get to eat a lot of really great Italian food.  The hospital is located right next to the Italian “hill” in St Louis.  Tons of great authentic Italian restaurants were wine is just included with your meal.  My favorite…..fried garlic cloves and spaghetti with pesto.  I did come home with a little carb addiction that I am working on breaking……and I am back to being in perpetual pain from the gym, thanks Casi…I just love doing lunges on the treadmill.  Not.

Back to cooking.  It is Sunday night and I don’t usually cook on the weekends but I just missed it so I couldn’t wait till tomorrow.  I mean why put off till tomorrow what you can do today.  I just picked a recipe from last week’s show.  It is still snowy and freezing outside so I thought the Ranch-Style Chicken Chili sounded like a winner…..and it  is!  Just go download it

Start by charing the pablano peppers in the oven on broil.  If you have been following this blog you know I mastered  this months ago.  Char the peppers, turning them to char all sides, then let cool in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.  Peel, seed and then finely chop.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat with approximately 2 tablespoons of EVOO.  My mind starts to wonder where did the term Dutch oven come from?  I’m going to google that.  Ok that was a blonde moment, now my 13-year-old and I are laughing hysterically…’s good to have older kids at these moments. Google it, you will know what I mean.

After the EVOO is warm add ground chicken.  I used ground turkey because the grocery store had just sold the last two packages before I walked in.  That, my friend, is the difference between shopping in the morning during the week and shopping with the rest of the world of Sunday afternoon. Brown the chicken/turkey and then season with salt & pepper.  Add the onion and garlic and cook 5 minutes.  This makes me think about that fried garlic I had in St Louis……pure bliss but don’t  have on any night you kiss (I made a rhyme).  Then season with cumin and coriander and stir in the chopped charred peppers (say that seven times in a row).  Add stock and herbs and simmer.  I really missed smelling fresh herbs this past week.  The smell of fresh dill is sooooo much better than the smell of a hospital.  Add hot sauce to taste. 

Turn off heat and stir in some sour cream.  Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.  I chose to use tortilla chips with a hint of lime.

Tonight’s dinner was incredible….as Foster (10-year-old twin A) would say “it was more like a soup than a chili”.  Everyone loved it, even though Tyler teenager wouldn’t admit it.

Easy to cook, easy to clean up….and that is the name of the game.  I give it a 10!!!!!

John’s Red Wine Risotto with Sausage and Rabe

There is still snow on the ground and the kids are out of school again, not for a snow day but for Presidents day.

I am a little behind on posts but still cooking.  John’s Red Wine Risotto with Sausage and Rabe is a MUST download.  Really easy to make and really great!!

No clue what broccoli rabe is so of course I google it.  According to Wikipedia broccoli rabe also known as rapini and is a common vegetable in the cuisines of Southern Italy.  Rapini has  many spiked leaves that surround a green bud which looks very similar to a small head of broccoli.  There may be small yellow flowers blooming from the buds which are edible.  The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, pungent and “an acquired taste”.  Now you know.

In a medium pot start warming chicken stock, this will later be spooned into the risotto one ladle at a time.  In another medium pot start boiling some water to cook the rabe.  In a large skillet (yes, lots of pots on the stove at one time) over medium-high heat add EVOO, about 2 tablespoons, then add sausage to brown.  I used mild sausage because the kids don’t like spicy but I would have rather used spicy which is what the recipe calls for. 

Drop the chopped up rabe into the boiling water to soften, then spoon out with a slotted spoon adding it to the browned sausage.  Add garlic, fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper.

In yet another pan, a high sided medium skillet, add EVOO and soften onion and garlic.  Add a cup of Arborio rice and cook until lightly toasted.  Then add @ a cup and a half of red wine.  I don’t drink red wine so I had my neighbor Lisa over and poured her a glass of red wine while I cooked.  The kids were gone to a birthday party so I was alone and it is always really great when your neighbors can just pop over to visit.  I had a glass of chardonnay with her and we listened to the live version of “Free Fallin” by John Mayer because we are going to see him in concert in March!  This was just a little sunshine in my day… was needed since it has been snowing on and off all day.

Back to cooking….when the rice is lightly browned add the wine and reduce, then spoon in the chicken stock, one ladel at a time.  Then add Pecorino cheese to the risotto.  This whole process takes about 18 minutes.  Serve the sausage and broccoli rabe over a bed of the risotto. 

Lisa loved it, I loved it…you will love it.

I won’t be cooking for a couple of days and will completely miss it.  My mom is having surgery in St. Louis so my sister and I will be stuck in hospital time for the next couple of days and you just can’t cook in a hospital room.  I think the hospital is the only place you can do nothing for hours at a time and be completely exhausted when the day is over.  I am sure we will be watching a lot of Rachael Ray on tv however!  I think this weekend I will have a Rachael Ray cook-a-thon and make all the meals I missed this week. Feel free to join me,  it’s always more fun to cook with friends and I always have wine on hand.

My thoughts on Valentines Day…..if we all just told each other we loved each other and didn’t buy all the “stuff” and put all that money to the national debt….how many years would it take to pay off?

Tuna Melt Frittatas

First of all I am not a big fan of tuna unless it is in a spicy tuna roll (sushi).  I did not want to make the tuna melt frittatas, but I said I would make whatever Rachael Ray was making every night so I am making the tuna melt frittatas.

Rachael said this was a bld……something you can make for breakfast lunch or dinner, how funny is that.  By the way I think pizza is a bld too.  Start the frittats by melting butter and EVOO in a skillet, again not sure why we need both but I’m good with it.  Chop up potatoes (I used Yukon gold, just like Rach).  Add potatoes, shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook until the potatoes are tender. 

Meanwhile, beat together eggs, a little milk and a little hot sauce.  Pour eggs into the skillet with the potatoes and stir in the herbs, fresh chives and thyme.  Put the tuna in a bowl and separate with a fork.  Add the tuna to the eggs, spreading around evenly.   Cook until the eggs are set and then transfer to the oven (which is on broil) to brown the top.  After the top is a golden brown,  smother it with swiss cheese.

Serve with buttered english muffins. 

I don’t like tuna but I loved this.  Really….I did.  Rachael said you could use crab instead of tuna to make it fancy and I agree that would be really good too!

This is why it is beneficial to try things you think you don’t  like…..taste change.  None of the kids would go near this…’s ok, I still love them. 

Roasted Garlic Pasta alla Norma

My translation of tonight’s dinner will be called “Roasted Garlic Pasta all a normal” because this dinner makes a normal night seem like a special occasion and dinner with my family is a special occasion that should be the norm.  As the kids get older having 3 out of 3 home for dinner is becoming a challenge.

Shopping was easy…. nothing to google, in and out of the store in about 10 minutes.  I did google what “Pasta alla Norma” meant….a divine combination of eggplant, tomatoes, basil and ricotta, and it is one of the most elegant traditional Sicilian recipes. Now you know.  One compromise, I couldn’t find a wedge of ricotta salata.  I used just regular ricotta (the kind in the container).

I started tonight’s dinner by roasting the garlic right after I was done cleaning up breakfast dishes because you are supposed to roast it, then let it cool.  This was a step I could go ahead and get out-of-the-way since today was an early release day from school…..that seems to be the norm.  Simply cut the top of the whole bulb, exposing the cloves, drizzle with EVOO and add salt & pepper.  Wrap in foil and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at @ 350.  This makes your house smell amazing….well if you like garlic that is.

When the kids all got home about 2:00 I roasted the eggplant.  Squeeze out the cloves of garlic into a bowl, smash it up with a fork and add more EVOO.  Cut the eggplant lengthwise into1/2 slices and slather on the garlic mush, add some salt & pepper.  Put a cooling rack on a baking sheet with the eggplant and roast 15-20 minutes, then let it cool.  When it has cooled, cut into bite-sized pieces.  While the eggplant roasts, cook the penne.  I used a whole wheat penne.

 In a large skillet add EVOO and a finely chopped onion, sauté until tender.  Add just a little wine to help deglaze the pan.  Then add tomatoes.  Season with salt & pepper then stir in the eggplant and basil.

Add the sauce to the penne and top with little spoonfuls of ricotta.  I added red pepper flakes to mine and a little more fresh basil.

This recipe lived up to its name… was divine!  It looked great, tasted even better, was easy to make and clean up.  Even thought there were some extra steps with the roasting of the garlic and eggplant….it was totally worth it.  Short cuts are not always the best route to take!

Fennel and Onion Chicken

I am just happy today wasn’t another snow day.  Tonight’s whats for dinner……Fennel and Onion Chicken.

I am back to cooking at 3:00 to accomodate for piano lessons and home work after school, life is just a series of compromises.  Tonight’s recipe is in Rachael Ray’s feb magazine and only takes 30 minutes, she also made it on the show today.  I am all about that 30 minutes deal!

 I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breast, using my new cast iron skillet again, thanks mom.  Heat up the skillet until it is super hot, add EVOO right before adding the chicken.  Season the chicken with poultry seasoning, fennel seeds, salt & pepper and floured lightly, preferably before you put it in the skillet.  Cook until both sides are golden brown, then remove them from the pan.

Add some EVOO to the skillet, toss in the Fennel, onions and garlic.  To prepare the fennel you just thinly slice up the bulb ( white part).  Chop up some of the greens from the top and add those in too.  I have cooked with fennel once before.  It taste like liquorice and despite how it sounds…. it’s really good when cooked with onions.  After the fennel and onions are softened add wine, scrapping the bottom of the pan.  This is the best tip I ever learned from Rachael (and grating garlic). This loosens all the stuff on the bottom of the pan that got hardened in the cooking process.  Works like a charm and I always have just a little wine myself during this process because I am 38 years old and I can.

After reducing the wine for a few minutes add back in the chicken. 

Rachael made a really great gravy to top off the chicken……I just added a little to mine remembering that I will be on a beach soon.  In a medium sauce pan melt butter and then brown some pine nuts.  Cook for a few minutes then whisk in some flour, chicken stock and  just a splash of Worcestershire sauce.  Cook until thickened.  Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with fennel and onions alongside.

Dinner was good, however my house smells like something familiar that I can’t quite put my finger on but it isn’t a warm fuzzy feeling smell if you know what I mean.  Don’t you hate that, when you know something is familiar but you can’t remember what it is so you don’t know if it is a good memory or bad…… I must be getting older.

This isn’t the most kid friendly meal, they did like the chicken but it was a “no way” on the fennel and onions as a side. 

Still happy I didn’t have to plan out dinner and that I tried something new today…….please be spring tomorrow!

Beef Pot Pie Wedges

I am back in Joplin cooking with my mom.  Tonight we are making Beef Pot Pie Wedges and no this is not what was on the show today.  My mom didn’t like what they made on the show today and since she is getting ready to have a major back surgery she got to pick what to make….as long as it was Rachael Ray.  This recipe is in Rachael’s March magazine.

Last time I came to visit the first thing my mom said to me was “You mean we really do have to cook what she made on the show today” .  Times have changed.  Today my mom got all the ingredients together and put them in little bowls so they would be ready to go.  I guess this is what it feels like to have your own prep kitchen.

This recipe is pretty simple to make.  Brown skirt steak in EVOO, or any thin steak (I used a thin strip steak), then remove from the pan and melt some butter.  Add Mushrooms to soften, then onion and garlic and then finally the peas.  Add a little flour and beef stock to thicken. 

Use two ready-made pie crust and cut each of them in half.  In each half add the steak mixture then fold over and add an egg wash on top.  Then just bake. 

I think I have made something similar to this before with Rachael.  Delicious!!!!  How can you go wrong with steak and pie crust.

Here is the amazing thing that happened.  Mom actually cooked the whole thing…….. she just took over.  I feel like I have inspired my mom to cook!  She even said she wish she had gone to culinary school……it’s never to late mom and you made an incredible Rachael Ray dinner!

Penne with Vodka Sauce, Pearl onions and Peas

Tonight I go from cooking with wine to straight Vodka, should be interesting. 

Cooking the Penne is pretty straightforward so I will skip straight to making the sauce.  In a deep saucepan or skillet heat EVOO and butter.  I would have used one or the other before I started my cooking classes with Rachael Ray but …..two is better than one.  After the butter is melted add the onions.

Tonight we are cooking with fresh pearl onions.  I know this is a blonde moment but I never really knew there were fresh pearl onions, I just thought they came in glass jars and you added them to martini’s.  Thanks again Rachael for teaching me new things. You find fresh pearl onions in the produce section right next to the big onions.  They are much easier to peel than big onions too.  All you do is boil them in water, drain, cook and trim root ends,  Then you can just pop the onions out of the skin, amazing.

Saute the onions and add garlic, salt & pepper.  Add vodka and reduce a minute or 2.  Stir in tomatoes and heat thru.  Add the cream, fresh basil and tarragon, reduce on low.  That’s it.  Super easy.  Add the sauce to the penne and serve topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Even though it is made with Vodka, it is best served with a chilled chardonnay.  I wouldn’t say this was kid friendly but I liked it……I give it an 8.

Sometimes I think I take these pictures of the food to just prove to myself that I am actually cooking Rachael Ray every night and I just realized I left out the peas.

Smokey Maple-Glazed Salmon Supper

Feb 2nd, still cooking.  I can tell spring is coming soon because it is still light outside at 6:00,  there is hope,  however, not looking forward to swimsuit weather…….I should start working on that.

I am looking forward to tonight’s dinner because I love salmon and Rachael is making a complete dinner with sides included.  I usually buy salmon at Sam’s club but today I just bought it at the grocery store I bought all the other ingredients at to save time since my afternoon is filled with a PTO board meeting and it is a bored meeting (after 4 years of serving on a PTO board somewhere I think it is time for me to move on).  Back on the subject…..the salmon I bought had skin on it.  I just can’t eat fish with skin on it, I mean I know it’s fish but I don’t have to be reminded of that.  I am not good at skinning fish either,  thanks Mike for doing that. 

I bought real carrots and frozen peas to sauté.  My kids have always only liked canned carrots, they say the real ones are “just to crunchy”.  Well……taste change as you get older so sorry kids, you are now considered older.

Cook the rice according to package directions, I used brown rice.  Then add watercress.  I have never cooked with watercress and of course I had to google it.  Watercress is a member of the cabbage family and has a peppery, tangy flavor.  Rachael say’s that when you add it to the rice it can take the place of a side salad……brilliant since my kids won’t eat a side salad!

The smokey maple-glaze sauce was really easy to make and I think would be really good on a porkloin too.  Simply bring to bubble 1/2 cup dark amber maple syrup, some vinegar (I used red wine vinegar) and a splash of liquid smoke.  Then turn the heat off and wait for the salmon to finish.

Season one side of the salmon with Old bay Seafood, salt & pepper than place face down in a pan with EVOO.  Brown, then flip and season the other side.  When it is done, pour on the sauce and then broil in the oven to caramelize.

Meanwhile, sauté chopped up carrots in EVOO, then add the peas, chives and butter.  You are then supposed to add this to the pan before you caramelize the fish but I must have missed seeing this on the show or reading this…..oh well, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Rachael was right, this dinner is a good as anything you would eat in a restaurant.  There was a lot of things going on at once but dinner only took about 30  minutes.  I  give it a 7, if it wasn’t for the issue with skin on the salmon it would have been a 10.  The kids did not love it, but they liked it!

Barbecued Chili

February 1st and I’m still cooking with Rachael Ray, wow, I really didn’t think I would last this long……it’s been 7 months.  Well it’s a great day for chili since it is once again snowing.  Tonight’s dinner is Barbecued Chili.

Easy ingredients….nothing to google. First start by crisping bacon in EVOO.  Then remove the bacon and brown the sirloin.  I actually used ground turkey since I did just book a girl’s week for my 39th birthday at the beach and every time I go to Target and see bathing suits I am reminded that I will be in one of those soon. I will be cooking Rachael Ray at the beach too, my friends are very excited. 

When the turkey (or whatever you end up using) is browned season with Worcestershire sauce and add an onion and 3 to 4 cloves of garlic.  Then just add the chili powder and paprika and some beer.  I didn’t use the whole beer so of course I put the rest in a frosted mug for me which reminded me of summer and then I remembered that I would be in a bathing suite on the beach soon, I was glad that is was only a little beer.

Reduce the chili down just a little then add chicken stock, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and tomato sauce.  Bring to a bubble and then simmer. 

Favorite daughter Kayt made the corn muffins to serve with the chili even though she says she hates corn bread….interesting.  Rachael added scallions to the corn bread mix, amazing, how come I never thought of that?

The chili was very different from your traditional chili, it did have a sweet barbecue flavor.  Everyone added cheddar cheese to their chili.  $ out of % people gave the chili a thumbs up.  Kayt didn’t like it or the corn bread either…..I’m sensing a theme with her tonight.

I’m still thrilled that I didn’t have to think about what was for dinner and it was easy to make and clean up……all things that make me happy!