Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Signature Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni & cheese is one of the best all time comfort foods. Its not one of the most healthy pasta dishes out there. In the next week or two, I will be sharing two recent lowfat, healthy pasta dishes. This is not one of them, but oh is it amazing to eat every once and a while. Although not traditional, I made it for Thanksgiving, and it made for a perfect side dish to the maple glazed turkey.  You can make it a little bit healthier, if you use lowfat cheese, I guess. But I personally recommend making it as a side dish for a large group and just indulging once a year or so.

Sasha's Mac & Cheese
1 box elbow macaroni
2 T butter, melted
1/3 cup flour
3 cups skim milk
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz pepper jack cheese, grated
3 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Japanese-style panko bread crumbs
2 diced tomatoes
2 tsp ancho chile powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
salt and pepper to taste

First, cook the macaroni. Combine the flour and skim milk in a pot and cook over medium heat until it thickens, for about 10 minutes. Sir in the grated cheeses and spices. Once the cheeses are melted and combined, remove from the heat. Mix in the diced tomatoes and panko. Combine this mixture with the pasta. Top with additional panko and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, until the top is crunchy. This was a big hit among the side dishes at our Thanksgiving table - it was a terrific last minute addition to the Thanksgiving menu that everyone really enjoyed.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Indian-Spiced Hanukkah Potato Latkes

Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah, the eight day long Jewish festival of lights. Traditionally, Jews make potato latkes - basically fried grated potatoes to celebrate Hanukkah. While traditional latkes are fun, I like to make my potato pancakes for the holiday with a bit of a twist. Last year I made these sweet potato chipotle latkes with Swedish lingonberries, which are still my favorite. We made those for Thanksgiving as the sweet potato side dish and they were amazing, as usual. Click here for the recipe.

This year for Hanukkah, however, I decided to do my latkes with an Indian spice variation, inspired by Floyd Cardoz's recipe from Tabla. Sadly, Tabla is closing its doors soon after a great run in New York, but its recipes live on. Anyhow, based on their recipe, I loosely crafted my own using my favorite Indian spices. You can find my inspiration recipe here. My changes - I prefer it with a couple eggs, added the cumin and left out the chat masala.

Both of these recipes are reasonably healthy if you fry them in Canola Oil, as I did - or at least a lot healthier than they would otherwise be! Happy Hanukkah!

Sasha's Indian Inspired Potato Latkes
4 large Idaho potatoes
2 eggs
2 Macintosh Apples
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 cup diced fresh cilantro
2 T grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
pepper to taste
1/2 of a diced jalapeno pepper (optional- I left it out this time)
Canola oil for frying

First, grate the potatoes. Then, peel and grate the apples and mix in the grated apple mush with the potatoes.  Mix in the grated ginger, cumin, coriander, eggs, and diced cilantro. Stir in the blue cheese crumble, and the diced jalapeno if you choose to add it. Allow the canola oil (about 1/3 of a cup to start) to heat up in the pan and then fry the latkes in the oil on both sides until done, cooked through and browned.

How should you serve these? The best way would probably be with an Indian chutney, maybe slightly on the spicy side. I didn't feel like making chutney tonight, so I used some Fig-Pear jam from Hurd Orchards, with a little bit of sour cream, which was also a delicious combination. Yum! The spices were great with the potatoes and a bit of apple - it really jazzed up a holiday tradition.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Gingerbread Crust

I first made panna cotta for Thanksgiving last year, but it was just a plain panna cotta with a gingerbread/walnut crust. This year, I decided to instead go with a lovely pale orange pumpkin flavored panna cotta with a gingerbread/almond crust. This was a bit hit with the family at the Thanksgiving dinner that Brad and I hosted at our place with some of the people we are most thankful to have as part of our lives. This is quite easy to make. Other than baking the crust, it is no bake, and firms up fairly quickly in the refrigerator.  I am a huge fan of pumpkin anything this year, and so incorporating pumpkin into a dessert was a no-brainer. I had considered doing a pumpkin cheesecake (which I may do soon, regardless) but this is much healthier, but still showcases fall's favorite vegetable, the pumpkin.

Sasha's Pumpkin Panna Cotta With Almond-Gingerbread Crust
20 gingersnap cookies
2/3 cup almond slivers
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 T butter, melted
1 packed unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 T honey
1 1/2 cups 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T water

Preheat the oven to 325. In a food processor, separately puree the almonds and cookies. Combine in the food processor with the brown sugar and salt. Mix in the melted butter until the mixture has a wet but sandy texture. Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate that has been sprayed with PAM or Canola oil. Bake until golden brown for about 25 minutes and allow to cool.

To make the filling, place the water in a bowl with the contents of the gelatin packed and let stand for five minutes. In a small saucepan, add the cream, honey and salt and bring to a simmer. Add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. In a large bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, vanilla and pumpkin puree. Add the hot cream mixture to the bowl, and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the crust/pie plate. Allow to chill in the refrigerator, covered, for at least two hours.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Chocolate Pudding Bars from the New Baked Cookbook

My parents came to our house for Thanksgiving and my mom brought me the new baking cookbook, Baked, from the famous Brooklyn Bakery, Baked. The book looks to have so many great recipes, that I decided to make a couple as part of our Thanksgiving dinner. These were a delicious indulgence - perhaps not something you should be eating every day, but so decedent and perfect for a holiday meal, especially if you love chocolate pudding like I do. This recipe, termed "Aunt Sabra's Pudding Bars" in the Baked cookbook was enjoyed by our dinner guests over Thanksgiving. The graham crust was the perfect combination. I made a few minor modifications from the original recipe, which are noted in the adaption below (I used a bit less butter in the crust and it worked out just fine, and substituted rum for whiskey).

Baked's Aunt Sabra King's Pudding Bars (makes 24 bars)
Graham Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 T dark brown sugar
8 T (one stick) of melted butter (you could probably use even less and still get a good result)
Chocolate Pudding Filling
4 oz dark chocolate
3 T cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 T rum or whiskey

As the book suggests, you can serve with powdered chocolate or whipped cream, but we served ours plain. To make the crust, combine the brown sugar, melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Press into a 9x13 inch, or appropriate sized prepared pan, to form the crust. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then bake at 325 for 10 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool while making the filling.

In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and whisk again. In a saucepan, whisk together the remaining sugar, milk and cream. Bring just to a boil. Add the egg mixture, whisking constantly, adding the egg mixture one third at a time. Bring mixture back to a boil over medium heat, and boil for two to three minutes until the pudding is very thick.  Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and stir until combined into a chocolate pudding. Allow the pudding to cool for 20 minutes, before pouring over the graham crust, spreading evenly with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least four hours before cutting and eating the bars.

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