Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pasta with Zesty Tomato Cream Sauce

Here's a quick fix for one of those weeknights when you don't have a lot of time and you're faced with a short list of available ingredients.  This serves 2 people, but if you're dining solo you can always freeze the second serving for future enjoyment.  With just a little improvisation, you'll have a tasty tomato cream sauce that's light on calories, but not on flavor.  
Ingredients You Will Need*:

  • 4 oz. Uncooked Spaghetti or Linguine (enough for 2 Servings)
  • 12 oz. Any Variety of Tomato-Based Spaghetti Sauce (marinara works well)
  • About 1.5 ounces of Low-Calorie Spreadable Cheese (ex: 2 wedges of Laughing Cow Light Cheese, any flavor)
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cayenne Pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 cup of Skim Milk, Half-and-Half, or Cream (whatever you have lying around)

  • 1/2 cup Low-Fat Shredded Cheese (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. Vodka
  • Diced Fresh or Canned Veggies (Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions, etc.)

*Note: All you really need are the first five ingredients (pasta, tomato sauce, cheese spread, cayenne pepper, and milk).  Additions of the other "optional" ingredients aren't vital to the recipe, especially if your fridge happens to be a little on the empty-side this week.  

Step 1: Fill a medium sized pot with enough water for 2 servings of pasta.  Heat the water according to directions on the box.  You can start the next step while this is heating up to a boil. 

Step 3: Fill a medium sauce pan with the marinara sauce.  Heat on medium-high until the sauce is warmed through. Keep an eye on your pasta water, and make sure to add the pasta when the water is boiling.  

Step 4:  Dump the cheese spread into the marinara sauce, continuing to heat it on medium-high heat.  Smash the cheese spread into smaller pieces so that it eventually melts into the marinara.  Stir until the two are well combined.  Don't forget about your pasta cooking!  If the pasta is done, drain it and put it aside, keeping it covered.  

Step 5: Add the ground cayenne pepper to the cream sauce, stirring it in so it is completely dissolved.  Stir well for even distribution.

Step 6: Add the milk or cream to the cream sauce.  You can add more to thin the sauce out.  Also, be mindful that adding skim milk won't add a ton of calories to your sauce, but other dairy options may cause a bigger caloric dent (just sayin'!).  

Step 7 (Optional): If you have some, add the shredded cheese into the sauce mix, stirring it well until it is melted.  If this makes the sauce too thick for your tastes, add some more milk or a tablespoon of vodka.  This will thin it out a little.  

Step 8 (Optional): Add the diced veggies, stirring them in completely.  

Step 9: Cook your sauce for another 2 minutes or so to make sure that your ingredients are heated throughly and well-mingled.   

Step 10: Divide out the pasta between two dinner plates and pour the zesty tomato cream sauce on top of both servings.  

For extra protein, serve with some spicy Italian sausages or meatballs.  
Buon appetito!!!

Suggested Wine Pairing: Glenora Wine Cellars Gewurztraminer.  Delicately floral and slightly dry, this clean wine won't overpower the soft cream-sauce, but will be a nice counterpart to the entrĂ©e's spicy side.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Love Pie

This gift-worthy pie has an Oreo cookie crust filled with a layer of creamy peanut butter, followed by another layer of decadent milk chocolate mousse.  Top it all off with a semi-sweet chocolate shell and some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the perfect finishing touch.  If Peanut Butter and Chocolate went on a date, this amazing pie would be the result. 

Ingredients You Will Need:

For the Peanut Butter Filling:
  • 8 oz. plain cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups smooth (creamy) peanut butter
  • 1 ¼ cups whipped topping
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter (melted)
For the Chocolate Mousse Filling:
  • 1 ½ cups miniature marshmallows
  • ½ cup 2% milk
  • 9.5 ounces of milk chocolate pieces (a broken up Hershey’s bar will do just fine, as will any solid milk chocolate candy bits)
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream (heavy cream)
For the Semi-Sweet Chocolate Shell:
  • ½ cup half & half
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips 
Step 1: Put a medium glass or metal bowl in the freezer.  You will need this later.

Step 2: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, unsalted butter, and 1 cup of the powdered sugar in a large bowl.  Mix until everything is well blended and small peas form.  

Step 3: With a spoon, mix the whipped topping, vanilla, and other 1/2 cup of sugar.  Mix this into the peanut butter mix. Store the finished filling in the fridge until it is needed later.

Step 4: Heat the marshmallows, 2% milk, and milk chocolate bits over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until marshmallows and chocolate melt and blend.  Placing the saucepan on a pot holder, chill this in the freezer until it thickens. 

Step 5: Wait 10 minutes before the next step.  This will give the marshmallow and chocolate mixture time to cool down and solidify.  Maybe during this time you can clean up the mess you made during steps 1 through 4. 

Step 6: Take the chilled bowl from step 1 out of the freezer and pour the whipping cream (heavy cream) into it.  Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it becomes stiff—less like a liquid and more like whipped cream. 

Step 7: Take the marshmallow chocolate mixture out of the freezer.   Fold this into the whipped cream you made in step 6.  Store the finished chocolate mousse in the freezer until it is needed in a few minutes.

Step 8: Pour the half-and-half into a saucepan and bring this to a boil.  Reduce the heat, and then stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips until smooth and melted.  Store finished glaze in the fridge until it is needed later. 

Step 9:  Put the Oreo cookie crust on a flat surface.  Spoon a layer of the peanut butter filling into the crust, but only enough so that the crust is half full.  Using a butter knife, spread the filing out so it is even.  Make sure to leave room for the next layer and the glaze. There will be some filling left over, which you can reserve for now*.

Step 10: Next, spoon a layer of the chocolate mousse on top of the peanut butter layer.  Use a clean butter knife to spread the filling out evenly.  Do not fill the pie crust completely to the top.  Leave room for the thin semi-sweet chocolate shell.  You will also have some chocolate mousse left over, which you can hold onto for now*.  

Step 11: Stir the semi-sweet chocolate mixture to mix.  Spoon a moderately thin layer on top of the pie, so that the chocolate mousse is completely covered.  Use a butter knife to carefully spread the semi-sweet chocolate so that it is evenly distributed. 

Step 12: Unwrap about 15 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Using a sharp knife, cut each cup in half.  Using the cup halves to form a border around the pie’s top, place each peanut butter cup so that the cut side is face-down and the top part of the cup is facing outward (see picture). 

Suggested Wine Pairing: Thousand Islands Winery's Raspberry Isle.  A fruity dessert red, its luscious berry flavors are the perfect companion to the pie's peanut butter and chocolate.  Think of it like a chocolate-dipped peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I bet you always wished for one of those in your lunch box!  

*Bonus Step! (Optional): Melt some of the extra semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl for about 30 seconds.  Stir to blend, then melt for another 15 seconds or until the chips melt completely.  Place a  (heart-shaped) cookie cutter on a small piece of wax paper on a small plate.  Pour a layer of the melted chocolate into the cookie cutter so that it fills up like a mold, but only so that the chocolate becomes about as thick as a slice of American cheese.  Place this in the freezer for 10 minutes.  When you take it out, your shape should pop out easily and will make the perfect garnish to your pie!  

What Will You Do with All that Extra Pie Filling?!? 
You don't want perfectly good pie filling to go to waste (that would be a shame!), but this recipe makes enough for almost two pies.  First, you have the option of filling another pie crust, perhaps of a different flavor (graham cracker?).  You will not have any of the final chocolate glaze left, but you can always cut up more Reese's Cups and sprinkle those on top.  

You could also use the filling to make other fun desserts.  Get creative!  For example, you could make little dessert shooters using all those shot glasses you have lying around (you know you have them!).  Start with a thin layer of cookie crumbs, and then alternate with layers of peanut butter filling and chocolate mouse, separating each layer with more cookie crumbs.  Top it off with a Reese's cup or chocolate kiss!  I suggest you serve each of these sweet "shots" accompanied by a spoon so guests know that these shots are for savoring and not to be swallowed as quickly as possible (like a less-savory kind of shot--vodka anyone?). 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saturday Night Pad Thai

This recipe is great for a cold Saturday evening when you’re craving a take-out-Chinese-food-fix, but don’t feel like venturing out into bad weather.   The sauce is rich with a nice peanut essence, but not too heavy. 

Ingredients You Will Need:
For the Peanut Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup evaporated Milk
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

For the Pad Thai:
  • 8 oz. uncooked linguine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 & 1/4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Lime wedges from 2 limes
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or more if you are adventurous)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 oz. boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 cup of chopped green onions
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts, divided

Step 1:  Dump peanut butter, evaporated milk, ginger, and soy sauce in a blender or food processor.  If you are using a blender, don’t forget to cover it before you hit “blend”—unless you want a big mess! Blend ingredients until smooth, about 30 seconds. You should have around 1 cup of sauce, which can be set aside for now. 

Step 2:  Next, cook the linguine according to the directions on the package.  You can do step 3 while the pasta is cooking.

Step 3:  In a small bowl, mix the sugar, water, ketchup, soy sauce.  Depending on the juiciness of your limes, squeeze in one or two wedges of lime.  You should end up adding about one teaspoon of lime juice. 
Step 4:  When your pasta is done cooking, drain the water and set it aside in a bowl.  Keep it covered and out of the way for now. 

Step 5:  Pour the vegetable oil in a large skillet and heat it up a little using medium-high heat.  Next, add your chicken and minced garlic.  Cook the chicken thoroughly, stirring occasionally.   To ensure that your chicken is fully cooked, cut into one of the larger pieces and examine the center of the meat for pink.  Pink meat = NOT COOKED, so please be sure that you do not see any pink. 

Step 6:  Once you’ve fully cooked your chicken, stir in the cooked linguine noodles, stirring quickly to keep it from sticking to the skillet. Pour the ketchup mixture from earlier over noodles.   Heat it all on medium for 2 minutes or until the sauce is absorbed.  Stir constantly to help the liquid get absorbed. 

Step 7:  Push the noodles to one side of the skillet, making enough room for the egg to cook. Add the beaten egg to your skillet, stirring until it’s cooked through. Stir in all your veggies, half of the bean sprouts, and half of the peanuts.

Step 8:  With a large serving spoon, pile skillet noodle mixture onto large serving plates.  You should be able to fill two standard dinner plates with a little leftover. Pour half of the peanut sauce on the center of each noodle pile.  Sprinkle both piles with the rest of the peanuts and bean sprouts. Squeeze 2 lime wedges over noodles and garnish with the remaining wedges. Put the remaining peanut sauce in a small dish so that diners can add more to taste.   

Step 9:  Enjoy!!!

Suggested Wine Pairing:  Bully Hill’s Traminette.  This delightful white is sweet and fruity with a gentle spicy undertone.  Its peach and lychee flavors go well with poultry and Asian fare, so it will go well with your Saturday Night Pad Thai.  

*Inspiration for the above recipe can be attributed to the following site: http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/137792/At-Home-Pad-Thai-with-Creamy-Peanut-Sauce/detail.aspx

Monday, February 7, 2011


Thanks for stopping over!  Please, make yourself at home.  When it comes to comfort cuisine, I will easily put cookies at the top of my list.  What could be more comforting than a warm, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-chip cookie?  Nothing really—except perhaps a well-chilled, generously-filled glass of wine.  

Here at Cookies & Wine, you can have your cookie and eat it with wine too!  You can also have your pad Thai, double-meat lasagna, picnic-perfect pasta salad, and all the other deliciously easy recipes that come your way!  Not that I suggest making them all at the same time….that might create quite the mess!  

So step into my kitchen, pull out your favorite wine glass, and give these minimal-hassle recipes a whirl!