All Posts By Marisa McClellan

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.

Four Cheese Ravioli and Herb Pesto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, May 17th, 2013

Four Cheese Ravioli With Pesto - The WeekenderI have long been intimidated by the idea of homemade pasta. I’m entirely comfortable tackling all manner of DIY foods, from jams and pickles to home-cured meats and fish, but there’s just something about pasta dishes that leaves me uneasy.

Recently, though, I decided it was finally time to shake off my pasta resistance and give it a try. It just seemed like a good project to help me push the edges of my culinary comfort zone, which is something I’m always trying to do.

And so I went in search of recipes and tutorials as a guide (isn’t the Internet amazing for that kind of thing?) and came across Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Four Cheese Ravioli With Herb Pesto.

It turns out that this is sort of a cheater recipe, in that Giada has you use wonton wrappers for the pasta layer. It was the absolutely perfect starting place for me, however, because it gave me a chance to get comfortable with the folding, wrapping and pinching required in making ravioli. I bet it’d be a good starting place for some of you, too.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Orange Sweet Rolls — The Weekender

by in Holidays, May 10th, 2013

Orange Sweet Rolls - The WeekenderThis Sunday, families all across this country will be gathering to honor their mothers (and grandmothers, too). Some do this with flowers, plants or gifts of fancy soaps. Others make reservations well in advance for special brunches at favorite restaurants.

In my family, we tend to go the homemade route, with a nice brunch at home. This saves on money and on the frustration of restaurant dining on a particularly busy day. The menu typically includes eggs of some kind (a quiche is always good), a green salad, roasted potatoes and some kind of sweet bread.

I like to switch up the sweet bread each year — to keep things interesting. Last year I made cranberry orange scones, and the year before, bear claws (that was not my most successful venture). This year I decided I wanted to do a sweet roll of some sort and settled on The Pioneer Woman’s Orange Sweet Rolls.

It’s a lightly sweetened, yeasted dough that you fill with melted butter, brown sugar and plenty of orange marmalade. Rolled, sliced, tucked into pans and allowed to rise, these rolls bake up into a most-fragrant, gorgeous treat.

Before you start baking, read these tips

Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa — The Weekender

by in View All Posts, May 3rd, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa

My husband and I have some friends who have an annual cookout on the first Saturday in May. They call it their Cinco de Mayo party, though it only occasionally falls on the fifth of May. Still, there’s always a bounty of chips, guacamole, carne asada and other appropriately celebratory foods.

It’s always a challenge to come up with something to bring that will please a number of palates, will transport well (they live about an hour away) and is in keeping with the theme of the day. In past years, I’ve brought hand-chopped coleslaw with a cumin dressing, a vat of homemade pico de gallo and jars of my favorite roasted corn salsa. All good options, but this year I was ready to up my game a little.

I’ve been thinking that enchiladas would be a good way to go, but I didn’t have a recipe I really loved. Happily, there was a wealth of recipes to be found in the Food Network archives. I settled on Tyler Florence’s Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa. I find that chicken is nearly always a crowd-pleaser, and I liked the idea of making the sauce from scratch.

These enchiladas are definitely a multi-step process, but they’re easy to make once you get an assembly line of sorts established on your kitchen counter (they go even faster if you enlist help). The finished product is an enchilada that is tangy, cheesy and pleasantly spicy. They are just the thing for your Cinco de Mayo Weekender!

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Bobby Deen’s Ricotta Cheesecake — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, April 26th, 2013

Bobby Deen's Cheesecake

My birthday is less than a month away, so I’m in the process of conducting my annual cake audition. I got in the habit of making my own celebratory cake some years back as a way to try out intriguing recipes and to stretch my baking skills a little. In the weeks before my big day, I make a few new-to-me cakes, in the hopes of finding something fun and tasty to serve.

Three years ago, I made lavender-infused cupcakes to take to a party in a friend’s garden. Two years ago, I layered and frosted my way to a triple-decker chocolate cake. Last May, I mixed things up with a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It didn’t hold candles well, but it received raves from my friends.

Recently, I’ve had cheesecake on the brain, so I decided to tackle a few different versions in the hopes of finding a worthy candidate. I started with Bobby Deen’s recipe for Ricotta Cheesecake. I was attracted by the fact that it’s lighter than traditional cheesecake — and it’s easy to put together. It can be made in a single bowl and doesn’t require a water bath to keep it tender.

My tasters and I came to the conclusion that while it’s not indulgent enough for a birthday, it may be the perfect spur-of-the-moment cake for casual gatherings. That makes it just perfect for The Weekender!

Before you start baking, read these tips

Spring Chicken With Carrots and Peas — The Weekender

by in Family, Recipes, April 20th, 2013

Spring Chicken With Carrots and PeasLike so many American households, we eat a lot of chicken in my little family of two. And, of course, like so many of our fellow poultry eaters, we often fall into a rut and end up making the same four or five recipes over and over again.

Recently, after working our way through another round of the same old roast chicken, I started doing a little searching in the hopes of injecting some fresh inspiration into our routine. I bookmarked recipes for stews, pan-roasted birds and new-to-me marinades.

Because I know her dishes to be pretty darn reliable in the taste department, I started out by trying Rachael Ray’s recipe for Spring Chicken With Carrots and Peas. You begin by browning the chicken in a little olive oil and then turning down the heat so the chicken cooks through.

Once it’s done, you pull the chicken out of the pot and add chopped shallots. Once they’ve cooked and picked up all those gorgeous bits of golden chicken from the bottom of the pan, you add some white wine, carrots and peas. Finally, the chicken is nestled back into the pot. You can serve it immediately, or you can let the chicken stew a bit longer and pick up some of the flavors from the pot.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Eggplant Parmesan Meatloaf — The Weekender

by in Recipes, April 12th, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan MeatloafThe first time I made meatloaf for the man who is now my husband, he took one look at the slice on his plate and asked, “You call this meatloaf?” And while it was certainly meatloaf to me, it was many moons away from the version he grew up eating.

Mine, which was closely related to the one my mom had always made, featured strands of grated carrots and potatoes running through the ground meat, and it was seasoned with plenty of minced garlic.

His meatloaf of memory was more closely related to the classic version, complete with moistened white bread kneaded in and a baked-on glaze of ketchup and brown sugar. I’m still trying to find an approach that marries our two ideal versions into one harmonious loaf. (I think there might just be deep lessons about life and marriage embedded in this search.)

I’ve actually found that we’re both most-happy when I don’t try to replicate either of our traditional meatloaves but, instead, opt for recipes that do entirely different things with ground meat, binders and seasonings. These days, we’re digging Eggplant Parmesan Meatloaf from Giada De Laurentiis.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Flank Steak Lettuce Wraps — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, April 5th, 2013

Flank Steak Lettuce WrapsWhen you hear the phrase “lettuce wrap,” what do you think? If the first thought that springs to mind is a poor low-carb sandwich replacement, you’re not alone. I took an informal poll of my friends and that was the predominant attitude.

I think it’s time to liberate the lettuce wrap from its second-class status and bring it into the mainstream. To my taste buds, there’s something absolutely perfect and appealing about the savory crunch that’s possible with this much-maligned dish.

I like to start with some long-marinated chicken or beef (though crispy tofu works beautifully, too) that’s been grilled or broiled so it’s caramelized around the edges, but still tender. Once you have your starring protein, pick out toppings. Ribbons of carrot, shredded cabbage, slivers of green onion and leggy cilantro leaves are all great. And then there’s the lettuce. If you’re looking for crunch, iceberg is your best bet, though I prefer butter lettuce for its color and flexibility.

Once all of your players are in hand, build. Place a lettuce leaf on your plate and nestle a strip of protein down as the base. Stack on your toppings and then fold, much as you would a burrito. If you have a dipping sauce, a quick dip before the first bite does wonders for wrap unification.

Before you start cooking, read these tips

Spinach Quiche for an Easter or Passover Brunch — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 29th, 2013

Spinach Quiche for Easter - The WeekenderI’m not sure when exactly it happened, but I can no longer bear to go out to brunch. I hate the long waits and the fact that once you do get a table, your meal proceeds at breakneck speed so the restaurant can turn your table. (I don’t dispute their right to do so. I just don’t enjoy rushing through a meal.)

And then there are the prices. As someone who does a lot of grocery shopping and cooking, I know just how much things cost, and the markups on things like pancakes, scrambled eggs and toast make me a little twitchy.

So these days, I stay home and have people over for brunch instead of meeting at a restaurant. It keeps my blood pressure in check and means that I get to flex some underutilized cooking skills.

In pursuit of brunch excellence, I’ve worked my way through crepes, homemade bagels and English muffins. While I’ve got my sights set on conquering the aebleskiver in the somewhat near future, at the moment I’m focused on making a great quiche. The thing that’s so great about quiche is that it can be made ahead and reheated. Served with a green salad and a slice of crispy bacon, it makes for a fairly fuss-free entertaining experience.

Before you start baking your quiche, read these tips:

Cracked Earth Cake — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, March 22nd, 2013

Cracked Chocolate Earth CakeMy cousin Amy starts planning for Passover in January. The save-the-date email comes first, with the time and location in bold (though they’re the same every year). A few weeks later, dinner assignments follow. Later there are email reminders and carpool arrangements.

It used to be that I willingly accepted whatever meal assignment was handed to me. In recent years, however, I’ve gotten more strategic. As soon as the first Seder planning email goes out, I reply with an offer of what I’d like to bring. This way, I can ensure there will be something on the table that my picky husband will eat, and I get to play to my strengths as a cook.

On Monday (and for the second year running), I’m bringing brisket and a flourless chocolate cake. I bring the brisket because I make a good one, and I do the cake, well, because nothing finishes a meal like a good chocolate cake.

Before you start baking, read these tips

8-Spice Squash and Chicken Thighs Stew — The Weekender

by in Recipes, March 15th, 2013

Eight-Spice Squash and Chicken Thighs StewOne time when I was in college, I brought a few friends home for the weekend. It was a 4-hour drive from Walla Walla, Wash. — where we went to school — to my hometown of Portland, Ore. Knowing we’d be hungry, my mom had dinner waiting for us when we arrived. She’d made a big pot of her chicken curry, with brown rice to sop up the juices and plenty of garnishes like yogurt, diced apple and fresh cilantro leaves.

I was thrilled to see what she’d prepared. It was just the sort of flavorful, interesting food I’d grown up eating and didn’t see much of in the dining hall at school. My friends, on the other hand, weren’t so excited. I didn’t know it until we sat down at the table, but they weren’t fans of chicken on the bone or saucy dishes that include cooked raisins.

I am grateful that my parents chose to be amused by my friends’ collective reluctance to eat the meal and willingly served them lots of rice with just a little sauce for flavor. I am also appreciative that my parents made sure to make interesting food throughout my childhood, as it has made me a more adventurous eater as an adult.

Recently, I had a craving for a dish like the hippie curry that my mom served to my friends and me that night. A phone call to her was dissatisfyingly vague, so I did a little digging in the hopes that I’d find something with a similar flavor profile. What I settled on was Rachael Ray’s Eight-Spice Squash and Chicken Thighs Stew With Lentil Rice.

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