Eat!

Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013!

Happy New Year!  These cocktails will make your New Year celebration one to remember!  Be safe, be sane, be happy!

Hardware:  Mixing glass, shot glass, strainer, stirrer, and martini glasses

All the drinks follow the same instructions: 
  1. Fill the mixing glass with ice cubes.
  2. Add all of the ingredients, stir, and strain into the chilled martini glasses
 
Floridian Breeze
  • 3 parts citrus vodka
  • 2 parts cranberry juice
  • 1 part orange liqueur (I use Curaçao)
  • A squeeze of lime juice

 Ginger What Ails You
  • 3 parts white rum
  • 4 parts cranberry juice
  • 4 parts raspberry ginger ale
  • 1 part orange liqueur
  • A squeeze of lime juice



Raspberry Love
  • 2 parts citrus vodka
  • 1 part Chambord
  • 1 orange peel

Cranberry on the Sauce
  • 3 parts citrus vodka
  • 3 parts cranberry juice
  • 1 part orange liqueur
  • 1 part orange juice
  • A squeeze of lime

You can dress up your cocktails with rimming sugar, chunks of frozen fruit, and citrus peel.  Make some snacks for your guest.  You might enjoy last year's cocktail recipes, too.




 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sausage and Lentil Soup

Baby, it’s cold outside.  Sausage and Lentil Soup will thaw you out.  

Dried beans are a popular choice for soups. They come in many varieties and are inexpensive.  However, most dried beans require soaking overnight and take forever to cook.  Lentils require no soaking and cook in about 30 minutes. They are extremely high in protein and an excellent source of soluble fiber.  They also contain iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1 and potassium.  Oh, and unlike most other beans, lentils do not contain sulfur, meaning that they do not produce the embarrassing and smelly side effect often associated with ‘beans, beans the musical fruit.’

Servings: 8-10
Time:   Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 50-60 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a can opener, a soup pot with a tight fitting lid, a slotted spoon, a bowl, a wooden spoon, a ladle, serving bowls

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ pound of Italian sausage
  • 1 small onion (⅓ cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1-14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (Do not drain)
  • ½ tablespoon Italian seasonings
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 quarts of low-sodium chicken stock
  • 7 ounces of dried, brown lentils
  • Grated Parmesan cheese and crusty bread
  1. Chop the onion and garlic, the smaller the better.  Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil on medium high.  Remove the sausage from the casings and cook and crumble until it is no longer pink.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Remove the sausage from the pot with the slotted spoon.  Set aside. 
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and garlic to the fat in the pot.  Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the sausage. Allow the soup to come to a boil.  Cover in a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Simmer for 35 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir occasionally.  Add the sausage for the last five minutes of cooking.
  5. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Give each guest a hunk of crusty bread for dipping and sopping up the last drop of soup.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Wishes

This is my blog's third Christmas.  Thanks for reading my blog and sharing my recipes. When I look back at the first enteries, I can see how much I've grown, as a cook and a blogger.  And a food photographer! I'm excited at the challenge of creating another year of recipes.




Christmas Menu
Stuffed Pork Loin Roast
Savory, Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Honey Roasted Cauliflower
Mint Chocolate Mousse













You might enjoy last year's Christmas menu, as well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mashed Savory Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes.  However, I prefer them savory to sweet.  Even if you have a sweet tooth, I think that you will enjoy this, too.

Servings: 6-8
Time:  Prep: 20 minutes;  Cooking:  30 minutes
Hardware:  A measuring cup, cutting board and knife, a veggie peeler, a large pot, a skillet, a colander, electric beater, a plate covered in a paper towel

Ingredients:
  • 4 slices of thick cut maple bacon
  • 4 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 small onion  (½ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ⅛ cup sour cream
  • S&P
  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes.  Cut up the onions.
  2. Place the potatoes and onions into the large pot and cover in water.  Boil until the potatoes are tender (about 25 minutes.)  Drain.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, chop the garlic.  Cook the bacon in the skillet until it is crispy.  Place the bacon on the paper towel covered plate.
  4. Drain most of the fat from the pan, but don’t clean it.  Sauté the butter and garlic over medium heat in the same pan you cooked the bacon in.  Sauté until the garlic is golden.  Pour the garlic, butter, etc into the large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the potatoes, onion, sour cream and milk to the bowl and beat until they are creamy. S&P to taste.  Top with crumbled bacon and serve warm.

Honey Roasted Cauliflower

I’m always looking for new ways to jazz up vegetables.  This cauliflower is pretty jazzy.

Servings: 4-6
Time: prep: 5 minutes, roast: 25 minutes
Hardware: Cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a wooden spoon, a mixing bowl, a baking sheet

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ⅓ cup light olive oil
  • ¼  cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • S&P to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper 
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into florets.  Chop the garlic.
  3. Mix the garlic, oil, honey, and vinegar.
  4. Toss the cauliflower in the honey mixture.
  5. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Don’t crowd the cauliflower or it will not roast, but steam instead.  Sprinkle with S&P.
  6. Roast for 20-25 minutes.  Stir the cauliflower half way through.
  7. Top with a few grinds of fresh black pepper and serve warm.



Chocolate Mint Mousse

Chocolate Mint Mousse is too wonderful for words. If I were to try to reduce this dessert to words, I would say, “Rich, sweet, chocolaty, minty, silky, and love.”  You can also prepare this a day in advance so I might throw in “convenient.” 










Servings: 6-8
Time: prep: 20 minutes, chill: 1 hour
Hardware:  Metal mixing bowl, beater, measuring spoons and cups, microwave proof bowl, 2 wooden skewers, a small glass ramekin, an open flame (a gas stove or a candle),  a large plastic spatula, a large spoon, 6-8 martini glasses, plastic wrap, and room in the fridge

Ingredeints:
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 8 ounces of the best semi-sweet chocolate chips you can afford
  • 4 ounces of the best mint chocolate chips you can afford
  • 3 ounces of strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon of Bailey’s Mint Chocolate Irish Cream
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, chopped into little pieces
  • 1 teaspoon flavorless gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
  • Crushed candy canes for garnish
  1. Chill 1 ¾ cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill the metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.
  2. Pour the other ¼ cup whipping cream into the glass ramekin and set aside on the counter.
  3. In the microwave proof bowl combine the chocolate chips, coffee, Irish Cream, and butter. Microwave on high for 20 seconds, stir with a wooden skewer, and then microwave in 10 second increments, stirring every time, until the chocolate is just melted.  It is okay if a few of the chips are still chip shaped.  They will melt while sitting.  It is important to do this slowly.  If you scorch the chocolate, you will need to start over. Set the chocolate aside.
  4. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cream in the ramekin. Allow the gelatin to sit for about 10 minutes. This is called ‘blooming.’  Carefully heat the cream/gelatin mixture over a very low gas flame or candle. Gently swirl the ramekin and stir it every so often with the other skewer.  You want the gelatin to dissolve.  If you allow the gelatin to get too hot, you will need to start over.
  5. Test the chocolate with your finger.  It should feel a little warm (just above body temperature).  If it has cooled down too much, zap it for 5 seconds and stir.  Stir the gelatin mixture into the chocolate and set aside.
  6. In the frozen mixing bowl, beat the 1 ¾ cups chilled cream and powdered sugar to medium peaks.
  7. Stir a plop of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it.
  8. Fold ½ of the remaining whipped cream into the chocolate. Then gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream.  Don’t worry if a few streaks of the whipped cream don’t get mixed in completely.  The important thing is that you don’t cause the cream to break down.
  9. Spoon the mousse into martini glasses, cover in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for at least one hour.  You can chill them overnight, if needed. 
  10. Garnish with crushed candy canes.

Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

I know that turkey is the traditional choice for Christmas.  I, however, am not a big fan of turkey.  Pork loin roast is an easy and tasty alternative.   

Servings: 8-10
Time:  Prep: 15,  cook time: 10 minutes, roast: 90 minutes
Hardware: Cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a wooden spoon, a mixing bowl, a small bowl, , a large skillet, kitchen twine, a roasting pan (or large, shallow, metal dish), a glass baking dish, a meat thermometer, and foil

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ½ pound bulk sausage
  • 1 large onion (1 cup)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (1cup)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • ½ tablespoon + 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 3 cups day old cornbread
  • ½ loaf white bread
  • 2 eggs
  • S&P to taste
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth (maybe more)
  • 1 pork loin roast (2 ½ to 3 pounds), (Ask the butcher to butterfly it for you or read the instructions below)
  • Cooking spray

  1. Preheat the oven to 375º. 
  2. Roughly chop the onion.  Wash and peel the apples.  Remove the cores, and roughly chop them up. Chop the herbs as small as you can get them. Set aside.
  3. Cut the cornbread into rough cubes.  Remove the crust from the white bread and cut it into 1 inch cubes.  Place the breads into the mixing bowl.
  4. Thoroughly beat the eggs.  Set aside.
  5. Cut off about three 10 inch pieces of twine. Set aside.
  6. In the skillet heat the oil over medium high. Add the sausage, onion, apples, and fresh herbs. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent, the apples are soft, and the sausage is no longer pink. Stir often. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool completely.
  7. Stir the apple mixture, ½ tablespoon Herbes de Provence, eggs and S&P, into the bread. Do this gently; you don’t want everything to be mushy.
  8. Gently stir the chicken broth, a little bit at a time, into the breads crumbs.  You want the bread to be moist, not soggy!
  9. Spray the glass baking dish with cooking spray and spoon about ½ of the stuffing in into it.  Set aside.
  10. Starting on the longest side of the roast, spoon the rest of the stuffing along the edge. Roll the pork up over the stuffing.  Tie the roast closed with the kitchen twine.  Place the roast, seam down and fat up, in the roasting pan (or shallow metal pan).  Score the fat with a sharp knife.  Sprinkle the roast with S&P and the rest of Herbes de Provence. 
  11. Place the pork roast and the stuffing in the oven.  Cook the roast for about 25 minutes per pound or until the thermometer reads 150 º when inserted into the thickest part.  Bake the dish of stuffing for about 40 minutes.  Remove the roast (and the other stuffing) from the oven and tent with foil.  Allow everything to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with gravy.


 
Instructions from the National Pork Board on how to butterfly a pork loin roast:  To double butterfly the pork loin, lay the meat, fat-side down, on a work surface and make a horizontal lengthwise cut two-thirds of the way into the depth of the loin and about 1 inch from the long edge nearest you, taking care not to cut all the way through. Flip the loin over so that the cut you just made is opposite you. Make another lengthwise cut, again 1 inch from the edge. Open up the two cuts so you have a large rectangle of meat whose diameter is roughly 3 times the thickness of the meat. Place fat-side down and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a cleaver or a meat pounder, gently flatten the meat to an even thickness.
.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barley Mushroom Soup

Winter seems to be coming early this year.  Lows were in the 30s here yesterday and we are in Florida.  When it is really cold out nothing makes me feels cozier than soup.  Barley mushroom is a healthy choice when deciding what soup to make. Barley helps control bloodsugar, reduces blood pressure, helps lower cholesterol, and may help with weight control.  Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium which has been shown to lower blood pressure. Riboflavin, niacin, and selenium are found in abundance in mushrooms.  These are antioxidants that aid our cells in fighting off free radicals.  If you don’t care about all of that, how about this:  This soup is crazy good.

Servings: 6-8
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a pot with a tight-fitting lid, a large soup pot, a wooden spoon, a colander or strainer
Time:  prep:  10 minutes, cook 1 hour

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots (about a cup)
  • 1 celery stalk (about ½ cup)
  • 1 pound baby Portobello mushrooms
  • ½ small onion (about ½ cup)
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon powdered thyme)
  • 7 cups liquid (I used vegetable broth)
  • S&P to taste

Barley Mushroom Soup


  1. Boil 4 cups of water in the small pot.  Stir in the barley.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and reduce to simmer.  Simmer for 40 minutes or until the barley is soft.  Drain. 
  2. While the barley is cooking, roughly chop the garlic, celery, carrots, and onions.  Rinse and slice the mushrooms.
  3. Heat the olive oil on medium to medium-high in the large soup pot.  Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery until the carrots are tender.  Stir often.  Everything should be bubbling, but not browning.  This should take about 7 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid.
  5. Add the broth and thyme (if you are using fresh thyme, count the sprigs so that you can fish them out later) and bring to a boil.  Stir in the barley and turn down to a simmer.  Allow the soup to simmer for about 15- 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Fish out the thyme sprigs.  S&P to taste.
  7. Serve right away with crusty bread.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

We have so much to be thankful for:  our friends, our family, our health, and this holiday season that will allow us to enjoy all three.  This is my Thanksgiving menu.


Happy Thanksgiving!
 

Potato Soup as a first course.  Roasted Cornish game hens served on top of a Wild Rice Mélange and a side of Roasted Brussles Sprouts for dinner.  And when you have rested and wallowed and napped you can follow this all up with Mini Peanut Butter Pies

Thanks for reading my blog.  I hope you have enjoyed it this year. 


You might also enjoy last year's more traditional menu.

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens are a fun alternative to traditional turkeys.

Servings:  8
Hardware:  Knives & chopping board, measuring cups & spoons, NO POWDER latex gloves, roasting pan, thermometer, kitchen twine, sauce pot
Time: Prep-10 minutes, Cook-1 hour, 10 minutes





Ingredients:
  • 4 Cornish game hens
  • 4 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 teaspoons of sweet paprika
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups chicken broth 
  1. Remove the hens from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you want to cook them.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°
  3. Cut the onion into quarters.
  4. Rinse the hens and cut off the butt flaps and wing tips. Place the hens in a roasting pan, breast side up. Put an onion quarter into each hen’s cavity. Tuck the wings under and tie the legs together with binding string to help the hens hold their shape.
  5. Wearing the gloves, rub each hen with butter. Sprinkle the hens with Herbs de Provence, S&P, and paprika.
  6. Place the roasting pan on the center rack.
  7. While the hens are cooking, heat the broth with the remaining butter, keep warm. About half way through cooking time baste the hens with the broth.
  8. Roast for about 70 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165° when inserted into the thickest part of one of the thighs.
  9. Turn the oven up to 450° for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to brown the skin.
  10. Remove the onion quarters and allow the hens to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting them in half.
  11. Save the pan drippings to make gravy.

Mini Peanut Butter Pies

Normally, I make everything from scratch and shy away from processed foods.  But I also believe in everything in moderation, including moderation.  This is so good; you won’t feel guilty for long.







 
 

Servings:  8 (or 4 or 1 if no one is looking)
Time:  Prep: 10 minutes, chilling time:  2 hours
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a mixer, a large mixing bowl, a rubber spatula, plastic wrap, space in the fridge

Ingredients:
  • 1-5 ounce package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cups peanut butter
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ⅓-½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 miniature, pre-made graham cracker pie crusts
  • Chopped salted peanuts, whipping cream, and miniature peanut butter cups for garnish
  1. Place the pudding mix, sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, and sugar in the mixing bowl.  Mix on high for about 1 minute.  The mixture will become very thick. 
  2. Add the cream, a little at the time, and blend until the mix is the consistency of very creamy peanut butter.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix.  Don’t add too much cream or the pie will not set up.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the pie crusts.  Cover in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  4. To serve, carefully turn the pies out and place in the center of a plate.  Top with salted peanuts, a dollop of whipped cream and one miniature peanut butter cup.

Wild Rice Mélange

I know that most people traditionally have a bread based dressing with their turkey.  However, wild rice and brown rice are much healthier than bread.  The addition of vegetables and dried cranberries make this side dish even healthier.  Wild Rice Mélange has a wonderful earthy aroma and an interesting mix of texture and tastes.   I don’t think you will miss the stuffing.  Trust me.
 
 
Servings: 4-6
Hardware: knife and cutting board, measuring spoons and cups, sauce pot with a tight-fitting lid, large skillet, and a wooden spoon
Time:  Prep 15 minutes, cooking 55 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup wild rice and brown rice blend
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms (about a cup)
  • 1 small onion (about ½ cup)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ a carrot (about ¼ cup)
  • ¼ cup Craisins
Wild Rice Mélange
  1.  Dice the garlic, rinse and slice the mushrooms, dice the onion, shred and then dice the carrot.  Set aside.
  2. Rinse the rice.
  3. Put the rice, broth, and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pot and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
    Bring the rice to boil.  Stir, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer 45 minutes.  DON”T LIFT THE LID. 
  4. Remove the rice from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Don’t lift the lid.
  5. While the rice is resting, heat the olive oil on medium high.  Add the vegetables, walnuts, and Craisins and sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to release their liquids.  Stir into the rice with the remaining butter.
  6. Serve warm.
 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels sprouts are a delectable side dish that takes almost no effort. 

Servings: 4
Time:    Prep: 5 minutes; Cook: 30-40 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cup, a large skillet that can be used on the stove top and in the oven (cast iron works great), a wooden spoon

Ingredients:
  • 12 oz bag of steam in the bag Brussels sprouts
  • ¼ cup of your favorite oil based Italian dressing (I use Ken's Northern Italian)
  • S&P to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Heat the dressing on medium high until it becomes fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Open the frozen bag of Brussels sprouts and pour them right into the skillet.  Stir until they are completely coated with dressing.  Make sure they are in a single layer.
  4. Put the skillet into the oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Stir to make sure they are all coated again.  Roast for another 15 minutes and check to see if they are cooked enough for you..  I like mine firm and usually remove them after 30 minutes.  Some people prefer them mushy and cook them for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove them from the oven and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Friday, November 9, 2012

Linguine with Clam Sauce

This popular favorite of Italian American restaurants is quick and simple.  Just add a side salad and some crusty bread and winner, winner, clams for dinner.

Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep:  15,  Cook: 15
HardwareLarge pot, large skillet, cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, tongs, a wooden spoon, a ladle, large bowl, a colander, and a large serving bowl

 
 

Ingredients:
  • 16 ounces of linguine
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay would work well)
  • ½  cups clam juice
  • 3 dozen littleneck clams
  • ½ cup fresh flat leafed parsley
  • S&P
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish


  1. Clean and scrub the clams. 
  2. Put the large pot of salted water on to boil.
  3. Chop the garlic and wash and chop the parsley.
  4. Heat the oil in the skillet on medium.  Cook the garlic for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, clam juice, pepper flakes, and Worcestershire sauce, turn up the heat, and bring to a soft boil. 
  6. The pasta water should be boiling now.  Add the linguine and cook according to package directions.
  7. While the pasta is cooking, add a ladle (1/2 cup) of boiling pasta water to the sauce.  Add the clams to the boiling broth in a single layer. Do not stack the clams.  You will probably have to cook them in batches.  Using the tongs, place the clams in the large bowl as soon as they open.  (Discard any clams that do not open).
  8. Remove the clams from the shells.  Do this over the large bowl to reserve as much juice as possible.
  9. When all the clams are cooked and shucked, stir the clams, their juice, and the parsley into the sauce.
  10. Drain the pasta.  Toss it, the sauce, and the butter in the serving bowl.  S& P to taste.  Serve right away.
  11. In Italy, cheese would not be served with clam sauce.  But I l'm in Florida and like the sauce with cheese.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup

I was inspired to make this soup by my cousin, Nicole, and the abundance of fall gourds available at the grocer’s.  The soup is so fragrant, warm, and velvety good that it will definitely be added to my regular rotation.

Servings: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 15-20 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a big knife, a microwave safe plate, a large spoon, large soup pot, an immersion blender (or blender, or food processor), a can opener, a wooden spoon, a ladle, serving bowls



Ingredients:
  • 1 butternut squash (1½ -2 pounds)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 5-6 large basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry paste
  • 1-14 oz can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Garnish with cream and crystallized ginger 
  1. Cut the squash in half with the large knife.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff.  Put the squash, cut side down, on the microwave safe plate and zap for 10 minutes or until the squash is soft.
  2. While the squash is cooking, put the broth, basil leaves, ginger, onion powder, and salt on to boil.
  3. When the squash is cool enough to touch, use the large spoon to scoop out the soft flesh and add it to the boiling broth.  Boil until the squash is completely soft.  Stir in the curry paste.  Turn off the heat.  Fish the basil leaves from the soup.  Use the immersion blender to completely purée the squash and ginger.
  4. Stir in the coconut milk and butter.
  5. To serve, ladle a serving into each bowl, top with a swirl of cream and a few pieces of chopped crystallized ginger.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Teriyaki Wings

These wings are sweet and hot and a fun alternative to buffalo wings.  They are perfect for tailgating.

Servings:  Dozen wings
Hardware:  Kitchen scissors, measuring spoons and cups, a mixing bowl, tongs, a baking sheet, a cooling rack (or foil), a sauce pot, wooden spoon
Time: Prep-10 minutes, Cook-50 minutes


Ingredients
  • 12 wings
  • ½ stick of butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons powdered garlic
  • ½ tablespoon powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 ½ cups teriyaki sauce (you can make your own)
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 ½ tablespoons hot sauce (you can use your favorite hot sauce, I use Sriracha for this)
  • cooking spray

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. Use the kitchen scissors to separate the flaps from the drummettes.  Also snip the points from the flaps.
  3. Place the cooling rack over the baking sheet.  If you don’t have a cooling rack, just line the baking dish with foil.  Spray liberally with cooking spray.
  4. Mix the mustard, garlic, ginger, allspice, salt, pepper, and sesame oil together in the mixing bowl.
  5. Rub the wings completely with the softened butter.  Then toss them in the mixture.
  6. Lay the wings in a single layer on the cooling rack.  Place the wings in the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes. Flip and roast for 20 more. If you prefer crispier wings turn the broiler on for 5 minutes or so. Make sure to monitor them so they don't burn. Turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven for 10 minutes.
  7. While the chicken is cooking, place the teriyaki sauce, honey, and hot sauce in the sauce pot.  Heat on medium high, stirring until the honey is completely melted.
  8. Remove the wings from the oven and toss in the teriyaki sauce.
  9. Serve warm or at room temp.
3. The cooling rack acts as a roaster. 
I line the pan with parchment paper
for easy clean-up.


Hot Garlic Wings

FOOTBALL!  My husband, Jeff, loves football.  If a game is on TV, I cannot get him to come to the table.  It is easier to make something he can eat without looking away.  These wings are delicious, much better than the stuff you pick up at the grocer’s.  They are also fun to take to a tailgate or a watching party.













Servings:  Dozen wings
Hardware:  Kitchen scissors, 2 large plastic Ziploc bags, 2 plates, plastic wrap, measuring cups and spoons, a large heavy skillet with a lid (I use cast iron), thermometer, tongs, paper towels, a sauce pot, a garlic press
Time: Prep-15 minutes, Rest time: 30 minutes, Cook-15 minutes
(Start cooking about 2 hours before you want to serve the wings)

Ingredients
  • 1 dozen wings
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
  • ½ stick of butter
  • 2 cups hot wing sauce
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Sliced red peppers, celery sticks, ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing.

  1. Use the kitchen scissors to separate the flaps from the drummettes.  Also snip the points from the flaps.
  2. Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a Ziploc bag.  Shake up.
  3. Put the eggs and milk in the other Ziploc bag.  Shake like crazy.  Make sure the eggs are completely mixed.
  4. Put the chicken in the flour.  Shake up. Then put the chicken in the egg mixture.  Then back into the flour mixture.  You can repeat this process if you like more breading.
  5. Put the chicken on a plate and cover in plastic wrap.  Put in the fridge for 30 minutes.  This will help the batter adhere to the chicken.  You can leave the chicken in the fridge for up to three hours.  Remove the plate from the fridge about ½ hour before cooking to allow the chicken to warm up.  This will allow the wings to cook evenly.
  6. Cover the other plate with paper towels. Set aside.
  7. Put enough oil in the pan to fill it about half way up.  Pre-heat the oil until it is 350°.  This step is very important to keep the chicken from absorbing too much oil and becoming greasy.  You will want to adjust the temperature while cooking so the oil stays between 300° to 400°.   
  8. Place the wings in a single layer in the hot oil.  Do not crowd the chicken.  You may need to cook in batches. Cover the chicken and do not turn for at least 5 minutes.
  9. Turn the chicken and cook until it is a crispy golden brown.  The drummettes take longer than the flaps.  To make sure your chicken is done, cut into the thickest part of a drummette, the juices that run out should be clear and the meat should be completely opaque and have no hint of pink.
  10. As the chicken finishes, place it on the paper towel covered plate to drain.  
  11. While the wings are cooking place the wing sauce, butter, and crushed garlic in the sauce pot on medium high.  Stir until the butter is melted.  Turn off the heat.
  12. When all the wings are finished, toss them in the sauce.  Make sure they are all coated.  You can let them sit in the sauce for a minute or two.
  13. To serve, remove them from the sauce.  Serve them with sliced red peppers, celery sticks, and ranch and/or blue cheese dressing.  And lots of napkins.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mexican Lasagna

This is very easy and very tasty.  It can be made one day ahead then baked the next day.  It also tastes just as good as leftovers!

Servings: 6-8
Time:  Prep:  15 minutes    Cooking: 35 minutes
Hardware: Measuring cups and spoons, a cutting board and knives, a can opener, a skillet, a wooden spoon, a microwave safe bowl, kitchen scissors, a loaf pan, a spatula

Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • ¼ cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning (You can make your own)
  • ½ cup of your favorite chunky salsa (I like Desert Pepper Trading Company)
  • 1 can condensed Fiesta cheese soup
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 10 inch flour tortilla
  • Cooking spray
  • Salsa, sour cream, and green onions for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Open the cans.  Set aside.
  3. Wash and dice the onion and green pepper.
  4. Heat the skillet on medium high. Add the veggies, seasoning, and ground beef.  Cook and crumble the ground beef until the meat is brown and cooked through (7-10 minutes). Drain the fat from the beef.
  5. Return the meat mixture to the medium pan.  Stir in the salsa and cheese soup.  Stir until everything is completely combined and heated through.  Remove from the heat.
  6. Put the beans in the microwave safe bowl and heat for 1-2 minutes, or until heated.
  7. Spray the loaf pan with cooking spray.
  8. Using the kitchen scissors, slice a tortilla shell to fit in the bottom of the pan.  You may need to arrange pieces from more than one slice to cover the bottom of the pan.  You may overlap the tortillas.
  9. Spread ⅓ of the beans over the tortilla shells with the spatula.  Cover the beans in 1 cup of the meat mixture and one cup of the cheese.  Cut another tortilla to cover the cheese mixture.  Press down firmly on the tortillas to compact the lasagna.  Continue layering in this manner, pressing down on the tortillas each time.  Finish with cheese.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow the lasagna to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
  11. While the lasagna is cooling, slice the green onions.
  12. To serve, spread salsa on the plate.  Lay a slice of lasagna on the salsa, top with a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle with green onions.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Potato Soup

Fall is the perfect time for soup. You can use late summer corn or fall root veggies in the same dish.  This potato soup is a great autumn meal because it can be served warm or cold, depending on the weather.

Servings: 4-6
Time:    Prep: 20 minutes; Cook: 45 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, large soup pot, a skillet, an emulsion blender (or a food chopper, or food processor), a wooden spoon, a ladle, serving bowls

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½ pounds potatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium broth (you can use chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 small carrot
  • paprika

  1. Slice the onion into rings. Place the rings into the skillet with a little water.  You don’t want them to float or be covered.  Place them on medium high heat and allow the water to evaporate.  This will take about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. While the onions are cooking down, peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks.  Try to make the chunks the same size.
  3. Clean and chop the garlic and rosemary.  Set aside.
  4. Shred the carrots.
  5. Put the potatoes, rosemary, fennel, and salt in the soup pot.  Cover in broth and bring to a gentle boil.
  6. By this time, the water should have evaporated from the onions.  Turn the heat to medium and add the butter and garlic to the pan.  The onions should just be bubbling.  Stir often.  Cook until the onions are caramel colored.  This will take another 15 minutes.
  7.  Add the onions (and the butter) to the soup.  Boil until the potatoes are tender.  Use the immersion blender to cream the soup until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter.  (You can also add the soup to a blender.  Just make sure the lid is tilted or the heat will cause the lid to blow off your blender.  Not fun.)
  8. Turn the heat off and stir in the milk.
  9. To serve, ladle a serving into a bowl.  Sprinkle on a little paprika and top with carrots.
  10. You can serve this soup warm or chill it and serve cold.

6. Caramelized onions

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shrimp Pad Thai


This dish may require a trip to your local pan-Asian grocery.  While there you should walk around and buy something new to try in your kitchen. (Read the entire recipe before starting.)

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, an 8x8 baking dish, a microwave safe plate and bowl, 3 small bowls and a fork, a sauce pot, a whisk, a colander, a spatula, a plate, a wooden spoon, a large non-stick skillet
Time:  Prep:  15 minutes    Cooking: 8-10 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz dried rice noodles (about the size and shape of fettuccine)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tamarind paste
  • ½ tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon Sriracha sauce (depending on your taste)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 oz (½ bag) frozen carrots
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • ¾ pound (31-35 count) shrimp (You can usually buy these from the butcher already cleaned)
  • 2 limes
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup bean sprouts

  1. In the baking dish soak the noodles according to the package instructions.
  2. Chop the peanuts and cilantro, set aside. Slice 1 of the limes.  Juice the other lime into a bowl. Chop the green onions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Chop the garlic.
  3. Place the frozen carrots in a microwave safe bowl with 2 tablespoons of water.  Cover them with a microwave safe plate and zap on high for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  4. Put the cornstarch in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons cold water.  Use the fork to stir until the cornstarch dissolves. Beat the eggs in another small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Rinse the shrimp and remove their tails.
  6. In the sauce pot, whisk together tamarind paste, peanut butter, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, and chicken stock.  Heat on medium low until everything is mixed together and the sauce is warm. Turn off the heat.
  7. Drain the noodles.
  8. In the skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil on medium-high. Scramble the eggs until they are very soft set, 30 seconds. Transfer the eggs to the plate.
  9. Add the rest of the oil to the skillet.  Add the white parts of the green onion, garlic and shrimp.  Stir constantly, for about 2 minutes.
  10. Add the noodles, carrots, and sauce to the skillet. Stir constantly, and cook until noodles are soft, about 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch-y water and allow the sauce to thicken, another 30 seconds.
  11. Add the eggs and lime juice, stir until the eggs are broken up and mixed in, another 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.
  12. To serve place the pad Thai in bowls, top with cilantro, green onions, sprouts and peanuts.  Give each guest a lime wedge.



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Grilled Scallops with Crispy Shrimp over Orzo in an Orange Sauce

This seems very simple, but is extremely full of complex flavors.  The grilled scallops and crispy shrimp have complementary tastes but contrasting textures.  The orange sauce is sweet without being cloying. The little punch of heat provided by the peppers helps cut through the sweetness of the sauce.  The slightly bitter taste of tarragon ties the whole dish together.  And the dish is beautiful, which believe it or not really does matter.  (Read through this recipe before starting.*)
 
Serves: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 20 minutes; Cook: 30-45 minutes
Hardware:  measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a large bowl, a large heavy bottom skillet, a pot, a grill pan, a light skillet, a colander, a whisk, a slotted metal spoon, a wooden spoon, a gallon Ziploc bag, a paper towel covered plate.

Ingredients:
  • 1-16 oz box of orzo
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 pound of shrimp
  • 1 pound of sea scallops
  • 1 leek
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate (½ can) -defrosted
  • ¼ cup orange liquor (I used Grand Marnier)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 chicken bullion cubes
  • ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • ½ + ¼ teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • cooking spray
  • oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Slice the leek into thin rings and place the rings in a bowl of water.  Swish around and allow the leeks to float until you need them. (Leeks are very sandy, but they float and sand does not.)
  2. Clean the shrimp, leaving the tails intact.  Rinse the scallops and pat dry.  Slice the pepper in half.  Place the flour and bread crumbs in the Ziploc with a little salt and pepper. Shake the bag.  Add the shrimp to the Ziploc bag and shake like crazy.  Set everything aside.
  3. Cook the orzo according to package directions, adding 1 chicken bullion to the cook water.  When the orzo is done drain it, and toss it immediately with one tablespoon butter and ½ teaspoon tarragon.  Keep warm.
  4. Place the orange juice concentrate, orange liquor, water, remaining bullion, ginger, ¼ teaspoon tarragon, pepper halves, and brown sugar in the light skillet.  Bring to a boil whisking constantly, making sure that the bullion cube dissolves.  Turn down to low and simmer until the sauce is reduced and becomes the consistency of syrup, (about 30 minutes).  Whisk often enough to keep the sauce from sticking, scraping the sides and bottom as you go.  Remove the pepper halves before serving.
  5. While the sauce is reducing, cook the shellfish.  Add enough oil to fill the heavy skillet up half way.  Heat it on medium high.  Shake as much flour as you can from the shrimp.  Fry the shrimp in the hot oil for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through.  Using the slotted spoon move them from the oil to the paper towel covered plate.  Keep warm.
  6. Spray the grill pan with cooking spray and heat it on medium high.  Place the scallops on the hot pan for 3 minutes and then turn and cook for 2 more minutes.  Do not over cook the scallops.  They get rubbery when over cooked.  Lift the leeks from the bowl of water and shake a little of the water off.  Place the leeks on the hot grill pan and allow them to wilt.
  7.  
  8. To serve, place a serving of the orzo on the plate, top the pasta with leeks, and the leeks with scallops.  Drizzle the sauce over the scallops, leeks, and orzo.  Place the shrimp to the side. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the whole plate.  Offer your guests more sauce at the table.  All you need to do to make this a complete meal is add a mixed green salad tossed with a vinaigrette.
 
 
*If you are a practiced enough cook, you can start the sauce and the water for the orzo at the same time.  While the sauce is reducing cook the orzo.  Then cook the shrimp and scallops at the same time, while keeping an eye on the reducing sauce.  This will cut down on cooking time.  If you do not feel confident enough to do this, cook everything separately.  Just keep everything warm until you serve it.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How to Host an Easy Dinner Party


I host dinner parties often.  I’ve thrown them to show off a newly decorated room in my home, to get to know my new co-workers, to celebrate the holidays, and to catch up with old friends.  Throwing a party may seem like a daunting task, but if you plan very carefully you can have just as much fun hosting one as you do attending one.




3 weeks before the party:  Make a guest list.  Keep the party small.  I try to keep the number down to eight diners in total.  Send invitations.  How you send the invites will set the tone for the party.  Hand written invitations sent through the mail mean the party will be more formal.  A phone call or an e-mail signal that the party will be less formal. 

Two weeks before the party:  Create a menu.  Think about any dietary restrictions your guest may have.  Don’t decide to serve something exotic.  While you may love fried eel or goat burgers (I do), you shouldn’t assume that your guests are as adventurous as you.  Choose items that can be made or prepped before hand or that don’t require you to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen.  Try to think through the entire meal:  appetizers, salad, entrée, side dish and dessert.  If the entrée is heavy, serve a light salad and dessert.  If the entrée is light, you can serve more appetizers and a more substantial dessert. Think about foods that are in season because this will make your dinner taste better and keep the cost down. Use the internet.  Many web sites have dinner party menus already created for you.  If you chose a dish you have never cooked before, prepare it once before the party for practice.  Your guests are not Guinea pigs.  

One week before the party:  Choose entertainment.  Will you sit around and talk?  Play a game?  Watch a movie?   Play Wii?  I recently had friends over and we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  When deciding upon the entertainment, know your audience.  Also don’t become wedded to your idea.  There is nothing worse than forcing a room full of disinterested people into playing charades.  Once the party starts, go with the flow. If everyone seems to be enjoying the conversation, just let that happen. I really think of entertainment as a back up plan if the party is experiencing a lull. 

Two days before the party:  Clean your house.  You should not put everything off until the day of your party.  Things go wrong.  You underestimate the time it will take to prepare dinner.  Get the house clean early and then you will just need to spot clean the day before hand.  Also, write out a shopping list.  Writing the list early will give you time to tweak it.

The day before the party:  Go shopping.  Spot clean your house.

The morning of the party:  Spot clean.  Pre-prep all the food that you can.  Pre-measure everything.

Two hours before the party:  Set the table.  Put out flower arrangements.  Get yourself ready.

One hour before the party:  Make the appetizers.  Set out all the pots, pans, and cooking utensils you will need.  Take any ingredients you can and set them out for ready use.

During the party:  Have fun!  Just stack the dishes in the sink and worry about cleaning tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mediterranean Orzo and Chickpea Salad

Chickpeas are so versatile that if you don’t have some in your cupboard you should run out and get some now.  In addition to their regular job as beans, they moonlight as the main ingredient in hummus, a crunchy salad toss in, and when ground, a gluten free flour.  Chickpeas are a good source of fiber and protein.  Providing thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese, chickpeas are high in nutrition but low in calories.  Still not convinced?  Okay, they are also scrumptious.  

Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep: 10 minutes;   Cooking:  9 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, a large pot, a colander, a zester, a serving bowl

Ingredients:
  • 4 ounces uncooked orzo
  • 1-16 ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 + 1 tablespoon LIGHT olive oil
  • 1 cucumber
  • The zest and juice from 1 lemon (maybe more)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  1. Cook the orzo according to package directions.  Drain, toss with one tablespoon of olive oil, and allow to cool.
  2. Open the can of chickpeas and rinse twice to remove the salt.
  3. Chop and seed the tomatoes and cucumber.  Zest and juice the lemon. (You should have 2 tablespoons of zest and ⅛ cup lemon juice.)  Chop the herbs.
  4. Toss all the ingredients together.
  5. Serve at room temperature.