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Greek Feta Burger

May 15, 2014

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Who’s bucket list doesn’t include Greece?? Those colors…cobalt blue seas and dove white buildings. Those flavors…salty, briny, and fresh herbs. This Big Fat Greek Burger contains cucumber, feta, onions, salt and pepper. Top with a tangy, creamy tzatziki sauce, the iconic Greek condiment, and you’ll have a little taste of the Mediterranean.  (Randy, the trip is still on the list!)

Greek Feta Burger

Makes 4

6 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 English cucumber DIVIDED (unpeeled), coarsely grated; (about 1/2 cup/ for sauce) plus (about 1/2 cup diced for burgers) more for slices on the burgers

1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 pound lean ground beef (90 percent)

1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta

1/3 cup finely diced red onion; plus slices to top burger

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil cooking spray

1 jar (7 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained (I grilled fresh)

4 sourdough rolls, split, grilled

Top burger with:

Shredded romaine

Sliced cucumber

Sliced tomato

Sliced red onion

In a bowl, combine yogurt, cucumbers, garlic and juice; set aside. (Start with half the amount of yogurt and add all other ingredients and then add remaining yogurt til desired consistency; I like a chunkier sauce) In another bowl, mix beef, feta, onion, cucumber, marjoram, salt and pepper. Form beef mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Coat a grill pan or grill rack with cooking spray. Grill patties over medium-high heat, flipping once, about 5 minutes each side, until internal temperature reaches 160°F. Divide roasted peppers evenly among bottom roll halves; top with 1 burger, 1/4 yogurt sauce and lettuce and cucumber.DSC_0778

 

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Honey Lemon Chia Muffins

May 9, 2014

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Lemon and Ricotta….fragrant and fluffy. Spring. Add poppy seeds and you have one of my favorite muffins. Ingredients like olive oil, ricotta, honey, and chia seeds make a lighter version. Chia seeds……another super-food on the block are rich in omega-3s, help reduce inflammation and cholesterol and are high in fiber and antioxidants. Give these tasty muffins a try and welcome Spring into your kitchen!!!

Honey Lemon Chia Seed Muffins     (Adapted from Cooking Light)
Makes 12 muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg
2 tablespoon. chia seeds
2 tablespoon honey, melted
Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with cupcake liners and lightly spray them with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta, water, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the wet ingredients into the middle then mix. Add the chia seeds then gently fold into batter.
Evenly divide batter into prepared muffin pan.
Bake for 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool for 5 minutes then with a pastry brush, gently brush melted honey onto the tops of the muffins. Cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
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Chicken-Apricot Skewers

May 2, 2014

 

DSC_0863Apricots…this is the season for those small golden jewels with velvety skin. Packed with fiber and vitamin C, these smooth and sweet stone fruits pair beautifully with chicken. Add a few skewers and some creamy peanut sauce and you have yourself a lovely entree. I like the idea of using double skewers to make turning on the grill easier. Serve over brown rice.

 Chicken-Apricots Skewers    (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

6 servings

3/4 cup canned light unsweetened coconut milk

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

2 garlic cloves

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning

1/4 cup cilantro leaves plus sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped jalapeño (about 1 large)

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into twenty-four 1″ chunks

12 firm ripe small apricots, halved, pitted

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Lime wedges

Purée first 6 ingredients and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Add 1/4 cup cilantro leaves and jalapeño and blend briefly to combine. Transfer 1/2 cup marinade to a small bowl; cover and chill for serving (return to room temperature before using). Place remaining marinade in a resealable plastic bag; add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Light grill to high. Holding 2 skewers parallel to each other and 1/2″ apart, thread 1 piece of chicken onto skewers, then 1 apricot half. Repeat with 1 more chicken piece and 1 more apricot half. Repeat with remaining skewers, chicken, and apricots for a total of 12, each holding 2 pieces of chicken and 2 apricot halves. Season with salt and pepper. Brush apricots with some marinade from bag; discard remaining marinade.

Grill skewers on one side until chicken is well browned, 3-4 minutes. Turn and grill until other side is well browned, 3-4 minutes longer. Move to a cooler part of grill. Cover grill and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving platter; sprinkle with cilantro sprigs and peanuts and drizzle with reserved marinade. Serve with lime wedges alongside for squeezing over.

 

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St. Germain Cucumber Cocktail

April 26, 2014

 

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California dreaming! Last week while visiting my daughter in warm, sunny LA…I came across a refreshing, flavorful cocktailI’m not a sweet drink kinda girl, however this liqueur paired with muddled cucumbers, lemon and vodka had me…curious. What was this flavor I could not decipher??? St. Germain is a French liqueur made of hand-picked elderberry flowers with a flavor profile of peach, pear, orange and grapefruit. Once our server gave us the “secret ingredient”  I was off and running. I think the key to making this cocktail is to muddle the lemons and cucumbers in a martini shaker then add vodka (or gin) and strain  into your glass. Next add ice and top with soda.  *If you prefer gin ….I would use cucumber based Hendricks.

3 cucumber slices, without the rind

2 slices lemon, without the rind

1 teaspoon sugar ( I omitted the sugar)

1.5 ounces gin or vodka

.5 – 1 ounce St-Germain (or a bit more to taste)

Club soda

Ice

In the bottom of a shaker or heavy glass, muddle (or crush) the cucumber and lemon with the sugar. Add the vodka and St-Germain and stir to combine. Fill the glass with ice and then stir again. Top with club soda. Taste and add more St-Germain to adjust the sweetness as desired.

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes

April 17, 2014

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Only four ingredients for a fabulous side. Really?? These smashers have the creaminess of mashed potatoes and crispy exterior of a fry. The concept is simple….par-cook, let cool slightly and then smash until flat but still intact…about 1/2″ thick.. Use Yukon’s that are approximately 2″ in diameter. Once smashed, the spuds are covered in olive oil, salt, pepper and herb of choice. (Thyme and rosemary hold up best when roasted). This is an impressive side for entertaining that can be prepared early in the day then, before dinner, popped in the oven to roast. I paired these crunchy browned spuds with grilled lamb chops and a tomato, red onion, feta, basil and mint salad. Yum.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes      (Adapted from Pioneer Women)

Serves 4-6

12 yellow Yukon potatoes (or small red)

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add the potatoes to a medium pot with enough salted water to cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes (do not overcook or potatoes will not stay together). Drain and let potatoes cool until they are easy to handle. Pat very dry with paper towels. Smash each potato on a cutting board with a small glass to make it flat (or the palm of your hand).

Spread out the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt &  pepper, chopped rosemary until evenly coated. Roast until the potatoes are crispy and golden, 20-25 minutes. Serve warm. These could also be served as a hearty appetizer…garnish with sour cream, crumbled bacon and chives.

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Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

April 12, 2014

DSC_0657 When you think of ricotta…what comes to mind? Yep, me too…lasagna. However, ricotta’s creamy light texture suggests many other applications. Try lemon and ricotta. This classic combination is a perfect pair when whipped together in a pancake. Combining whipped egg whites, flour and Meyer lemon creates delicate, souffle-like cakes. Meyer lemons are soft-skinned, sweeter, less acidic with a floral aroma and pair perfectly with these pancakes. Top the stack with this easy blueberry compote. Leftovers????…you may want to save a few for a quick dessert. Re-heat with a bit of butter to crisp up and top with lemon ice cream. Garnish with zest and few berries.

Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes  (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 8-9 pancakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

big pinch of salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/3 cups firm ricotta

4 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest (roughly 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

butter for frying the pancakes

Preheat your skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and then add the ricotta, juice and zest. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold the cheese mixture into the flour and stir just until combined. Then gently fold in egg whites, making sure they are evenly mixed into the batter. Heat your oven to 200 degrees. Add a pat of butter to the skillet or griddle, and pour 1/3 cup of batter for each cake. Cook the cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side, until the edges are a deep golden brown. Place the cooked cakes in the oven until you are ready to serve. Serve the pancakes dusted with confectioners sugar and blueberry compote.

Blueberry Compote  (from Epicurious)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 strips of fresh lemon zest

2 cups blueberries

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Boil water, sugar, and zest in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered, 5 minutes. Discard zest. Stir in blueberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries begin to burst, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Artichoke Soup with Crispy Salami and Lemon-Parsley Quinoa

April 4, 2014

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It’s artichoke season. As much as I love a braised artichoke, enjoying every leaf until I can get to that coveted heart.this soup is one more way to enjoy this healthy seasonal vegetable. Studies show that artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable, aid in digestion, are great for liver health and are high in fiber. Bring ‘em on!!! Garnishing with lemon-parsley quinoa and crispy salami compliments the great flavor and texture of this soup. While cooking for just the two of us, I lighten up this recipe by using only broth and a touch of cream. For entertaining, don’t skip it……the cream creates a luxurious texture. 

Artichoke Soup with Crispy Salami and Lemon-Parsley Quinoa  (from Sunday Suppers)

Serves 4

2 (14-oz.) cans artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp fennel seeds
Salt and pepper

1/2 cup dried quinoa

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp. lemon zest (from about 1 lemon), plus 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 large thin slices genoa salami

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, add the artichoke hearts, the garlic, half of the chicken stock and half of the cream; cook over medium heat until warmed through. Add the fennel seeds and season generously with salt and pepper; turn off the heat. Using a blender, puree the mixture until almost smooth. Gradually add more stock and cream as needed to achieve the consistency you want, continuing to puree with the blender until the soup is very smooth.

Place the salami slices on a baking sheet and cook until crispy all over and browned on the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove, drain and cool on paper towels. Roughly chop.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions, or a little less than suggested for a crunchier consistency. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, then mix in the lemon zest and juice, parsley leaves, and salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

Quickly reheat the soup if needed. Top each with a generous spoonful of the quinoa mixture and sprinkle with the crisp salami.

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Crispy Salmon with Leeks and Beurre Blanc Sauce

March 29, 2014

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Last week my neighbor, Courtney, asked me to guest blog on her fabulous site, A Life from Scratch. Of course, I was honored!!! While she was on spring break I decided to think spring. I know Courtney loves salmon and this Thomas Keller recipe may seem steppy and a bit fancy, but it pulls together quickly with amazing results. Perfect recipe for a spring dinner party! The leeks are boiled and then put in an ice bath to stop the cooking and to retain the beautiful green color. Then the delicate soft leeks are reheated in stock which adds a perfect composition of flavor. The salmon is simply cooked skin side down to create a salty, crisp texture. And THAT SAUCE is simple and divine. It’s really just chopped shallots, cooked in white wine and then, when the wine has reduced quite a bit, you whisk is some butter (OK maybe it’s more than some) then add the aromatic herbs. Serve with a mixed green salad and some crusty bread to soak up that sauce!

Crispy Skin Salmon, Leeks, Fines Herbs Beurre Blanc  (Adapted from Thomas Keller)  Serves 4

For the Leeks/Beurre Blanc

8 large leeks (I used 5)
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 large thyme sprig
1 large Italian parsley sprig, plus 1 t minced parsley
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks and chilled
2-3 T chicken stock
1 t minced /tarragon/chives/parsley

Salmon

4 6-oz pieces of center-cut salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
kosher salt and white pepper
canola oil
1/2 cup chicken stock

**To make this recipe easier to get through I “stepped it out”! Have all your ingredients prepared and this pulls together quickly.

 

Leeks
1.Use only the light green sections of the leeks. Cut the light green sections into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

2. Place the rounds in a large bowl of warm water and swish them gently to remove any dirt, being careful not to separate the rounds. Lift them out of the water.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath.  Add half the leeks to the boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender.

4. Transfer leeks to a colander or strainer and plunge them into the ice bath for no more than 15 seconds.

5. Drain and repeat with the remaining leeks.

6. The leeks can be prepared to this point up to a day ahead, covered, and stored in the refrigerator

Beurre Blanc

1.Put the shallots, thyme, parsley sprig, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and add the white wine and champagne vinegar.

2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1 Tablespoon.  Remove from heat.

3. To finish, add the heavy cream to the reduction, place the pan over medium heat, and simmer to reduce the liquid by half.  The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

4. Begin adding the butter one piece at a time, whisking constantly to keep the sauce emulsified.  Add a new piece of butter before the previous one has completely melted.

5. The sauce should remain warm to the touch but not be simmering.  When all the butter is incorporated, strain the beurre blanc into a small saucepan.

6. Stir in the stock and keep in a warm place.

 Salmon

1.The thinnest part of the fillet should not measure less than 1/2 inch thick.  If the salmon is cold, let it stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes before cooking.

2. Season the skinned side with salt and white pepper.  Season the other side with salt only.

3. Heat 1/8 inch of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet.

4. When the oil is hot, place the salmon skinned side down in the hot oil and cook on one side only for about 5-6 minutes.  Regulate the temperature, turning it down as necessary to keep the edges from browning too quickly.  The fish is done when the bottom is crispy, and the fillet is cooked about halfway up the flesh.  The top should still be rare.

***If this is your only take away from this recipe… TAKE-IT! Favorite way to cook skin on salmon.

 To Finish

1.Put the leeks in a medium saucepan, add the 1/2 cup stock, and heat over medium heat until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Gently warm the beurre blanc and stir in the minced parsley, tarragon, and chives.

3.  Divide the sauce among serving plates, place the leeks in the middle of the plate, and top with a salmon fillet.

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Soft Polenta with Rock Shrimp Ragout

March 22, 2014

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This is a Mario Batali classic…fresh seafood accompanied by very soft polenta. Hard to believe that this Italian porridge, staple of Northern Italy, was once thought of as food for peasants. Now this versatile gluten-free ingredient can be found in many healthy dishes. The ragout pulls together quickly and has a rich tomato base with a fresh note of lemon. If you are looking for a comforting meatless meal….you’ve found it!

Soft Polenta with Rock Shrimp Ragout       (from Mario Batali)

Serves 6

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup quick-cooking polenta (6 ounces)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 pounds shelled rock shrimp

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil with the sugar. Whisk in the polenta in a thin stream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt. Press a piece of parchment or wax paper directly onto the surface of the polenta and keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the scallions and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and 1/4 cup of water and simmer over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and simmer, stirring, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Rewarm the polenta over moderately high heat, whisking constantly. Spoon a pool of polenta in the center of 6 shallow bowls. Spoon the shrimp and sauce over and around the polenta and serve right away.

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Corned Beef and Cabbage Flatbread

March 13, 2014

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When you think of Irish cooking, a notable classic of corned beef and cabbage may come to mind, accompanied with a pint of Guinness…of course! Celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with a crowd can be festive and simple. While I can appreciate the traditional feast of  corned beef, veggies, bread, potatoes and cabbage served on large platters family style …I’m all about the twist. How about taking those unique flavors of briny meat, punchy horseradish cream, and caraway to create a flatbread??!!! Last year this came out of St. Paddy’s Day leftovers and was FANTASTIC!! THIS year I am skipping the family style dinner and going casual with this as my entree. A quick trip to the deli saves you 4-5 hours of cooking and satisfies all your SPD cravings. For additional leftover ideas try corned beef and cabbage egg rolls and breakfast hash.

Corned Beef And Cabbage Flatbread

Store bought pizza dough

2-3 Tablespoons horseradish cream, store-bought or this (look down the sight for the recipe), plus a few more for salad

9 slices of Swiss cheese

2-3 Slices of corned beef, about 1/4″ thick, cubed

1/2 cup (or more) Irish cheddar cheese, shredded

3 slices of cabbage, thinly sliced, plus more for a salad to place on top

2 Tablespoons caraway seeds, plus more for salad

1 carrot, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out pizza dough. Sprinkle sheet pan with corn meal and place dough on pan. Spread dough with horseradish cream and layer swiss cheese. Sprinkle on beef, then cheese. Lightly arrange cabbage on top and finish with drizzled caraway seeds. Place in oven and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, until cheese browns and the crust is crisp.

In a small bowl combine sliced cabbage, shredded carrots, caraway seeds, horseradish cream (add a bit at a time, you don’t want it too creamy) and mix until combined. Place on top of flat bread or as a side salad. For dessert serve this!!

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Guinness Chocolate Cake

March 9, 2014

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I’m not a baker but look what happened!!!! This single layer cake with its frothy crown of frosting is so easy to pull together and the results so delicious…it’s a must try. The signature bitterness of Guinness disappears and leaves a moist dense cake. Guinness works well with desserts due to its distinct chocolate and coffee notes. A perfect ending to your St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Slainte!!

Guinness Chocolate Cake   (adapted from Inthekitchenwithkatie)
1 Cup and 2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 Cup Guinness
3/4 Cup Dutch process cocoa, sifted
2  1/4 Cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 Teaspoon baking soda
2 Cups sugar
2 Eggs
2/3 Cups sour cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Frosting 
1  1/3 Cups cream cheese
1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 Cup cream, whipped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add butter, cocoa and Guinness to a saucepan. Warm over a medium heat and stir until melted. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Add flour, baking soda and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together well. Pour in the Guinness/cocoa/butter mixture, lightly combine, add the vanilla, eggs and sour cream and beat everything together until well combined. The batter should be thick and dark chocolate in color.
 Pour into a greased and lined 10″ angel food pan or springform and cook in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake. This cake is very moist inside, so use your judgment regarding the skewer test. Do not leave in the oven until the cake has totally dried out — cook long enough so there is no uncooked cake on the skewer but there may be a few moist crumbs sticking to it after 45 minutes of cooking. 
 Leave to cool before frosting.
Frosting
Place the cream cheese into the bowl of a mixer and beat on a low-medium speed using a whisk attachment. Whisk until the cheese is smooth and there are no big lumps remaining.
 Gradually add in the sifted powdered sugar and beat to combine.
 Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the whipped cream.
 Place cooled cake on a serving platter and add the frosting, spreading out just to the edge without going over the side until the cake resembles a pint of Guinness! 
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Spicy Asian White Bean Dip

March 7, 2014

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The title of this recipe says it all. Spicy. Asian. White bean. Dip. I saw this on one of my favorite blogs, Whiteonricecouple. The combination of flavors not only intrigued me…I had all the ingredients on hand (and you probably do too). This creamy dip is so simple and fresh and with all the layers of flavor…might just be your go-to appetizer. Serve with toasted baguette slices or a variety of vegetables.

Spicy Asian White Bean Dip

Adapted from WHITEONRICECOUPLE

Serves 3-4

1 15 oz can of white beans (rinsed)

1 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Teaspoon sesame oil

2 Teaspoons soy sauce ( or to taste)

2 Tablespoons sriracha hot sauce, start with one teaspoon at a time…to taste

1 Large clove of garlic

1/2 Teaspoon curry powder

1/4 Cup of water (additional water for desired consistency)

1 Tablespoon lime juice

Crackers, toasted baguette OR celery, carrots and sliced cucumbers

Use a blender to combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth.

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Potato Leek Soup

March 1, 2014

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YEP….still making soup. Yep, it’s still winter. To us the perfect meal…healthy, hearty and easy!! Potato leek soup is naturally creamy with a velvety texture. This humble soup calls for only 4 ingredients plus a bit of half and half ….I opted out of the latter for a lighter version. Last year we made this soup on St. Paddy’s Day and to finish… I drizzled with a bit of Jameson’s and… I must say that was brilliant! White wine or a drizzle of olive oil will do the trick as well. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.

Potato Leek Soup

Serves 4

2 leeks, white and light green part chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt

3 medium, Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 quart vegetable broth

3/4 cup 1/2 &1/2 (or more for desired consistency)

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 slices of proscuitto

Sour cream

Chives, chopped

Jameson’s Whiskey

Chop leaks. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and a heavy pinch of salt. Sweat for 5 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until the leeks are tender, approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic the last 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes and vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft, approximately 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree the mixture with an immersion blender (or blender) until smooth. Stir in the 1/2 & 1/2, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Garnish sour cream, chives, proscuitto* and drizzle with Jameson’s Whiskey.

* crisp proscuitto in a 350 degrees oven for approximately 10 -15 minutes.

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Ricotta Gnudi

February 22, 2014

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Gnudi (nudi) is nudi to me!! Gnudi refers to pasta like dumplings that are “naked” of their pasta wrappers. My plan was to make gnocchi in the next week or so (with Courtney) and then…..this happened! I was intrigued by the use of ricotta and parmesan to form these delicious clouds of ricotta heaven. While gnocchi is potato based and time-consuming (I heard) gnudi is lighter and easier to prepare. The method is simple. Mix ricotta, flour, cheese, egg and seasonings together, then boil. Success!! I loved the dense somewhat chewy texture of the gnudi smothered by a simple, yet full flavored sauce. Although any shape will work, it was fun to try the “two tablespoon” football shape. This meal has a rustic charm that pairs well with an arugula, lemon/olive oil splashed salad.

Ricotta Gnudi       (recipe by Sara Jenkins/Bon Appetit)

Makes approximately 20

16 ounces ricotta (about 2 cups) Set ricotta in a strainer to remove any excess liquid for about 10 minutes

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more

1/2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more

Garnish: basil and additional parmesan

3 cups Quick Pomodoro Sauce     (see below)

Mix ricotta, egg, egg yolk, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add 1/2 cup flour; stir just until combined and mixture forms a ball (mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add more flour by the tablespoonful if it feels wet).

Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Using 2 large soup spoons, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes; place on baking sheet and dust with more flour.

Cook gnudi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 5-6 minutes (gnudi will quickly float to surface; continue cooking or gnudi will be gummy in the center).

Using a slotted spoon, divide gnudi among bowls. Top with Quick Pomodoro Sauce and more Parmesan and ribbons of basil.

Pomodoro Sauce

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1/2 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt

Pulse tomatoes with juices in a blender to form a coarse purée. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add tomato purée and sugar and season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until sauce is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. DO AHEAD: Sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill, or freeze for up to 3 months.

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Pork Tenderloin with Date and Cilantro Relish

February 16, 2014

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Pretty enough for a dinner party…easy enough for a weeknight dinner. These flavors work sooo well together…..sweet dates, tang from the orange, heat from the pepper, crunch from the walnuts and fresh herbal notes with the cilantro.

Pork Tenderloin with Date and Cilantro Relish

Serves 2-3

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)*

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup Medjool dates, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, and zest of half an orange (save some zest for garnish)

1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced

2 tablespoons walnut, toasted, finely chopped

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro ( OR parsley) plus leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 6–8 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and cook pork until thermometer inserted in thickest the part registers 140 degrees, 10–15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing, set aside pan drippings.

Toss dates, orange juice, reserved pan drippings, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, orange zest, jalapeno, walnuts and remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spoon relish over pork and top with cilantro leaves. Pair with mashed potatoes and arugula salad.

Relish (without pan drippings) can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Add pan drippings just before serving.

* most single pork tenderloins are just over a pound. Adjust….mine took about 9 minutes in the oven to get to 140 degrees. This size serves 2-3 people depending on amount of side dishes.

Adapted from Epicurious

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Tuscan Kale Caesar Salad

February 8, 2014

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By now we all know the incredible health benefits of kale. Why not change up your classic Caesar salad with this super food and partner with a creamy bold dressing that holds up to this hearty green? I pre-tenderize the greens by massaging with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and let sit for 30 minutes. This technique allows the fibrous, chewy green turn to a tender-crisp texture. Add grilled chicken or shrimp for a complete meal. Bonus… the dressed salad stays crisp for up to 3 days!!

Tuscan Kale Caesar Salad

Serves 6

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, zest of 1/2 the lemon
2 garlic cloves
1/4  cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
2 cups crusty bread crumbs
5 radishes, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 ounces** Tuscan kale, center stalks removed, thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)
**Tuscan kale—also called cavolo nero or Lacinato—has long, narrow, bumpy dark-green leaves.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a food processor, chop bread in to peas size crumbs. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake until crispy. approximately 20 minutes.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a blender; purée until smooth. With machine running, slowly add 3/4 cups of oil, to make a creamy dressing. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.  Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. 

Remove middle stalk of the kale leaves and chop. Toss kale with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Massage oil into leaves and let sit for approximately 30 minutes. Arrange kale on your serving platter. drizzle with dressing. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, crouton crumbs and radish slices.

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Reuben Meatball Sliders

January 31, 2014

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Game Day. Fall off the resolutions if just for today and enjoy a twist on a Reuben Sandwich. These sliders offer all the flavors of your deli favorite…savory, spicy and topped with a tangy, sweet dressing. Other game day ideas… Wingless Buffalo Chicken Flatbread,  Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli, Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn, Asian Meatballs with Hoisin Sauce, Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread, OR Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Game on!

Reuben Meatball Sliders

Makes 12 sliders

2 pound ground beef, chuck

1 cup shredded Swiss
1/2 cup toasted rye bread, processed into fine breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup 1000 island dressing
2 cups sauerkraut, drained
12 slider buns, buttered and toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the beef, cheese, breadcrumbs, caraway seeds, salt, pepper, eggs and parsley in a bowl until uniform but not overworked. Scoop out a 1/4 cup of the mix and roll into a ball. Repeat to use all of the meat.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat add the oil. Fry the first side of the meatballs, in batches if necessary, until golden and crusty, 7 to 8 minutes. Flip and place in the oven to finish cooking, until no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 more minutes.

Heat the kraut in a small saucepan and mix in the 1000 island dressing. Place a meatball on the bottom slider bun, top with the sauce mixture.

Adapted from, (Food Network, Jeff Mauro)

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Braised Beef Shank

January 27, 2014

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Baby it’s COLD outside. No… I mean really really cold outside. -4 degrees with a wind chill of -30 to -40!!!!!!! These extreme conditions are perfectly suited for slow braised meats. This peasant-style cooking is sure to create a food flashback from your childhood (mine….dressed like Ralph in Christmas Story). The inexpensive, incredibly delicious beef shank will fill your home with a warm, comforting aroma in no time. Braising is nothing more than cooking the meat over low heat in a small amount of liquid, into which herbs and vegetables have been added. The result is a tender and flavorful fall-off-the-bone bowl of YUM, perfect for a cold winter’s night. Serve with celery root mashed potato puree.

Braised Beef Shank

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 pounds beef shank

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 onions, chopped

2-3 medium carrots, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

3 bay leaves

2 cups red wine

2 cups beef stock

1- 150z can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes with juices, chopped or  blended

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the meat is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate.

Lower the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrot and celery, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add stock and tomatoes.  The braising liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the meat.  Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat begins to get tender approximately 4 hours. The braise is done when the meat is very tender and almost falling apart.

Take the shanks out of the pan and set aside. Discard bays leaves and sprigs. Bring braising liquid to a boil and reduce for approximately 15 minutes. Plate with potato puree, top with shank and sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Chickpea Bowl

January 24, 2014

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You should have seen the face my husband made when he heard what’s for dinner. :( You should have seen the face my husband made when he took his first bite ……….. :) ! His words… sweet, spicy with great texture. I will add …the bowl has quite a kick from the sriracha but the yogurt cools the palette. Randy then asked if I’ve been hangin’ with Raj again? No, this recipe did not come from Raj it came from Fauxmartha, a clever informative blog containing creative recipes and helpful hints. She refers to this recipe as a pantry meal….and was correct in this case…..every ingredient was in the house. It’s a quick, flavorful and healthy meal that comes together in *no time.

*thinking of my college age nieces and nephews during finals week…..easy and protien packed!!!

CHICKPEA BOWL
Serves 3-4
Rice
2 cups water
1 tbsp. butter (optional)
Salt
1 cup basmati rice (I used brown)
Chickpea Sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. (heaping) curry
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 large can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained
1/3 c. half and half (or coconut milk) I used coconut milk. YUM
Salt
Garnish: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime, sriracha
RICE: In a small saucepan, bring water, butter, and salt to a boil. Stir in basmati. Cover and turn heat to medium low. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, keep lid on, and continue steaming until serving.
SAUCE: In a large skillet, heat olive oil until warm. Add in onion and garlic, sautéing until translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt.
Stir in spices and toast, about 1 minute. Add in tomatoes, chickpeas, and half and half (or coconut milk). Season with salt to taste. Cook for another 15 minutes or so to allow flavor to develop.
GARNISH: Serve chickpeas over rice. Top with fresh lime, yogurt, cilantro, and sriracha.
Adapted from Fauxmartha
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

January 17, 2014

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Short of soaking in a warm bubble bath, not many things can warm you to the core like a great bowl of soup. This tortilla soup with its bold southwest flavors and spicy, smokey notes will no doubt do the trick. Make this bowl of comfort your own and garnish with any variety of toppings….avocado, sour cream, tortilla strips, cilantro and/or squeeze of lime.  Let’s celebrate “soup month” with this hearty and healthy soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup     (Adapted from Ina Garten)

Serves 6-8

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on

Olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

2 cups onion, chopped (2 onions)

1 cup celery, chopped (2 stalks)

2 cups carrots, chopped (4 carrots)

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

2½ quarts chicken stock

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed

2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, using two forks, shred the meat. Cover and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in half, and then cut them crosswise into ½-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips or (*baked). *Brush tortilla strips with olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt. Bake in a 325 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, until they start to crisp.

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Coconut Curry Cauliflower

January 10, 2014

DSC_0686Indian cuisine is new to my repertoire. Indian cooking intimidated me primarily due to the vast array of exotic spices. But fortunately, I have a neighbor who happily opens up his kitchen to teach me some of his authentic dishes. Raj eats a diet filled with veggies and plant-based protein. His pantry, void of any prepackaged food, is quite impressive, loaded with spices, spice blends, grains and lentils. Some of his spice blends are hard to duplicate so I’m going to use spices that are very likely in your pantry. Healthy veggies like this cauliflower dish simmered in coconut milk are packed with loads of nutrients and vitamins. After mastering this dish….I am going back to class at Raj’s soon and will share my next lesson.

Coconut Curry Cauliflower    (Adapted from Raj)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

6-8 curry leaves, or 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons urad lentils

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds, slightly crushed

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 cups cauliflower florets, frozen (2 bags)

2 cups lite coconut milk

2 tablespoons turmeric powder

2 tablespoon coconut flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large oven proof skillet, saute all spices up to the cauliflower for 2-3 minutes in oil. Add cauliflower. Combine remaining ingredients. Saute on the stove top for about 30-40 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

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Slow-Cooked Kale Omelettes

December 31, 2013

 

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Sprouted Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs. Sara and Hugh won Saveur’s best blog for original recipes 2012. Their recipes are creative and healthy and I’m sure you will agree with me that Hugh’s photography is breathtaking. I knew the site would be a a great source for a nutritious New Year’s breakfast. The bitterness of the kale balances the sweetness of the onions and the goat cheese provides a creamy finish. I love the idea of a VERY thin omelette to wrap up all the ingredients. My first attempt was without a non-stick pan and the result was less than perfect. No worries…it tasted great and I was happy to make this recipe again!!!

SLOW-COOKED KALE OMELETTES       (Adapted from Bon Appetit via Sprouted Kitchen)

Makes 4

1 heaping pound kale, ribs remove

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 sprigs rosemary

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes

1 cup sliced yellow onion

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter) or more olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

8 extra-large eggs

1/4 cup whole milk

6 ounces soft goat cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale for 1 1/2 minutes, drain, let it cool, and squeeze out excess water. Chop up and set aside.

In a large skillet, warm the ghee or olive oil over medium heat. Add the rosemary sprigs cook for one minute. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and salt, cook for two minutes, and then add in the garlic. Cook for about 6 minutes until the onions are soft and starting to brown.

Turn the heat to medium-low, add the kale and ghee(claified butter) or oil, stir to coat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale is almost black and charred at the edges. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Sprinkle some fresh ground pepper, taste for salt, and set aside.

Heat a 10” pan over medium-low heat add a small pat of butter or ghee. For each omelette, beat 2 large eggs with a Tbsp. of milk. Add the eggs to the pan and let them cook for about a minute and a half. Use a spatula to lift up one corner of the eggs, tilt the pan, and let the liquid egg on top, run underneath. When the omelette is mostly set, put a few spoonfuls of the kale down the center and a generous sprinkle of goat cheese on top. Gently fold the omelette into thirds and slide it onto a plate. Repeat with remaining omelettes.

Serve with a handful of fresh greens on top and some crusty toast.

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Wingless Buffalo Chicken Pizza

December 26, 2013

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Looking for a winning recipe for playoff season? How about wings without the mess!!  I like the idea of combining all those yummy flavors onto a flatbread…spicy sauce, chicken, onions all cooled by melted blue cheese. My neighbor, Courtney, highlights this dish on her blog  every few months under “our pizza”. Cute. We don’t have a signature dish….hard to narrow one down. However, blue cheese anything is always way up there. If you like wings and you like pizza this may become your new favorite game time meal.

Wing Pizza             (adapted from A Life From Scratch)

Pizza Dough  ( Trader Joe’s)
Olive Oil
3-4 chicken cutlets, depending on size
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce  (more or less)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup blue cheese
Scallions, thinly sliced (1 or 2)
Preheat grill or saute pan to medium high heat.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rub the chicken with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill or saute chicken until done, about 3 minutes a side. Make the sauce. Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Melt butter and stir in the Worcestershire and hot sauce. Stir in tomato sauce. Turn off heat. Mix together sliced grilled chicken with the sauce. Roll out pizza dough. Spread a bit of corn meal onto baking sheet and place dough on top. Spread sauce on dough, top with both types of cheese and chopped scallions. Bake for approximately 14 minutes. Watch carefully the last few minutes….

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Gruyere and Pepper Cookies

December 14, 2013

DSC_0606 This savory cookie is just what your red wine (or champagne) ordered. The Gruyère cheese has a nutty rich flavor and the pepper gives this appetizer a nice kick. Make the dough now (you can freeze up to 2 months) and have these ready to go for the holidays. 

Gruyere and Black Pepper Cookies  (Adapted from Sassy Radish)

2 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere, freshly grated
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper and salt for finishing

Preheat oven to 350. In the large bowl of a stand mixer (set at low-speed), beat the flour, butter, Gruyère, and black pepper until stiff dough forms. For a couple of minutes, the dough will look dry and will not come together; keep mixing and you will see it form into a ball. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, and roll each piece into a 9-inch log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill the dough, in the refrigerator, for about 1 hour – it will make the slicing easier. OR you can freeze the dough for up to 2 months. Let the dough sit 15 minutes at room temperature before slicing.

Slice the logs into 1/3″ thick cookies and arrange the slices on 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt on each cracker. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the turn golden brown around edges, rotate the pans halfway through baking for even browning. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 60 cookies.

Store the cooking in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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Chicken Liver Pate with Green Peppercorns

December 7, 2013

 

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Have you ever had a food flashback??!! Well, here’s mine. I haven’t thought of this story for years until I made liver pate over the holiday. Years ago (o.k …many) I planned a trip to visit my good friend Mark at the Culinary Institute of America. Flying to NYC with a connecting flight to Poughkeepsie (in January!) had a few hiccups. The puddle jumper to the CIA was cancelled leaving me stranded at JFK in a quandary. When the lovely couple in line behind me, also going to the CIA, heard my series of panicked questions they quickly stepped up and asked me to join them in the two-hour drive to our mutual destination.  A jolly man with considerable girth, silver hair, a sweeping white handlebar mustache and a foreign accent and his lovely wife with a quiet demeanour… proved (to say the least) an interesting couple. The scenic drive to upstate NY was filled with stories of living in Lincoln Park and our mutual love of food and architecture. Our arrival to the CIA took me by surprise. Pulling up to the school entrance, the red carpeted walkway was lined with chefs all decked out in their whites. The door opened to cheers and applause!! You can only imagine my shock and Mark’s when he saw me get out of that limo!! It was now crystal clear who I was sharing my ride with… Chef Louie Szathmary and his wife Sada who owned and operated The Bakery on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The Bakery brought continental flair to the Chicago restaurant scene and Chef Louie was truly one of the first celebrity chefs. From that trip forward when Mark was able to get home, he and I became regulars at the Bakery. Ever hospitable, Chef Louie invited us into his kitchen and home located directly behind his restaurant. This experience was the beginning of my love of the culinary arts. Chef Louie always took excellent care of us….and every dinner started with liver pate.

Chicken Liver Pate    (Adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

1 pound fresh chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup milk
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped yellow onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons green peppercorns, drained
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
French bread croutons or toast, accompaniment
French cornichons, optional accompaniment

In a bowl, soak the livers in the milk for 2 hours. Drain well. (I omitted this step)

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken livers, 1 tablespoon of the peppercorns, the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the livers are browned on the outside and still slightly pink on the inside, about 5 minutes. Add the Cognac and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked through but still tender.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture. Add the remaining butter in pieces and pulse to blend. Fold in the remaining 1 tablespoon peppercorns and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Pack the pate into 6 individual ramekins or small molds, about 4 ounces each. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours.

To serve, place the ramekins on individual plates. Garnish the tops with parsley and surround with croutons. Serve with cornichons on the side. I added a few peppercorns on the top.

***In the photo above one of the pates I covered with a shallot jam. The recipe I used did not allow the jam to set up, HOWEVER,  the combination of oil, shallots, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt with the chicken liver works well. I am now on a mission to perfect that topping.

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Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts

November 30, 2013

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Take advantage of the seasonal sprouts and dress them up in a non-traditional fashion. This recipe calls for glazing them with a spicy-sweet combination of soy, rice vinegar, sugar and Siracha. To make this a complete meal I paired the sprouts with Ahi Tuna. The glaze worked beautifully as a marinade and then I lightly seared the tuna. A delicious combo!!!

Brussels Sprouts    (Adapted from JeanMarie Brownson) 

Serves 6

2 lbs small Brussels sprouts (about 60)

1/4 cup canola or safflower oil

1/2 cup soy sauce (or light)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 or 2 tablespoons of Siracha (or 1 to 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons green onions, chopped

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim ends of the sprouts and cut them in half. Put the halves onto a non-stick baking sheet. (You may need 2 pans) Drizzle with oil, toss well to coat evenly. Roast the Brussels sprouts, stirring them every 10 minutes. Cook until the exteriors are golden about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put soy sauce, vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan. Heat to a boil under medium heat. Boil gently until the mixture is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add Siracha or pepper flakes. Stir in sesame oil. Toss the hot sprouts with enough sauce to coat. Arrange on serving platter and sprinkle with cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds.

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Spicy Caramel Sauce And Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise

November 24, 2013

 

DSC_0531I’ve always been a fan of bread pudding…. all varieties! But this Bobby Flay version using pumpkin bread takes the gooey decadent dessert to the next level. Fancy, yes. A bit steppy, yes. Can you do it?? YES! Most of the prep work comes days in advance. I made the bread 3 days before I assembled the pudding. The caramel sauce was made 2 days before and the anglaise sauce I made the day of serving. A quick assembly and you have yourself a very special ending to any meal. I will be replacing my traditional Thanksgiving dessert with this pumpkin bread pudding.

Pumpkin Bread Dessert  (Adapted from Bobby Flay)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons bourbon
Pumpkin Bread, toasted and cubed, recipe follows
Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream
Pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted and sprinkled with sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Spoon some of the Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise into a shallow bowl, top with some of the bread pudding and drizzle with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream and toasted (dusted with sugar) pumpkin seeds. Serve warm.

Pumpkin Bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 ounces (about 1 cup) canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
2/3 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 tablespoons of softened butter, sugar, and oil at high-speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. At low-speed, slowly add the flour mixture and water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Once the bread is cool, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven until lightly toasted, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup pure cane sugar
Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until at the pale ribbon stage. Slowly whisk in the hot half-and-half, return the mixture to the pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set over an ice bath. Stir until chilled. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.  (I was planning on serving the bread pudding with vanilla ice cream so I skipped this sauce…..don’t skip.…delicious!)

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup apple juice
1 star anise
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon apple schnapps
Combine the cream, apple juice, star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it’s a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Add the apple schnapps ( I didn’t have any schnapps on hand, so omitted it) and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Milkshake

November 16, 2013

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Tis’ the season of pumpkin….a flavorful ingredient to create a fun milkshake!!! This sweet treat will be the addition we need to round out our Thanksgiving festivities. The roaring fire is the perfect setting for our after dinner games where we will be serving up our traditional Brandy Alexander and pumpkin milkshakes for the kids. Let the fun and yum begin!

Pumpkin Milkshake             Recipe from  FoodiewithFamily 

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream

1 cup milk, add 1/4 cup at a time for desired consistency

4 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 small pinch ground cloves

Add all ingredients to a blender. Mix until well blended. Garnish with whipped cream and a dusting of fresh nutmeg or a crumble of a ginger cookie.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

November 10, 2013

 

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What are you serving for Thanksgiving this year? I know you can’t divert too much from the same ‘ol same ‘ol. Traditions… (when it comes to food) are imperative and everyone’s favorite needs to show up. But what about the salad???? That poor… poor salad. We (a crew of 30 plus) made a group decision two years ago to ditch the salad for another side. A typical green salad just got “no love” and was the only dish standing (and taking up valuable real estate) at the end of the meal. That WAS the story until THIS salad showed up. The components of this dish are all about the seasonal flavors and mix well with what’s happening around it on the buffet table. I felt this was a great opportunity to add the holiday favorite… butternut squash! Pair that with the flavor of maple, the sweetness of cranberries and the crunch of walnuts and I believe you have a new and improved side dish that will be allowed to stay on that revered buffet table for years to come.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad                          Adapted from Ina Garden

Serves 4

1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cubed        
Olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries or more
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted

3/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated  (goat cheese or gorgonzola cheese will also work)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, walnuts, and Parmesan. Spoon over vinaigrette. Do not overdress. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs With Olives, Lemon And Fennel

November 3, 2013

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A Sunday dinner ….an impromptu party….or Tuesday night!! This recipe fits the bill for all. Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home Cookbook is a dream for home-cooks. Less intimidating than his French Laundry Cookbook, Ad Hoc teaches technique and is filled with approachable, beautiful recipes. Over the last few years I’ve warmed up to the chicken thigh!! Keller boasts thighs are the most flavorful cut of the bird. Not only are they flavorful but very affordable. This recipe calls for braising. The principle is simple. Sear, then cook in chicken stock on a bed of fennel, onion, garlic and strips of lemon zest. This technique produces a rich, concentrated stock layered in flavors. Cooking the fennel mellows its flavor to a subtle sweetness and the brine of the olives and the acid from the lemon balances this dish. It’s a “comfortable” one-pot dish with Mediterranean overtones. Serve with Keller’s smashed potatoes or lemon-parsley couscous. (See recipe below)

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs With Olives, Lemon And Fennel  Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller

Serves 6

3 large fennel bulbs

12 chicken thighs, boneless skin on

Kosher salt

Canola oil

1 cup onion, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

3/4 cup dry white wine,  Sauvignon Blanc

1 cup Ascolane or Ceregnola or other large green olives

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves

4 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

8 thyme sprigs

1 cup chicken broth

Garnish: about 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves or/and lemon slices

Cut the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch pieces. You need about 3 cups of fennel for this recipe. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken with salt on both sides. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the thighs skin side down and lightly brown. Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan, and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme, then pour in the chicken broth. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

 Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (The meat will be firm and the juices will run clear, and a thermometer inserted should read 165 degrees.)

Turn on the broiler and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley leaves AND/OR lemon slices and thyme sprigs.

Lots of yummy juice…. soak up with crusty bread, Keller’s mashed potatoes OR this couscous below. Enjoy.

Lemon-Parsley Israeli Couscous

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup of onion, chopped finely.
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
4 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons of lemon zest

Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes until it starts to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more until the onion is completely translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the Israeli couscous and stir to make sure each piece is coated with olive oil. Allow it to toast in the pan for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed. Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley and lemon zest. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

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