Saturday, March 1, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup

Here's a soup that might look a bit strange at first (at least, it did to me), but is very flavorful and satisfying. This recipe serves 6.

8 cups chicken broth
3 cups escarole, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup orzo
Parmesan, to taste

1 pound ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Combine beef, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg and 2 tablespoons Parmesan in a large bowl. Shape into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet. 

Then, bring the broth to a boil and add the meatballs and orzo. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 8 minutes. Now, add the escarole and cook until wilted and the meatballs are heated through, roughly 2-3 minutes. Serve in bowls with Parmesan on top, if desired.


Pork Cutlets-Tuscan Style

Do you want a flavorful meat dish, but want something other than beef and chicken? Here's a nice recipe for "the other white meat".

Pork Cutlets With Tuscan Sauce-serves 4
8 3-oz pork cutlets
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 1/4 cups white wine
1 cup baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Using medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet. Sprinkle the oregano on both sides of each cutlet. Cook for 3 minutes or until they're cooked to your taste. Put on a plate and set aside.

Then, add the rest of the oil to the pan with the garlic and mushrooms. Sauté until mushrooms begin to turn brown, 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine. Stir and simmer until half of the wine is used up, roughly 2-3 minutes.

Now, add the sour cream and stir until the sauce is smooth. Put the pork back into the skillet and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Turtle Cookies!

I had some of these at a party yesterday and can honestly say that this recipe rocks!

Turtle Cookies
8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened (not melted)
1 egg, separated
1 egg, white only
2 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Combine flour, salt and cocoa in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together the sugar and butter for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the milk, egg yolk and vanilla and run until well-mixed. Then, turn the speed down to low and add the flour mixture. Run until just combined, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

Chop the pecans and put them into a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites until frothy. Remove the dough and roll into 1" balls. Dip the rolls into the egg whites and roll in the pecans. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and press lightly with a 1/2-tsp measuring spoon or similar. Bake for 12 minutes.

Melt 14 soft caramel candies and three tablespoons heavy cream in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until smooth, stirring often. Once you take the cookies out of the oven, press in a small indentation into the middle of the cookie and spoon in about 1/2 teaspoon. Let them cool on the pan for 10 minutes.

If you want to make a chocolate drizzle, put 1 teaspoon shortening and 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate in a Ziplock bag. Put the bag in warm water to soften. Gently knead the bag until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Snip a small hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Extra chocolate or not, these cookies are awesome!

Baked Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes

If drumsticks are your favorite part of the chicken, you're sure to love this flavorful and relatively easy dinner. 

Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes-makes 4-6 servings  

3 lbs chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
1 lb small red new potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, pepper, lemon juice, salt, garlic and rosemary with a whisk. 

Put the chicken into a large broiler-proof pan and add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the potatoes into eighths and add to the pan. Then, pour the lemon juice mixture over the chicken and potatoes, being sure to coat evenly.

Now, put aluminum foil over the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and transfer everything to the broiler. Put the pan 4 inches from the heat and broil until chicken is cooked through, roughly 5-10 minutes. Drizzle the juices from the pan over the meat and serve. Awesome!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chicken With Angel Hair Pasta

If your family loves pasta and you want them to eat more vegetables, here's a flavorful compromise everyone is sure to love.

Angel hair pasta with chicken-serves 4
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 12-oz package angel hair pasta
1 10-oz package broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil

Put the pasta on to cook. Cut the chicken into 1-inch pieces. Slice the carrot diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces.

Using medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add garlic and chicken. Stir and fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the chicken and garlic onto a paper towel. 

Then, add the carrot and 1 tablespoon olive oil to the drippings in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the broccoli and cook to another 2 minutes or until the broccoli is slightly tender. Add the chicken, broth, cheeses and basil and stir well. Drain the pasta and serve with the chicken. Awesome!

I've had similar sauce at Bahama Breeze that had butter and lemon added. With this recipe, you'll be making a dish worthy of a high-end restaurant for a fraction of the cost.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Three-Cheese Vegetarian Lasagna

Here's a vegetarian version of one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Spicy Vegetarian Lasagna-serves 12
1 16-oz package lasagna noodles
4 eggs
1 15-oz container ricotta cheese
1 8-oz package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 6-oz can tomato paste
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 ½ cups water
2/3 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
2/3 cup orange bell pepper, diced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp crushed dried oregano
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Cook lasagna in lightly-salted water 8-10 minutes of until the noodles are of the desired consistency. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to cool.

In a separate saucepan, cook the onion and peppers until the onions are translucent. Stir in water, tomato paste, tomatoes and red pepper flakes to make the sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, cheeses, oregano and pepper in a large bowl.

Set aside ½ cup of the sauce for later. In the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish, put some of the sauce and lay three noodles lengthwise. Spread some cheese and sauce and repeat, placing noodles on top. Then, spread the ½ cup sauce over the noodles and more grated Parmesan, if you'd like. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Now, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Fun With Potatoes

I can't think of anyone who doesn't like potatoes. French fries, hash browns, baked, mashed...potatoes are one of the most versatile foods out there. So why aren't we spicing them up more? The dishes above are great, but they don't always have the "zing" we want. Well, no more. I've found several recipes for potatoes that are anything *but* bland. 

Here's a nice side dish I got from a friend from Canada. 
New Annan Scalloped Potatoes-serves 6-9
6 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ½ cup milk
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp hard stick butter, cut into chunks
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using low heat, melt the “soft” butter (3 tbsp). Once melted, add the flour, salt and pepper and stir until it all begins to boil. Then, add the milk and stir for about 1 minute. Cut the potato into thin slices and lay into a buttered casserole dish. Cover with a third of the sauce and onions. Repeat until you have three layers and top with the rest of the butter. Cover and bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Here's a cute appetizer for your next get-together or your child's next classroom party.

Miniature Baked Potatoes-makes 36
36 fingerling or small white potatoes
6 slices fried bacon, finely chopped
6 oz garlic cream cheese
8 cherry peppers, finely chopped
1 lemon's zest

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool. Cut a small slit in the potatoes, pinch and add cream cheese. Top with peppers, bacon and chives.

You could also hollow out the potatoes and add sour cream and chives to taste.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Salmon "En Papillote"

"Papillote" is a fancy French word for "in a bag". It's actually a very easy way to lock in the juices that flavor your foods while they bake. For instance, try out this sweet and flavorful salmon recipe.

Salmon en Papillote-serves 4
4 skinless 6-oz center-cut fillets
1 small orange
1 lemon
1/2 Serrano chili, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh rosemary
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lay a 24" piece of parchment paper over a baking sheet.

Cut the lemon and orange in half. Cut one half of both fruits into thin slices. Squeeze the juice out of the rest of the fruits. 

As for the parchment paper, fold it in half like a book, open it and put half of the slices of fruit into a line in the center of one half. Then, sprinkle half of the rosemary over the fruit and lay the salmon on top. Drizzle on the oil, salt, juices and roughly a quarter of the slices and rosemary you have left. 

Now, fold the other half of the paper over the fish and fold over the edges to make a little pocket. Bake on the middle shelf until cooked through, roughly 10-12 minutes. Poke a thin, sharp knife through the parchment; if it slides through easily, it's done. Otherwise, let it bake for a few minutes more. Do not open the parchment paper until the fish is done because you'll lose some of the sauce. When it's done, remove the fruits and place on a plate. Drizzle the olives, chilies and the rest of the juice and rosemary. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli, green beans or whatever other side you want. 

I haven't tried this, but perhaps it would work for you. Sometimes we will place thinly-sliced zucchini and squash in the middle of a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle some cooking oil and spices and fold in the sides to make a pocket. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Hey, if you've already got the oven on...:)


Friday, January 3, 2014

Teriyaki Beef Stir-Fry

If you want a healthy meal your kids will actually *want* to eat, here's an easy Asian stir-fry.

Teriyaki Beef Stir-Fry Serves 4
1 lb boneless beef round
1 lb broccoli florets
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
4 scallions, cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cornstarch 
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

Cut the beef round in 1/2" strips and put into a bowl with half of the teriyaki sauce. Cover and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the rest of the sauce with the cornstarch and set aside.
Then, boil the broccoli for 20 seconds and run it under cold water. Drain.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat and add the beef. Stir fry until the beef is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Put the beef onto a plate and wipe out the skillet. 

Now, add the rest of the oil, ginger, broccoli, scallions and peppers and cook for about 1 minute. Add the cornstarch and stir until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the beef and stir for 1 more minute. Serve with rice. 

Variations- Add onions, zucchini, squash or any other vegetables you'd like. Also, the beef can be marinated for up to 4 hours. 


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mexican Wedding Cookies

This year, we decided to make candy gifts for our friends and family. My husband got a recipe for Mexican wedding cookies from a co-worker, so we put them into care packages of other homemade treats. The cookies are great on their own, but they're even better covered in chocolate. Because, face it, what isn't better covered in chocolate?

Mexican Wedding Cookies-mine made 20
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
¾ cup confectioners' sugar
½ cup pecans, finely chopped or ground
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup cold unsalted butter, chunked
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the butter into chunks and set aside.

First, chop the pecans. Personally, I find putting cut pecans in a bowl and pressing them with the bottom of a glass salt shaker to be a good way to blow off stress. Otherwise, just use a blender. Add the powdered sugar to the crushed nuts and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Drop in the chunks of butter and shortening teaspoon by teaspoon. Knead with your hands until the shortening and butter are distributed throughout the flour and until you have a coarse dough. Then, add the pecan mixture and egg and mix with your hands until everything comes together, about one or two minutes.

Now, butter or spray down a cookie sheet and make small (about 1”-1 ½”) balls of dough with your hands. Set them on the sheet about an inch apart from each other and bake them until they are golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Adjust baking times if necessary. When they're done, dust them with more powdered sugar and serve.

Like I said, these are great by themselves or covered in chocolate. We wrapped them up in squares of tissue paper and put them in our gift bags, but feel free to keep them all for yourselves if you want to. Enjoy!

Unfortunately, these are not for people who are allergic to nuts.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fun With Pita Bread

Pita bread is a staple of Greek and Middle-Eastern cuisine. It's a very versatile bread that can be used for dipping, wrapping or as a “pocket” for various fillings. It's a really good way eat savory meats and cheeses without having to worry about silverware or making a mess. You can find them in the deli/bakery section of pretty much any grocery store in quite a few varieties-white, whole wheat, garlic, sun-dried tomato, spinach and several others I can't think of right now. Most of the time I've seen the latter two it's been used as a wrap, but it's such a versatile bread that you can use it for pretty much anything you can think of.

One of my favorite pita sandwiches is the gyro. Gyro (pronounced YEE-row) meat is a mix of beef and lamb that can be found in many grocery stores, although it *does* take a bit of looking. Most gyro wraps I've had include lettuce, tomato and onions, but they can come plain. If you want pita-style bread with a different kind of meat, you could also use Steak-Ummms or another Philly-style sandwich steak. Just add provolone cheese, sauteed onions and peppers and perhaps some mayonnaise or tzaziki sauce and you've got yourself a great and relatively-easy lunch.

This is an artisan-esque recipe I found that sounds great if you want something different.
Spicy And Sweet Curry Pita-serves 4
4 pitas
8 watercress or lettuce leaves
4 1/4" thick slices turkey or chicken breast
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup yogurt, plain
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 1/4 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste

Cut the turkey into bite-sized chunks. Using medium heat, toast curry powder in a small skillet for about 20 seconds. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, sugar and cranberries. Then, add the meat, scallions and celery. Stir in the curry, walnuts and salt until well-blended.
Now, cut each pita in half. Place a leaf in each of the 8 pockets and distribute the meat mixture evenly.
Variations: if you'd like, you can leave out the nuts. Depending on how big your pita pockets are, you could also mix in diced tomatoes and/or raisins. Add fries or potato chips and you have a nice lunch.

If you're the type of person who likes soup with their sandwiches, here's a way to make a bread bowl for soups, sauces or dips.
Basically, find a round loaf of bread like sourdough or Italian bread. Preheat your oven to 350 F and cut about 1/4” to 1/2” off of the top of the bread with a serrated knife. You can cut more or less depending on the size of your loaf. Pick the bread out from the middle of the loaf, making a bowl with about 1 1/2” around all sides.
Take a basting brush and brush olive oil onto the insides of the bowl, creating a sort of seal so the soup or whatever else you put in the bowl won't leak. Then, bake on a baking sheet until golden on the inside, about 15 minutes. Now it is ready for any sort of liquid, although it will also make a great salad bowl.
Enjoy yourself!