Friday, December 13, 2013

Creamy Turnip, Leek and Avocado Soup

This soup is a simple and delicious way to get in some heart and body healthy vitamins and minerals, as a first or main course menu item.  The earthy turnips blend well with the mild oniony flavor provided by the leeks.  An avocado supplies major nutrients, a vibrant tint and creaminess to this wholesome and viscous soup.  Chicken or vegetable broth is the glue to holds it all together, with a hint of half and half to add to the overall soothing smoothness of this late fall, winter or anytime dish.  An immersion blender shaves valuable time off the preparation. Served with crusty bread, crackers or even bruschetta will make for a complete and filling ensemble.
2 c. thinly sliced leeks, (make sure you clean them properly to avoid grit)
2 c. grated turnip
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 tbsp. butter
3 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c. half and half or whole milk
1 avocado, chopped
olive oil for drizzling
In  a heavy bottomed pot with high sides, over medium heat, melt butter and drizzle in about 1 tsp. olive oil.
Add leeks and turnips into pot and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Add garlic.
Add chicken broth and bring up to a boil.
Remove from heat and stir in half and half and avocado.
With an immersion blender, blend in pot until airy and smooth.
Thin with additional chicken or veggie broth to desired thickness and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Serves about 6 1 cup servings. Garnish with fresh parsley, fresh cracked pepper and good quality olive oil if desired.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Korean BBQ Style Frogs' Legs!

This recipe combines the crispy wonderfulness of a low country delicacy, deep fried frogs legs, and a sweet, hot and garlicky  tang of a Korean style BBQ sauce into one fantastic dish, great for any occasion, providing you don't mind possibly getting your fingers a little messy!   The prep time is minimal and the sauce is a cinch to execute and may be used to coat items that have been baked, broiled, fried or steamed.  However, there is something about this particular recipe combination that really stands out to the taste-buds and your taste buddies!!
1 pkg. frog legs, about 1 1/3 lb. or 3 pair
2/3 c. seasoned flour
1/3 c. complete pancake mix
oil for frying
2 tbsp. good quality ketchup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. water
Preheat oil to 375*F.
Combine flour and pancake mix.  Toss separated legs,  that have been rinsed and dried, in breading and shake off excess.
Fry in two batches, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch, drain on paper towels.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.
Place remaining ingredients in a large saute pan and bring up to a boil, stirring constantly.  After about 1 minute, remove from heat and fold in parsley.
Toss the frog legs in the hot sauce to coat, working quickly because the sauce will thicken as it cools.
Serves 2 or makes 6 appetizers.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Amazing Hot Shrimp and Turnip Dip!

This in another installment in my fun with turnips recipe action over the past two weeks.  This dip is loaded with  veggies like sauteed mini sweet peppers, onions and celery.  Julienne of turnips, garlic and chunks of shrimp lace this decadent dish.   Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and half and half add the stretchy, creamy deliciousness that makes this dip really rock!
12 oz. raw medium 🦐, roughly chopped
2 c. julienne of turnip
2 tbsp. 🧈
2 tbsp. multicolored mini sweet peppers, small dice
2 tbsp. 🧅, small dice
2 tbsp. celery, small dice
1 tbsp. AP flour
2/3 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
1 c. half and half
1/3 c. freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
🫒 oil for drizzling
Turn on broiler.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle in about 1 tsp. olive oil and add butter.
Once melted, add peppers, onion, and celery.  Add turnips.
Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stir in flour.
Cook additional minute, then whisk in half and half.
*Add splash of Sriracha, if desired.*
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat. SPST.
Add shrimp.  Cook until shrimp no longer pink, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in 1/3 c. cheese and parsley.
Transfer to shallow oven safe dish.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese, more if desired and place on bottom rack of oven.
Bake until bubbly and golden, about 5 minutes.
Let stand for several minutes before serving to set.
Serve with toast points or crackers of choice.
Serves 8 to 10 appetizer portions.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Vegetarian Burger for Carnivores!

I had a great time creating this veggie burger.  So much so, I added bacon at the end for a perfect finishing touch.  :)  Of course, the bacon may be omitted for the strict vegetarians and vegans.  Either way, all can be satisfied wit this fabulous burger, loaded with goodies like two kinds of beans, grated carrot and turnips.  I also spiked it with calcium loaded sesame seeds and heart healthy flax seeds, boasting the reduction of certain cancers.  Flax seeds are also rich in fiber and protein. Lycopene rich tomatoes and  fresh parsley are added as a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, with parsley acting as a natural diuretic.  Oats are also involved, bringing in another helping hand of fiber and
B vitamins.  Served with super powered fresh spinach on a whole grain bun, this veggie burger is a cut above the rest. With that said, the slice of cheese and two slices of bacon don't seem so bad now huh.!  Besides, reduced fat cheese and a bacon substitute may be exchanged, but why take all the fun out of something so good and great for you!
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. EACH grated carrot and turnip
1/4 c. quick cooking oats
1 tbsp. liquid aminos or to taste
2 tsp. flax seeds
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley
8 -12 slices thick cut Applewood bacon
Fresh Tomato
Fresh Spinach
Sliced Cheese
olive oil for drizzling
Mash beans with a potato masher or fork until slightly broken apart, leaving some almost whole for texture.
Add remaining ingredients and drizzle with olive oil. SPST.
Stir together until evenly mixed and form into 4 to 6 patties.
Heat large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and add patties, heating through and browning on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.
Embellish as desired and with desired toppings.  Serve on thin style whole grain buns.

Potatoes and Turnips Lyonnaise

This recipe goes well with just about any protein, and with the help of a mandolin is a stress free and delicious affair.  With the aid of some simple and earthy ingredients, this recipe may be for a weeknight meal, or elevated to a more formal affair, just from the plating alone.  A friend of the family had a surplus of turnips, which she shared with us and this is one of the many I developed as a result. Belonging to the Family Cruciferae, including cauliflower, broccoli, collards and kale, also Brussels Sprouts, turnips are rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium.  They also provide a substantial amount of our daily allowances of vitamins A, C and K.  They blend in well with potatoes, and with thinly sliced onions in tow, this recipe is a wonderful collection of bulbous goodness!
3 turnips, peeled, thinly sliced, about 3 cups
2 potatoes, such as Russet, peeled,  thinly sliced, about 2 cups
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter, plus 1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
Toss sliced veggies together as evenly as possible in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large oven safe saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter and olive oil together.
Once butter is melted and hot, carefully add veggies and garlic.
Shake pan constantly as veggies cook and SPST.
Cook for several more minutes , shaking pan and tossing careful not to break up veggies too much.
Place tight fitting lid over pan, and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Remove lid and transfer to oven, baking until browning is evident on top, about 15 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.  Let stand for several minutes before cutting or plating.
I served this recipe with simple Salt and Pepper Bone In Chops.

Island Spiced Pork Loin Chops

Looking for a simple way to liven up any sauce like homemade barbecue sauce, there are a few ingredients you can add volumes of flavor and aromatics, plus antioxidants without an exorbitant amount of fat.  The recipe was well received by the family and I served this recipe with a baked macaroni and cheese and green salad.  The smell of the spices really resonated throughout our home as it simmered, creating the same warm and comforting effect as baking a pumpkin or apple pie, the secret's in the sauce!:)
1 lb. boneless pork loin, cut into chops
2/3 c. good quality ketchup
1/4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tsp. lemon grass paste
2 tsp. grated onion
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 tsp. fish sauce
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
olive oil for drizzling
Pat chops dry and season both sides.
Sear over medium high heat on both sides until no longer pink, about 3 minutes per side, remove from pan.
Add chicken stock to de-glaze and add remaining ingredients, bringing up to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and smother the chops in the sauce.
Cover with lid and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Mini Sweet Peppers w/ Brie and Basil!

This recipe rocks for fast and easy entertaining, plus has an amazing flavor profile.  I like jalepeno poppers, and this is a similar treat for the not so fond of hot crowd.   Good quality, thick cut Applewood smoked bacon is perfect, but your desired brand will work as long a you keep an eye on it.  St. Louis Brie is the creamy and cheesy star for the filing and fresh basil ties the ingredients together excellently.  I buy these mini beauties in one pound bags at Walmart, yes Walmart! and they are very versatile and complement anything the mind can think up.  I love these bags because they contain three different colors of peppers, red, orange and yellow, which seem exorbitantly priced when purchased individually.  If you grow them at home, even better, the ones I'm growing at home are not ready yet.  Either way, get ready to WOW the family and your tastebuds and load up on some Vitamins C, A and B6, as well as dietary fiber!
I lb. bag mixed mini peppers
1 pkg; thick cut bacon
1 8 oz. pkg. Brie
fresh basil leaves
toothpicks for securing bacon
Preheat broiler.
Par cook the bacon slices in microwave.  With this recipe, you can make as many as the bag holds, but a rule of thumb is 1 slice of bacon will wrap 4 peppers.
Halve the peppers and remove the seeds and fibrous membrane.
Slice Brie to fit the size of the peppers, which will vary slightly.
Place piece of cheese in pepper and top with a fresh basil leaf.  I used a scant dot of olive oil on each to keep the basil in place.
Fold partially cooked bacon across the top of pepper and secure with a toothpick.
Place on roasting pan with rack.
Broil until bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes depending on thickness of bacon.
Let rest for about two minutes before plating.  Great hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Denese's Eggplant Lasagna, Gluten Free!!!

This recipe was a complete joy to create and quite easy to execute.  There is no pasta in this lasagna, nor is there any ricotta or cottage cheese for the filling.  Rather, I pureed some steamed cauliflower and flavored it with some Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil to shave off a gaggle of calories and fat, without compromising the flavor.  The end result is a wonderful, creamy, delicious and more nutritious vegetarian meal, loaded with Vitamins B6 and C, plus Calcium, Magnesium and Iron.  My 6 year old Bronwyn LOVED it!!  The rest of the family received the dish well including my sisters Hollie and Gayle. No one  missed the cheese filling and that to me speaks volumes for a meatless and less cheese version of anything.   I will definitely be making this recipe again soon for an upcoming family affair!
About 1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices crosswise
16 oz. of your favorite spaghetti sauce, homemade or store bought
1 lb. cauliflower, steamed
2 tbsp. milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
16 fresh basil leaves, 8 whole and  8 torn
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided, plus more for garnish
8 oz. whole mozzarella, sliced
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat  oven to 400 degrees.  Brush eggplant slices on both sides with olive oil and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375*F after removing eggplant.
Meanwhile steam cauliflower and drain.
Place in large bowl and add milk, 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, 8 torn basil leaves and garlic.  Drizzle in a little olive oil and add cheese.  Temper the eggs and fold in.  SPST
In a square baking dish, ladle about 8 oz. of sauce into bottom of dish and spread it evenly.
Place half the eggplant in atop sauce.
Sprinkle about 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan atop eggplant and half of the mozzarella slices
Add cauliflower filling and spread gingerly over eggplant.
Add remaining sauce.
Repeat eggplant layer and remaining cheeses. .
Add remaining whole basil.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until bubbly and the filling is set, about 25-30 minutes.
Let stand for about 20 minutes before cutting.  Garnish with Parmesan if desired.
Serves 4-6.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beef Roulades Stuffed w/ Parsnips and Mushrooms, Creamed Mixed Baby Greens w/ Sharp White Cheddar and Parmesan

Beef and Spinach are well matched in this dish.  The beef is marinated briefly in Worcestershire, sherry and garlic.  Earthy parsnips and mushrooms and fresh thyme provide the filling for these thinly sliced pieces of bottom round, individually tied, seared and finished in the oven.  The creamy greens are further enhanced by a combination of baby green and red chard and bok choy.  The cheeses are rich and delicious and make this take on creamed spinach a cut above the rest.   Further, the roulades may be braised in a herbed tomato sauce until super tender and serve with rice or pasta for another wonderful and delicious meal!
1 pkg. Beef Bottom Round, extra thin about 1 1/4 lbs or 6 slices
2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. sherry
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
7 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
1/2 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into strips, about 2 inches or less
3 sprigs fresh thyme
butcher's twine
olive oil for drizzling
Creamed Mixed Baby Greens w/ Sharp White Cheddar and Parmesan:
2 13 oz. bags mixed baby greens, like chard, spinach and bok choy
2 tbsp. butter, plus 2 tsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. chopped onion
3 tbsp. AP flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Scant grating of fresh nutmeg, optional
olive oil for drizzling
Place Worcestershire, sherry and garlic in shallow bowl and add meat. turning to coat.   Marinate while you prep veggies.
Saute mushrooms, parsnips and thyme drizzled with olive oil over medium high heat.  After several minutes, SPST and cook until the veggies have softened slightly and given up most of their moisture, about 8 -10 minutes.  Remove stems.  Set aside to cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, Preheat oven to 350*F.
Divide mushroom mixture among slices of beef that have been drained and patted dry, roll and tie off at each end to secure .
Quickly and lightly sear roulades on all sides and transfer to baking vessel to finish in oven.
Bake until internal temperature is 145*F, about 10 minutes.  Let rest before slicing roulades.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt butter and add tsp. olive oil and cook garlic and onions over medium heat, stirring often.  Add greens and cook further until wilted, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in flour and cook additional minute.  Add milk and cook until thickened, several more minutes.
Grate in nutmeg if desired.
Stir in cheeses until melted, adding more milk as needed for desired creaminess.
Divide greens among plates and top with sliced roulades or serve a la carte with your choice of protein.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Serves 4 to 6.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Easiest Thai Chicken, Broccoli and Mostaccioli

This recipe is a quicker and easier version of one I created about a year ago, and has made appearances by request by loyal family fans! The original recipe required an extensive marination time for chicken cutlets, and a heinous amount of cilantro. This is a time and budget friendly rendition, using canned white meat chicken.  Broccoli adds precious vitamins and minerals and a burst of vibrant color.  Coconut milk adds depth and some creaminess without adding cheese.   The pasta is full of flavor and helps absorb the complex and wonderful flavor profiles that is Asian cuisine.   A well rounded full meal is all in one dish.  The taste is delicious and ready in no time!!
3 5 oz. cans white meat chicken chunks, drained
1 lb. box Mostaccioli, Penne or Penne Rigate
1 lb. fresh or frozen broccoli
4 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced, divided
2 tbsp.grated onion
1 tbsp. sambal oelek or to taste
1 tbsp. lemongrass paste
4 tbsp. fish sauce, divided or to taste
1 tbsp. cilantro leaves
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
sesame oil for drizzling
In a small bowl, combine chicken, one clove garlic, 2 tbsp. fish sauce and cilantro. Fold to coat chicken and set aside.
Prepare pasta according to box instructions, removing from salted water when al dente.
Meanwhile prepare the broccoli to tender crisp, by steaming or blanching in pasta water.
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, melt butter and add remaning garlic and onion.  Cook until fragrant , about 1 minute and add sambal oelek and lemongrass paste, stirring constantly.
Add coconut milk and remaining fish sauce, bring up to a boil.
Add drained pasta and broccoli.  Cook for several minutes until liquid is absorbed and fold in chicken.  Remove heat and let sit until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes.  Drizzle with sesame oil if desired before serving.  Makes 8-10 servings.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marinated Pork Loin Stuffed w/ Mixed Baby Greens!

This recipe was a joy to prepare because I was able to practice my Butcher's Knot skills.  It was my first time for this particular tying method and it was surprisingly fun and rather easy to execute.  I pulled out my trusty smoker and let it do the rest for a hassle free and rewarding Friday evening dinner and Saturday sandwiches.  I may play around with finding the perfect stuffer next time, but it's hard to beat the nutritional element provided by the  baby red and green chard, bok choy and spinach, and keeps the loin on the low carb and lower fat side of enjoyment!  The pork is marinated in a simple and tasty blend of hot pepper paste, brown sugar, seasoned rice vinegar and garlic for a sultry and flavor packed and glazed over appearance.  I served this dish with Homemade Southern Style Potato Salad.   The family received the recipe very well as did I, however being the ever perfectionist, I can't wait to try yet another loin and another flavor profile to find the absolute best results to share with everyone!
1 3 lb. boneless pork loin
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. hot pepper paste
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
9 oz. mixed baby greens
1 tbsp. salt free seasoning
olive oil for drizzling
Place pork loin on flat work surface and cut top third across loin, but not all the way through, about 1/2 inch shy of other side.
Flip the loin and do the same thing from the opposite side.  This should open the loin almost like a folding book to be evenly flattened further using plastic wrap and a rolling pin.
Combine marinade ingredients and paint the loin on both sides.  marinate for at least 1 hour.
When ready, toss greens with salt free seasoning, olive oil and SPST.
SPST loin and spread greens atop loin and start rolling from one end tucking as go, and ending with the open end facing down.  Secure loin with desired tying technique, I used the Butcher's Knot.
Drizzle loin with olive oil and place on smoker or in oven, baking until internal temperature reaches 145*F.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before cutting.  Serves 8-12.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ecureuil In Confit

Fall is here and so is hunting for certain wildlife and game.  I have personally been hunting only once, and when the hunting party told me that it was a 'quiet' affair, let's just say I decided I was in the wrong arena lol, Anywho, My brother in law Jackie went squirrel hunting last week and knowing my passion for amassing experience in as many aspects of cooking as possible, offered me the spoils of his trip. Ecureuil is the French word for squirrel.   I had not tried squirrel since I was a girl, and it was always accompanied by gravy and/or biscuits. I wanted to step outside of the Southern American box and go for something a little more elegant, possibly even upscale.  With a bit of thought I decided these guys could definitely benefit from the Confit method.
Confit is a French term for cooking something completely submerged in oil, at a very low temperature for an extended period of time.  The traditional oil medium is goose or duck fat,depending on what part of France you are from, some use olive oil.   It was one of the first means of preservation before refrigeration. Confit items, when stored in it's oil, in an airtight container and darkness could potentially last for months.  Alas, thanks to modern technology, we won't push the boundaries of our existence without warrant.
The above recipe was extremely well received by the family, with promise of more hunting in the very near future.  I myself was very pleased and could not remember if squirrel meat ever tasted this magnificent in the past.  This recipe requires a bit of commitment, but the results will speak volumes.
These squirrels were soaked in a salted water solution in the fridge at least 24 hours prior to the marination process.  This gets rid of all the wild and gamey taste.
3 ecureuils, about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. each, well cleaned
1/4 c. red wine, (I used a 2008 Shiraz)
1/4 c. Sherry cooking wine
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. freshly ground allspice, (I used a Mortar and Pestle)
2 tbsp. bacon or other pork fat
1 bay leaf
Olive oil, enough to completely cover protein
Combine ingredients in a bowl.  Place ecureuils in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade and toss to coat.  Press out excess air and marinate in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight.
After marination, cut each into 4 pieces, lengthwise, then crosswise and brush off excess marinade. SPST.
Preheat oven to 230*F.  (I used my smoker and a thermometer with probe to monitor oil temperature.)
Sear over medium high heat on both sides in pork fat, in small batches, about 3 minute per side. Add bay leaf to pan during searing process.
Transfer to large, heavy bottomed vessel or Dutch/French oven until all has been seared, including bay leaf.
Cover protein completely with olive oil and cook until very tender, about 4-5 hours.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels before plating and serving.  Serves 6.
The above recipe is served with Garlic, Chive and Turmeric Tinted Mashed Potatoes and Sweet and Spicy Glazed Carrots.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Fuss Focaccia!!!!

This is an easy way to dress up your breads for any meal and a great way to utilize frozen 1 lb. loaves, which I keep on hand at home for a variety of purposes.  Focaccia is an Italian flatbread, slathered in olive oil and topped with herbs, veggies, meats and cheeses, then baked.  The frozen loaf saves some prep work as it can be thawed early in the day, before your intended affair.  The thawed dough is then stretched by hand to create the rippled texture to hold the goodies like olive oil, kosher salt and bacon crumbles. Focaccia  is typically scored or indented with a blunt object like the butt of a knife or other utensil, to aid in the release of air during baking, as not to rise too high and not be considered a flat bread. 
1 lb. frozen loaf, such as Rhodes, thawed
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 slices cooked bacon,crumbled
Place smashed cloves in olive oil to impart flavor.  Let steep until ready to use, then remove garlic.
Once dough is thawed, Preheat oven to 350*F.
stretch with fingers to create the grooves and until it is the approximate size of the baking sheet, about 11 x 9. 
Paint both sides with olive oil and sprinkle top with bacon crumbles and SPST.
Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. 
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Ghostly Tumbleweed Treats!

This recipe is an installment of my Halloween fanfare and excitement.  I enjoy creating and sharing fun and tasty treats with festive themes and names, especially around this time of year.  The ingredients are simple and all the flavor bases are covered sweet, salty, chocolaty, chewy and crunchy.  I had a surplus of items that needed a purpose and  I came up with a victory for Team Sweets!  I got a good amount of positive feedback from these puppies and my youngest daughter Bronwyn really liked them.  Omit the Halloween themed decorations and name and this recipe will fit into any other time of year or function just fine!
6 c. thin pretzel sticks
4 c. miniature marshmallows
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. chocolate chips
3 tbsp. margarine
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Melt butter in large vessel over medium heat.
Once small bubbles start to form, add marshmallows.
Once melted, add remaining ingredients in a folding fashion to coat and distribute evenly.
Working quickly, form into balls about the size of a golf ball.
Place on baking sheet to set.
Refrigerate or place in freezer for about 5 minutes to set completely.
Makes 24 treats.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mixed Vegetable Casserole w/ Parmesan and Ricotta Cheeses

This is a simple and easy recipe I came up with to turn ordinary frozen mixed vegetables into an extraordinary side dish, perfect for your next gathering or the up and coming Holidays.  The ingredients together have a wonderful flavor profile, without taking away from the veggie aspect with copious amounts of cheese.  Smaller families can halve the recipe for an anytime side dish, but it  tastes fantastic the next day!   Delicious and nutritious and may be a great way to get kids, even  the big ones, to eat their vegetables!
2 lbs. frozen mixed vegetables
2 15 oz. cans French style green beans, drained
4 tbsp. butter, plus a drizzle of olive oil
3 tbsp.  AP flour
1  soft chicken bouillon cube (optional)
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
4 oz.  Ricotta cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 c. garlic bread bread crumbs
  SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
  olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Microwave mixed veggies on high for 5 minutes,drain.
Add green beans to mixed veggies.
In a sauce pan, melt butter, bouillon and drizzle in olive oil over medium high heat.
Once small bubbles start to form, whisk in flour.
Cook for about 1 minute and remove from heat.
Whisk in milk and return to heat.
Cook until thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Stir in cheeses and onion powder.
Temper eggs and add to cheese sauce. SPST. The sauce will be thick and this is o.k.
Fold veggies and cheese sauce together and pour into sprayed or greased baking dish.
Top with bread crumbs.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until set and fork inserted comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Remove foil and bake until topping is crisp and golden, about 5 more minutes.
Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving, makes 12-16 servings.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dirt Cake!!!

This recipe is a throwback from last summer as a cake for my girls' father, on his birthday.   It is a fun and easy recipe that the kids can help with, from mixing pudding to crushing cookies.  There is no wrong way to do it as the parameters basically include cookie crumbs and/or pudding/cream cheese.  Calories may be shaved by using lite whipped cream, reduced fat chocolate sandwich cookies, and milk that's 2% or less and further still by using sugar free pudding.  This is the original version and works because desserts like this are designed for sharing and a little goes a long way in taste and satisfaction.
1 pkg. chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreo, finely crushed or processed
3 pkg. French vanilla instant pudding mix
16 oz. whipped topping
In desired dish, spread crumbs using about half
Prepare pudding according to directions on package, then fold in 4 oz. whipped topping
Pour pudding on top of cookie crumbs.
Add remaining cookie crumbs, saving about 3 oz. to garnish top.
Add whipped cream atop second layer of crumbs.
Garnish with reserved crumbs.
If you like, you can reserve about 5 whole cookies to embellish the sides of dish and top.
Additionally, you may add gummy worms, fish or other fun and interesting add-ons to create the "Dirty" cake.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ultimate White Pizza w/ Thyme Sherried Mushrooms, Basil and Almond Slivers

This is an amazing and meat free pizza full of taste and has a magnificent flavor profile.  This take on another classic Italian pizza's 'white' aspect is because there is no tomato sauce, but a garlic butter painted crust.   Three wonderful cheeses adorn this pie, including Ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella.  The mushrooms are sautéed with fresh thyme and olive oil until browned and fragrant and hit with a splash of Sherry.  Fresh basil add aromatics and slivers of almonds add a light and slight crunch for a well rounded and filling dinner or lunch item.  Serve with a green salad to complete the affair.  This is definitely a keeper for the Meat-Free Monday Menu or any day you have a taste for something Italian, cheesy and delicious.
1 store bought fresh or pizza crust mix
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
8 oz. Ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. Mozzarella cheese
12-14 fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. almond slivers
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 450*F.

Prepare packaged crust if using, according to instructions and add 1 tsp. garlic powder to mix and drizzle in a little olive oil.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before using.
Place butter and garlic in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. 
Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, heat to medium high and drizzle with olive oil.
Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs and cook for several minutes, until they begin to brown and release their water, about 4 minutes.  SPST and cook for an additional 4 minutes and add a generous splash of Sherry.  Continue to cook until moisture evaporates and remove from heat, about 2 minutes more.
Remove thyme stems.
Spread dough into desired vessel and paint entire crust with the garlicky butter.  Use All.
Add Ricotta in 8 -1 tbsp. quenelles evenly around  dough.
Add Parmesan cheese.
Add mushrooms.
Add Mozzarella and finish with basil leaves.
Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with almond slivers and drizzle with olive oil.  SPST.
Makes 8 slices.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Po’ Boy Pizza

This fantastic pizza is my take on the deep south favorite the Po’ Boy.   A Po’ Boy is a sandwich, originating in Louisiana  and served containing  various meats or fried seafood. Starting with  a submarine  roll that's crusty outwardly,  yet airy and fluffy on the inside, dressed with lettuce, tomato,  mayonnaise and pickles.  Some are served with a spicy Creole mustard and some are served with American yellow.  For my pizza, I used a fresh store bought pizza dough, painted with garlicky butter, and a tangy, non tomato sauce of ricotta cheese, blended with a taste of mayo, sweet relish and hot sauce,which of course is optional.  I dressed this pie with garden fresh red and yellow tomatoes, shaved asparagus, lightly sautéed in olive oil (as opposed to lettuce) and a small amount of  freshly grated Parmesan cheese, baked and topped with freshly fried Oysters, after removing this gem from the oven.  The whole shebang is garnished with fresh chopped chives, torn basil leaves and fresh cracked black pepper!  My brother Ken, who happened to drop by,  really enjoyed it, as did my mother, sister Gayle and myself. 
This pie makes for great 'meat-less' or vegetarian fare by simply omitting the oysters and Vegan fare if you make the ricotta using whole nuts like macadamia or cashews, soaked for 24 hours, ground in a food processor, strained of excess water and seasoned with fresh herbs and soy cheese, and olive oil instead of butter for the crust.  Any way you slice it, this is not your average pie and a great change from the norm, not to mention pretty awesome!
1 fresh pizza dough
2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 oz. ricotta cheese, drained for 5 minutes
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. sweet relish
dash hot sauce
9 asparagus spears, shaved with vegetable peeler
4 slices red tomato, halved
4 slices yellow tomato, halved
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz. uncooked oysters
1/8 tsp. Cajun seasoning
seasoned flour, such as A1
oil for frying
fresh chives and basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 450*F.  Heat oil to 350*F.
Place butter and garlic in small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.
Drizzle pan with olive oil. 
Fit pizza dough into desired pizza pan and brush with garlic butter.
Combine ricotta, mayo, relish and hot sauce.  Spread onto dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around diameter of crust.
Saute asparagus for about 2 minutes in saucepan over medium high heat, drizzle pan with olive oil and lightly season.
Arrange tomatoes evenly around pizza. 
Spread asparagus atop tomatoes.
Sprinkle cheese over entire pizza including crust.
Bake until golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss oysters with Cajun seasoning, then toss with flour, shaking off excess, and frying in small batches until golden, about 3 minutes, drain on paper towels.
Arrange Oysters atop pizza after removing from oven and garnish with chives and torn basil. Makes 6-8 slices.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Best Turkey Meatloaf Ever

Nothing says comfort like a nice slice of homemade meatloaf with country style sides along for the ride.  It's fabulous the day of, and if you have leftovers, even  better the next day.  This recipe is one that can be executed with ease, and the most time consuming aspect is the prep work for the veggies.  Turkey is the main character in this steamy oven baked saga and dark rye serves as the bread crumbs.  Serve with some creamy sweet potatoes with a hint of brown sugar, butter and allspice and some simmered green beans with peas as I did, for a filling, nutritious and super supper!
2 1/2 lbs.  ground turkey
1/2 c. EACH diced celery including some inner leaves, onion and mixed mini peppers
1/2c. grated carrot
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 soft chicken bouillon cubes
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 c. dark rye breadcrumbs
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F.
Place veggies and  bouillon drizzled with olive oil in microwave safe bowl, and cook on high for 4 minutes.  Stir well to distribute flavor evenly on all veggies.  Do not drain.
Allow time to cool enough to handle.
When ready, combine contents of bowl, egg and breadcrumbs to turkey and blend well without overworking the protein. 
Form in desired pan or dish and bake until internal temperature reaches 175*F, about 35 minutes.  Let rest before slicing.
Meanwhile prepare the glaze.
2 tbsp. Orange marmalade
2 tsp. less sodium soy
1 tsp. sambal oelek
1 lemon and zest
Combine all ingredients and bring up to a boil or microwave for 2 minutes.
Glaze during last 5 minutes of loaf cooking time. 
Serves 8 to 10.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Marvelous Potato, Vidalia Onion and Asiago Bake

Potatoes and dishes with potato make a fabulous go-to side dish for any occasion.  Throw in some cheese and the pickiest eater may even become a fan.  This is a hassle free dish that can be prepped ahead and baked when needed to fit your schedule.  The ingredients are simple, and prep is a cinch, with the help of the trusty mandolin. This dish pairs well with roasted chicken, beef and pork.   The kids love the cheese and the adults love their smiles and contentment.  Lots of times, we as parents have to perform the duties of the at-home short order cook, especially if you have more than one child, each with strong likes and dislikes.   It's great when they can come to the consensus that they "like" the same things, at least every now and again!
4 c. thinly sliced potatoes, like russet
1/2c. thinly sliced Vidalia onion
1 can evaporated milk
1 egg
dash Sriracha
1 c. grated Asiago cheese
3 tbsp. chilled butter, cut into small cubes
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F. 
In a suitable baking dish drizzled with olive oil, toss potatoes and onions together and SPST.
Combine milk, egg and Sriracha and whisk together.
Pour evenly over potatoes.
Dot with butter.
Sprinkle cheese atop and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until potatoes are set, about 25 minutes, and remove foil to brown the surface.  Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.  Makes about 10 1/2 cup servings.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Picnic Shoulder Trifecta: Brined, Smoked and Baked To Perfection!

My family and I have always enjoyed fresh picnic shoulder, especially on Sundays and for the some holidays or special occasions.  Economy was of importance as per family size and it was generally prepared the same way, which was either boiled or baked.  I enjoy both methods, but I literally wanted to bring something new to the table and arrived at quite a wonderful outcome.  The end result of this recipe was then trimmed of excess fat, then sliced and some shredded, tossed with store-bought and doctored bbq sauce and mounded atop soft buns for a fantastic and flavorful meal to remember.  I got rave reviews for this dish, which I served with coleslaw,  turnip greens and  baked macaroni and cheese for a Sunday Fun-day!  The brine above is similar to the one I used for this recipe, so I included it for dexterity.  The shoulder is brined for 48 hours in the refrigerator, then smoked for 6 hours and baked until tender, about  2 1/2 hours.  The size plays heavily on these figures, so the smaller the shoulder, the less time for each process.  Worth the time and definitely worth the effort times 10!
1 8 1/2 lb. fresh picnic shoulder, skin on
2 c. water
1 c. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. fresh herbs, like oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1/2 large onion
2 tbsp. hot pepper paste
1 tbsp. each lemongrass paste and sambal oelek
juice of 1 lime
2 banana peppers, whole
1 tsp. allspice
fresh cracked black pepper
6 c. ice cubes or ice cold water
olive oil for drizzling
Combine all ingredients except shoulder and bring up to a boil for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then add ice.
Pierce shoulder with a knife all over and place in 7 3/4 quart Dutch oven or other suitable vessel and pour over pork.  Refrigerate and brine for 24 to 48 hours. 
Pour off brine, pat shoulder dry and rub with olive oil.
Sear, skin side down until golden over direct heat of grill, then flip.
Smoke over indirect heat on the for 6 hours. 
Wrap in foil and place back in Dutch oven and bake cooked through and tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Trim excess fat and slice or shred as desired.
Photo before brining.
Photo after smoking.

Korean BBQ Short Ribs with a Side of Garden!

Nothing says summer like ribs of some sort with a viscous and intoxicating sauce to lick from your fingertips, sipping an ice cold beer, the perfect  wine or lemonade and spending time with friends and family after the toils of any given day!  These ribs are handy and basically bite sized, they make for a spectacular addition to a small plates affair on the fly!  I paired these ribs with haricots verts from the garden sautéed with fresh garlic and butter, and de-glazed with rice vinegar and a simple cherry tomato salad, dressed with fresh torn basil, olive oil and SPST.
 1 1/2 lbs. beef short ribs
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 soft bouillon cube, beef
1 tbsp. hot pepper paste
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. rib reduction
1 tbsp.  ketchup

Preheat oven to 350*F.
SPST Rib pieces and brown on all sides over medium high heat in Dutch oven or heavy bottomed skillet drizzled with olive oil.  Add bouillon and garlic and about 2 c. water.  Bring up to a boil and   braise in oven until tender, but not falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from remaining liquid and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine sauce ingredients and bring up to a boil.  Fold with rib pieces in a medium bowl while sauce is hot to coat ribs more evenly. 
Place in shallow dish and broil until sauce bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Serves 2 or 4 appetizer portions.   Serve with desired fixins':)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fragrant Thai Fish Soup!

This a is soup with a stunning flavor profile and can be prepared with ease and is a great light meal with salad or starter soup. This is the 5th and final of the dishes I created with the bass.  As always, feel free to utilize the fish that best suits your personal tastes and desires.  Wonderfully bright ingredients like paper thin sliced fish, lemongrass paste, fresh cilantro and garlic with a heat that be adjusted according to taste, make this recipe one you will enjoy again and again!
1/2 lb. skinless, boneless striped bass, cut into paper thin slices
1 13oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
2 c. low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp. red miso
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. lemongrass paste
3 cloves garlic, pressed and finely minced
2 dried Thai chilies
1/2 tbsp. sambal oelek
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves. plus more for garnish if desired
2 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime, plus more for serving
Heat coconut milk, stock, miso, fish sauce, lemongrass paste, garlic, chilies and sambal over medium heat until boiling.  Reduce to low and stir in fish.  After about 1 minute, stir in cilantro leaves, onions and lime juice.  Garnish with cilantro and dried chili. Serves 6.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hickory Leaf Steamed Bass w/ Orange Ginger Sauce and Tangy Garlic Rice

Craving a fish dish easy on the waistline and amazingly packed with flavor, then this is the recipe for you!  I used some hickory leaves from a tree that grows beside an apple tree at my sister Gayle's home.  We sometimes use them for grilling  as well as Hickory wood that grows in the woods at home for smoking meats and imparting a fabulous aroma and coloring to everything from chicken to beef, pork and even fish.  I used the leaves to line my Bamboo steamer instead of a plate, but it's ok if you can't get some, the subtle flavor of the fish and Cajun seasoning will suffice.  I served this fish with a simple yet complex tasting garlic rice, adding four cloves of pressed garlic and 2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar to 1 1/2 c. chicken stock and preparing as you normally would rice.  This is recipe four of the five I created with the fresh caught bass!
6- 6oz. portions of firm fish, such as striped bass
2 lemons, quartered
1 stalk celery
3 cloves, smashed
4 quarts of water
1 tbsp. plus 3/4 tsp.  Cajun seasoning
4 tbsp. Orange preserves
3 tbsp. less sodium soy
2 tbsp. clam juice or water
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 green onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. sambal oelek
olive oil for drizzling
Bring water with lemons, celery, smashed garlic, and 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning up to a boil.
Line steamer trays with overlapping hickory leaves, leaving room for steam to travel up from water.
Place filets on leaves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 3/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning. Cover and steam until fish flakes easily with a fork and is translucent, about 8 minutes. 
Meanwhile prepare the sauce:
Place preserves, soy, clam juice, garlic, onion, ginger and sambal in microwave safe dish and microwave on high, bringing it up to a boil, stir and boil until reduced by about 1/3, about 3 minutes.  This may be done via stovetop also.!
Drizzle fish and rice with sauce.  Serves 6.

Striped Bass Croquettes w/ Red Onion Slaw

The best part of this recipe is that these croquettes are baked! The bass in this recipe is cut into small cubes and maintains it's texture in unbelievably moist and crisp dish.  The croquette portions may be made smaller for appetizer servings.  The recipe is rather simple and makes for a wonderful presentation!  My sisters Gayle and Bonnie really loved them, mom did too!  The slaw for this recipe is crunchy and sweet and compliments the fish well.  This is another of the recipes I came up with featuring the Catch of the Day!  Serve these at your next Dinner Party!
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless bass, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, drizzled with olive oil
1/2 c. shredded raw potato
1/2 c. celery, small diced
1/2 c. carrot, small diced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 green onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 c. Panko
dash Sriracha
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 350*.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl in a folding fashion.  Form mixture into 8 balls and press lightly to form discs into the panko on a large flat surface like a cookie sheet.  Flip gently to coat the second side. 
Transfer to greased baking sheet, with parchment paper if desired drizzle with olive oil and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
Serves 4 or makes 8 smaller servings.
Meanwhile prepare the slaw
2 c. julienne of cabbage
1/2 c. julienne of red onion
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar or to taste
1/2. tsp. black sesame seeds
Combine wet and dry ingredients in a small bowl and toss with cabbage and onion.  SPST.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Makes about 3 cups or 8-1/3 c. servings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Spectacular Marinated 3 Bean Salad

Beans are versatile and filling in their nature and also abundant.  I wanted a cupboard friendly dish with a memorable flavor profile, and I arrived at this salad, great for vegetarians!   This recipe is super for using up some of your fresh herbs and tomatoes from the garden.  I personally like beans, but I  wouldn't slaughter virgins and lambs for them if you know what I mean!  This triage of fiber rich gems however, really got me rooting for  Team Legume and now I am a loquacious cheerleader! This recipe is one of a two part dish I came up with using pork.  Stay tuned for part 2 .  Both dishes stand alone and may be paired with limitless other items, but they sure do taste great together in a marriage I call Posh Pork and Beans.*
1 15 oz. can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can vegetarian beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp.  seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. less sodium soy sauce
6 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped or torn
Several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 sprig fresh rosemary, rough chopped
1 small yellow tomato, diced
Combine vinegar, soy and herbs in a large bowl.  Add beans and stir to coat.  Fold in tomato and SPST.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.  Makes about 6 cups.
*Feel free to swap in your favorite beans.

Striped Bass Tenders w/ Lemony Sriracha Tartar Sauce

These puppies are another installment from the test kitchen, when I received a copious bounty of freshly caught striped bass via a family member.  The filets were so thick and gorgeous it made for a lot of room to try different things as per the cut.  This recipe is quick and simple and a great way to get your kids into 'digging' fish.  Panko is used for an outstanding crunch and to house the flaky goodness that is this fish.  Being a fresh water fish, I soaked these filets in a kosher salt and garlic powder tincture before rinsing and using for the recipes.  Fresh lemon and a tangy tartar sauce pair exceptionally well with this dish.  Throw in some baked fries, tater tots or a baked potato and this is a real fish and chips winner!!! 
1 lb. boneless skinless striped bass or other large firm filet of fish, cut into 1/2 inch strips crosswise
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 egg slightly beaten
1 1/2 c. panko
1/2 c. seasoned flour, such as A1
oil for frying
For Tartar Sauce:
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sweet relish
2 tsp. Sriracha
1 tsp. fish sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
dash of Worcestershire
Combine all ingredients for tartar sauce with a fork and SPST.
Heat oil to 350*F.  Sprinkle spices onto fish and add egg.  Toss to coat.
Combine panko and seasoned flour.
Toss fish in flour mixture, shaking off excess and fry in small batches until golden, about 3- 1/2  minutes. 
Drain on paper towels.  Serves 4.

Thai Style Chicken Casserole


I had a lot of fun creating this recipe using some on hand ingredients and some of my favorite items to cook with including fish sauce, sambal oelek and coconut milk.  This casserole is easy to prepare especially if you have a mandolin.  The recipe creates it's own sauce to embellish the tender chicken cutlets that bake atop the thinly sliced, skin-on Russets and Vidalia onions.  The chicken is marinated for 15 minutes to infuse it with the wonderful fish sauce, garlic and cilantro.  This dish makes a wonderful house warming  meal in a  nice baking dish or a meal that can be reheated the next day!
For Chicken:
6 chicken cutlets, about 6 oz. each
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, torn o rough chopped
Place in re-sealable bag and rub vigorously, pressing out excess air.  Let marinate for about 20 minutes before use.
For Potatoes:
4 cups thinly sliced Russet potatoes, skin on optional
2 c. thinly sliced Vidalia onion
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp. sambal oelek
1 tbsp. fish sauce
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 375*F
In a deep baking dish drizzled with olive oil, SPST potatoes and layer to about 1/2  inch thickness.
Follow with onions.
Place coconut milk in a small bowl and stir in fish sauce and sambal oelek.
Spread mixture over potatoes with a rubber spatula and arrange chicken cutlets atop potatoes.
Cover tightly with foil and bake until internal temperature of chicken is 170 degrees, about 40 minutes.  Baste with liquid after removing foil for the last 5 minutes. 
Let stand for 10 minutes before plating.  Serves  6

2 cups thi

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Garlic Bread Bruschetta!

This is a super simple, simply delicious recipe that goes great alone or as an addition to any meal.  I combine two of my Italian favorites into one scrumptious bundle and cheesy, crispy sensation.  This takes virtually no time to prepare and is a great way to use up some of your garden's surplus of ripe and juicy homegrown tomatoes!  There is nothing in this world better than knowing that your family is eating and enjoying something nurtured from start to finish with your own bare (or gloved lol )hands and with love!  I served this bread with a Shrimp and Spinach Pasta
1 loaf Italian bread, cut in half, lengthwise
4 tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 medium tomato of your choice, sliced
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
10 fresh basil leaves, julienned or torn
olive oil for drizzling

Turn on broiler.
Place butter an garlic in small bowl and microwave for 1 minute.
Brush both halves with garlic butter and add tomatoes, mozzarella and basil
Drizzle with olive oil.
 Broil until slightly golden and cut into servings, about 4 minutes!
Makes 10 servings.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Banh Mi Fish Taco

For me, living in the rural country has many perks and luxuries.  There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of  beautiful chirping and singing birds in the quiet calm of the morning and listening to the blusterous lolls of those randy little crickets and other nocturnal insect in the eve of night.  Although I must say that I am rather fed up with the mosquito, tick and spider population brought on by this wayward summer! 
Aside from the alarm clocks and beckoners of bed, here in Leesville VA, we are afforded the opportunity of observing wildlife in it's natural habitat.  In addition to the usual deer, we have black bears, bobcats, owls, eagles and humongous woodpeckers,  but  more nerve racking, coyotes, rattlesnakes, copperheads and moccasins.  I have seen more snakes this year than in any other year I can remember, and that is a bit scary, considering the kids love playing in the yard.
On a lighter note, we have access to wonderful and plentiful lakes, dam, rivers and streams supplying us with the epitome of freshwater fish.  Some of the fish include small and large mouth bass, perch, catfish, a local trout farm, where you can reel in your own spoils, and large striped bass,  which brings us to the recipe above.
 My cousin Milton happened by late one evening with an amazing bounty of striped bass, easily weighing about 40 pounds.  They were caught at our own Leesville Dam 1 mile away, talk about fresh caught to table huh!  My wheels were churning ahead as I began to configure and compile ideas new ideas while I cleaned and prepped the fish.  It was a great live lab of sorts for me, cleaning, fileting and portioning the fish for their new and improved purpose.
 I came up with 5 recipes.  My family gave tons of positive feedback on the dishes, enough so that I wish to share them with you.  The following dish is an inspiring spin of the popular Vietnamese sandwich traditionally served using pork and an airy and French type baguette, whereas I use the bass and a lightly fried tortilla, gently shaped to hold the palate pleasing goodies.  Quick pickled veggies and a creamy and almost spicy mayonnaise, shine in this hand held bundle of yumminess! I also have a Slender Version of this recipe, which I will mention the substitutions after the original recipe *.  Omega 3's never tasted so grand!
For quick pickled veggies:
2 c. julienne of carrot
1 c. julienne of radish
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
Combine veggies and sesame seeds in a medium bowl.  Whisk together wine and sugar, pour over veggies and toss vigorously to coat.  Set aside and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or while you prepare the remainder of the recipe.  Drain before use.
For the Tortillas:
Fry tortillas in oil for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes turning once, until they begin to puff up, then drape over cylindrical object like a rolling pin covered with a paper towel until set in a loose curve.  Set aside until ready to plate.
For the fish:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless striped bass, or other meaty fish of choice, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices on a bias or strips
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
10 flour tortillas
cilantro leaves for garnish
olive oil for drizzling
Drizzle fish with olive oil and add spices. SPST and toss to coat. 
In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil and in small batches sear the fish on both sides and cook through, about 2 minutes per side.  Keep warm under tented foil until all have been seared.
For the Sriracha/Basil Mayo:
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Sriracha
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp.fresh basil, julienned
juice of 1 lime and zest
Combine all ingredients in bowl until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  May be made 1 day ahead if desired.
Place a portion of fish in taco.
Add portion of pickled veggies.
Add dollop of Sriracha mayo.
Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Makes 10 tacos.
*For the Slender version, bake or steam the fish, use baked or plain warm tortillas, and use low fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Uncle Billy’s Day 2013: A Foodie’s Perspective

sign 2
thai sign
This past June, during the first Saturday weekend, marked yet another wonderful year of entertainment featuring live band music, crafts, carnival style rides and games, a beer garden adjacent to the stage and a smorgasbord of festival eats and treats here in Altavista, Virginia.  The Uncle Billy’s Day Festival has been a part of our community for around 65 years and is growing bigger and stronger by the year.  I remember attending this event from early childhood, now I bring my girls, who really enjoy the pageantry of the fireworks, which happen on evening two of the 2 day celebration! 
When I was younger, I was all about the congregation of people including my schoolmates, the games and the rides, pizza, candy apples and funnel cake being the fuel of choice.  As I became older, I began to appreciate the beauty of the crafts, car shows, music and beer garden LOL, opting for the food fanfare with an edge like the warm and delicious Gyros, the lamb juicy and tender, the Greek Yogurt smooth and creamy, the shredded lettuce and tomato crisp, Smoked Turkey Drumsticks, the size of a small dog’s leg, slow cooked to smoky perfection, eaten in a relatively cave man fashion by tearing it easily from bone as you stroll the grounds, Hand-cut potato chips, salted just so, hot from the oil, Fragrant Smoked Sausages and Cheese Steaks, billowing over with grilled peppers and onions,and various types of Asian cuisine, like the hearty portion of marinated and grilled Thai Chicken (above) and beef, grilled with just the right amount of caramelization and teeming with exotic flavors, the perfectly cooked noodles, loaded with a barrage  of tender-crisp carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peas and corn, with what I would consider a savory potato, veggie and curry infused Puff with a unique sweetness from Faang Thai Restaurant and Bar, based out of Warrenton VA, meats- on -sticks-Yes! and much more! The smells wafting through the food court is intoxicating, a possible Achilles heel to wayward dieters, but a welcome ‘Foodapalooza’ for die- hard foodies like myself.  The experience is worth the travel and something to talk about, as you can see I just can’t shut up about it.  Definitely something to pencil in to kick off your next year’s summer, hope to see you there!  
Me and a fellow festival goer in one of his Uncle Billy's Day ensembles!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fast and Flaky French Onion Soup Bowls


French Onion Soup is a wonderful dish and great for a first course or main entree.  I have enjoyed it during all four seasons and justly so, because of the soothing beef broth and tender yet subtle flavor of the simmered onions.  More so because of the fresh and aromatic French bread and the bubbly melted Provolone atop, creating a harmonious and incredible balance of hearty, crispy and melty.  It's a virtual spoonful of nothing short of a taste-bud orgy!   Alas, I digress, LOL.  I came up with this take on the classic French fare during the same week I created the Broccoli and Cheese Mini Turnovers and the Chicken Cordon Bleu Roulades.  I had some flaky style biscuits left from my food lab making the turnovers and wanted to explore their possible uses further and arrived at the caption above.  The Le Crueset ramekins were a new purchase at the time and were dying to be used.  I immediately thought individual mini versions of French Onion soup, about 4 1/2 ounces each, the biscuits being perfect as per the size.
This recipe is a simple one with all the bells and whistles of the original form.  Convenience and ease of preparation is one of the major pluses of this dish.  All the ingredients can be purchased ready to go, so a fabulous starter or light meal is right at your fingertips.  My five year old Bronwyn liked the personal size of the soups, as well as the flaky biscuit and smothering cheese,  so much so, that she forgot she that didn't "like onions"!  There is nothing quite like the more time consuming version, but I feel this recipe is a not too shabby and super fun second, enjoy!
1 roll flaky style refrigerator biscuits
1 10 oz. can condensed French Onion Soup
8 oz. Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese blend
Olive oil for drizzling
Prepare the biscuits according to package instructions, cutting the cooking time in half.
 Meanwhile, place soup in small saucepan and dilute as desired and bring up to  boil, then remove from heat.   
Ladle soup into desired vessel drizzled or sprayed with olive oil, to the halfway point.  Float a partially cooked biscuit atop the soup and mound an equal portion of cheese on each one.  Drizzle or spray again if desired.
Place back in oven on broil and cook until cheese is slightly golden and melting.  SPST.  Serve Immediately!
Servings depend on rate of dilution and the size and number of your ramekins, you can make as many or as little as you like!