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.