Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gluten Free Pumpkin Vermicelli w/Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce

Did you know that pumpkins are a part of the squash family, also known as cucurbit or gourd family.
There are copious varieties of these guys, more often than not, used for decoration instead of  dinner plate adornment. Spaghetti squash is an extremely popular gourd, glamorized for it's spaghetti-like texture and characteristics, a varital substitute for the carby-ness of pasta made from flour, and guess what, gluten free!  I found through some recipe development, that the sought after strand effect of spaghetti squash can be achieved with it's lowly cousin, the pumpkin.  I had wonderful reviews from my tasters and even I was impressed at the finished product.
Many seem to look down their noses at the pumpkins with the stringy 'meat' of some pumpkins, viewing them as old or only good for carving or decorations, not so.  I have seen this strand effect in ones as small as a volleyball as well as ones as large as a baby bear cub's head, fresh picked from a patch and store bought.  I found this lab a particularly interesing and rewarding one.  This pumpkin was  rather small, like a volleyball, so the strands were small and thin as well, hence the name.  The larger ones will yield a larger strand, closer to the size of traditional spaghetti.  The flavor is still wonderful.  I served this spectacular side with a Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce, also featured on this blog.
This dish is perfect with poultry or fish as well, a fabulous alternative to a  typical mashed or baked potato, cutting the carbs by 1/3 and boosting your vitamins A and C, B6, plus magnesium, potassium, iron and a gratuitous amount of dietary fiber!!
2 cups cooked stringy pumpkin
1/3 c. Merlot
1/4. c. organic blue Agave Nectar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. cream or evaporated milk
juice of half of large lemon, about 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 small allspice berry, ground with mortar and pestle
1/4 c. slivered almonds, toasted if preferred for more depth and nuttier flavor profile
pinch of salt, optional
For the pumpkin:
Bring large pot of sea salted water to a boil.
Place halved and cleaned pumpkin in water, cut side up and fill cavity with some of the water with a spoon.
Gently continue to boil for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand covered, for about 15 minutes.
Remove from pot with and place cut side down in a colander, draining and cooling for about 10 minutes.
Use a fork to flake pumpkin meat into strands.
For the Sauce:
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, bring all remaining ingredients, EXCEPT nuts, up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
Once liquid has reduced and thickened, remove from heat and stir in almonds.
Fold pumpkin into sauce until well coated.
Makes 4 servings.
Note: This sauce may also be used as a dessert topper!!!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gluten Free Seared Pork Loin w/ Chinese Black Tea and Lemon Pan Sauce

This is a quick, easy and delicous dinner idea, courtesy of some pantry ingredients, including Chinese Black Tea.  This tea is an excellent substitute for stock or broth, say a cup or less, instead of using just plain water.  The color aids in the browned desired look of just about any finishing sauce, perfect for deglazing.  I was curious and it paid off!  The tea lends a light and earthy element, complimenting the rosemary sprig thrown into the pan while the protein sears.  This recipe is featured alongside another creation of mine, Pumpkin Vermicelli w/ Merlot-Almond Butter Sauce coming up on my next installment!
The  implementation of the black tea serves many purposes, both positive and beneficial.  This tea comes from the Camellia Tea Plant.  There are studies that show this miraculous beverage contains a chemical called polyphenol, which is one of many antixoidants it possesses.  Studies also show that ingesting this tea in it's pure form, without sugar, is a great choice, since it is low in calories and sodium.
Chinese Black Tea is also accredited with lowering cardiovascular risks, helping to aid in the recovery from brain injuries, hearing  and also help slow and offset the progression of Parkinson's.  Now that's a mouthful worth having.  The tea may be brewed the day ahead and refrigerated and will keep up to a week in an airtight container.
8 slices, boneless pork loin, about 1 1/2 lbs., 1/4 inch thick
4 tbsp. Chinese Black Tea, prepared, chilled
Juice of 1/2 large lemon, about a 1 1/2 tbsp.
1 Sprig Rosemary
1 tbsp. butter
Olive oil for drizzling
In a large saute pan over medium high heat, drizzle with olive oil.
Pat chops dry and SPST on both sides.
Sear on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Toss rosemary sprig in while searing.
Cook until internal temperature reaches 145*F, and place on warm platter and tent with foil.
Meanwhile, add tea and lemon juice to pan and bring to a boil, scraping up all the pan bits.
Cook for an additional minute or so and remove from heat.
Stir in butter and strain sauce into small bowl.
Pour sauce over chops and serve.
Serves 4.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza

Deep Dish Tater Tot Pie Crust 
 Barbeque sauce
1 1/2 lb. seasoned, cubed and cooked chicken, boneless
2 c. packed mixed greens, sauteed in 1 tbsp. butter
3 oz. cooked bacon
2 oz. White Cheddar Cheese, grated
6 oz. Ricotta cheese
Melt grated cheese under broiler on lower rack of oven.
Makes 9 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Deep Dish Tater Tot 'Pie' Crust

Want a new and interesting crust to get creative with in the kitchen, try tater tots.  They provide a hearty and crispity crunch, slightly chewy in the centermost part of the tot kernels, perfect for loading on goodies like sauteed chicken or fish, greens, bacon, and don't get me started on cheeses.  Execution of this crust is as easy as pie and once baked, will stand alone without the baking vessel, perfect for self serve dishes and occasions.  I came up with a recipe called Country Girl's 'Sunday Dinner' Pizza, which toppings include moist and delicious sauteed chicken, mixed greens, bacon,  white cheddar and ricotta cheese, with  barbeque sauce insead of pizza sauce, stay tuned for the recipe!! Back to the crispity crunchy wonder that is this gem, the possibilities are endless, here is your playground, let's see what you can come up with!
You can adjust the texure by letting this 'crust' bake a little longer or less, depending upon what type sauce if any you want to use as a base for other ingredients.  This should present well even at room temperature.  If using a wet sauce, serve immediately after adding the pre-cooked toppings and melting the cheese, there's usually always cheese!
4 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 large egg, slightly beaten or 2 egg whites
1 tbsp. olive oil
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
1 tsp. onion powder, optional
cooking spray
Preheat oven to 400*F.
In a medium bowl, crumble thawed tots until coarse and even. 
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle in onion powder.
Add egg.
Toss to coat, using clean hands or fold together with a rubber spatula.
Spray desired vessel with cooking spray and press crumbles into bottom and partially up sides to create borders . I used a 3 quart dish.
Place in oven and bake until golden and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Don't forget to wash your hands again if needed.
Let cool for about 15 minutes if you plan to serve it on a flat surface like a cutting board and will be filling with neutral or cold ingredients like fresh greens, thinly sliced veggies, cheeses you don't plan to melt etc. 
PRE-COOK any items that require it, like raw meat proteins, before adding to crust!!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Creamy White Cheddar Potato Soup with Crab

Potato soup is one of my oldest daughter Genesis' favorite foods right now.  She has undoubtedly had at least 10 food phases in her 9 years including but not limited to  creamed corn, blue cheese crumbles, hotdogs, grilled cheese, steamed broccoli, cuties, broccoli casserole, bologna sandwiches, salads and homemade macaroni and cheese.  During these food phases, the items mentioned above were the only 1 thing I could guarantee she would consume when the menu was not to her liking.  She is currently also rather fond of yogurt, strawberry only, preferably Yoplait and  Ramen, beef only, by MARUCHAN only, with cheese- only! You may be thinking all 'Ramen' are created equal, as did I to some degree, until the particular supermarket I was in one day didn't carry that brand, so I went with what was available.  Sure enough, when I prepared them for her that evening as per her request, with cheese, she said "Yuck, I'm not eating these" and she kept her word. I tried this again later on in the month two more times, same result.   Genesis and my younger daughter Bronwyn are currently both head over heels for all-fruit smoothies made with coconut water, instead of dairy.
With that in mind, I am particularly proud of this simple yet appeasing recipe, because my daughter loves it, and specifically requests it by name, without the crab, that's my garnish of choice.  Since the weather has begun to warm, I don't make it as often, but I'm sure she would enjoy it just the same in the middle of summer, to which if requested, I would most humbly abide.
8 c. cubed russet potatoes, about 7 large
chicken or vegetable stock
1-1/2 c. 2% milk
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 to 3/4 c. grated White Cheddar cheese, more if desired
Olive oil for drizzling
Oyster crackers for garnish
Crab meat for garnish
In a medium heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat, cover potatoes, onions and garlic with cold or room temperature stock or water by about 1 inch.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to medium, Cover and cook potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in milk.
With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
Adjust thickness to taste by adding more stock, milk or water.
Place back over heat and reduce to simmer.
Stir in cheese and butter and simmer until heated through stirring often, about 5 minutes.
Drizzle with olive oil if desired.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Girl Scouts Strawberry Shortcake Cheesecake

I created this scrumptious dessert as my birthday cake!!!
3  boxes no bake cheesecake , 11.1 oz each
1 11 oz. can strawberry topping and filling, chilled
Cheesecake filling:
3 packets cheesecake mix
4 1/2 c. 2 % milk
1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
scant amount of zest of lemon
1 box good quality shortbread cookies, 10 oz.,  preferably Girl Scout Shortbread Cookies, finely crushed or pulsed in food processor
2 packets graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick butter
Whipped topping:
1 16 oz. container whipped topping
8 oz. sour cream
6 tbsp. confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. good quality vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
10 inch Springform pan
Refrigerate 8 to 24 hours.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Yorkshire Pudding Cookies

This recipe was initially a mishap while developing the Venison, Bacon and Black Bean Mini Chili Bowls.  I was toying around with the consistency of the Yorkshire Pudding bowls, and wanted to see if adding less batter to the mini muffin pan would allow it to rise less inhibited.  In fact, it did not, and the batter, which I reduced from about 2 tsp. to 1 tsp., rose just so and baked as a cookie would, not rising much at all.  Considering I needed a vessel to house the Venison mixture, these of course just couldn't accommodate, so I set them aside.
I didn't want them to go to waste, so I pondered how they could be refurbished or simply re- purposed.  Then it hit me, the ingredients were simple and essentially those included in a dessert or custard of sorts.  I then set out to give them more character and amp up the flavor profile.  I had to make a few minor adjustments to keep it in true cookie form, like omitting the onion powder and replacing it with vanilla extract, as it was initially intended for a savory recipe... I melted some butter and added a bit of cinnamon and sugar,stirring together until well incorporated. I then tossed the cooled cookies in the cinnamon sugar and gave them a taste.  I was impressed to say the least and these little guys actually received more attention than the original recipe!  They paired quite marvelously with my coffee and I'm sure the same is even more so with a spot of hot tea!!!  Quick and easy, sweet, salty and crunchy with amazing texture, these cookies turned our to be a delicious bite-sized treat!!!
1 c. AP flour
1 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
Pinch of kosher salt
melted butter
Cinnamon Sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine above down to the Five Spice and blend well.
Spoon about 1 tsp. into each mini muffin cup.
Bake until puffed, golden and crisp around edges, about 8 minutes.
Transfer from pan to cooling area and repeat until batter is used.
Once all cookies are done, melt butter in a large bowl and toss cookies in it.
Shake on some cinnamon sugar and toss again.  Add as much or as little as you wish depending on preference.
Makes about 4 dozen.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cube Steak Style Lamb and Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Couscous with Apricot/Miso Reduction

This is a rustic and cozy dish featuring marinated lamb and other pantry ingredients.  I removed the bone from lamb chuck steaks and used my textured meat mallet to tenderize and thin the protein enough to pan sear quickly. The meat mallet helps to create the whole cube steak effect and  maximize on the marination time.
The marinade is a zesty and bright one using some Greek salad dressing from the packet, infused with red wine vinegar, fresh lemon, lots of garlic, olive oil and miso.  The couscous is heightened in flavor by a store bought sun dried tomato pesto with pine nuts and sliced black olives.
The flavors of the Mediterranean really shine in this dish, full of tangy and fragrant herbs and spices.
about 1 1/2 lb. bone in lamb chuck steaks
1/2  pkg. greek salad dressing blend
juice of half lemon
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine or low sodium beef stock
2 tbsp. apricot preserves
1 tsp. red miso
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
fresh oregano and rosemary
Remove bones from lamb steaks and place between doubled sheets of plastic wrap.
Pound on both sides to about 1/4 inch thickness.
Combine next six ingredients until well blended.
Add about 1 tbsp. fresh torn oregano and 1 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary.
Pour marinade into large resealable bag and add protein.
Turn to coat well and squeeze out excess air.
Marinate 4 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, drain and pat steaks dry.
Sear over medium high heat in a saute pan drizzled with olive oil until done, about 3 minutes, (less time for below well done) for both sides.  Do this in batches as not to crowd pan.
Once all have been seared, keep warm with tented foil or a low oven temp.
Reduce pan heat to medium.
Deglaze pan with red wine or low sodium beef stock.
Whisk in apricot preserves and miso and bring up to a boil.
Cook until desired consistency is achieved.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
Serve alongside lamb and couscous featuring stir-ins like sliced black olives and Sundried Tomato Pesto with pine nuts!