Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Southern Style Braised Cabbage w/ Country Ham, 'Soul Food' Sides for Thanksgiving

This is a Southern American dish inspired by my mom's love of cabbage.  Next to sweet potatoes and Creamy Potato Soup, this is a favorite.  Pork does not have to be used in this recipe. It does however, have roots in the original preparation of fried and braised cabbages, either from Old World Ireland or dishes in the  Americas.
 I am a fan of using other smoked goodies like turkey necks, legs and wings.
After the cooking process, the skin may be removed and the meat shredded and tossed with finished product for a one bowl/dish meal, hearty and full of history, delicious to the body and soothing for the soul.
Cabbage was recorded in literary memoirs as early as the late 1400's, but shows roots in or around 1150 in Germany.  During earlier centuries, cabbage was referred to as "Coleworts"  It came in with the settlers to Jamestown and has been a considerable part of sustenance from day one. The cultivating properties and abundance served as food for humans as well as animals.
1 head of cabbage, rough chopped into chunks, large outer leaves removed, about 3lbs.
2 medium onions, quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 portion country ham, about 2oz. cooked
ham bone, optional
chicken/veggie stock or water
Olive oil
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Over medium high heat in a large heavy bottomed vessel, drizzle in some olive oil and add onions and country ham portion and bone.
Cook until fragrant and caramelization is evident, about 4 minutes and add cabbage.
Saute for several minutes, then add chicken/veggie stock or water until cabbage is covered, add garlic here, then cover with lid.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.
Cook until cabbage is tender and liquid is reduced by more than half, about 45 minutes.
Check seasoning as it cooks and adjust accordingly.
Remove ham portion, shred, then re-add to cabbage.
Remove ham portion completely if desired.
Serves many.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Peach Cobbler at Its Peak!

Nothing says summer like a quick and easy peach cobbler, smack dab in the middle of Peach season.  The intoxicating aroma wafting through the air is akin to that of living beside a bakery!  With this no fuss recipe, you will have your family members thinking you baked all day!  With the help of two store bought, roll out pie crusts, and maybe a pat of flour on your cheek, no one will be the wiser!  Don't get me wrong, If time permits, a homemade crust is awesome, a flaky and warming exhibition of your dedication to a dish.
 By all means, use your valuable time measuring and chilling dough, when it can be as easy as PIE, pun definitely intended.  Either way you slice it, this recipe is  worth a try, you''ll be glad you did!

7 large peaches, peeled, and sliced to about 1/4 inch to 1/2 slices, about 7 cups`1
2 9 inch pie crusts
1/2 c. brown sugar or to taste, depending on sweetness of peaches
1/4 c. corn starch
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1 tsp. cinnamon
Fair Pinch of salt
juice of one lemon
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
Sugar for sprinkling.
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Spray or grease baking vessel before pressing in crust 1.
Mix all dry ingredients together and toss with peaches.
Fold in/Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.
Pour Contents into vessel and add crust 2 and dot with half of butter.
Be sure to ventilate top crust!
Brush top crust with egg wash.
Sprinkle with sugar and a dusting of cinnamon.
Dot top with remaining butter.
Bake until crust is golden and cobbler is bubbly and fragrant, about 40 minutes.
Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
Serves Plenty.  Great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Grilled Pink Shrimp w/ Fresh Peaches, Dry Vermouth and Vacation Memoirs

Shrimp is best when fresh and infused with fresh and bright flavors.  These beautiful Wild Caught Argentine Pink Shrimp are large and ready to take on the marinade and grill smoke with fantastic vigor.  The peaches were part of our take home home haul from this wonderful and well stocked farm stand in Clarksville, Va.
 We were fortunate enough to be within 1 mile of this gem, Moore's Farm Stand, I believe it was called, while staying at a nearby hotel, Hotel Magnusson on the Lake on vacation.  They had the most amazing fresh cherries, we snacked on while making the trip back home.  The Purple Cherokee tomatoes were bright and juicy, tasting of summertime ripening in every bite.   The peaches were spectacular, full of fantastic flavor and fragrance.  They even had some Mountain Butter, which I picked up a pound of to bring home as well. 
This was the second part of our rejuvenating  5 day trip that started in Scottsburg at Staunton River State Park.  The  cabins there are so cozy and peaceful.
We cooked our gooses at the facility swimming pool with family visiting from Niagara, New York for the week.
After several days, we parted ways  and continued down to Buggs Island Lake.
The James River is just beyond the trees.

Our temporary home away from home.

There's a massive pool at this park, with full concessions and shop!

Our first guest/greeter at the cabin!

Moore's Farm Stand

Hotel Magnusson on the Lake

View of Buggs Island Lake

Clarksville, known for being Virginia's only lake town, and is home to where the world record for the largest  blue catfish caught was documented, around 5 feet long and 148 pounds, talk about one heck of a fish fry!
These shrimp did not win any accolades to my knowledge, until this recipe that is.  I received rave reviews from my family, which means the world to me.  The kids spare me no remorse when it comes to my recipe development and execution.  I admire that.  They know I am serious about my work and demand their openness and objectivity.
My youngest daughter Bronwyn will tell me "Mom, this is good, but not your best" or "Yeah, this roast chicken looks a bit dry, but it tastes good".  Kids. They are proud of their MasterChef tryouts Mom, and are my biggest fans. My family is ever supportive in my endeavors.  They love my books and smile when they recite some parts by heart.  They know they have high school/ after school job security at my bistro/cafe, even though it doesn't exist yet!  They have Faith, as do I.

1-2 lb.bag pink shrimp, 16/20 count
1 fresh peach, sliced, about 1/2 c.
1/2 c. extra dry White Vermouth
1/2 c. unsweetened pineapple juice
1 tbsp. Old Bay Garlic and Herb
1 tbsp.fish sauce
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
zest and juice of half fresh lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
Palm full of fresh herbs, like parsley, dill and mint, rough chopped
Place all ingredients in bag except shrimp, and shake to blend.
Add shrimp and marinate 30 minutes to 4 hours.
Don't worry, these large shrimp won't turn to mush in the marinade!
When ready, drain and discard marinade.
Grill Shrimp over hot charcoal and serve as appetizers for a small gathering, beside a nice grilled steak or alongside a fresh mixed green salad with sliced peaches and almond slivers or pecans! There's no wrong way to do delish!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Egg and Breadcrumb Fried Squash Blossoms

I made my first fried squash blossoms this summer and they were delicious.  I wanted to test my culinary mettle, so I set out to create this recipe without doing any research.  This was my second batch of fresh, ready-to-use blossoms, but the first ones perished before I had a chance to use them. Admittedly, I forgot them in the bottom of my grocery bag for 2 days, don't tell my sister! 
 My sister Bonnie plucked them fresh from her zucchini plants, one growing on the porch in a large flower pot, the leaves as big as an elephant's ear, figuratively of course, and the others in the garden plot, many, many yards away.
The flavor of the blossoms was uniquely of squash, and also, in my opinion, with hints of oyster.
I found the blossoms very delicate and sensitive to their environment once plucked, so it is advisable that you execute your recipe in a timely fashion.
I soaked them in warm water (just before cooking) to keep them plump and rid them of their little buddies, ants.  I then drained them on paper towels and within about 10 minutes, we were eating something old,but new, in a delicious and most satisfying way!
12 squash blossoms
1 large egg
1 tbsp. Italian breadcrumbs
2 tsp. heavy cream
oil for frying
After soaking the blossoms in warm water to rid of any critters, rinse gently and place on paper towels to dry.
Meanwhile, prepare the egg wash coating.
Combine the remaining ingredients and mix well with a fork or whisk.
Heat oil to 350*F.
Dredge blossoms well in egg wash and drop oil one at a time.
Remove when golden, about 2 minutes, draining on paper towels.
Serve immediately, but are also good at room temperature.
Makes 12.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Smoky Brisket Mayonnaise

For the 4th of July, I prepared a smoked brisket. I used a combination of open roasting in the oven, then charcoal, hickory and walnut on the grill, using indirect heat, for the better part of a day.   As a result, I had a great deal of rendered beef fat to either find a use for, or dispose of.  I like to keep some of the brisket fat to enhance the flavors of other proteins and dishes, it's smoky and beefy flavor, ever present.
I created this mayonnaise using a portion of the brisket oil.  With the right vessel and an immersion blender, you can literally make this recipe in as little as 20 seconds active time, gathering the ingredients will take another few, still less than 5 minutes.  Instead of lemon juice, I used lime and also swapped out regular cider vinegar, for organic raw vinegar. 
This recipe is great for dressing sandwiches and other places you want a rich and delicious tasting condiment!
1 c. canola oil or vegetable oil
1/4 c. rendered brisket fat, cooled and at room temperature*
This oil has been allowed to sit and settle into a slightly tinted clear state.
1 large egg
1 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. raw organic vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
Place all the ingredients from the egg down in a clear vessel with high sides, I used a plastic 2 cup capacity measuring cup.
Add the oils after the other ingredients.
Insert immersion blender to the bottom of the vessel and blend on high until mayonnaise is set, less than 30 seconds.
Transfer to a jar with lid or to a bowl, your mayonnaise is ready to use.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Turkey Bacon Ranch Burgers w/ Pepper Jack, Guac and Cheesy Tortilla Chips

It's burger time and the more, the merrier!  Burgers can be made from just about anything; beef, chicken, pork, garbanzo beans, black beans, the list goes on.  This recipe features ground turkey.
Turkey is an awesome alternative to the usuals, especially considering that summertime can consist of  a gaggle of burger meals and gatherings.
This recipe can be prepped the night before for a sensual marrying of flavors.  This is also great for making the ground turkey easier to handle.  If you don't have that kind of time, no worries, just place in the fridge or freezer for about 20 minutes.  You can also place the mixing bowl in the fridge or freezer earlier in the day and pull out when ready to use.
I  used the salad dressing packet for Ranch as one of the flavor components.  I also used cooked bacon for texture and to give the burgers smoky body.  The Pepper Jack cheese adds the wondrous meltiness, and that spicy kick.
Cool and refreshing homemade guacamole offers more healthy fats, fresh tanginess, flavor and creaminess, tying the cheesy tortilla chips in with it.  The crunch of the chips is a perfect counter what the guacamole lacks.
The family received the dish well, as did I.  Give your dinner guests something they can't wait to get home and serve to their future guests!  Just a kiss with some grill flame really sends these burgers over the top, Enjoy!
3 lb. ground turkey
3 oz. cooked and crumbled bacon
1 pkg. Ranch salad dressing seasoning
2 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
Olive oil for drizzling (Extra Virgin)
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Pepper Jack Cheese
Place ground turkey in a medium mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients.
Drizzle in a few turns of the bowl of olive oil, about 1 tbsp.
Carefully mix the ingredients together trying not to overwork, while evenly distributing spices.
Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.  If allowing flavors to marry for an extended time, cover tightly with plastic wrap.
When ready top use, Shape into patties, making them into sliders or desired size to fit buns.  I made them into 12 patties.
Spray surface or grill with non stick spray and evenly space burgers.
Cook until internal temperature reaches 165*F, about 4 minutes per side, depending on heat of grill pan or charcoal grill.

For Guacamole:
2 avocados, halved and placed in medium bowl
2 tbsp. diced red onion
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp.  Mexican Green Salsa seasoning
Juice of 2 limes

Use your favorite cheesy tortilla chips as the base of this delicious and satisfying burger!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Let's Go Nuts!!!

Just a picture I arranged and shot one day using my Saveur Magazine's latest edition as the backdrop. 
This magazine is a GEM by the way!  I've been a loyal subscriber for years!
I am very fond of this picture and wanted to share it with you.  Walnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Peanuts and Hazelnuts nuts are represented in this photo.  Pecans come with the gang too, but I had eaten them all.:) They are a part of Planter's NUTrition mixed nut combinations.  They are rich in antioxidants and good fats, promoting heart and overall health. I just wanted to let you know.   Have a safe and pleasant holiday weekend and thanks for reading my thoughts.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pizza Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes are one of my family's favorite meals.  When I am unsure about a dinner idea, ole trusty pasta bakes see me through.  I keep various types of pasta on hand, plus spaghetti and cream sauces stocked at all times.  Recently there was a sale on a Mozzarella cheese sauce, Alfredos, pastas and hearty spaghetti sauces.   This recipe is a result of that sale.
 In all fairness, I can make my own 'gravy' and cream sauces which I enjoy, but sometimes time is not on our side and speedier backups are in order.  The fact that some family came by was the other determinate in this menu as well.
I had some fresh packaged Mozzarella Ravioli on hand and thought it would be awesome to double down on the cheesiness and add them as the top layer of the pasta bake.  The bottom layer consists of a mushroom spiked, saucy and beefy combination.  The pepperoni on the top and the fennel seeds lend the pizza like effect and adds to the overall decidedly Italian ingredient call that is this recipe.
 I rounded the meal off with some toasted cheesy garlic bread and gourmet/mixed green salad.  Steamed broccoli came along for the ride.  The kids were happy, the guests were too.  That makes me happy.  I guess it's the little things that make the world go around and I enjoy making folks smile, one recipe at a time!

1 lb. pkg. mezze penne 
1 family sized pkg. fresh Ravioli with Mozzarella
1 23 oz. jar spaghetti sauce with mushrooms
1 16 oz. jar of Mozzarella Cheese sauce
2 lbs. ground beef
2 tsp. powdered beef base, optional
2 oz. sliced pepperoni
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
sugar the taste, optional
Pinch of Herbs de Provence* (one of  my current obsessions)
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375*F.
Cook the mezze penne according to package instructions in salted water, to just under al dente, about 6 minutes, remove from pasta water and reserve the pot of water to cook the ravioli.
Cook the ravioli and remove from water, drain and drizzle with olive oil.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, drizzle large saute pan with olive oil over medium high and add onions.
Cook until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes and add the garlic.
Add ground beef and beef base and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Drain excess fat off beef and add spaghetti sauce and pinch of sugar and *HdP.
Reduce heat to medium, stirring often for several minutes.
Combine penne and meat sauce.
In a large oven safe baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and pour in penne with meat sauce.
Arrange ravioli over the penne, covering it completely, overlapping if necessary.
Pour Mozzarella sauce over the ravioli and spread evenly as possible from end to end.
Arrange pepperoni at intervals over top and cover tightly with foil.
Bake until bubbly and contents are heated through, about 25 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let stand before serving.
Serves Plenty with seconds or leftovers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Raspberry Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Jams, preserves and jellies are perfect flavor builders for lush and delicious sauces to coat your favorite proteins, especially during these grill laden, late spring and summer months.  I found this exceptional fruit spread at Walmart flavored with raspberry and chipotle.
I love the idea of sweet and hot on my proteins and thought it would serve me well as a finishing glaze for some spare ribs I had dry rubbed and roasted.  This recipe was a hit with the family and I can't wait to grill again! Roasting is awesome too!
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. raspberry chipotle fruit spread
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
Splash of fish sauce, optional
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of liquid smoke, optional
1/2 tsp. onion powder
pinch of red pepper flakes
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Place all items in a small saucepan and bring up to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for several minutes.
Remove from heat.
Brush favorite protein with sauce during the last minutes of cooking process. Brush with several layers for maximum flavor.
Makes 1 cup.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Dedication: Anthony Bourdain

This is a simple dedication to one of the most renown individuals in the culinary world.  Kitchen Confidential was intriguing and eye opening, much like Upton  Sinclair's: The Jungle. "Parts Unknown"  is my favorite show. His voice is perfect for orating and his flare for writing is admirable.  My condolences to his family, colleagues and friends.  We've never met, but I feel I've gotten to know you through your work.  We are but flowers, and this one was picked way too soon.  So long dear friend (in my head).

Thursday, June 7, 2018

BurgerFi "Cry and Fry" Omelette w/ Ham, Aged White Cheddar and Fresh Tomato

Last evening, as part of our vacation here in sunny Cherry Grove, North Myrtle Beach, we ordered out for dinner.  The restaurant of choice was BurgerFi, a hip burger joint with burgers that can be customized from an extensive list of condiments and toppings. The ingredient call offers many, from the usual suspects like mustard and ketchup, to more luscious add ons like garlic or truffle aioli!(which tastes amazing on the fries and onion rings too). The menu covers burgers, onion rings, fries, shakes, AND BEER! They also have vegetarian options!
The burgers are made to order and delicious, moist and juicy, well seasoned.  The fries are offered in 3 sizes, all of which are quite large.  The onion rings are offered stand alone or as a Cry and Fry,  which consists of humongous onion rings and a mound of fries together. Bring your appetite or  consider sharing, especially if you don't like leftovers.
"Cry and Fry," onion rings and french fries.

"The BurgerFi Burger", with bacon added.

I went with the BURGERFi BURGER, adding bacon, diced onion, mayo and ketchup. Last year I had the CEO, which is an amazing Wagyu and Brisket Blend burger with a bacon and tomato jam, and hit over the head with a truffle aioli!! BANANAS!!!.
I ordered the Cry and Fry both times and had leftovers both times.  This time however, I was inspired to create a dish to utilize the remaining fries and onion rings, bringing new life to the ghost of dinner past.
Potatoes and onions are always a good addition to a rustic omelette, hearty and flavorful, fantastically filling.  We are winding down our vacation days, so I grabbed some of the other foods we needed to use up anyway; some deli ham, extra sharp New York white cheddar cheese, a bit of Monterey Jack cheese (from Taco Tuesday) and tomato.
The omelette comes out bursting with potato and oniony goodness; the ham and cheeses are harmonious and pleasant.  My bestie Rufus loved it and my good friend Doris enjoyed hers, as did I. For vegetarian spectacularness, simply omit the ham and game on!
6 large eggs
1 tbsp. milk
4 tbsp. butter, divided
about  1 1/2 c. BurgerFI fries, cut into bite sized pieces
2 BurgerFI onion rings, cut into small pieces
4 slices deli style ham, medium diced
2 slices extra sharp cheddar cheese, diced
1/4 c. shredded Monterey Jack
Tomato Slices
Herbs de Provence for Garnish, optional
Combine eggs, milk and a dash of paprika, until blended.
Microwave the fries and onions for about 30 seconds to help expedite egg setting and thorough warming (optional).
 Melt half butter in small saucepan until melted over medium heat.
Pour half the egg mixture into the pan and shake often.
After the egg starts to set up and almost firm, layer remaining ingredients on one side of the omelette, sprinkling the Monterey Jack over the entire pan's contents.
SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Reduce heat to low, and allow heating through.
Fold heaviest side of omelette onto the other side.
Serve tomato slices on top or alongside the omelette and SPST.
Garnish with Herbs de Provence, Paprika and a scant amount of shredded cheese.
Serves 2 to 4.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Zucchini Bread 2.0/ Roasted Zucchini, Cream Cheese and Apple Smoked Gouda

Looking for a savory way to enjoy the beloved zucchini this summer, this recipe fits the bill.  The garden harvests never tasted so good!  The above pictured are 4 more ways to make the most of the ever handy garlic bread, which is the base of all.
The 'Cheatzzas' in the background are Zucchini and Deli Sliced Corned Beef, Wine Braised Mushrooms and Blue Cheese, Wine Braised Mushrooms and Deli Sliced Beef and Swiss and my favorite creation of the four, Roasted Zucchini, Cream Cheese and Apple Smoked Gouda Cheatzza.   The idea of a Cheatzza is that there are shortcuts in the recipes which can come in handy in a pinch layered like a pizza and satisfy a HANGRY family without compromising on flavor.  All my "Cheatzza" recipes start with either frozen Garlic or Cheesy Garlic Bread.
A fantastic vegetarian meal is at your fingertips with just a little prep.  Great for main courses or appetizer portions, and are super portable and amazing, even at room temperature!!
2 small zucchini, about 1 1/2 cups  sliced, I used a Mandolin
1 8 oz. pkg. Neufchatel, at room temperature
Apple Smoked Gouda, sliced or grated
Olive Oil for drizzling
Prepare Zucchini:
Using a mandolin, slice the zucchini, then in a bowl, toss with a large pinch of kosher salt.
Let stand for 5 minutes.  Pour off accumulated water and rinse the zucchini in cold water.
Dry zucchini on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. The zucchini is now ready to use.

Heat oven to 425*F.
Arrange 8 slices of garlic bread onto sheet pan.
Carefully spread each toast with 1 oz. cream cheese.
Layer the zucchini evenly over all the tops, making sure to overlap the slices.
SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Drizzle with Olive Oil.
Place a slice or about 1/2 oz. grated Apple Smoked Gouda.
Place in oven and roast off until the cheese is melted, lightly browned and the bread is crisp, about 8 minutes.
Makes 4 main courses or 16 appetizers( when halved).

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Virginia Prosciutto, Apple and Onion Grilled Cheese

There's nothing like a sandwich that hits all the notes on the tongue and this grilled cheese does just that. The cheeses are Pepper Jack, Gouda and  Apple Smoked Cheddar, two from the Wisconsin family.  Add in the crunchy component of the thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, french fried onions and the toasty cinnamon raisin bread and you have some serious eats on your hands.  Thinly sliced country ham is lovingly referred to by some fellow culinarians as ''Virginia Prosciutto".
This is actually my creation for a recipe contest that I failed to get in on time, my computer decided to be a complete @$$ and lost it's connection right at the point of upload and I ran out of time.   I accepted my technology fail gracefully and was grateful that I at least had a tasty recipe to share with my peeps, even without the $15,000 prize.  I decided to get it next year and plan better for when "stuff" happens.
The thin cut of the cinnamon raisin bread requires that you use a lower than normal temperature to toast the bread while simultaneously melting the cheeses.  A LID is suggested also.  Too high a temperature will cost you in the form of burnt raisins and bread.  I used a grill pan and found that this bread responds well to it, considering it's lack of thickness.
Cinnamon Raisin bread
Deli sliced thin Country Ham, as thin as you can get it, if unavailable, you may use deli shaved Black Forest Ham
Cored and thinly sliced Granny Smith Apple, I used a Mandolin
Pepper Jack, Gouda and Apple Smoked Cheddar Cheeses (Grating the cheese helps with melting and portioning)
French Fried Onions
Butter or Mayonnaise for spreading
Heat the grill pan on medium to medium low.
Spray with olive oil diffuser or nonstick spray.
Add desired spread to one side of bread and place in pan.
Layer the ingredients starting with smoked Cheddar, fried onions, then apples on one side and Gouda, country ham (sparingly, it's highly seasoned), followed by the Pepper Jack on the other.
Cover with lid and and allow the bread to grill slowly as not to burn and melt the cheeses, about 7 minutes.
Flip one side onto the other.
Cut in half for presentation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Shepherd's Cousin's Pie

Dinner can sometimes be hit or miss, when you run out of time, forget a key ingredient or you're just plain dead on your feet, from managing the lives of your family, and somehow the needs of oneself.  Children, active in sports and after school activities can leave little time for much else, other than getting ready to do it all again the next day.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Engagements had run a bit late more than once this particular week.  I picked up fresh pizza dough for recipes of an Italian nature, using only one of the two.  I knew I needed to utilize the final dough and I didn't want to let it go to waste or just throw it out, because that goes against my culinarians code.  Sometimes our best ideas come from moments when we feel we have none. 
One pizza dough would not have been sufficient for that evening because we had family over.
I knew I wanted some sort of casserole for dinner to keep it to one dish or pan, all the food groups in simple serving form and have the crew happy, but the Shepherd's Pie I had in mind, which is composed of staple ingredients for me, would leave the dough, to sit another day, destined for the food graveyard, never getting to be logged and photographed, no story to tell, stardom lost in the sauce, so to speak, so I  added it to the menu.  I then subbed in the dough for the potatoes, shaving some time off  by omitting the peeling, boiling and mashing effort and getting dinner to the restless natives, with time to spare.  Everyone in our family favors a good garlic bread, breadsticks and the like, and I felt this dough, could benefit from some butter, fresh garlic and parsley. 

 The finished product was a comforting and flavorful meal, that passed the family test and will possibly be in the lineup again within the next 3 months.  Perhaps a cool, rainy and lazy day, perhaps, topped with shredded lettuce, sharp cheddar and tomato like a cheeseburger casserole, who knows.  The Shepherd's cousin is in town, and he may be staying for a while.
2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1/2 c. white onion, finely chopped
1 c. frozen peas and carrot blend
1/4 c. diced celery
1 tsp. onion powder
3 cloves garlic, 1 for beef mixture, 2 for dough, pressed or finely minced
1 c. beef stock or broth (or 1 pkg. instant brown gravy)
2 tbsp. flour
2 c. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 fresh pizza dough
4 tbsp. butter, unsalted
1 tsp. dried parsley, or fresh finely chopped
Heat oven to 375*
In  large skillet or saucepan over medium high heat, add beef, onion, celery, onion powder and garlic.
Brown beef and veggies, cooking until beef is no longer pink snfd vegetables are translucent, about 7 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium.
Drain off all excess oil and return to pan.
Stir in 2 tbsp. flour and cook for about 1 minute.
Add stock and stir constantly until thickened.
Taste for seasonings, then if needed SPST. (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Stir in 1/2 c. of cheese and peas and carrots.
Remove from heat and pour contents into dutch oven or high sided vessel ( I used my red copper pot for the whole process).
Stretch dough with hands until large enough to cover top of meat mixture.
Paint with butter, remaining garlic and parsley mixed together.
Bake until dough has risen and is golden, about 25 minutes.
Let rest several minutes to rest before serving.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Meyer Lemon Pound Cake and Other Lemony Delights

  Meyer lemons are a fragrant and bright citrus fruit, that is a a cross between a lemon and a mandarin.  They made their appearance in the Americas in the early 1900's.  Their season is between November and March.  I was in place at just the right time to catch them for $2 for 2 lbs.  Knowing the standard price encouraged me to buy many many bags and set aside a day and an evening to process the whole lot.  I spent quite a few hours peeling and juicing the yellow gems and wanted to go ham in the lab aka the kitchen to see what I could could come up with.  After peeling the lemons, I laid the peels out on parchment and dried in a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours.   I used some of the fresh peels to make Meyer Lemon Peel Candy. I spiked mine with Crown Royal Apple Brandy.
Apple Brandy Lemon Peel Candy

I used ice cube trays to freeze the zesty juice in portioned increments to fit the bill for likely amounts in recipes: 1 and 2 tsp. amounts and 1 tbsp. increments. After freezing the cubes, I placed them in separate resealable zip lock bags for easy accessibility, works like a charm!!  I also used my mortar and pestle to make a course ground powder to use in soups, stews and water baths.  My daughter Bronwyn was the first to actually make a tall and frosty jar full of this delicious Meyer Lemonade!  The tangy citrusy and lemony drink was perfect.  I love the idea of having these cubes on hand for many of our treasured treats, which brings me to the featured recipe.
 I am obviously a fan of things lemon, and this creation stemmed from the wonderful fragrance that filled the air during my lab or kitchen time, that's devoted to the development of one specific item or technique.  I also made my first preserved lemons from this batch, I impatiently waited in angst for the 3 week time frame the lemons needed to be ready to eat/use.  I have used them thus far in a recipe starring pork and they were fabulous, albeit, a little goes a long way.  I  rehydrated some of the Meyer Lemon peels and incorporated a touch of that water into the glaze for the end.  Lemon zest will do just fine if you don't happen to have dried peels on hand.  If in season, zest some of the fresh peel into the batter for even more sweet/tart twang.
3 1/2 c. cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/4 c. sugar
6 large eggs
1 c. or 2 sticks softened butter, unsalted
1/4 c. canola oil
1 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. Meyer Lemon juice
1 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste*
Preheat oven to 350*F.
Combine dry ingredients until well blended. 
In another bowl, cream sugar, eggs, butter, oil and milk
Add juice and extract.
Mix in flour in two batches, careful not to overwork batter, producing a tough cake.
Pour into a large greased and floured bundt pan, tapping on hard surface to release any air pockets.
Bake until toothpick or skewer inserted comes out clean, about 55 minutes to 1 hour.
Let cool for about 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
For Glaze:
1 c. confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. milk, more or less for desired consistency
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. meyer lemon peel water
1/4 tsp. *MBVBP
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt

In a medium bowl, combine confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla and salt.
Add milk slowly until you reach the desired consistency.
Fold or stir in lemon zest.
Spread or pour over cooled cake.
Serves 16-18.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Chicken Alfredo Bacon One Siders on Garlic Bread; Chicken Alfredo Cheatzzas


Another one for the Garlic Bread Cheatzza mood, featuring pre-cooked grilled chicken, alfredo, pre-cooked bacon, shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chives!
Assemble starting with alfredo and build with remaining ingredients.
425*F oven until golden.
Dinner or fantastic appetizers in 10 minutes, pair with green salad and a fresh veggie, Score another for the home team!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Brussels Sprouts Hash with Kielbasa and Balsamic Glaze

A delicious and nutritious meal or super side can be ready in minutes.  This hash is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, color and flavor.  The implement of the Kielbasa makes it a full meal  or you may omit it for a vegan or vegetarian dish to satisfy and deliver.  Brussels Sprouts are a member of the cruciferae family, related to broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  A mandolin makes light work of the sprouts, which can be bought halved, by the pound.  This is a simple one skillet dish my family and I enjoyed very much.
1 lb. fresh Brussels Sprouts
1/2 lb. Kielbasa, cut on bias in 1/4 inch slices
1/2 c. thinly sliced yellow or red onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 medium carrot, grated
Pinch of Fennel Pollen
Olive oil for drizzling
Balsamic Glaze
Using a mandolin or food processor, slice the brussels sprouts, onion and carrot.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil.
Place each piece of kielbasa in the pan carefully, so that a flat side will be directly on pan.
After about 2 minutes and the protein is caramelizing, add the veggies and garlic.
Cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, then toss contents of pan over and over to redistribute the veggies and in turn flipping the kielbasa.
Add pinch of Fennel Pollen.
Shake pan constantly and toss for an additional minute or until veggies are tender crisp.
Garnish with balsamic glaze.
Serves 2-3 main dish, 4 as side dish.
*For a tasty spin, omit kielbasa and serve as warm slaw on smoked sausage dogs or brats with mustard of your choice.

Pepperoni Cheatzzas

Sometimes dinner ideas and meal planning revolves around necessity.  This installment is one such.  A quick and easy last minute dinner hack, ready in virtual minutes and big on flavor.  There happened to be some Texas Toast in Garlic and Cheese for a much lower price than usual at Walmart for $1 and $1.06 a box.  The box has 8 pre-sliced toasts ready for the oven. Taking full advantage of this  occasion,  I immediately thought of deep dish, stuffed crusts and garlicky parmesan painted crusts,  I decided to make pizza singles. 
There is an abundance of freedom within this recipe and the toppings  can vary according to individual tastes.  When time permits, you can set up a little toppings bar and let the kids help.  If they are very young, this is a good time for them to practice counting and shapes!  Children receive food better when they are involved with the preparation.  This is also great for teens, especially if they have unexpected friends over.
The individual slices also cater to picky palates and topping lovers alike.  I went with the simplest version for this round, pepperoni and pepperoni and black olives. Another cool perk to having these guys around is they are pre-portioned.  Some days you or the kiddies may need a quick snack, so you can just grab as many or as little as you need to top, straight from freezer to oven, to accommodate the demand. 
Paired with a green salad and whole steamed corn, this went over very well with the kids. Of course, this isn't a recipe to run away with, but it certainly will help you shave a little off of your prep and allow some you-time when it really counts, even if you have to 'cheat' a little. Every bit counts.
1 box Texas Toast, Cheese style
1 pkg. shredded Mozzarella and Provolone cheese blend
1 small jar pizza sauce
1 pkg. pepperoni slices
Sliced veggies of choice
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)
Heat oven to specified 425*F.
Arrange toasts on baking sheet or roasting rack.
Using a tablespoon, spread sauce on each toast.
Sprinkle a scant amount of cheese onto each.
Place 4 pepperoni on each and any additional veggies or toppings.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted and toasty, about 4 minutes.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

1 Minute Desserts; Apple Pie Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Cake w/ Balsamic Glaze

When time is of the essence, but you want a dessert fast, there's nothing wrong with ready made ingredients.  This is a recipe as such.  Walmart has an unbelievably delicious and affordable Apple Pie Ice Cream for under three dollars. They also have these miniature cakes in multitudes of flavors, including Cinnamon, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Lemon etc...and they are all  250 calories and under 10 grams of fat.  The kicker is they are only 50 cents!  Granted, you should not make it a serious habit, but these are tasty every now and then.  The balsamic glaze is a bit more expensive, but worth it. You may substitute with a chocolate or caramel syrup, but why tamper with a good thing. 

1 carton, Great Value Apple Pie Ice Cream
1 to 4 Great Value Salted Caramel or Cinnamon Cakes
Balsamic Glaze for Garnish, optional

Place cake on dish and microwave for 15 seconds.
Add a scoop of ice cream.
Garnish with glaze as desired.
Serves 1 to 4, depending on family size.

No Bake Peach Cobbler Cakes, Mother's Day Desserts

With the Mother's Day holiday coming up, every second saved counts.  These no bake peach cobbler cakes are a good way to save time, not taste. I came up with this recipe last week when I saw some dessert cups on sale.  I walked past some peaches and a recipe idea was conceived.  
All the components of a comforting peach cobbler will be at your fingertips, and this easier version is  just perfect for portion control and also uniformity.  No more worrying about who 'stole' all the crust from the cobbler or who hogged all the fruit! These cakes serve themselves and may be assembled ahead of time, minus the reduced syrup and whipped cream or topping.  You may also make a grand entrance if you will ,by assembling the cups on a large platter with the peaches already in place, then pour the warm sauce over the whole shebang and garnish with as little or as much of the whipped cream as desired by the "dessertee " or person consuming the dessert (yeah, I made this word up)!
For a boozy and slightly upscale version, consider using a splash of Twenty Grand Black, Vodka infused with Cognac , simmered in with sauce, followed by a pat of butter, for a bold and rich flavor. Also, for this version, you can make the whipped cream from scratch, but if your schedule is like mine for this weekend, "Ain't nobody got time for that!," so you can stick with the version below and save the boozy one for another intimate occasion.

12 dessert cups
1 29 oz. can peach halves, in syrup
1 tsp. Madagascar vanilla bean paste, or pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon, plus more for garnish
pinch of kosher salt, optional
8 oz. container whipped topping or can version

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, pour syrup from can.
Slice the peach halves evenly and add to syrup.
Add vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.
Simmer peaches in syrup until reduced slightly and thickened, about 10 minutes.
Arrange dessert cups on a large platter and place equal portions of the peaches in the cups.
Allow the sauce to cool for several minutes to thicken further.
Drizzle the peach cups with the syrup.
Garnish with whipped topping and dust with cinnamon.
Serve immediately for best results.
Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Herb's the Word and 3 Minute Roasted Bacon and Green Onion Appetizer

I love complexities of flavors and textures in cooking.  I love to grow my own herbs and vegetables.  I have had better luck with some than others.  I can grow the hell out of some oregano, which occupies about 1/3 of my current herb garden, and I am proficient at keeping my Rosemary 'bush,' branching out and reaching for the sky. I just can't keep my Sage, Sweet Basil or Thai Basil or neither Mints thriving to my satisfaction.
 I gifted a portion of my Chocolate Mint to my sister Gayle last growing season.  Lo and behold, I had to be gifted back a portion to start again.  It's going swimmingly, by the way!  I had a surplus of fresh parsley, both curly and Italian Flat Leaf,  but apparently it has run its course.  It was my very first herb, about 7 years ago.  I have some fresh seeds ready to go.
As a girl, reading about cooking and the mechanics thereof, was how I got my feet wet.  I would read through the recipes and wonder what they would be like to prepare them without substitutions or omitting certain ingredients.  We possessed the basics; salt and pepper, seasoned salt, spice blend for homemade sausage and maybe some onion and garlic powder.  Dried parsley may have also been in the mix, but I am uncertain.
Fresh herbs were of regions unknown in our home, though we grew an enormous garden every year.  I remember memorizing the characteristics of herbs and what they paired with to act as my experience, until I could get out and buy some of the herbs I'd often read about in recipes.  I could not execute by the books, because the ingredient call was not a part of our staple items at that day and time.
My mom and sisters prepared delicious dishes using the dried herbs, but the Culinarian in me wanted to get my hands dirty, literally, and submerge myself in all of the beautiful aspects of cooking and cookery; seasoning and garnishing, accenting and embellishing.  Having an herb garden helped,  in my mind, confirm my commitment to the arts and my passion.  I feel they grew and helped me grow.
I beam with pride knowing that I can walk out the door, and come back inside after just a couple of minutes with the Lime Thyme to accent a Thai Soup perfectly.  Roasting some potatoes, pork or poultry'? A few sprigs of Rosemary can add a pleasant and satisfying earthiness, even warmth.  Sprucing up a summertime drink or a combination of fresh fruit? Some Mint or Chocolate mint, will do the trick!
Gardening can be fun and therapeutic for us. I am embarking on a new project and renovating my precious herb garden and replacing it with a spiral one.  I am currently in the process of  transplanting, re-planting and customizing my usual herb suspects and incorporating some new guys in the mix, I'll be sure to keep you posted;)

One pkg. of green onions
1 pkg. precooked bacon
olive oil for misting
SPST ( Salt and Pepper to Suit your Taste)

Turn on broiler.
Trim the onions on both sides.
Wrap a slice of bacon around the onion, starting with the white part.
Place on a roasting rack sprayed with an olive oil mister or cooking spray.
Spray the onions and SPST.
Roast until bacon is crisp, flipping once, if desired.
Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Perfect beside a nice juicy steak, medium rare with a baked potato and a glass of Chardonnay!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Broccoli Leaf Dolmas with Lentils and Greens

I used leaves of a broccoli plant to make these Southern American style dolmas.  I had some lentils cooked with a smoked ham hock and was able to put up to 1 tsp. in each viable leaf.
 The lentils, I cooked in chicken stock and I also added a pound of mixed seasonal greens and wilted them in before adding the lentils.
I blanched the broccoli leaves in salted water with a splash of vinegar, then shocked them in cold water.
I placed the dolmas in a small cast Iron baking dish and sprayed them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar infused with FIGS!
I open roasted the dolmas until tender, about 25 minutes. They were delicious, even at room temperature.
I love finding new ways to utilize everyday foods. Next time you cut your broccoli from your garden, save the larger leaves and let your imaginations run wild!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Easiest Banana Cream Pudding Cups

Banana Pudding is an icon in Southern American cuisine.  Ironically enough, it was dubbed a Southern "thang" mainly because of an association with cooks of the south and references made by fans along the Southern Belt.  The fact that the major ports were located in the lower southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi, contributed to the localization of the dish, but there were also ports  in New York and Boston.    
The humble beginnings of banana pudding contained no wafers or cookies, until around 1921.  Some of the more sophisticated renderings of this dessert contained slices of rich pound cake and dainty lady fingers.   The now familiar version surfaced in the north, Illinois to be exact, and the recipes we know today, stemmed from an adaptation to the recipe first introduced by a home cook, by the name of  Laura Kerley, then embraced by Nabisco and printed on the box, as a way to sell their vanilla wafers.  A Star is Born.
Other companies began to cash in on its popularity with instant pudding, allowing the creamy goodness to be easily right at our fingertips,  J-E-L-L-O, YEAH!  These puddings, with homemade custard as well as instant, were made all across the country.   
 The ever popular banana made its debut in the Americas in 1876 at a Centennial fair in Pennsylvania as part of it's exotic fruits exhibit.  It was discovered by Jean Francois Poujot, a Jamaican, in 1836, who cultivated the magnificent fruit into what we know today.  This is the little sister to the 'cooking' type, also known as plantain!
The featured recipe is a no fuss favorite, introduced to my family on Easter, as a shortcut dessert item to lessen my cooking load.  I added a banana pudding to my menu, rather late in the game and hadn't factored in the possible 'Nilla' shortage, as a result of it being the morning of our dinner and last minute as heck!  
After tediously searching for the wafers and roaming the isles like a nomad for several minutes too long, I consulted with an employee, stocking in the dairy department.  He joined in the hunt for the elusive wafers as passionately as I, finally locating them beside the graham crackers.  For the life of me, I could not find that place, where I had been before, (just not recently) for the same wafers, on many occasions....maybe it was the stress! 
The shelf was almost barren, containing no store brand, no Nabisco, some miniature version and some by Murray's.  I felt the price of those were a bit too steep and I could not immediately recall the quality. The wafers would soften and take on the flavors of the custard and bananas, as the dish set and married, so I didn't feel that expensive meant better.  
 As I held the box in my hand, pondering the purchase, my eyes roved the shelves and surrounding options.  My wheels started to turn and ideas for variations bespoke new kitchen adventures and recipes, and for us, a 🌟 was born, again!  Vanilla Sandwich Cookies, you ROCK!
1 pkg. Vanilla sandwich cookies, about 14 oz., half smashed into rough crumbles, half left whole
2 boxes banana cream instant pudding mix
4 c. 2% milk
3 ripe bananas, not soft, but semi-firm
1 8 oz. container  whipped topping
15- 8 oz. serving cups
Crumble the cookies in a sandwich sized resealable bag.
Prepare the pudding according to instructions.
Slice the bananas into the pudding and stir with rubber spatula.
Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Place a whole cookie in the bottom of each cup.
Spoon about 4 oz. of pudding mixture into cup.
Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. of crumbles.
Twist cookie apart and put one side or the other in the center of pudding.
 Chill, covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve, preferably 2 to 4 hours in advance.
Makes about 15 individual servings.

This version is family style, featuring Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal for embellishment on top.  The flavors were there, but the cereal, albeit great in ice cold milk, did not withstand the time needed for the rest of the dish to set. Garnish with CTC just before serving for a fantastic and cinnamony spark of delight!