Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Tis The Season For Cookies

Well, once again, the holidays are upon us.  I really wanted to do a Thanksgiving recipe post but I was out of town that week and things were crazy leading up to our trip.  I hope I can make it up to you next year.  But I don't intend to slack on other holiday recipes so I figured I would start with cookies.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not much of a baker.  All that measuring irritates me.  I would much rather be able to just throw things in here and there.  But at holiday time, I do like to bake cookies.  Right now, my 6 year old helps me but I can't wait until my almost 3 year old is able to help too.  I think it's a great bonding experience.  Every Christmas when I was a kid, I would go to my maternal grandmother's house and help her decorate her gingerbread cookies.  It was something I looked foward to every year.  Once my daughter was old enough, I got the recipe from my mom and started the same tradition.  I'm sure I could find an easier, more updated recipe but I like carrying on the tradition exactly as it was.

Swedish Ginger Christmas Cookies

1/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C molasses
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 C butter
1 egg
2 1/2 C AP flour

In a saucepan, combine sugar, molasses and spices.  Cook over medium heat until it reaches boiling, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and add the baking soda and butter.  Stir until the butter is melted.  With an electric mixer, blend in egg until smooth.  With a wooden spoon (or an electric mixed with a paddle attachment) beat in 2 cups of flour to make a stiff dough.  Put remaining 1/2 cup of flour on a board or counter and need the dough until all the flour has been incorporated.  Shape dough into a smooth ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Roll out dough onto a lightly floured board.  Roll as thin as possible.  Cut out cookies with Christmas shaped cookie cutters. Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

My daughter and I decorate them with a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze and sprinkles, just like I did with my grandmother.

This next recipe is also from my maternal grandmother and I have passed it on to several people, including my father-in-law who added them to the cookies he and my mother-in-law make ever year at the holidays.


2 C AP flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 C butter
3/4 C brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1/4 C molasses
1/2 tsp. salt
White sugar for rolling

Cream together butter, brown sugar and spices.  Add egg and molasses.  Stir in dry ingredients, mixing well.  Form into small balls.  Roll the balls in white sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until edges are slightly crisp.

The next recipe comes from my mom but I am sure there are similar versions all over the place.  These are SO simple to make and SO good.  Even though the are called cookies, they're really bars.

7 Layer Cookies

1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs
1 stick butter or margarine
1-14 oz package shredded coconut
1-12 oz. package chocolate chips (or butterscotch or whatever you have)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 C chopped nuts (optional...I'm not using them today)

Preheat oven to 350. While oven is heating, put butter in 9x13 pan and put pan in oven to melt butter. Once butter is melted, take out pan and add graham cracker crumbs. Stir to combine and press mixture in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle coconut over crust (I didn't quite use the whole package). Sprinkle the chips on top of the coconut. Drizzle the condensed milk over the whole thing. Bake for about 20 minute or until the coconut is slightly browned.

These next cookies are my hubby's favorites.  I really like them too and I think they are a great holiday cookie.

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats ( not instant)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter; mix well to cream together.

Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.

Add the cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flour and mix well.

Fold in the oatmeal, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips- making sure that all ingredients are uniformly distributed.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges are lightly golden.

Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.
My last recipe is MY favorite.  And apparently, it's a favorite at hubby's office too since they always ask me to make them.  My hubby got the recipe from a coworker back in CT so I'm not sure where it originally came from. 
Italian Biscotti
1 C sugar
1/4 C butter, melted
3 eggs
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. anise extract
2 C AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 C whole almonds

Preheat over to 350.  Beat sugar and eggs together until creamy.  Beat in melted butter and extracts.  Mix together flour and baking powder.  Add to the batter and beat until well blended.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  Shape dough into a 9 x 6 inch oval, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cool slightly but NOT TOO MUCH or you won't be able to cut them.  Slice dough diagonally into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Put the slices back on the cookie sheet and return to the oven.  bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Well, there you go.  I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for.....PASTA!

Ha!  Not what you expected me to say, was it?  Not that I don't have ice cream recipes...I do, but that's more of a summer topic.  So, anywho, who doesn't love pasta?  I know, I know, we should all be cutting back on carbs, and we have in my family.  Plus, I only buy whole wheat pasta, which makes my husband NUTS.  He really doesn't like it, but tough.  I have found that Target brand Whole Wheat pasta is the brand he will tolerate best, in case anyone else out there has a complainer on their hands.  And my kids LOVE pasta.  They would eat it for dinner every night if I let them but I keep it to once a week, if even that and it's never just pasta and sauce.  I always make something more substantial so the pasta is kind of secondary, if you know what I mean.  So, here are some of the favorites in our house.

Spaghetti with Peas and Pancetta

1/2 pound spaghetti
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta or thick-cut bacon, diced
1 onion, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup sweet peas, frozen or fresh
1 ounce goat cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, hand-torn

In a large stockpot, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes; it should still be a little firm.

At the same time, heat a 2-count drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta, and stir it around. When the fat starts to render, after about 3 minutes, add the onion and bay leaf. Cook and stir until the onion caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Now add the peas and cook for 2 minutes just to heat them through.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water for the sauce. Fold the goat cheese into the hot pasta and give it a toss so it melts. Scrape the pancetta, onions, and peas into the pasta pot (toss the bay leaf). Add the Parmigiano, parsley, and lemon juice. Slowly pour in the reserved pasta water to dissolve the cheese and thin it out to a sauce consistency. Hit it with a healthy dose of olive oil and quite a few turns of freshly ground black pepper to give it bite. Return the noodles to the pot and gently toss to coat in the sauce. Split the pasta between 2 large bowls and shower it with the shredded basil.

Notes:  This recipe is made for 2 people so in my house, I double it.  Despite the seemingly exotic ingredients, both of my kids LOVE this and have since they were very small.  The one thing I do differently is that I make the sauce completely in one pan.  I don't add anything to the pasta itself.  I add all the sauce ingredients together in one pan and then add the pasta to that.  But, you can do it Tyler's way too!  One last note is both the pancetta and the onions have to be cooked a bit longer than the recipe says.  You want the pancetta nice and crispy and the onions nice and caramelized.

Orecchiette with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

2 bunches broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
1 pound orecchiette pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound turkey Italian-style sausage, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, about 1 minute. Transfer the broccoli rabe to a large bowl of ice water to cool, saving the cooking water. Bring the reserved cooking water back to a boil.

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into pieces with a spoon, until browned and juices form, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, when the reserved cooking water is boiling, add the orecchiette and cook until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Strain the broccoli rabe and add it to the pan with the sausage mixture and toss to coat with the juices. Add the pasta to the skillet. Stir in the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Notes:  After I made the recipe the first time, I used it as a base.  A lot of the time, I substitute a 10 ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach for the broccoli rabe.  I thaw and and drain it before I add it.  I also add a bit of white wine to the pan after I brown the sausage and add the garlic and red pepper flakes...maybe enough to go once around the pan or at least cover the bottom.  And most of the time I use penne pasta since I have a hard time finding orecchiette.

Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage and Ricotta Cheese

1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle pasta (or other wide, long pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound frozen peas, thawed
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 bunch fresh basil leaves chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. 
Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. 

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet heat the olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat and add the sausage. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into bite-sized bits. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese along with the cooked pasta and toss to coat, adding the pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup additions, if needed, to make the pasta moist. Return the sausage to the pan. Add the basil, Pecorino Romano cheese, and salt. Toss gently to coat and serve immediately.

Notes:  I used spaghetti when I made this (whole wheat, of course).  I also used turkey sausage and part skim ricotta.  It came out fine.  I also added a bit of white wine after I smashed the peas.  I want to note than when I saw Giada make this recipe, she didn't remove the sausage from the pan.  She moved it to the side and smashed the peas in the other side of the pan so that's what I did.

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
 5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

Notes:  You can obviously use whatever sauce you want with these.  I usually do make the arrabbiata sauce using my homemade tomato sauce.  I have used canned, well drained artichoke hearts in place of the frozen ones with no issue.  This is another hit in this house.  My 6 year old asked me to make it every week for Sunday dinner.  Uhhhh, sorry honey, it's not a very hot weather friendly dish and we live in Florida!

So, if you're looking to expand on pasta, try some of these out.  You won't regret it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Comfort Foods

I asked some of my readers (OK, my FRIENDS who are readers) if they had any requests for recipes.  And I got a couple specific requests and it all kind of boiled down to comfort foods.  With winter coming, people love to cook and eat foods that remind them of growing up and foods that warm them to the core.  So, I picked a few of my favorites and I have a few more to try that I'll post later.

My friend Maureen requested a recipe for chicken and dumplings.  And honestly, this recipe has been sitting beside my computer FOREVER>  I thought I had posted it at some point but it turns out I haven't so, here you go, Maureen!  I've adapted this to make it easier and I'll add my notes at the end.

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and stock:

1 (3 to 31/2 pound) whole organic chicken
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 head garlic, split through the equator
2 tablespoons salt
Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped chives
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish

For the stock:

Place the chicken and all stock ingredients in a large Dutch oven and cover with water.  Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour until the chicken is tender.  Skim the surface of fat and scum as it cooks.

When done remove the chicken to a cutting board.  Strain the stock and shred the meat into big pieces - the stock will be used for the sauce and the chicken will be folded into it.

For the dumplings:

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, using a whisk, lightly beat the eggs, chives and buttermilk together; pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold.  Mix just until the dough comes together; the batter should be thick and cake-like.

To prepare sauce:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the butter and oil. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add frozen peas and pearl onions.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped chives before serving.

Notes:   OK, to make this easier, I DO NOT make my own stock or even cook a chicken.  I use a rotisserie chicken that I removed the skin from and shred.  One grocery store (well, Costco in our case) chicken is perfect for my family of 4.  And then I just use box stock, usually fat free and reduced sodium.  Second, I use LESS stock...probably closer to 4 cups but I eyeball it.  If you use 6, it really doesn't get thick unless you thicken it with cornstarch or use more butter and flour in the beginning for the roux.  But I think 6 is too much in general.  Third, I half the dumpling recipe.  I make this in a 7 1/4 quart Dutch Oven and half the recipe covers the top perfectly.  I've also made the dumplings with scallions when I didn't have chives.  This is a HUGE hit at our house and when I made it for my in-laws, my father-in-law asked for the recipe and he has made it a few times himself.  It's comfort food at it's best.

Macaroni and cheese is another food I consider a comfort food.  I LOVE homemade macaroni and cheese but my kids and my husband...not so much.  For whatever reason, they prefer the stuff out of the BOX!  *Shudder*  I have 2 recipes I use depending ont eh amount of time I have but both are really good.

President Reagan's Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 lb macaroni
1 teaspoon butter
1 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup milk
Boil macaroni in water until tender and drain thoroughly.  Stir in butter and egg.
Mix mustard and salt with 1T hot water, and add to milk.  Add cheese, leaving enough to sprinkle on top.
Pour into buttered casserole; add milk, sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until custard is set and top is crusty.

Notes:  Now, I don't put cheese on top.  I usually put crushed crackers, cereal or even tortilla chips on top.  This is the one I use when I don't have a lot of time.  You really just throw it together and bake...very easy.  My next one takes a bit more time and is a bit more creamy. 

Easy, Creamy Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese

1 pound box dried elbow macaroni
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 cup milk
2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Put a covered stock pot of water on to boil over high heat. 

Meanwhile, over low heat melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. While butter is melting, measure out and combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard in a small dish or bowl. When butter has melted, add the flour mixture to the butter and use a whisk to combine to make your roux. Continue whisking and slowly add the milk, whisking to combine all the ingredients. Turn up the heat slightly (don't go higher than medium-low) and whisking often, thicken the mixture. You may see occasional bubbles, and that's OK, but you do not want it to boil, just to thicken. When thickened, remove from heat and add the shredded cheese, using the whisk to combine until melted and homogenous. 

Drain the macaroni (do not rinse, the starch helps the cheese stick to the noodles) and place in a large bowl. Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir to coat well. Serve while hot.
Notes:   This is great as it but if you want a baked mac and cheese, you can put it in a casserole, add something crunchy on top and bake it a 350 until the top is crusty.

This last recipe may not be a conventional comfort food but I find it warm and comforting and a bit spicy.  And it's made in the crockpot so it's super easy.  And I associate crockpot cooking with comfort foods.  You can serve this over rice or in tortillas.

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 cup green tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Place chicken breasts in Crock Pot.

In a mixing bowl combine everything except sour cream. Pour sauce mixture over chicken.

Cook Low 6 - 8 hours or High 3 - 4 hours.

Add sour cream just before serving.

Note:  If you like it spicier, like I do, you can add a bit of cayenne or a chopped jalapeno or two.

Well, I am off to look through my other recipes so I can make my menu for next week.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Foods

OK, I had told my friend Kristen this post would be done like, last week and I am now just getting to it.  Sorry, Kristen!

Well, fall is officially here and while temps here in FL are still in the 90's. I know it has cooled off up north so I thought it was time to post some recipes to fit the season.  I'll start off with some soups.  To me, nothing is better on a cool day then a hot bowl of soup and some crusty bread.  Heaven.  I already posted a couple of my favorites here and I posted a couple copycat recipes here.  But have many more in my arsenal, so here they are.

These first couple are from Giada DeLaurentiis.  I love her and I have ALL her cookbooks.  These soups are both divine!

Lentil Soup with Beef

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups (about 11 ounces) lentils, rinsed
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Add half of the beef and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.

Return the beef and any accumulated juices from the bowl to the pot. Add the broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the meat is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add the lentils. Cover and continue simmering until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

This next soup is SO easy and so versatile.  I've made it with both escarole and kale and I am sure you can substitute other hearty greens.

Escarole and Bean Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound escarole, chopped
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (1-ounce) piece Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the escarole and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Add the chicken broth, beans, and Parmesan cheese. Cover and simmer until the beans are heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into 6 bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil over each. Serve with crusty bread.

I make my own bread from a recipe that makes a good sized batch that can stay in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.  You just take off a chunk whenever you want to bake bread and it also makes awesome pizza dough.  I only have it in a PDF format so if you would like it, email me at 4ladyhusky at cfl dot rr dot com.

This next soup I got from my mom who I believe got it from her next door neighbor.  I am not sure where it originated but it is VERY good.

Butternut Squash Potato Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
5 potatoes, diced (I use Yukon Gold)
5 green onions, diced (I've also used about half a small sweet onion as well)
1 clove of garlic, minced
Olive oil
2 cans chicken broth (more or less may be needed, depending)
Salt and pepper

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is soft.  Add the squash and potatoes and stir well.  Add enough broth to cover the vegetables about halfway, maybe a little more.  Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally and mash the vegetables slightly.  Add more broth as needed.  Once the vegetables are very soft, puree until smooth using a hand blender or a regular blender, adding more broth as needed.  Heat through and serve.

Now I'll continue both the butternut squash and the Giada theme.  Both of these recipes are very good.  I have brought both of them to Thanksgiving gatherings over the years and they are always a hit.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (I leave these out)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk (I use whatever I have, usually 1%)
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)
2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (I use part skim)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender*. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Baked Squash Gratin

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup purchased basil pesto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly butter an 8-inch baking dish and set aside. Fill a large pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of the pot. Set a steamer rack in the pot, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash and steam over medium heat until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Season the squash to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the squash evenly over the prepared baking dish. Dollop half of the pesto all over the squash in the dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the squash. Repeat layering with the remaining squash, pesto, and cheese. Using a skewer, swirl the pesto decoratively into the squash. Dot the top with butter and bake until the gratin is heated through and golden brown around the edges, about 40 minutes.

I hope you try out the great fall recipes.  They have all become favorites in my family.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Super Sides

You can't have a main dish without a side dish or two. Everyone does the old mashed or baked potatoes or rice and some kind of blah veggie. I have tried to make things more interesting mainly because I am worried that my kids are going to start getting picky. As it turns out, they are more picky about their meat dishes than the are about veggies and other sides. So, here are a few of our favorite side dishes.

This first one is great for grill season but you could make it just as easily indoors but skipping the grilling and just boiling the potatoes.

French Style Grilled Potato Salad

2 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (red and yellow), scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 cornichon, finely diced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chervil, for garnish

Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool and slice in half.

Heat the grill to medium.

In a large bowl toss the potatoes with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the potatoes on the grill, cut-side down and grill until lightly golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and continue grilling until just cooked through, about 4 minutes longer.

While the potatoes are grilling, whisk together the vinegar, mustards, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl, add the red onion, cornichon and capers and stir to combine.

Remove the potatoes from the grill and immediately add to the bowl with the other ingredients and gently stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped chervil.

My notes: I have found it's easier to cut the potatoes BEFORE you boil them rather than after. Cornichon can be found in the bulk food section of most Whole Foods and other specialty stores but I've used baby dills in their place and I have also left them out altogether. I also leave out the chervil.

This next side dish is one that I make to with chicken kabobs marinated in the barbecue sauce I blogged about here. It has become very popular in our house.

Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

1 cup uncooked whole-wheat couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
Dash of sugar
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Place couscous, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir in boiling water; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Combine oil, juice, garlic, and sugar.

Add oil mixture, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, mint, and next 4 ingredients (through tomato). Sprinkle with cheese.

My notes: I usually add a tad bit more oil and lemon juice to keep it from drying out. I've also used finely chopped onion in place of green onions.

This next side dish is one I absolutely LOVE. I LOVE roasting veggies. They taste so much better that way. This can easily be done with broccoli too!

Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (from 1 medium cauliflower)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Chopped chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately while still warm.

My notes: I usually leave the garlic out and double up on the Parmesan. I also put it back in the oven with the cheese on it for about 5 more minutes.

Well, that wraps up my super sides. I hope you try some or all of these and like them as much as we do!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Thrill of the Grill

Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook. No pans, great flavor and tons of variety. Living in FL, I can pretty much grill year round and I LOVE it. I already blogged my favorite flank steak recipe here and a great swordfish one here. A lot of the time I use 30 minute marinades or seasonings I have on hand for other cuts of steak and for chicken breasts. But one day, my grocery store had skirt steak on sale so I picked some up. Then I went searching for a recipe and I found a great one that I have made over and over. It works well with flank steak too.

Grilled Skirt Steak (Churrasco)

2 skirt steaks (about 1 pound each), trimmed of fat and cut in 1/2 crosswise
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Chimichurri, recipe follows


4 cups flat-leaf parsley (from about 1 large bunch)
6 cloves garlic
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper into both sides of the steaks. Rub the onion powder into the steaks, dividing it evenly. Put the steaks into a baking dish or container that holds them comfortably. Sprinkle the vinegar over the steaks and brush them with the olive oil. Marinate the steaks at room temperature for up to 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high or heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the steaks, turning only once, to desired doneness. Remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes. If desired, slice the steaks thinly against the grain before serving. Drizzle some of the chimichurri over the steaks and pass the rest separately.

In a food processor, pulse the parsley and garlic until finely chopped. Scrape into a bowl and stir in the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, for a spicy chimichurri.

This was a HUGE hit with my family as well as with friends I made it for. I recently found a new chimichurri recipe on my Food & Wine magazine and I liked it even better than this one and I think it will be my new go to one.

Citrus Chimichurri

1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled, blanched, minced
1 tsp dried dill
1 small shallot , minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon

In a medium bowl combine dried oregano, parsley, dill, red pepper flakes, shallot, lemon zest and garlic. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the herb bowl and marinate the ingredients together for a minimum of 2 hours.

Serve over grilled meats.

I made the recipe as is but next time I will use fresh herbs for all but the dill, unless I happen to have some. I grow parsley and oregano and I think it's a much better texture with fresh versus dried.

My last recipe is a marinade courtesy of my sister's mother-in-law. My sister made us chicken kabobs quite a few years back using the marinade and I remember thinking the ingredients were a bit weird but it was SO good. She made it for me again this past May when I was visiting her and I was able to get the actual name of the recipe. After trying unsuccessfully to get it from her one day, I Googled it and found it several places. This recipe is one that is on a MUCH smaller scale than most and I even halve this to make 6 chicken kabobs. I use cubed chicken breast, bell peppers and onions.

Cornell Barbecue Sauce

1/2 c. cooking oil
1 c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 egg

Combine ingredients and marinate about 6 chicken halves. Use also as a baste.

I use slightly less oil and salt. I also use Egg Beaters and dried marjoram instead of poultry seasoning since I didn't have any. Dried sage would work too.

Happy Grilling!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sometimes, I'm a CopyCat

You can find copycat recipes all over the Internet. And I Have to admit, I never really thought about trying any. I guess I never really found a dish I liked enough to look up the copycat recipe. But, in the last year, I have tried a couple. Here they are.

Panera Bread Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
2 cups chicken stock or bouillon
1/2 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup carrots, julienned
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar

Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add the half-and-half (this is called making a roux). Add the chicken stock whisking all the time. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender for 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup should be thickened by now. Pour in batches into blender and puree. Return to pot over low heat and add the grated cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in the nutmeg and serve.

This was SOOOO good...even my kids liked it! I'm not a huge broccoli fan but I thought it was great.

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

1 Lb. Italian sausage ( I used hot turkey sausage)
2 large Russet baking potatoes, sliced in half, and then in 1/4" slices.
1 large onion chopped
1/2 can oscar meyer bacon bits (or crumbled fresh cooked bacon. I used turkey bacon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale or swiss chard, chopped (The restaurant uses kale so that's what I used)
2 cans chicken broth
1 quart water
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I used 1% milk)

Brown sausage and crumble. Drain and set aside. Place onions, potatoes, chicken broth, water, garlic in pot and cook on medicum heat until potatoes are done. Add sausage and bacon and then add salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for another 10 minutes. Turn to low heat and add the kale and cream. Heat through and serve.

Even with my modifications, this tasted EXACTLY like the restaurant version. I was VERY impressed.

I think I need to do this more. If you can make these things almost as good at home, why go out? It's probably cheaper to make it at home too!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Earth

I’m bbbbbaaaaaccccckkkkkk! Yes, I know, it’s been almost 5 months since last posted. Things got a bit hectic for a while and I found myself just falling back on reliable recipes and not trying anything new. Well, like everyone, we’re cutting back and I’ve been trying new recipes to make up for the fact that we’ve had to cut back on going out to eat. I’ve also tried to get back into buying fish and other seafood, wild caught and sustainable, of course since it is a favorite around here.

Hubby loves swordfish. I could take it or leave it but it is good on the grill so I went looking for new recipes to jazz things up. And I found this one from one of my favorite chefs, Giada DeLaurentiis. The recipe can be found here if you would rather see it that way.


1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (5 to 6-ounces each) swordfish steaks

Prepare the grill (medium-high heat). Whisk the oil, mint, lemon juice, basil, and garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Season the lemon and olive oil mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Brush the swordfish steaks with 2 tablespoons of the lemon and olive oil mixture. Grill the steaks until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (depending on thickness of steaks). Transfer the steaks to plates. Spoon the remaining sauce over and serve.

This got high marks from the whole family. Of course, my 2 ½ year old thought it was chicken, but who cares! I loved that it gave me a reason to use herbs from my garden.

Well, that’s all for today (since I have both kids home for the summer) but I have a bunch of recipes I have already tried as well as some that I will be trying in the next couple of weeks. I promise I will be posting regularly again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Healthy Living

Well, I started Weight Watchers yesterday. My love of cooking and food has caught up with me and I need to lose some weight. I have done Weight Watchers before with good results. And I have to say, I love the points program...you don't really feel deprived at all. And they have some darn good recipes. So, I thought I would share some of my favorites here.

I really love this first one. You can put it in tortillas, over rice or I've even put it in quesadillas. And it cooks in the crockpot so it's easy peasy.

Crockpot Sour Cream Salsa Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C salsa (or use as much as you like more salsa might be a little more saucy. I've use Pace Picante too which works well)
1 package of taco seasoning (I use the low sodium one)
1/4 C light sour cream

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Lay the chicken in the bottom of the pot and sprinkle with the taco seasoning and salsa. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (I would do closer to 6 so it doesn't dry out). When ready, remove the chicken and shred it with a fork. Stir in the sour cream and return the chicken to the pot and let the sauce warm up.

This next one is easy too.

One Dish Chicken and Rice Bake

1 can reduced fat, low sodium cream of mushroom (or chicken) soup
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C water
3/4 C rice (I wonder if you could use brown?)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika

In a 2 quart backing dish, mix soup, water rice, paprika and pepper. Season chicken (go light on the salt) and place it on top of the rice mixture. Sprinkle with additional pepper and paprika is desired. Cover and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until chicken and rice are done.

Now, I am not Jewish but I had close friends who were growing up and I love, love, love latkes (potato pancakes). This recipe is AWESOME.


1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/4 C flour
1 small onion
1/4 tsp each pepper and baking powder
4 large potatoes, peeled
Oil for frying

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder together. Shred the onion and the potatoes and add to the egg mixture (shred just before frying to prevent discoloration). In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbs. of oil over medium high heat. Drop 4 level 1/4 cup rounds of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden. Drain on paper towels and keep in in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. Fry remaining pancakes in batches of 4, adding more oil if needed.

I'll end on a sweet note. This is not a WW recipe, I don't think but I know this recipe pops up everywhere. I got it from a friend. These muffins are SO good.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 box of spice cake mix
1 regular size can of PLAIN pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3/4 C water

Mix ingredients well and bake as directed on the box.

Oh my God, they are so moist. Well, my little one is calling me so that's it for now. I have more recipes ion line, both WW and regular. Until next time happy (and healthy) eating!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I had hoped to be able to get an appetizer post in before the Super Bowl. But as it usually happens in life with little kids, things got hectic and time got away from me. But, I figured better late than never. Maybe you all can use them next year. I know lots of appetizers are bad for you so I am trying to balance things out by throwing a few healthier options in.

This first one is a family favorite. I got the recipe from my MIL who I think got it from my SIL so I have no idea where the original recipe came from.

Dill Dip in a Bread Bowl

1 ½ tbs. Beau Monde Spice Blend (this is made by Spice Island but it can be hard to find. If you can’t find it, celery salt works fine as a substitute. This should be more of a “to taste” addition.)
2 tbs. dried onion flakes
2 tbs. dill weed
½ C mayo
1 ½ C sour cream (I used reduced fat for both the mayo and the sour cream)
1 round loaf of bread with the center removed and chunks reserved

Combine the herbs and spices with the pay and sour cream. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Spoon into the hollowed out out bread and serve with the reserved bread chunks for sipping.

My note: The original recipe called for a cup each of mayo and sour cream but I thought that was too much mayo so this recipe reflects my modification.

The next recipe I believe came from Stacy’s Pita Chips.

Classic Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 (14 oz. can) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
½ (10 oz. package) frozen spinach, thawed
½ C reduced fat sour cream
¼ C reduced fat mayo
¼ C reduced fat cream cheese
¼ C grated Romano cheese (you could also use parmesan)
¼ tsp. minced garlic

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees. In a small baking dish, mix all the ingredients together. Cover dish and bake until heated through and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve hot warm or cool.

This is slightly healthier and is served with apple slices.

Toffee Apple Dip

¾ C brown sugar
½ C powdered sugar
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
¾ package of Skor (or Heath) toffee bits
Sliced apples

Mix sugars, cream cheese and vanilla. When smooth, add toffee bits. Serve with apple slices for dipping.

Tip: If you dip apple slices in pineapple juice, it keeps them from turning brown and brings out their natural sweetness.

Another Healthy favorite of mine is tzatziki. I like to use this recipe from Ina Garten and serve it with veggies for dipping.

Easy Tzatziki

2 (7-ounce) containers Greek yogurt (recommended: Fage Total)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Grate the cucumber on a box grater and squeeze the grated cucumber with your hand to remove some of the liquid. Add it to the yogurt along with the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and stir. Serve with toasted pita crisps.

And last but not least, this is my favorite during grilling season. It’s by Bobby Flay and it can be found online here.

Tomato Bread with Prosciutto

8 ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 cup Spanish olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
16 (1/2-inch thick) slices Ciabatta or crusty country-style bread
16 thin slices prosciutto

Preheat grill to high. Brush tomatoes with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and grill until charred on all sides. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and then place in a food process with the garlic, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and the pine nuts. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the thyme, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Brush each slice of bread with the remaining oil on both sides, season with salt and pepper, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds on each side. Remove the bread from the grill, brush 1 side of each slice with the pureed tomato mixture, and top each with a slice of prosciutto. Serve.

Happy Snacking!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I Love Me Some BBQ!

I'm not talking about cooking out I'm talking about Southern style BBQ which is PLENTIFUL down here in FL. But I like to make my own too with my favorite being pulled pork. Yeah, it's not great FOR you but man does it taste good. I searched high and low for a good recipe that had good seasoning and I found this one by Tyler Florence which I use for the seasoning. For the sauce, I based mine off of the Neeley's BBQ Sauce but I add my own twist since I couldn't find my beloved chipotle BBQ sauce I used to buy in CT down here nor could I find anything even close. So here is my take on those recipes.

Pulled Pork

3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) pork roast, preferably shoulder or Boston butt
Your favorite BBQ sauce

Mix the paprika, garlic power, brown sugar, dry mustard, and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it's falling apart.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to "pull" the meat: Grab 2 forks. Using 1 to steady the meat, use the other to "pull" shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour BBQ sauce over. Stir it all up well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon the pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of each hamburger bun, and top with some coleslaw. Serve with pickle spears and BBQ sauce on the side.

Neelys BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

And here is my addition:

1 or 2 FINELY chopped chipotles in adobo, seeds removed (how much you use can depend on the size of the chipotles and how spicy you like it)

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, for 1 hour 15 minutes.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

I've made this for my friend Wendy and her family so maybe she'll chime in with her review. Hmmm, I think I know what we'll be eating during the Super Bowl!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Keeping With The Asian Theme

I found a new Asian recipe last week. It was posted on a message board I am a member of and I don;t know where it was originally from. But we tried it with the flank steak posted below and it was REALLY good. Everyone loved it...even the kids. I did double the original recipe and that is reflected here.

Sesame Noodles

1 (16 oz) package whole wheat thin spaghetti
2 large carrot, ends removed and sliced into thin matchsticks
2 heaping Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
1 tsp good quality sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
12 green onions, sliced thinly, dark green ends removed
4 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 c. reserved pasta water

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine tahini, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce and green onions. Stir to combine well and set aside.

In last 2 minutes of cooking time, add matchstick pieces to boiling water. Remove 2 c. pasta water from pan and set aside. Drain pasta and carrots and place into large bowl along with other ingredients. Add 1/2 of reserved pasta water and toss to combine all ingredients. Add sesame seeds, let sit for 1 minute and add additional pasta water to obtain desired consistency.

Serve warm or cold.

We ate it hot that night with dinner and I had leftovers cold for lunch today and it's great either way. I'm sure you could use reduced fat peanut butter to make it a little more figure friendly. It went great with the flank steak and would probably go well wit the chicken sates too!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shrimp Lovers

We are huge shrimp lovers in my family. The only one who doesn't eat them is my 2 year old and that's only because she is in a picky phase. She started eating them at around 11 months old. So, I thought I would share a family favorite. This is my own recipe. I usually just wing it but when I made it the other night, I did measure so I could pass the recipe on. Here it is:

Shrimp Scampi

1 pound (raw) large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to use 21-25's)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 C dry vermouth (you could also use white wine)
The juice of 2 lemons (maybe about 1/3 C)
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs. unsalted butter
1 pound of spaghetti (or any thin pasta)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Preheat a pan over medium heat. In the last 5-7 minutes of the pasta cooking time, add the olive oil and butter to the pan. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the pan, cooking until they are almost all pink. Add the vermouth and lemon juice and a little of the pasta water. Add the pasta and the parsley to the pan with the shrimp and toss. Add more pasta water if needed to make a sauce.

My 5 year old LOVES this. It's one of her favorite meals.

I tried a new shrimp recipe the other night that was posted on a message board I go to. I also made the rice recipe that accompanied it. The recipes originally came from a Weight Watchers recipe blog which you can link to off the recipe titles.

Garlic Shrimp

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tbsp Spanish olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes
pinch paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley
Lime wedges for serving

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until golden, about 2 minutes being careful not to burn. Add shrimp and season with salt and paprika. Cook 2-3 minutes until shrimp is cooked through. Do not overcook or it will become tough and chewy. Add chopped fresh herbs and divide equally in 3 plates.

Scallion Cilantro Rice

1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 habanero pepper, diced (I used a jalapeno which is MUCH milder, even my kids ate it)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups water
2 scallions, diced
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a small heavy pot add oil and saute pepper on medium heat. Add rice, water and salt. Boil on high until most of the water evaporates. When the water just skims the top of the rice, reduce flame to low and cover about 15 minutes. Shut off stove and keep covered an additional 5 minute.

In a medium bowl, combine chopped scallions, cilantro, lime juice, rice and toss until completely mixed. Makes approx 3 cups.

These were a hit with the family and I plan on keeping them to make again. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Family Food Memories

When I was growing up, we would spend Christmas Day with my dad's side of the family. My uncle, who was married to my dad's sister, was Italian and every year, he made braciole for Christmas dinner. Now he made it the old school Italian way which involved a lot of time and effort. And when I was little I refused to touch it because it had hard boiled eggs in it and I thought that the idea of meat, eggs and tomato sauce was gross. Once I grew up some, I loved it. I asked him once how he made it and I just remember it was long and complicated. Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to actually get the recipe from him, he was suffering from early Alzheimer's and it was too late. But I have started the tradition of making it at Christmas for my family but I also like to make it just because. I made it last night and several people asked for the recipe. Mine is actually a hybrid of this recipe and this one. So here is my version:


1/2 C dried, Italian style breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 garlic clove, minced
2/3 C Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan)
1/3 C grated provolone
2 tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
4 tbs. olive oil
1 (1 1/2 lb. flank steak or any meat that is cut thin or marked as braciole meat)
4-8 paper thins slices of prosciutto
1 C dry red wine
3 1/4 C marinara sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the first 6 ingredients (through parsley) in a bowl. Add 2 tbs. of alive oil and mix well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and set aside.

Lay the flank steak flat on a work surface. Lay the prosciutto slices over the steak. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the steak to cover the prosciutto completely. Starting at the short end, roll up the steak like a jelly roll to enclose the filling completely. Using butcher's twine, tie the steak roll to secure. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, dd the braciole and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the marinara sauce. Cover partially with foil and bake, turning the braciole and basting with the sauce ever half an hour. After 1 hour, uncover and continue and baking until the meat is tender, about a half an hour longer. Total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the braciole from the sauce. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the braciole crosswise and diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Transfer the slices to a platter and spoon the sauce over the meat before serving.

I serve mine over polenta and my family loves it. Add a Caesar salad and you have a great Italian meal!