March 26, 2012

Creamy Asparagus & Spinach Soup

Ok, it has been a while since I posted here. There have been a few hiccups in my life, but after much time, thought and resolve, I am back and ready to play in my kitchen and share with you what I love so very much. That being said, here is the first of many tastes that are dying to come out of my kitchen.

This is a fantastically simple soup - thrown together with just a few ingredients hanging out in my fridge and pantry, begging to be chopped up and pureed to a silky, creamy, dreamy finish.

This soup is so creamy and filling, yet not loaded with calories. The two surprise ingredients are yogurt and nutmeg, both giving this soup a different kind of kick.

I made some parmesan crisps to add a little salty crunchiness to the soup. I think that you will agree that the combination of the salty crisps and the richness of the velvety soup makes quite an enjoyable treat. The recipe for the crisps are posted here at the bottom. These are great in salads as well. If you have a wholefoods near you, you can find parmesan crisps in the cheese department. They are however super simple to make...give it a try and see.

Pairing Suggestion: The creaminess of this soup begs for a rich Chardonnay, preferably from America, as they tend to be fuller and oakier than those from Europe.

Creamy Asparagus & Spinach Soup
Serves 6-8 (1-2 cup servings)

Ingredients
1 onion chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds of asparagus, cut into 1 inch dice
1/2 cup flour
6 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of milk (your preference of milk, I used 1% milk)
1 cup of plain nonfat yogurt
8 cups of spinach
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
Parmesan Crisps (recipe to follow)

Directions
In soup pot, cook onion in olive oil for 3-5 minutes to soften. Add asparagus and cook 5 minutes until it begins to soften. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes until hot and bubbly. Add chicken stock and milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer and add half the spinach leaves. Once wilted, blend using a hand held blender (if using blender, blend in batches). Once blended and simmering, add yogurt and the rest of the spinach leaves and allow yogurt to melt and spinach to wilt. Grate nutmeg over soup and stir in. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
Serve topped with a drizzle of cream and parmesan crisps.

Parmesan Crisps


Ingredients
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Directions
Preheat oven to 4oo degrees.
Pour heaping tablespoon of parmesan onto a silicone or parchment lined baking sheet and lightly pat down. A silicone baking sheet is highly recommended. Repeat with the remaining cheese spacing the spoonfuls about a 1/2 inch apart.
Bake for 3-5 minutes or until golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

Enjoy!

May 16, 2011

The Creamiest Scrambled Eggs Served over Roasted Asparagus


Scrambled eggs make a quick and yummy meal, but there is a little science behind making them perfect. The way I prefer them is soft, fluffy, juicy and custard-like. Here are my essential tips to the creamiest scrambled eggs. Just remember, low gentle heat is the secret to success.

Use a fork to whisk the eggs until they are frothy and evenly colored. Add in freshly cracked black pepper. DO NOT OVER BEAT or add salt, as both would cause the eggs to toughen. This is the point where I add my secret ingredient. I say secret because for those that have tried my eggs, boasted of how creamy and delicious they were, but did not know that it was a Kraft American cheese slice that took my eggs to a whole other level. I have tried many times with other brands of American cheese, deli American cheese, shredded cheddar, monterey jack and swiss and all make the eggs too cheesy. Trust me when I say that Kraft is the way to go here. Now, if you don't have cheese, you can add a teaspoon of cream, but never milk, which may cause rubbery eggs.

Try this method, I seriously think you will change the way you make your morning eggs.

Pairing Suggestion: A newly found fave is half Moscato and half orange juice for a sweet Mimosa. Freshly squeezed would be perfect.

Ingredients
3 Fresh Eggs
Butter (1 tsp per egg)
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 slice of Kraft American Cheese torn into small pieces (1/2 slice for two eggs)
flaky sea salt

As far as the pan you choose, always go with a heavy bottomed non-stick saute pan, which will evenly distribute the heat. Also choose the smallest saute pan you have, as one that is too large will have the eggs spreading too thinly and cook too quickly.

Heat your saute pan over medium-low heat. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter per egg until melted and the foam has resided. When all the butter is melted reduce the heat to low and add your beaten egg mixture. Using a silicone spatula, wait until the first hint of setting begins before you stir. The more you stir the eggs, the more custardy they will be. Near the end of the cooking time, the eggs will get much thicker, but still creamy. Take the eggs off the heat approximately 1 minute before you think the eggs are done. The eggs will continue to cook even though they have been taken away from the heat, due to the heat from the pan and the "carry over heat."

Immediately transfer them to your serving plates and serve hot. As you can see, my favorite way to enjoy is plated over roasted asparagus. It is quite a delightful combination.


Enjoy!

May 14, 2011

Glazed Chocolate Banana Doughnuts

Chocolate covered anything is King in my book. Case in point, these little rascals are worth all the kneading, rolling and cutting it takes to get you to these chocolate dipped beauties. Katie started school recently, and will soon be making Challah bread every week. So I thought I would introduce her to making breads and working with yeast. She had a great time watching and learning, kneading and rolling, and of course glazing the doughnuts and licking her fingers was her favorite part.
My favorite part was the sight of her chocolate covered joyous face, as she enjoyed every finger-licking bite.
The banana flavor was perfection and even though the chocolate glaze was oh so yummy, these would also be nice with either a cream cheese glaze or a maple glaze. Hmmm...for next time.

I know that you will enjoy these warm and freshly glazed rings of scrumptiousness.

Glazed Chocolate Banana Doughnuts
Courtesy of BHG (Prize tested recipe)
Makes 30 Doughnuts plus holes

Ingredients
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
3 medium bananas, mashed (1 cup)
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
enough vegetable or canola oil to deep fry the doughnuts

For the Glaze
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup

Directions
In bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast, and 1 tsp salt; set aside. In saucepan combine milk and butter. Heat until warm (125 F). Add to flour mixture. Add bananas, eggs, and yolks. With mixer, beat on medium for 2 minutes. Stir in 3 1/2 cups flour, adding additional flour 1/4 cup at a time. (Dough will be sticky.) Transfer to a buttered bowl; turn to coat surface. Cover; let rise 1 hour or until doubled.
On floured surface roll dough to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut wth floured 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter. Reroll dough and repeat. Place cutouts on baking sheet. Cover; let rise 30 minutes or until doubled.
Fry a few at a time in hot oil (365 F) for 2 minutes or until golden; turning once. Remove with slotted spoon; drain. Dip in glaze.

Make the glaze in a microwave-safe bowl combining the semi-sweet chocolate pieces, whipping cream and butter. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. Microwave 3 seconds more. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth and corn syrup.

Now, sit back with a favorite cup of warmth and enjoy!

March 21, 2011

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter

What can I say....these brownies are a show stopper. It's the browned butter that stopped me in my tracks while reading my bon appetit magazine last month, and I had a batch ready to back that day. I am a huge fan of browned butter on anything sweet or savory, and come one....who can say no to anything with cocoa in it? These brownies are spectacular and very rich, but my oh my, if you love chocolate, you will seriously fall in love with these babies. The browned butter adds a wonderful nutty flavor that is killer. The original recipe calls for walnuts, which would be a great addition, however, it's the one ingredient that I didn't have.
Seriously....make these today! You can and will thank me later!


Pairing Suggestion: A tall glass of cold milk...Oh My

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter
Courtesy of Bon Appetit
Makes 16


Ingredients
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tbsp (1 1/4) sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Directions
Position rack in bottom third of oven, preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 8x8x2 inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving a 2 inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts if using. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes (I started checking at 20 minutes and took out of oven at about 23 minutes). Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.
This can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Now it's time to savor to your hearts content.

March 16, 2011

Pork and Green Chile Stew

Pork rules!! At least in my family it does. Whether it be ribs, chops, tenderloin, bacon, sausage, you name it, it will always be welcome here. I myself am a soup/stew lover. So I thought, why not combine the two throwing in some of our favorite veggies, and Voila. A quick yummy and very hearty stew to warm your heart. I couldn't decide on calling it a stew or a chili, but whatever you want to call it, it's quick and very satisfying. I think that it will stay a family favorite for a long time.
You could use whatever pork cut you have on hand, however I recommend using tenderloin as it will not toughen up in the pot and will stay very tender, giving you a scrumptious bite.

Pairing Suggestion: A White Alsatian, or an American Riesling would be a sweet compliment.

Pork and Green Chile Stew
Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin (cut into 3/4 inch pieces)
salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
3 carrots (peeled and chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (diced)
2 cans of white beans (drained and rinsed)
1 4.5 oz. can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2-3 cups low sodium chick stock/broth
1 bag of baby spinach
1 bunch fresh cilantro (chop half the bunch and leave some whole leaves for garnish)
lime wedges

Directions
Sprinkle pork lightly with salt and pepper. In dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add pork and cook for 4-5 minutes or until browned. Take pork out of pot and keep warm in separate bowl. Add onion and carrots and saute for about 5 minutes until soft. Add in garlic, white beans, green chiles, and cumin. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add in chicken broth and the chopped cilantro. Cook another 5 minutes to bring up to a simmer. Using a hand blender, blend stew till slightly thickened, leaving some chunks of veggies. (If you are using a blender, blend about half the mixture.) Return the pork back into the pot and add the rest of the cilantro leaving some for garnish. Bring up to a simmer. Add baby spinach and cook, covered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the stew is too thick for you, add as much broth or water as you need to get it to the consistency you would like.
Ladle into soup bowls and top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Enjoy!
I know you'll like this one!!!

January 3, 2011

Philippine Style Chicken Adobo

I grew up with mom making her Philippino chicken Adobo quite often. There was always a flavor in the dish that always stood out more than anything else, but as a child, I had no clue what that was. It wasn't until I got older and watched mom cook this dish...I always saw her throw dried leaves into the pot. As I began exploring cooking in my own kitchen, that's when I realized how those dried leaves can alter the taste of any stew and give it that complex flavor. When I think of bay leaves now, I can't help but think of mom's chicken adobo. Mom's adobo was a very stewy dish with the chicken falling off the bones from the long cooking times. Mom always used bone-in chicken thighs with the skin on. This dish was indeed mom's comfort food.

In Filipino cuisine, adobo refers to a common cooking process indigenous to the Philippines. When the Spanish invaded the Philippines in the late 16th century through Mexico City, they found an indigenous cooking process that involved stewing with vinegar. They referred to this method as "adobo". Over time, dishes prepared in this manner came to be known by this name as well.

When I stumbled upon this recipe for this chicken adobo in Gourmet magazine, I was so excited to try it and share with my mom. It's totally different from the way mom cooked her adobo, but I love that it's an easy way to get the flavors of that childhood dish in less time. The vinegar and bay leaf combo gives the chicken a clean tangy flavor. The marinade served over chicken and steamed rice is an ideal pairing.

On a side note - this dish is a family favorite. My 3 year and hubby ask for this quite often.

Pairing Suggestion: A Gew├╝rztraminer or Sauvignon Blanc would be a nice match with this tangy dish.

Philippine-Style Chicken Adobo
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine (December 2002)
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic (I used 2 tbsp) (What can I say...I'm a garlic lover)
2 bay leaves (I used 1 bay leaf)
4 whole chicken legs (cut into drumsticks and thighs) ( I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)

Directions
Stir together vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl, then pour into a sealable plastic bag. Add chicken and seal bag, pressing out air. Turn to coat thoroughly, then put bag in a baking pan and marinate chicken, chilled, turning occasionally, 2 hours.

Let chicken stand at room temp for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Arrange chicken, skin sides up, in 1 layer in a 13-by-9-by-2- inch metal baking pan and pour marinade over it. Bake in middle of oven until cooked through, 30-35 minutes.

Transfer chicken, skin sides up, to a broiler pan. Pour marinade into a small saucepan and skim fat.
Preheat broiler. Broil chicken about 4 inches from heat until skin is golden and crisp, 2-3 minutes. While chicken is broiling, bring marinade to a boil and discard bay leaves. Serve chicken sauce over steamed rice.

Enjoy!

December 20, 2010

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I can't believe that a month as gone by with just a blink of an eye since my last post. I wanted to squeeze this recipe in amongst all the cooking, baking, shopping and holiday festivities going on this month. I found this recipe on www.noblepig.com, which is a blog I visit quite often for some entertaining reads and great ideas with food and wine. Cathy posted this recipe a while back, as as soon as I saw this fabulous recipe, and I knew this sensational treat was in my near future. Don't you love when you stumble across a recipe you want to try, so you forge the pantry to see what is needed and low and behold, you have everything you need? I love when that happens!

This was so quick to throw together and bake up. I used ready made store bought caramel which you can find in the produce or refrigerated section. It worked perfectly! This one is a keeper! Thank you Cathy for your great inspirations!

I love that you can see the grated apples in the batter!!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Noble Pig (Cathy at Noble Pig, adapted this recipe from Everyday)

Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup veg or canola oil
2 tsp good vanilla extract
2-3 Granny Smith or Rome apples (about 1 pound), peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups chewy caramel candies
1 tbsp heavy cream
(In place of the caramel candies and heavy cream, you can buy pre-made caramel) I went this route and it was a fabulous shortcut.

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with baking liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Grate your apples to ensure you'll get apple with every bite of caramel. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugars until smooth. Whisk in the oil and vanilla. Stir into the flour mixture until just combined; stir in the apples.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan until almost full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes our dry, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

In a small, microwavable bowl, combine the caramels and cream. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each one until caramel is melted and smooth. dip cupcakes upside down into caramel and let cool.

Enjoy each and every scrumptious bite!!!

November 11, 2010

My Favorite Sausage and Kale Soup

After many requests...I have finally added this oh so yummy soup to my blog.  Of all the soups I have tasted and posted on...this is my favorite.  I can't say for sure why it is....it's just that the combination of the sweet Italian sausage along with the kale (and lots of it) in this decadent velvety broth, just hits the spot all the time.  I could seriously eat this one every day.  You can pretty much always  find this either frozen in my freezer or ready to go in my fridge.  Lately, it seems that a week does not go buy that this soup is not being made in my kitchen.  In fact, it's almost automatic, my list would not be complete if this soup was not made.  On top of the already long list of soups and recipes that I want to create and share with you, which are many!

Seeing as I have made this very often, I  have played around with the ingredients...water versus broth, different flavored sausages (spicy versus not spicy),  milk versus cream....and this version is by far the best!  I mean really... what isn't good with cream added at the end?  

The key players in this soup is the sweet Italian sausage, lots of kale, onions, potatoes, and cream...just enough to add color and a slight viscosity...remember that is not a cream soup, it is more a brothy soup, but that slight added richness makes for a very inviting taste.

So enough talk...lets get started!

Pairing Suggestion:  I love Pinot Noir with this! 


My Favorite Sausage and Kale Soup
serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 tbsp light olive oil
3-4 Links or 1 1/2 pounds of Sweet Italian Sausage (I use chicken sausage quite a bit to cut down on the fat)
1 large or 2  medium potatoes, peeled and diced (you can add 2 cans white or cannellini beans instead)
1 large white or yellow onion chopped
3 garlic cloves (I love garlic, you can use less if you want)
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste 
1 tbsp freshly ground pepper 
2 quarts of chicken stock/broth
2 cups of water
2 bunches of kale, washed, and torn into bite size pieces (stem removed)
1/4 freshly grated nutmeg (I love this addition with any dark leafy green)
1/4 cup cream

Directions

Heat olive oil in soup pot with onions,  garlic and potatoes over medium heat.  Saute all until soft, but not mushy, about 10 minutes.  

Add sausage meat squeezed out of its casing.  Cook sausage meat with the vegetables for about 5 minutes till all the meat is crumbled and separated.  

Add the basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook for another 7 minutes then add the broth and water.

Bring to a boil.  Once its at a rolling boil, add all the kale.  Cook for 10 minutes longer, then add your grated nutmeg and cream.  Check for seasoning here and add salt and pepper to your liking. 

Now it's time to enjoy.  Oh, and this soup gets better as it sits and melds together.  

Enjoy!!

November 10, 2010

Easy Chicken Cacciatore

Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian. In cuisine, "alla cacciatora" refers to a meal prepared "hunter-style" with tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, herbs, often bell pepper, and sometimes wine ( I say always wine). 

Nothing can be more comforting to me than a dish braising away in one pot, where you have meat, veggies, and wine melding together for quite a bit of time.  Your end result is nothing but perfect harmonious bites of goodness.  Add some crusty bread and a great wine, and you've got yourself a magical meal to savor in.  

The Pioneer Woman did just that, with this very easy recipe, and once I tried it, I couldn't wait to share it with you.  

Come on, how can you resist crispy chicken braised in a delicate tomato sauce laden with mushrooms and peppers...all served over buttery egg noodles?   I know I can't.  I look forward to using duck instead of chicken the next time I make this.  

Oh, and the best part... my 3 year old daughter loved this chicken and even she couldn't resist this scrumptious dish.  

Check out Ree's fantastic blog...it  is one of my faves.  The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Pairing Suggestion: A nice earthy Zinfandel would be great here.  If you're in the mood for a lighter red, go for Pinot Noir.  

Chicken Cacciatore
Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 4-6 

Ingredients
1 pound egg noodles or pasta (once cooked, I add a little butter and fresh chopped parsley and chives)
8 whole chicken thighs, skin on (would be great with duck too)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 whole medium onion, halved and sliced
2 whole red bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
2 whole green bell peppers, cored and sliced (not too thin)
5 cloves of garlic, diced (I used 8 cloves...I love garlic...what can I say)
12 ounces mushrooms (white or crimini), sliced
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp kosher salt
crushed red pepper flakes, (to taste and optional) (I used 1/2 tsp
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used 3/4 sherry wine)
1 can (28 ounce) whole or diced tomatoes (with their juice)
chopped flat leaf parsley
parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Do not overcook!  Drain and set aside (this can be done when you are simmering your juices to make your sauce.

Salt and pepper both sides of chicken.  Dredge chicken in flour.  Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Place chicken skin side down in pan, four pieces at a time.  Brown chicken on both sides ( the crispier, the better), then remove to a clean plate.  Repeat with remaining chicken.  Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard.  

Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic, stir around for 1 minute.  Add mushrooms and stir for another minute.  Add thyme, turmeric and salt.  If you are using crushed red pepper, this is where you would add..go on...give it a little kick!  Add extra black pepper to taste.  Stir, then pour in wine.  Allow to bubble.

Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine.  Add chicken back into the pan, skin side up, without totally submerging the chicken.  Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes.  Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven.  Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate.  Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate.  Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high.  Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes. 

Pour cooked, drained noodles on a large platter or in a big serving bowl.  Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.  Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and egg noodles (amount to taste.)

Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.

Do nothing but enjoy your meal!!

October 19, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Apples and Bacon

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.
~John Donne

Here's my welcome to Fall.  My favorite season of the year, with it's chilly nights, it makes staying in a pleasure - especially when there are simple, cozy meals to share with cherished family and friends.  

In my home, nothing brings more joy and comfort than a steaming bowl of soup, stew or chowder.  Lately, that seems to be what is keeping me busy in my kitchen.  Lots of soups, and I will be sharing all of them with you in the next few weeks.  When I saw this soup, I couldn't get to the store fast enough for all the ingredients.  
This one is a Mark Bittman winner.  Mark Bittman is an American food journalist and author. He writes a weekly column for The New York Times dining section called The Minimalist.  Bittman has written at least ten books on food and cooking, three of which won IACP/Julia Child awards, James Beard awards, or both.

Tuck into this oh so fantastic chowder, and I promise you nothing short of a delectable bowl of coziness waiting to be savored.  

Thanks Mark...your dishes are inspiring and very tasty!

Pairing Suggestion: A Spanish Sherry would be darling here!

Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder with Apples and Bacon
Serves 4-6

Adapted from Mark Bittman

Ingredients
1 Butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3-4 bacon slices, or one 1/2-inch-thick strip slab bacon, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
salt and black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock/broth or water
1/2 cup milk (this was my addition to this already fabulous soup)

Directions
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the squash, onion, apples, bacon and garlic in a deep roasting pan or on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil.  Roast, stirring every now and then, until the squash, onion and apples are tender and browned and the bacon is crisp, which takes about 45 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven.  Stir in the sage and white wine and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom.  (That's where all the goodies are hiding).
If you are using a roasting pan that can be used on the stove top, position the pan over 2 burners and put both on medium heat.  Otherwise, transfer the contents of the pan to a large pot or dutch oven and set it over medium heat.  Add the stock or water and cook until the squash, onion and apples break apart and thicken and flavor the broth, which takes about 25 minutes.  You can help the process along by breaking the mixture up a bit with a spoon.  Add the milk (or cream of you so wish) to the last 10 minutes of cooking. 

Serve hot with a little cream or sour cream drizzled over the top...OH MY YUM!

Enjoy!

This is most definitely Autumn in bowl!

September 2, 2010

Seriously Good Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

Folks, we have a hands down winner in the cookie department.  These are simply delish!  

As a subscriber to the brilliant Everyday food magazine, I am always amazed at all the new and exciting recipes Martha Stewart shares every month is this wee little publication.  The last page in this magazine is the Cookie Jar,  which of course is always filled with spectacular cookie recipes and great pictures to showcase them.  This particular chocolate delight was in the April 2010 issue, and I was so excited to give it a go.  

I made them twice...the first time I followed the recipe exactly.  Yummy they were, but I wanted a little more kick from the chili powder, and also wanted a deeper chocolate flavor.  So my second attempt, I added more cocoa powder and chili powder, and increased the sugar slightly to compensate for the additional cocoa powder.  The end results were oh so good.  

Thank you Martha, for yet another great cookie recipe to add to my very own Cookie Jar.  

Suggested Pairing:  A cold glass of milk would be perfect here!

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 32

This recipe has been slightly adapted.  See Martha's Recipe here.

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (I used salted butter, and added only a pinch of salt)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp chili powder (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (see note below), beat butter and 1 3/4 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Scrape down side of bowl.  Add eggs and beat to combine.  With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.  

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 sugar, cinnamon, and chili powder (if using).  Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place about 3 inches apart, on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.  Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cookies cool down on sheets on wire racks for about 5 minutes.  Then transfer cookies to the wire racks to cool completely.  (Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.)

Note: I used a hand mixer to combine the flour mixture into the butter mixture, as over mixing can result in dense and tough cookies.  

Enjoy!

August 30, 2010

Easy Peasy Playdough as Party Favors

Here's a cute idea for a party favor, as well as a fun craft that the kiddies can be involved in making.  Katie loved the idea of making her very own playdough, and I loved how easy it was to make (less than 15 minutes), and the money we saved by not buying the popular little tubs that we all know so well.  

This project brought back some great memories of my childhood, when my very wonderful Nana would whip up some homemade playdough for my sister and I. Squeezing  some dough between our little fingers, was all we needed to keep us happy and busy for quite a long time.    

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 cup salt (I used Kosher salt)
2 tbsp of oil (I used grapeseed)
2 cups of water
food coloring ( I used gel)
clear plastic treat bags
colorful ribbon to seal the bags

Directions
Measure all ingredients into a microwave safe bowl and mix thoroughly.  (Mixture will look runny and lumpy.) All will be kneaded in the end, so don't worry about the lumps. 

Place in the microwave for two minutes on medium heat.  Stop and stir then put in for another minute and stop and stir again.  Repeat until you have a solid batter that can be kneaded.  Total microwave time was approx. 4 minutes and 20 seconds.   

Once you have a solid batter, remove batter to counter-top and set aside for a few minutes to cool.  
Once cool enough, knead dough until it comes together smoothly and split dough into as many different sections as you want colors.  

Take each section and push your thumb deep into the middle of the ball.  Add a few drops of food coloring and gently pinch the top of the hole closed, roll on its side and carefully knead until all the color is blended into the dough. (Katie loved seeing this transformation!)  

Place the balls into clear plastic treat bags and seal with the ribbon of your choice.  Now you're ready to share your creation with your family and friends.  

This playdough can last up to 5-6 weeks if kept in an airtight container.  If the edges feel a bit dry, simply knead with wet hands.  


Enjoy!

August 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips with Anise and Fennel

Seriously....who doesn't love the combination of a salty potato chip covered in sweet melted chocolate?  I was hooked the first time I tried this yummy treat.  A little candy shoppe in Northern New Jersey made these sweet-salty delights, and it was a rare occasion when they didn't sell out daily.  The swanky packaging made the experience that much better, and how I swoon for cute and over-the-top packaging.

So when i saw this intriguing take on this treat...I simply couldn't wait, and my kitchen was soon filled with the aroma of melted chocolate and lots of little seeds.  

Mark Bittman, an American food journalist and author, traveled to Denmark to check out Noma, the restaurant that earned the title of "The Best Restaurant in the World."  He found this award-winning recipe and re-created it for the simple home cook.  You can find the original recipe at http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/38863227/ns/today-foodwine/

Potato Chips with Anise and Chocolate
Makes about 5-10 servings

Ingredients
About 1 pound good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bean-size pieces, (I used 1 bag of chocolate chips)
50 nice potato chips, unsalted (I used salted potato chips...I couldn't resist)
1 tsp anise seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds

Directions
Melt almost all of the chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or a clean metal pan set over simmering water) ; use a candy thermometer and remove the chocolate from the heat when it reaches between 110F to 115F.  (I didn't feel the need to use a candy thermometer, I just took it off the heat once it was all melted.)  

Pull the chips through the melted chocolate to cover them, then cool on a parchment covered tray.  Sprinkle the anise and fennel seeds over them before they cool completely.  I placed the tray in the fridge to cool completely.  

Enjoy!

August 19, 2010

Sesame-Soy Cod

Lately, my seafood craving has been ever increasing, especially in the hot summer months when I just want a quick,  light and of course tasty meal.  The Sunflower Market in Tucson, AZ recently published in their monthly publication, a great recipe for halibut glazed in this sweet salty marinade.  Seriously, you wouldn't believe how this glaze transforms this fish into a simply succulent, buttery harmonious bite.    I only slightly adapted the original recipe to incorporate some of my fave ingredients.

A pantry staple in my house is the Shoa Hsing Chinese rice cooking wine and is my favorite ingredient for any Asian dish I prepare.  I think it truly adds a nice flavor dimension.  Try it...you may even see a decrease in your Chinese take-out.

Pairing Suggestion:  A buttery, oaky Chardonnay would be superb here.

Sesame-Soy Cod
Serves 6

Ingredients
1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin (Japanese rice cooking wine) (I used Shoa Hsing a Chinese rice cooking wine)
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp seeded, minced serrano chile pepper ( I used red pepper flakes)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp orange juice
juice from one lemon
6 4-ounce cod fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Olive oil for brushing
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions
In a food processor, coarsely grind sesame seeds.  Add soy sauce, rice cooking wine, sesame oil, garlic, chile, honey, orange juice, and lemon juice.  Process for another 30 seconds.
Preheat grill to medium.  Brush fish lightly with olive oil.  Apply sesame-soy mixture thickly on each fillet. Grill fish until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes, turning occasionally and basting with additional sesame mixture.  Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with sliced scallions.  

I served with baby bok choy.  Simply slice lengthwise, brush with olive oil and grill for 8-10 minutes until lightly charred. 

Enjoy!


July 15, 2010

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp

 For a quick and easy to prepare weeknight dinner...this is one of my favorites.  I always have frozen shrimp hiding away in my freezer, ready to jump into a pool of sizzling garlic and olive oil.  Frozen shrimp can be defrosted in about 15 minutes under some cool running water, so your dinner can be on the table in no time. 

Wine Pairing Suggestion:  Try a light refreshing Pinot Grigio or a crisp Chardonnay.  

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (or to your taste) 
1/4 cup of light olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp hot chili flakes
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and rinsed
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
fresh lemon juice from half a lemon
Garnish optional:  flaked sea salt and chopped parsley

Directions
Heat the olive oil and butter in a 10-12 inch saute pan, over medium-heat.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  The garlic will be golden in color.   Add the shrimp and saute until they are all pink, another 2-3 minutes.  Add sherry and let sizzle for about 2 minutes.  Squeeze some lemon juice over and garnish with some fresh parsley.  

Voila!   This is a classic Tapas dish served with some crusty bread to dip in that heavenly sauce, or you can add over your favorite cooked pasta.  

Enjoy!

July 10, 2010

Decadant Stuffed Dates

Here's a little something different to serve at your next get together.  A little sweet...a little savory...I made these for several parties over the long weekend, and they were very well received.  

Dates are opulent in vitamins and minerals, as well as low in fat (one date has 23 calories), cholesterol, and sodium, and are packed with potassium...making these a great quick energy snack.  I could easily go on about the health benefits of the date, but for now...on to this quick easy snack.

Decadent Stuffed Dates

Ingredients
Medjool Dates
Ricotta Cheese (drained if runny)
Cocoa Powder

Directions
Cut a lengthwise slit down the center, but not through, each date and remove the seeds.
With a teaspoon, stuff each date with ricotta cheese and sprinkle with cocoa powder.  

It's as easy as that!  Enjoy!

July 3, 2010

Vanilla Angel Cake

This is the perfect light and delicious dessert to serve to your guests this holiday weekend!  Top with some fresh berries, homemade whipped cream and enjoy to your hearts content.  Next time, I will try  slicing the finished cake in half, and spreading on a raspberry jam or homemade lemon curd.  YUM!

After testing with two cakes, I suggest using a light colored baking pan as it produced a lighter (in color) cake. 
Also I would suggest using a mixer to beat the egg whites to a stiff peak and adding the yolks in to the mixer to blend, then fold in the remaining ingredients by hand with a spatula.  It really does make a difference in the cakes density.  Don't get me wrong...they were both delish, but the second produced airier results.  Lauren does everything by hand, including the egg whites.  (She Rocks!)
One other thing...Lauren's recipe bakes at 400 degrees for approx. 1 hour.  I found in my oven, it was beautifully done in 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Maybe my oven is just a lot hotter.  

Pairing Suggestion:  My favorite match would be a Canadian Ice Wine.  I think that you would agree!

Vanilla Angel Cake
Slightly adapted from French Food at Home (Lauren Calder) 

Ingredients
6 eggs, separated (yolks will go in later) 
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla powder (original recipes calls for vanilla extract) 
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour 
Fresh berries for serving
top with homemade whipped cream or creme fraiche

Direction 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and line with parchment paper a 9-inch light colored round cake pan.  
Beat the whites to stiff peaks in a mixer.  Beat in the yolks,  one at a time.  Fold in by hand the sugar, vanilla and sifted flour.  You should have a very high, moussy batter.  

Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake until golden on top, risen high, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  (My oven runs hot...you may need a little longer to cook your cake.)

Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes and transfer to a serving platter.  
Cover with fruit and serve with garnish of your choice (whipped cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.) 

Enjoy!

June 29, 2010

Improved Creamy Cauliflower Soup


Here is one of my favorites.  A rich, creamy, luxurious soup with no cream.  I use potatoes and milk for thickening to keep it a bit more lean.   I make this and many versions just about weekly, and my mood dictates what if any new veggie will make it into the pot.  Sometimes I add broccoli and/or spinach for a nice combo (great way to sneak some veggies to your kids).  Garlic and white beans added to the cauliflower is a great starter to a Tapas meal.  Of course, a bit of cheddar cheese added to the soup makes a super yummy treat.  

When it comes to blending it up, I love a totally creamy soup, but you can leave a bit chunky if you so wish.

Now here are my thoughts when it comes to white pepper versus black pepper...Some swear by using the white pepper in a light-colored dish solely because if you use black pepper you will see the black flecks in the finished dish...(aesthetic reasons only).  Black pepper tends to be stronger in flavor than white, which is a bit sweeter.  I prefer the spiciness more in the black pepper and really don't care about the black flecks in my soup.  So there you have it.  

Pairing Suggestion:  A nice compliment would be a spicy berry-flavored Grenach , usually very soft on your palate. 

Creamy Cauliflower Soup 
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into florets
4 cups of water or chicken broth 
1 cup of milk ( I used low fat)
1/3 cup of dry sherry
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or white pepper)
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Fresh toasted croutons to garnish (see recipe below)

Directions
In a large dutch oven/soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Stir in onions, garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in potatoes and cauliflower and cook 5 minutes more.  Pour in water or broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  15-20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  

Puree in batches using a blender/food processor,  (or in pot if using an immersion blender.)  Return to low heat and stir in milk, salt and pepper, nutmeg and sherry.  Heat through and serve.  My favorite garnish for this soup is some freshly toasted croutons and a sprinkle of parsley.

Toasted Croutons
Ingredients
Day old white or French bread/baguette cut into 1 inch pieces (whatever you have on hand will do)
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder or salt (omit kosher salt if using garlic salt)
1/2 cup of light olive oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Cut bread into 1 inch cubes.   Toss cubes in salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.  Spread evenly in one layer on a cookie sheet. Toast gradually in oven until lightly brown on all sides.   About 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy!

June 20, 2010

Makes Me Happy

As I was reviewing some past photos in our archive, I stumbled across many of my hometown of Beverly, MA.  Which leads to my happy thoughts of the week.  Here are just a few that make me oh so happy.  


The joys of an apple cider doughnut from my favorite farm Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA


An evening out in Boston is always loads of fun!


Remembering days of strolling through the Back Bay of Boston


The thought of a Hot Fudge Sundae at Richardson's in Middleton, MA


Just looking at these clams brings a huge smile to my face......The one and only Woodman's in Essex, MA

There you have them...my happy thoughts for the week.  You will always have a special place in my heart New England!

June 18, 2010

The Simple Popover

Offer me a popover...and you have a friend for life.  Big jumbo ones, small cute ones, flecked with herbs, laced with cheese, slathered with jam, any kind you can imagine, I assure you that if they are in front of me...they will be savored and devoured.  These are my absolute faves when it comes to rolls and breads.  I can say that I have made a few in my time...and this recipe is my definite go to for a simple quick compliment to any meal.  

My Favorite Popovers 
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 minis

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp course salt
3 eggs

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  
Mix all ingredients together until combined.  The mixture will be lumpy.  Do not over mix.  

Pour mixture into popover pan filling each cup about 3/4 full.  

Place in oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.  
Do not open oven until cooking time is complete and your popovers have risen.  
Best served hot right out of the oven.

Enjoy!