Monday, December 31, 2012

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini Cheesecakes 

So fast, so easy and so very very good. I love this recipe, I also like that it doesn't make a ton - and only uses one block of 8 oz cream cheese. You can jazz these up a million ways - swirl in some jam or melted chocolate, add some cherry pie filling as a topper once cooked, adorn with some fresh raspberries or blueberries etc

  • 24 vanilla wafers
  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients, except for vanilla wafers, use an electric mixer and beat on low until just smooth. Use cupcake liners and line 12 cupcake pan, place one vanilla wafer in each liner. Crumble remaining cookies and divide among liners to cover bottoms. Pour cheese mixture into each liner, about 2/3 or a little more full. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 mins. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate, covered for several hours or overnight. Top as desired.
Optional: add 1 tsp of warmed jam or cooled melted chocolate to each filled cupcake before baking, use a knife to swirl.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Heres a very easy take on a homemade baguette, made this today and sautéed up some chicken breasts to create a sandwich for dinner, with provolone and spinach - served it with sweet potato chips - really, really nice.


  • 1.5 cups warm water (115 F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs malt syrup or 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3.25 cups all purpose unbleached flour

Combine water, yeast, malt or sugar and let sit for 10 mins until mixture gets foamy and bubbly and aromatic. Add flour and stir in to form dough, let sit for 20 mins. Add salt, knead dough either by hand on a lightly floured surface or in a standing mixer with a dough hook until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 mins. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour. Turn dough out and form into a 8x6 inch rectangle, fold long sides in towards center and then short sides towards middle. Flatten gently and return to bowl (oil again lightly if necessary). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour. Preheat baking stone on middle rack of oven at 425 F, place a cast iron pan on lower rack. Punch dough down and divide in half for large baguettes or in 1/3s for smaller ones. Form into long thin loaves and place, seam side down, on floured parchment paper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 mins. Transfer bread, on parchment, to baking stone. Slash top of loaves a few times using a sharp knife to make 4" diagonal cuts. Bake for about 30 mins or until tops are deep golden brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on baking rack.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chili - Vegetarian

Tired of Turkey ... had Cod with an Asian inspired sauce and a simple fried rice last night, home made mac and cheese the night before - but still, the turkey stares at me when I open the fridge. Decided to go easy (mostly opening cans - but its really good) and meatless tonight. This Chili is very hearty, I didn't even mention to my daughter that it was meatless - served it with grated colby cheese, chopped green onion, sliced black olives and sour cream.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petit diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (16 or 19 oz) red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) pink pinto beans, drained
  • salt
  • pepper

In a heavy dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet heat oil. Add onion, carrots and bell pepper and saute for 5 mins, stirring until onion is softened. Add garlic, add chili powder and cumin, stir to combine. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and simmer for 10 mins. Add beans, salt and pepper. Heat through. Let simmer for 20 mins - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with cheese, sour cream, green onion, olives and avocado if desired.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cheese crackers (and T day prep)

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving!

Ok - T day is practically here! The thing I both love and hate about Thanksgiving is I always do the same menu. This predictability makes it easy to plan and streamline and get it right, but sometimes I wish I could be a little more creative. Oh well, thats what the other 364 days of the year are for. Today I made little cheese crackers, that hold beautifully in an air-tight container at room temperature, to serve as part of my appetizer platters. I do play a little with the appetizers from year to year - yesterday, I made two batches of my savory palmiers - puff pastry spread with a bacon and mushroom filling, rolled and sliced - I froze the palmiers and will bake them about an hour before I plan to serve them. Cheese crackers, palmiers and some green and red grapes, a platter of sliced veggies with some roasted red pepper dip, a few bowls of gourmet olives and maybe some spiced nuts will be my appetizers. Next I made my whole berry cranberry sauce (I use orange zest, cinnamon and cloves) and popped that in the fridge. I'll serve it with canned jellied cranberry sauce as well. I also made candied sweet potatoes today, using a brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and vanilla coating.

So these cheese crackers are amazing - heres the recipe:

Make Ahead Cheese Crackers

  • 12 Tbs (1.5 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 6 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Beat butter with electric mixer, for about 5 mins, or until very fluffy. Add cheeses and beat to combine. With hands add flour mixture and combine until a dough forms - if too crumbly to form into a ball add up to 2 Tbs cold water. Divide dough into quarters and shape into balls, flatten into discs and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Roll dough (about 1/8 inch) and cut out with 1.5" cookie cutter rounds or shapes, place 1/2 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 450 for 6-8 mins or until golden, watch carefully as these goes from golden to burnt pretty quickly. Remove from baking sheet onto paper towel lined trays to cool completely. Store in airtight containers for up to two weeks.

Tonight I think I'll make an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake - a lighter and still decadent take on cheesecake - tomorrow, with only one day to go I will tackle the chestnut stuffing and the pumpkin pie. I bought the organic, free range, humanly raised well treated (hopefully read to on a nightly basis) bird today - and had to make room in my refrigerator by moving the delicious leftover pea soup from last night into a smaller container. Lots to clean - lots to do!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Parsley Pesto

I love, seriously, really, love pesto! Every time I make it and taste it, I say to myself, "I need to make this more often!". Pesto is an amazing flavor combination and it is so incredibly versatile.

Today I made a parsley with flat leaf (Italian parsley) it has more flavor, but plain curly parsley works too.

Once you have your pesto you can use it in a myriad of ways - as a topping for crostini, as a spread on a sandwich, as a way to dress up simple grilled or broiled chicken breasts, stir it into some hot pasta for a fabulous side dish, add a spoonful to soup to really brighten up things - add some feta cheese and use it as a filling for stuffed mushrooms, add some to cottage cheese for an instant veggie dip, put some in an omelet, on a savory crepe, in lasagna - the possibilities are endless...sometimes I just eat a spoonful!

Parsley Pesto

  • 1-2 bunches coarsly chopped parsley, thick stems discarded
  • 3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 2-4 Tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted if desired)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried Tarragon

Combine about 1/2 cup of parsley, garlic and salt in food processor and process until blended, add remaining parsley and black pepper and process until parsley is chopped fine. With motor running add in olive oil and process until a thick pesto forms, add pine nuts, parm and tarragon and process briefly

You can always use basil instead of parsley for classic pesto, use spinach, use arugula - have fun with it! Oh, and you can use walnuts instead of pine nuts too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cheese Puffs- Quick, Easy and So good!

Hey Everyone - I needed a super quick and easy snack for my daughter today, I had cheese and not much else to work with and no time to run to the market, so I made these delightful little puffs. Easy and fast, these appetizers or snacks are versatile and fun. You can use just about any cheese for these, a sharp cheddar is great but gruyere, jack, parm or even feta works as well. You can mix cheeses also. You can add crumbled bacon, or spinach or olives - have some fun with herbs or pepper - or just keep 'em super simple. They are great warm out of the oven and they go together so quickly and take under 10 mins to bake - which makes them great for unexpected company.

Super Easy Cheese Puffs

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking pwder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 1/4 cup olives, sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled bacon etc (optional)

Beat together egg and milk. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Stir in cheese and any additions. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 F oven for about 10 mins or until golden and browned on the bottom. Remove to wire rack, cool briefly and serve while still warm.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Ginger Whipped Cream

Panna Cotta is a wonderful dessert - a silky, creamy, light and delicate confection - almost like a flan, or a mousse, this Italian creation is easy to make - and best of all you get to make it ahead! Elegance coupled with the ease of advanced preparation - tonight I am making a pumpkin version of this milk based treat.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

  • 1 1/2 cups cold milk
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup milk in a medium heavy bottom saucepan and let sit for 5 mins. Blend remaining milk, sugar, pumpkin, cream and spices in a blender until smooth. Heat gelatin milk over low heat stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Add pumpkin mixture and raise heat to medium. Stir occasionally and heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture into 6-8 buttered ramekins (or wine glasses) and refrigerate at least 4 hours to set, or overnight. Serve with ginger whipped cream (beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form, add 1 Tbs chopped crystallized ginger and 1/4 tsp powdered ginger), if using ramekins you can unmold the panna cotta if desired.

Russian Tea Cakes, or Wedding Cookies

These cookies are so much fun to make, and delectable to eat. They go by many names, wedding cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Vanilla Snowballs, Russian Tea Cakes - but they are simply a sugar butter cookie made with nuts and rolled twice in confectioners sugar - really pretty cookies and quite easy to make. Nuts used are typically pecans or walnuts - but I didn't have either on hand so I used almonds, which works quite well. If you are anti-nut for whatever reason you can substitute 1 cup of old fashioned oats for the nuts!

Wedding Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 - 2.25 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar for rolling

In a food processor, grind nuts. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Add butter and extracts and process until smooth. Scrape down sides if necessary. Add salt and flour and process until combined. Turn out onto wax paper, and either roll into 1" balls and place 1" apart on parchment lined baking trays, or roll into a log and refrigerate for 15 mins up to overnight to facilitate shaping. If dough gets too hard in fridge let sit at room temp for a bit. Bake at 325 for about 15-20 mins, do not let brown, just cook until tops are firm and bottoms start to color. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 mins, toss in a shallow bowl filled with confectioners sugar while still warm (just a few at a time, they are a little fragile at this point) Place on rack and let cool completely. Toss in powdered sugar, again. Store at room temp. in an air tight container on wax paper.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monkey Bread

This is just fun. And yes, you can make the whole thing from scratch, and I do that sometimes - but sometimes its ok to cheat a bit, and this way its really easy to get a child involved since its all "fun". Warm and gooey, with the caramel sauce and the raisins (or dried cherries this time because I was out of raisins) and nuts this pull apart bread is so much fun to eat.

Monkey Bread

  • 2 cans of large buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, pecans or walnuts

Spray a 12 cup tube pan with cooking spray. Melt butter in a small pan and stir in brown sugar.
Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a large ziploc bag. Open biscuits, separate and cut into quarters. Add biscuit pieces to bag, seal and shake to coat (I do this in batches) Place biscuit pieces into pan and nestle raisins and nuts in between pieces. Pour sugar and butter mixture over the top. Bake in a 350 oven for about 35 mins. Let cool on rack for 10 mins, then unmold - use hands to pull apart and eat when cool enough to touch.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are so easy - they take practically no effort, and require no special ingredients. They have no flour or dairy (so perfect for gluten free diets, or anyone with dairy issues) and they taste really, really good. You can leave the chocolate chips out for super quick peanut butter cookies. Still a little warm with a cold glass of milk these are really amazing!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter, chunky is nice for texture
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Roll dough into balls with moistened hands (or refrigerate cookie dough for 30 mins to facilitate shaping) using about 1 Tbs of dough per cookie. Place on ungreased baking sheets 2" apart. Bake at 350 for 10-12 mins, watching carefully after 8 minutes. You want the bottoms browned but the tops still soft, let cool on cookie sheet for 2 mins and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fish and Chips

I've been meaning to try the cold oil fries that have received so much press in the not so distant pass, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. Tonight my husband asked for fish and chips - so it was the perfect opportunity to see if they actually worked (the fries, that is). They did - so much easier than the twice fried version I've always made in the past. You start with cold oil, enough to cover your potatoes and you bring it to a boil and then stir a little and in under 30 minutes you have gorgeous fries! You could strain the oil and use it again for fries if you didn't then fry the fish in it - maybe next time!!

Cold-Oil Fries

  • 6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled or not cut into 1/4 inch sticks
  • 6 cups (about) canola oil
  • salt
  • paper towels or paper bags to drain fries on

Scrub your potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, then stack the slices and cut into 1/4 inch strips.
Place potatoes in a large dutch oven and pour oil over to cover. Turn heat on to medium and let oil come to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stir gently to unstick the fries from the bottom and continue to cook about another 10 mins or until golden, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon on tongs to paper towel lined plate and salt. Serve hot.

Fried Fish

  • 1.5 lbs cod loin
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1.75 cups sparkling water, beer or just water or milk
Cut the cod loin into serving size pieces (about 2" long chunks). Combine remaining ingredients and coat fish, letting excess drip off. Fry in 360 F oil (about the temp the oil is when you take the fries out)
for 7-8 mins or until golden. Only fry 2-3 pieces at a time, drain on paper towels and then you can hold in a low oven on a foil lined baking tray. Serve with fries and malt vinegar, lemon wedges and tarter sauce. Usually I complete this meal with cole slaw or mushy minty peas!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cannolis - fast and fabulous!

Made some homemade ricotta cheese the other day, enjoyed it as a topping on crostini. Enjoyed it again on baked figs, drizzled with honey. Had it cold on hot thin spaghetti with a little olive oil and some grated parm- I love the way it starts to melt into the pasta...still had fresh ricotta, so I bought some mini cannoli shells, and had basically an instant dessert that my daughter raved about!

Cannoli Cream

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • mini chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate 
  • chopped citron if you have any, about 1/4 cup or 1 tbs grated lemon peel
  • mini or full size cannoli shells

Mix ricotta, sugar and vanilla. Mix well - you can use an electric mixer if you want. Add chocolate and citron or grated lemon peel. Fill shells right before serving or they will get soggy. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

These bread sticks are really impressive, and not very hard to make - plus you can do most of the work ahead of time, as the dough freezes beautifully. Just take it out and pop it in the fridge the night before you want fresh baked breadsticks!

Braided Herbed Breadsticks

3/4 cup milk
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh herbs (rosemary and oregano work great)
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1-1.5 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 egg white beaten with 1 Tbs water

Heat milk with butter and sugar until butter just melts and temperature is 110-120 F.
Add yeast to milk mixture in bowl of standing mixer. Let proof for 10 minutes until bubbly, add 1 cup flour, salt, pepper and herbs. Stir at low speed with dough hook until combined. Add semolina flour and continue to stir at medium speed, adding additionally all purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until
a ball forms and then continue to knead at medium high speed for five minutes. Grease a medium size bowl lightly and place dough in bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover bowl with a paper towel or kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk. Punch down. At this point you can freeze the dough for use within the next 6 months, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding. If refrigerated let dough sit at room temperature for 20 mins. Divide dough in half. Roll one half into a 10x9 inch rectangle on a lightly floured board and cut into 24 thin strips, lengthwise. Roll into braids, working with three strips for each braid. Place braids 1.5 inches apart on an oiled foil lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise 30 mins. Brush each braid with egg white/water mixture and bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, with olive oil as a dip (add a little minced garlic, salt, pepper and some more minced herbs to the oil if desired)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Calzone with sausage and cheese

Fun to make and fun to eat, calzones start with a simple pizza dough that only needs one rise. You can fill them with all kinds of things, ricotta and sweet sausage make a lovely combo.

Calzones with Ricotta & Sausage

For dough:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 2-3 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

In a standing mixer bowl add water and yeast and sugar and let proof for 5-10 mins until it gets all foamy and bubbly. Add 1 cup flour, salt and olive oil. Using dough hook stir at low speed until well mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if you want (i never do because the dough will eventually form a ball and scrape the sides for you if you are brave enough to increase the mixer speed) Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes together and forms a ball. Increase mixer speed to medium high and let mixer knead the dough for 5-10 mins. Oil a medium bowl with a thin coat of olive oil, place ball of dough in bowl and turn over to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and separate into 3 equal portions for large calzones, or 6 for small calzones. Pat or roll each portion of dough into a circle about 1/8-1/4 thick.

For filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, homemade or store bought
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella 
  • 3 sweet (or hot) italian sausages
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 16 oz baby spinach, cooked and drained, water squeezed out chopped (optional)

Remove casings from sausage and cook in a cast iron skillet, breaking up into small pieces until no pink remains. Drain fat. Combine cheeses, sausage, parsley and red pepper in a bowl. Add spinach if desired.

Place some filling on one half of each dough circle and fold other half over, creating a half moon. Use a fork or your fingers to seal edges. Brush with olive oil (add some garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic to the oil if you'd like) Place on a baking sheet or pizza stone that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Bake in a 350 oven for about 15-30 mins depending on size of calzone, until golden and bottom is firm and brown. Serve with tomato sauce.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Baked Figs with homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese on roasted figs, with honey and nutmeg
Cheese is a wonderful thing. I love cheese, we love cheese - my family, dogs included. I love hard cheeses, like parmesan and sharp aged cheddar, gruyere reserve, asiago - I love semi soft cheeses, like fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese, farmers cheese, brie!! So many delicious cheeses. And you can cook with cheese, a melted cheese open faced sandwich is a delightful thing. A grilled cheese with a farm fresh tomato is a fabulous thing. A cheese soufflé is lovely. Cheese adds dimension to so many dishes, from lasagna to quesadillas - to gratins and mac-n-cheese, I don't think life would be as rich, as fun as enjoyable without cheese. There is fondue - there is warm brie with roasted garlic, there is cheese everywhere and I have not even begun to touch on this miracle of science...

Cheese cubes make fantastic dog treats - cheese slices, say 3 different types, arranged artfully on a platter with some decent crackers and/or grapes make a fantastic appetizer for humans...cheese is good.

Cheese is also really fun to make. Hard cheeses can be made at home, but soft cheese is so easy. Here's a simple cheese similar to ricotta (it isn't really ricotta, which is made from whey, its more a paneer - but it tastes and looks and cooks just like ricotta and it is SO EASY!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

  • 1 gallon milk (use whole milk, and try to get a brand that is NOT ultra pasteurized)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream (optional)

Heat the milk and cream (if using, gives a richer taste, adds calories - works really well if you intend to use the cheese in a dessert, say cannoli -- however it is quite good without it, particularly for savory dishes just use whole milk please!) in a heavy bottom pan until it almost boils - around 180 F. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, one good stir  - stop stirring and let it sit, covered for a few hours (at least two). Drain in a colander lined with dampened cheese cloth. The longer you drain it, the drier the cheese. Stir in salt. Thats it. Practically instant ricotta, fabulous warm on toast (crostini) with a little olive oil drizzled over it. Use it in lasagna, baked ziti, manicotti, cook some spinach and squeeze the water out, chop it fine and add to the cheese with a little nutmeg and use it as a crepe filling, make gnocchi verdi, make cannoli, make a zuppa inglese - have fun with it!!

Serve it with figs -

you can roast the figs, or just leave them uncooked, sliced in half. Place a tbs or so of ricotta on each fig half and drizzle with a little honey. To roast the figs, slice in half lengthwise and pour a little melted butter with some fresh grated nutmeg or cinnamon on each fig, roast at 350 for 20-30 mins.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moussaka - lightened up

We love Greek food here (and Italian and Korean and French and Chinese and ...) but sometimes the heavy sauces can get a person, well, heavy - so here's a lighter take on the classic eggplant casserole, moussaka. I roast the eggplants instead of frying them and I use a Greek yogurt based topping instead of a heavy white sauce...still tastes authentic and its quite easy to prepare. This is a great dish to do ahead, either the day before or weeks/months before (if you freeze it).


  • 3-4 eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/4"
  • 2-3 yukon gold potatoes (optional)
  • 1.5 lbs ground meat (lamb and/or beef)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp oregano 
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups plain greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled

Prepare eggplant:
Lay the eggplant slices flat on a paper towel lined tray, and sprinkle with salt, turn over and sprinkle other side. Place paper towel over and repeat, weigh down with a heavy book/pan. Let sit for 30 mins. Rinse and blot dry. Brush a baking tray with olive oil and lay eggplant slices flat on tray, brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 for 30 mins, turning halfway through baking. Repeat until all eggplants are cooked. (Remove cooked eggplant to a cool baking sheet, or plate)

Prepare meat filling:
Brown ground meat over medium high heat, add onion and garlic and cook for 5 mins. Drain fat. Add spices and herbs and tomato paste and canned tomatoes with liquid. Stir and cook for 10 mins.

Prepare potatoes:
Peel and slice 1/4" thick, boil for 5 mins (cooked but still very firm)

Assemble casserole:
In a lasagna pan or large casserole dish, brush pan with olive oil. Place one layer of potatoes if using, layer meat filling over, thinly. Place a layer of eggplant, slightly overlapping on top. Layer another thin meat layer. Place eggplant layer on top and continue, ending with eggplant. (only use one potato layer)

Mix yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, feta and parm. Spread on top of casserole. Bake in a 350 over for 45 mins, place under broiler for 2 mins or until golden brown - let sit for 10 mins and slice. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Salmon Cakes

I make these all the time, in fact I am sure I have previously posted a version of these. I just love them because they are elegant, they taste great (even people who don't usually like fish love these) their healthy and you can mostly make them ahead. I like to use fresh salmon, I think it just adds an extra depth to the taste but you can use canned. The fresh is so easy though, if you prepare it as I do in a foil packet, there isn't any mess and it cooks itself! I love adding capers. I served these last night with honey-gingered carrots and a cucumber, sour cream dill salad.

Easy Salmon Cakes
  • 1.5 lbs salmon fillet
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • cooking spray or olive oil
  • a few slices white onion (optional)
  • 2 Tbs light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbs capers, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbs parsley chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs minced onion
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Get a large piece of aluminium foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay some thin slices of onion and lemon on the cooking spray and place the salmon, skin side down on top. Lightly spray salmon with cooking spray then lay some lemon slices and onion slices on top, season with salt and pepper. Encase in aluminum foil to form a packet, but leave some room. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes or until done, drain liquid and let cool. Remove skin and fat from salmon and flake into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients, except olive oil. Shape into 3" balls and place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook, or you can bring them to room temperature first (the fish is cooked already and they will heat up quicker). Heat a large skillet with olive oil to coat, gently flatten each salmon ball, reshaping into a patty as you do so. Saute in hot oil for a few minutes a side until crisp, browned and heated through.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pineapple Fruit Salad Boat

This fruit salad is a lot of fun, it uses a pineapple cut in half as a serving dish - for some reason this makes all the children I know a lot more likely to eat it! You can use any favorite fruit salad you make, or try this simple recipe. I always strive not to use under ripe fruit, use less variety if necessary

Pineapple Boat Fruit Salad

  • 1 large pineapple, carefully cut in half lengthwise and flesh scooped out, diced, core discarded
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 2 cups blue berries
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rings, then quartered
  • 2 mangos (ripe please, or don't use) peeled and diced, large flat pit removed
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 1 can mandarin oranges, packed in juice, drained
  • 1 cup green grapes, sliced in half
  • handful of fresh mint chopped fine with some clusters of leaves for garnish
  • Juice of 1 lime

Combine all fruit in a large bowl and toss gently to coat, add chopped mint. Drizzle with juice of a lime if desired. Scoop into pineapple boats and garnish with fresh mint sprigs. Store leftover fruit salad in covered bowl in fridge.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mushroom Risotto

I love Risotto - all kinds, and my favorite is probably just a simple white risotto. I love the simplicity of it and enjoy eating it as is, but I also love that it is the basis of all other risottos, so its easy to start with and change whenever you feel the urge. Like tonight, I wanted to use up some nice mushrooms I had, a mix of white and cremini and I thought, how about a mushroom risotto?

Mushroom Risotto 

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio (or carnaroli) rice
  • 4 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1 shallot, minced (if you don't have a shallot use 1/2 a sweet onion and double the garlic)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional but nice)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parm
  • extra 1 Tbs butter (optional)
  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs butter

Basic Risotto technique: use a cast iron skillet, heat the butter and the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until softened, not browned. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat each grain with fat. The edges of the rice will turn transparent (or at least translucent). Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed/evaporated. Add 1/2 cup hot broth and stir until the rice has taken up most of the liquid, continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring - you do not have to stir every second, but you don't want the rice to stick and you do want it to cook evenly. After about 20-25 mins all of your broth should be used and your risotto should look nice and creamy and the rice should be cooked al dente. You can add some more hot broth and keep stirring if it isn't cooked to your liking. Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan cheese and additional butter if desired. You can sprinkle this with some parsley and of course season it with some salt and pepper and you can serve it just like that...or for mushroom risotto, saute (ahead of time, or while you are making the risotto) 1 lb of mixed rough chopped mushrooms in 2 Tbs butter. Cook until mushrooms give up their liquid and then the liquid is cooked down. Season with salt and pepper and maybe a little thyme. Add the mushrooms to the white risotto when you take the rice off heat, with the parm. Stir to distribute through.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Roasted Tomato Soup

So many garden tomatoes, making roasted tomato soup for dinner - really easy recipe that avoids the need to skin and seed them. Just cut the tops off the tomatoes, and slice into big chunks, toss with some olive oil, some peeled garlic and some cut up peeled onion - hit with some salt and pepper and bake in a 350 over for about 40 mins

Then combine tomatoes, garlic and onion with some chicken broth and bay leaves and bring to a boil, lower heat and let cook about an hour - use an immersion blender (remove the bay leaves!) to puree and add about 1/2 cup heavy cream if you want to be decadent or skip it and it'll still be great! You can strain this to make it more elegant, but I don't -  I'll add the recipe and show you a picture when its done!

To go with the soup I am planning a mushroom risotto, so I'll start that about 30 mins before I want to serve dinner - I like risotto served as soon as its done, it doesn't hold very well. Leftover risotto is great for suppli though - which I would like to make some time this week (these are basically balls of risotto encasing a piece of mozzarella breaded and sauteed or fried - really good)

usually i'd leave a little more space...

Easy Roasted Tomato Soup
  • 3 lbs tomatos
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 onion sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Oil a large baking sheet, cut tops off tomatoes and cut in half, or quarters if large. Place cut side down on oiled baking sheet, add garlic, scatter onion over top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 40 mins. Carefully pour hot liquid off pan. Add all veggies to a large soup pot, add butter, chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat. Stir in tomato paste. Cook for an hour (liquid should reduce by about 1/3). Remove bay leaves. Puree soup with an immersion blender. Add heavy cream and additional salt and pepper if desired

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mu Shu Pork

Had to make a fairy quick dinner tonight, so I opted for a stirfry and did the prep early in the day. Shredded a half a head of cabbage, used my mandolin which is awesome! Sliced a pork tenderloin into thin slices, then into strips and tossed it with some soy sauce and a little bit of sesame oil, put the wok out on its flametamer on the stove...when I came home I chopped some garlic, wished I had remembered green onions, shredded some carrots and beat up 2 eggs with a little cold water and white pepper. Then cooked everything up for a very respectable Mu Shu Pork, did not have time to make the little pancakes could have used warmed flour tortillas - which are quite acceptable, but I chose to go with jasmine rice and hoisin sauce! You can add minced ginger when you add the garlic if you have it, but this is a really simple can add more soy sauce and a little chicken broth mixed together with another tsp of cornstarch at the end if you want a thicker sauce...bamboo shoots are nice too, and dried black mushrooms are good - cabbage can be napa or not...

Quick Mu Shu Pork

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs rice wine
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 head cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 2-3 carrots shredded or cut into matchstick size pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 eggs, beaten with 1 Tbs cold water and a dash of white pepper
  • canola oil

Slice pork into thin slices, against the grain and then into strips. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, corn starch and rice wine and add pork. Let marinate at least 15 mins at room temp or 8 hours in fridge. Heat wok on flame tamer, swirl with oil. Pour in eggs and tilt to spread egg, life with spatula and tilt till egg is cooked through. Remove egg to plate and cut into thin strips. Wipe out wok with paper towel, add 2 Tbs oil, heat. Add pork and marinade, toss to stir fry until cooked through. Remove to plate and wipe out wok, add 2 Tbs oil to wok, heat, add mushrooms and stir fry for about 2 mins, add shredded cabbage and carrot and stir fry for about a minute more, add garlic and bean sprouts, cook about another minute, tossing as you cook. Return pork with any liquid and egg to wok and toss everything together to heat through. Serve with rice, or with Mandarin pancakes and little brushes made with green onions (cut a green onion into 3 inch lengths, then slice 1/2 inch up the end in vertical cuts spaced closely together, place in ice water and brush will open up!) to spread the hoisin sauce on!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Impossible Cake

I did it!! I made a chocoflan, its super easy and really impressive. This is a Mexican cake called Pastel Imposible or chocoflan and it features a caramel sauce (i used dulche de leche) a chocolate cake (i used a devils food cake) and a basic flan. You layer the sauce in the bottom of your cake pan, top it with the chocolate cake batter, top it with the flan. You bake the whole thing in a water bath, then cool it and flip it and the flan ends up traveling through the chocolate cake and ending up below the caramel on top. How cool is that?

What surprised me was you can actually watch the flan settle as soon as you pour it on the top.

  • Dulche de Leche (need 1/2-1 cup)
  • Chocolate cake batter (from a box if you'd like or make your own)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease and flour (or use a baking spray) a ring mold without a removable bottom, or a 10" round x 3" high cake pan. Ladle about 1/2 cup dulche de leche in the bottom and tilt to coat evenly. Pour chocolate cake batter over caramel to about 1/2 up the sides of the cake pan. Blend all flan ingredients and pour evenly over chocolate batter. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Place cake pan in a larger pan and pour hot water in the larger pan up to a depth of about 1" of the cake pan. Bake at 350 for 1-1.5 hours (testing with a knife inserted into middle of cake to see if knife comes out clean) Remove from oven and water bath. Let cool to room temperature and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Loosen sides of cake with a knife and place a large pretty plate over cake and invert, shake gently to release cake. Can serve with more dulche de leche (some may be left in pan). Refrigerate leftovers, if there are any!!

How the cake looks cut

Can watch me make this cake on youtube - 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Coleslaw - no mayo

I love coleslaw - creamy coleslaw, coleslaw with a tangy light mayo free dressing, just cabbage with no other veggies or lots of veggies...but I can't stand deli coleslaw, way too sweet. Here's a recipe I turn to for bbq's its easy, fast and very very pretty and also quite light because it doesn't have any mayonnaise or sour cream or yogurt, which makes it more weather tolerant as well...

Pretty Coleslaw

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, core removed
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, core removed
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp celery seed

Thinly shred cabbages, using a mandolin, sharp knife or a food processor. Combine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper in a pretty bowl and stir briskly with a fork. Add cabbages, carrots and green onions and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to blend.
(Fun way to remove core from cabbage - take off thick outer leaves and discard. Raise cabbage high up over a firm steady surface and ram it down (stem end down) HARD - with any luck core will dislodge. Alternatively, you can cut cabbage in half lengthwise and then cut core out.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hunger Games Cake

I  made this awhile ago, but I just found a picture and I wanted to share it. I love using color sugar sheets as an easy way to add a decorative element to a cake and here I used one in yellow to cut out a hunger games inspired mocking jay design

My daughter and her friends loved this cake, and i also made cupcakes with mocking jay pins as take home and keep toppers . The cake was a carrot cake, and the frosting cream cheese - the sugar sheet stuck just fine to it, although the general rule is to use a buttercream or fondant frosting to aid in the sheet adhering. Guess cream cheese frosting is similar to buttercream!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry

OK, I posted the radish-cucumber salad already tonight, and I wasn't going to post this stir-fry...but it came out so good!! I wanted to share it before I forget what I did.

Chicken Broccoli Stir-Fry

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 1/2 onion cut into thin wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
  • 1 shallot chopped fine
  • 2 green onions, white and pale green part chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, green pepper and yellow pepper cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup carrots (cut into thin match sticks)
  • 2 heads broccoli, separated into florets and parboiled 2 mins
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs rice wine
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • pepper

Combine chicken broth, cornstarch, rice wine and soy sauce and stir, set aside. Heat 2 Tbs canola oil in a wok over medium high heat, stir fry chicken until white, add onion, garlic, ginger and shallot, stir fry 2 minutes, add red pepper and carrots stir fry 4 mins, add chicken broth mixture and let boil stirring. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. If you only have one color pepper thats fine, and you could use a red onion if you had one.

Serve over rice.

Chicken Stir Fry, Radish and Cucumber Salad

Tonight for dinner I had no idea what to make. I have boneless skinless chicken breasts, and I was thinking chicken parm, but my daughter wasn't too thrilled about the idea. So I made a chocolate ice cream base to put in the fridge so it can be good and cold when I put it in the ice cream maker after dinner, at least I know she'll love that. Still thinking about the chicken. I have broccoli, i have an onion, a yellow pepper and carrots - and some ginger root, garlic - I'll make a stir fry! Also have an English cucumber and some radishes, so I'll make a quick side salad with that and some rice - and there you go - dinner when I haven't had time to plan or run to the market.

Cucumber and Radish Salad

  • 1/2 an English cucumber cut into thin half moons
  • 6-8 radishes, cut into thin half moons
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • feta cheese (optional)
  • green onion (optional)
  • cubed garden tomatoes (optional)
  • fresh herbs - like dill, or thyme

Sprinkle about a tsp of salt over sliced cucumber and let drain in a colander. Combine rice vinegar and olive oil and black pepper, add a tsp of sugar if desired, whisk. Add radishes and drained cucumber to vinegar mixture and stir. Add some feta and dill if desired. Or add some tomato and thyme. You can also add green onion, or red onion - this works with just cucumbers as well, very refreshing salad with a touch of Asian flare.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beef Stew

Ok - its still summer, and its hot outside - but this morning was brisk, and fall is coming and its finally my turn to pick dinner. Usually I make whatever my husband wants, often my daughter also makes her culinary desires known ... once in a blue moon I pick. Today I want beef stew. Its easily one of my favorite meals, and I hardly ever make it. My husband likes to shy away from beef - and summer isn't exactly the time one thinks of stew - but I still love it. Still, you have to do it right. Countless ways to do it right - if your pressed for time use a tender cut of beef, costs more but the stew will be great. Today, however, I have time so I am slowly and lovingly making an old fashioned beef stew.

I have over 2 lbs of stew meat. Tough and cheap - but I coated it with seasoned flour, took the time to brown it in batches!! Now I am letting it simmer in beef broth enriched with thyme, rosemary and bay leaf - going to add red skinned potato chunks, carrots, celery - oh and of course already browned the onion, garlic and some shallot - let it cook all day and it will taste amazing. Might serve this over rice, maybe egg noodles - I know, I know - there are potatoes and we don't need more starch - don't need it but it will taste great!

Old Fashioned Beef Stew 

  • 2 lbs beef stew meat cut into 1. inch cubes
  • flour, seasoned with salt and pepper and garlic powder
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 shallots chopped
  • Olive oil - 1/4 cup of so
  • 6-8 red skinned potatoes, cut into 1" cubes
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into 1" slices
  • beef broth
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

Add about 2 Tbs of olive oil to a big cast iron pot, coat beef in seasoned flour and brown (in batches - do not crowd, do not skip this step!). Remove beef to plate, or pan or counter top...add onion and brown, add garlic and shallot, add about 1/4 cup of seasoned flour and stir - add 1 cup beef broth and stir - cook for about 2 mins. Add 32 oz beef broth, return beef to pot add herbs. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook partially covered for an hour or a few hours if you have the time. Add carrots, celery and potatoes more salt and pepper - cook for another hour or so. Taste. Adjust seasoning, add some fresh herbs if you have them - rosemary (not too heavy) parsley, more salt and pepper. Add frozen green peas if you want.

Serve this in a bowl, or over rice or over egg noodles or with biscuits - happy cooking!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brigadeiro - Chocolate candies

Really easy and fun Brazilian chocolate candy - truffle like confection. I first had these at a local Brazilian bakery and then sought to make them at home. Initially, I used a super high quality cocoa powder, and while they were quite good they didn't taste like what I had first tried. I researched a bit and found out that using a chocolate drink mix powder would result in a more authentic taste - so here's my recipe

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 Tbs chocolate drink powder (like quik)
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • chocolate sprinkles

Combine condensed milk, chocolate drink powder and butter in a small heavy bottom saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10-20 mins or until mixture thickens and starts to pull away from sides of pan. This seems to take forever, but it does thicken, all at once. Be careful to stir as mixture will burn if left unattended. Pour out into a wide bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool enough to handle. With buttered hands shape mixture into 1-2" balls and roll in chocolate sprinkles (or coconut, or chopped nuts, or cocoa powder). Refrigerate for a few hours and serve.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lollipops - with no corn syrup!!

My daughter really wanted a super big lollipop, and I promised her I would get her one - but i couldn't find one at the local market, didn't want to go all the way to the mall - looked at ones for sale online and was not happy with the ingredient list. I know I could make them at home, but I don't do a lot of candy making, and I don't have any corn syrup on hand and I don't have any special molds....but she really wanted a lollipop

Easy Lollipops

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tarter
  • food coloring if desired

Combine sugar, water and cream of tarter in a heavy bottom saucepan. Heat over medium high heat stirring to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved stop stirring and continue to heat until syrup reaches 300 F, and starts to color (light amber) remove from heat and add food coloring if desired (can also add a flavor extract like mint or anise). Pour small circles around lollipop sticks (or Popsicle sticks) on a oiled granite surface (like your counter top) or marble slab. Let cool and then lift up and enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Super easy dinner if you used canned soup, easy enough if you make the soup from fresh tomatoes - say you have tons from your garden, have made many caprese salads, homemade sauce and now need to use more tomatoes!!

Cream of Tomato Soup

  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 10 cups peeled, seeded chopped tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups water or chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs sugar, optional

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pot, add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until onion
softens. Add remaining ingredients, except cream and heat to boiling. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Let cool off heat for about 30 mins, using an immersion blender puree soup, or or puree in batches in a food processor. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on solids
to get all juice into pot. Heat over medium heat to a simmer, add cream and nutmeg if desired. Taste and add more salt and freshly ground black pepper and sugar as needed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pork Chops, applesauce and garlic spinach

Dinner tonight had to be really quick, because we came home from a movie and had planned to go out to eat - but everybody decided they were too tired...I had made applesauce earlier in the day, and I had some center cut boneless pork chops, fresh baby spinach and some of that instant stuffing mix ....

So I heated two large cast iron pans and swirled in some olive oil in each pan, chopped about 4 cloves of garlic, made a quick rub for the chops, boiled some chicken stock for the stuffing - and had dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes!

Pan Seared Pork Chops

  • 4 center cut boneless pork chops
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbp garlic powder
  • 1 tbs dried minced onion
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Melt butter and olive oil over medium high heat, combine salt and pepper and spices and sprinkle over chops. Sear chops about 4 minutes per side, remove from skillet to a plate, add 1/2 cup chicken broth to skillet and stir up bits from bottom of pan, return chops to skillet and let a glaze form turn after 30 seconds and remove to serving platter.

Spinach sautéed with garlic

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb fresh baby spinach
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat, add garlic and stir fry for about 1 min, add spinach in small batches turning and tossing to wilt. When all spinach has been added cook for about 2 minutes more.

Homemade applesauce

  • 6-12 apples, peeled if desired
  • 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs sugar (optional)

Cut apples into large chunks, remove core
Heat apples and apple juice in a large pot till boiling, add cinnamon stick and sugar if desired, then cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher till almost smooth and remove from heat.


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Thursday, August 23, 2012

100 Layer Lasagna

This year for my husbands birthday dinner he requested a lasagna like the one he had in Milan. I wasn't with him in Milan, so he had to describe it to me - lots of layers he said, really thin pasta he said, meat like a paste - didn't sound so great but I knew he was talking about a wonderful dish - a classic lasagna bolognese...with home made pasta and a meat ragu and a white sauce. Very different from my standard take on lasagna, with store bought pasta and ricotta and mozzarella filling. So I looked it up, found lots of references to a 100 layer lasagna featured in a NYC restaurant, but not much in terms of recipes. Turned to the Silver Spoon, my go to book for Italian cooking, got some more ideas - and ended up making something he loved and I was quite pleased with. Didn't take a picture of the whole thing, maybe next time...

The secret to this dish is to use very thin layers of filling and lots of pasta layers (maybe not quite 100!)

Lasagne Bolognese

You need a meat sauce, a white sauce, a tomato sauce and fresh thinly rolled pasta sheets

For Meat Sauce

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped 
  • 1 sweet italian pork sausage
  • 1 hot italian port sausage
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs tomato paste

Cook sausage (casings removed) in a little olive oil until no longer pink. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook it. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened. Drain fat. Add tomato sauce and paste and simmer for a bit.

For Pasta

  • 2 cups Semolina Pasta flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup warm water if needed

In a standing mixer with dough hook add flour and make a well in the middle, add eggs and beat on low speed until moistened, add olive oil and salt and increase mixer speed and beat until a ball forms leaving sides of mixer bowl clean - if dough is too sticky add water 1 Tbs at a time. Once ball forms beat for about 10 mins to knead. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

For White Sauce (Bechamel)

  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3.5 Tbs unbleached flour
  • 2 cups milk, warmed - not boiled
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, do not let brown. Add flour all at once and stir, mixture will look crumbly at first. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly - the goal here is to not let it brown, the roux is not meant to get a lot of color. Add milk, a little at a time and whisk with a wire whisk. Continue to whisk and cook until sauce thickens. Use whole milk for a thicker sauce.  Add about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese and 1/4 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, stir to incorporate.

For Tomato Sauce (or use high quality canned or jarred)

  • 10 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Saute onion in oilve oil, add peeled diced seeded tomatoes, cook for about 30 minutes, add tomato paste, add 1/2 cup chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste. Process with immersion blender.
To peel, seed and dice tomatoes: make a x in the bottom of each tomato and submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain into a bowl of cold water and skins should come off readily. Cut in half and squeeze out seeds and juice. Chop.

To Assemble and Cook Lasagna

Make the meat sauce and then process in a food processor - not to a paste! but just to medium fine crumbly texture, you want to be able to spread it fairly thin. Make the pasta and roll in pasta roller to thinnest setting, cut into large rectangles and cook for about 2 mins in boiling salted water. Can rinse in cold water to cool so you can handle them, then lay sheets out on waxed paper on kitchen towels. Make the white sauce.

Prepare a pan (8x8x2 for 4 servings, larger if you want to double pasta and roll lots more). Butter pan -
layer a thin layer of white sauce over the bottom of the pan. Lay down one layer of pasta, overlap a little if necessary. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce over pasta. Lay down another layer of pasta, spread with white sauce and a Tbs or two of tomato sauce, another layer of pasta, a layer of meat sauce and just keep going pressing down on each layer of pasta. The goal is to create as many layers as possible to use all your fresh pasta and make sure to keep the meat sauce and white sauce layers very thin!! End with a layer of pasta, top with more white sauce and the remaining 1/4 cup grated parmesan.

At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or just cover with foil and bake right away. Bake covered at 350 F for 30 mins, remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 mins or until lasagna is heated though and top browns a bit. You can sprinkle some grated mozzarella on top if you desire after taking foil off.

Let this stand for a few minutes to facilitate cutting, it holds together beautifully. This dish is really spectacular and I served it with a caprese salad, and some garlic bread. For dessert we had a blueberry rhubarb birthday pie...

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Cheese Souffle with sauted Leeks

OK, so clearly I am not cut out for daily blogging!! Tonight after much running around I whipped up some individual cheese souffles for my daughter and myself - served them with leeks sauteed in butter ...was going to make cheese and leek souffles but my daughter wanted her leeks on the side.

At any rate, these were fun and she enjoyed watching them puff, and later watching them fall...tasted really great too! I started the base early in the day, and cleaned and sliced the leeks also, then when we came home from her swimming all I had to do was cook the leeks, beat the egg whites, fold them in and cook the cheese souffle -

Individual Cheese Souffles

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs unbleached flour
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 Tbs grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (or any hard cheese you like)
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

Melt butter in small sauce pan, stir in flour and cook over medium heat stirring constantly
for about 30 seconds. Add milk and keep stirring until smooth and thick, about 2 more minutes
Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan, spices and egg yolks - stir vigorously to incorporate eggs and not cook them. Add grated cheese. Let cool to room temperature, or refrigerate up to a day, covered.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter four small ramekins, coat with Parmesan if desired. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (add 1/4 tsp cream of tarter if you have it, skip it if you don't). Add a few spoonfuls of egg whites to cheese mixture to lighten it and then fold cheese mixture into egg whites, gently. Spoon into buttered ramekins and bake for about 30 mins or until puffed and golden. Do NOT open oven door for first 20 mins of cooking. Serve souffles immediately with sauteed leeks.


Slice leeks in half lengthwise, discard top tough dark green parts. Thinly slice leeks into half moons, wash thoroughly. Melt 2 Tbs butter in a cast iron skillet and add leeks, stirring to coat. Cook over medium heat for 5 mins, add 1/4 cup chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste and stir. Continue to cook until chicken broth has evaporated, about another 5 mins.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1st - it snowed! Fast dinner needed

I am back, again, once again filled with resolve to actually do something with this blog!
Tonight for dinner I made a very simple chicken stir fry...which was ideal, because I was busy driving my daughter to her various activities and had very little time to get dinner on the table once we were finally home. By prepping some earlier in the day, it was really easy.

And yes, I forgot to take a picture!! Will do this tomorrow, I promise!
Here's my pseudo recipe -
get some nice veggies, i used broccoli and cut the florets fairly small so I wouldn't have to blanch them, some baby corn, fresh - but canned works too, some canned sliced water chestnuts, some snow peas, some carrots cut real thin, chunks of red onion and chicken, boneless, skinless breast sliced into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Oh the aromatics - a few cloves of diced garlic and a few chunks of peeled minced ginger. White pepper, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, cornstarch and chicken broth.
Ok, marinate the chicken early in the day in a few Tbs of soy sauce in one of those wonderful plastic bags, i added some garlic and a few Tbs of rice wine also. Cut up your onion, broccoli and baby corn if desired, and carrots. Have everything ready to go in little bowls in your fridge. You can even mix up the sauce ahead of time and the glaze too.

When you walk in the door and want dinner in 30 mins, get the rice going first. I usually use basmati - 1 cup rice (rinse it please) to 1.5 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a bare simmer and cover. Leave it be for 25 mins. Heat your wok, use a flame tamer if you have one and add 1-2 Tbs peanut or canola oil. Now, add the chicken - do this in batches if you have more than 1 lb of chicken, and stir fry it for a few mins until no longer pink inside. Remove to a plate, wipe out wok and add 1-2 Tbs more oil, heat. Add onion first, then ginger and garlic, stir fry for a minute or two, next add broccoli and carrots, stir fry for 3 mins, if broccoli isn't cooking add a splash of chicken broth and cover the wok to let it steam for 3 mins. Next turn up the heat a little to evaporate any broth and add snow peas and baby corns. Some water chestnuts (sliced) are nice too. Return chicken to wok, stir, add a simple sauce of 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 1/4 cup chicken broth, 1/4 tsp white pepper and a touch of sesame oil. Stir. Add a glaze to thicken it all up - 2Tbs chicken broth with 1 Tbs cornstarch stirred in. Stir it all together until sauce thickens and everything is coated and glossy. Fluff your rice and serve the stir fry on top.