Sunday, December 16, 2012

English Toffee

When Christmas comes everyone likes to make treats to give to friends and co-workers, or to hoard at home (ha!).  English toffee is one of my favorite Christmas treats to make.  It only has a few ingredients, it's easy to make, and tastes amazing.  It cuts up nicely and can be packaged easily, making it perfect for giving away. It is wonderful to munch on by itself, and any little bits add a perfect tasty crunch on top of ice cream or apple pie.  In other words, it's pretty much the perfect Christmas treat!

Be sure you have everything ready to go BEFORE you start cooking, because once you start you have to stir continuously until it's done, so you don't have time to run to the refrigerator to grab more butter, or to pull out the pan.  Also, I highly recommend using a candy thermometer that clips onto the side of your pan, like the ones made by Taylor company.

English Toffee

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 lb (2 cups, or 4 sticks) butter
1-2 cups whole almonds (optional)
12 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped

Have an ungreased jelly-roll pan sitting near by, ready to receive your toffee when cooked.  Also, unwrap your butter sticks and have both the butter and whole almonds sitting within reach of your stove.

In a large heavy pan combine sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat with the lid on.  Uncover and cook WITHOUT STIRRING until the sugar-water mixture reaches 230-degrees F.  Add one stick of butter and stir constantly until the butter is completely melted.  Continue stirring as you add in each remaining stick, waiting until the previous stick is completely melted before adding the next.  When all the butter is melted add the whole almonds, continuing to stir vigorously.  If you don't stir fast enough the bottom will burn and ruin the entire batch.  Stir constantly until the mixture reaches 285-degrees F, or soft crack stage.  This should take an additional 5-10 minutes. The mixture will be a golden color (about the color of peanut butter), and you may hear an almond crack.  Continue stirring as you remove the toffee from the heat and immediately pour into the waiting jelly-roll pan, scraping the edges to get all the bits.  Spread the toffee evenly in the jelly-roll pan and let cool completely.  You can place the pan in the freezer or refrigerator to speed this process up.

When the toffee is completely cool, place the chopped up chocolate in a small bowl and melt in the microwave at high power for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.  Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the surface of the toffee, then immediately sprinkle the finely chopped almonds on top.  Let cool until the chocolate is hard.  Again, this can be speeded up by placing the tray in the refrigerator or freezer.

When everything is cool and hard, cut the toffee into squares (I usually cut them into roughly 2-inch squares).  I use a metal bench scraper and a mallet to do this, but you can also use a large butcher-style knife.  If you don't care what size the toffee pieces are, you can drop the entire pan onto a countertop a few times until the toffee cracks.

Store in an airtight container.  Toffee will store practically forever, but don't worry, it won't last very long, so it won't be necessary to store it forever.

Makes about 50 2-inch toffee squares.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Pomegranate, Orange, and Avocado Salad

Winter is a time full of heavy meats and rich stews, warm breads and plentiful sweets.  And in the midst of all of that, sometimes you just want a salad!  This one utilizes the fruits that are at their peak in the winter months, and is a great addition to any holiday meal.

Winter Pomegranate, Orange, and Avocado Salad

6-8 cups mixed salad greens or baby spinach (or a combination of both)
1 cup pomegranate seeds*
2 Clementine oranges, peeled, and segments separated and cut in half
1 large pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 avocado, peeled, deseeded, and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup water
1 cup walnuts or pecans
2 T sugar
Poppy Seed Dressing

In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook sugar without stirring until melting and light brown in color.  Quickly toss in nuts and stir until evenly coated in sugar.  Pour onto waxed paper or parchment paper and place in freezer for 10 minutes.  When cooled, transfer nuts to cutting board and roughly chop.

In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice and water.  Dip pear cubes into water to prevent browning. Discard water, and set pears aside.

In a large serving bowl or salad bowl combine salad greens, oranges, onions and pears.  Top with avocados, pomegranate seeds, and chopped sugared nuts.  Serve with poppy seed dressing.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

*For tips on getting the pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate, watch this helpful video by Martha Stewart. It's definitely my preferred method!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Carve-Your-Own Jack-o-lantern Pancakes

We're a big pancake family; we eat them at least twice a week, and often four or five times.  Generally I stick to the round variety, but during holidays it's fun to shake it up a bit.  This week we had Carve-Your-Own Jack-o-lantern Pumcakes.  Or Pancakes.  Whatever.

Each person got one pumpkin-shaped pancake, and then carved a face in it before eating.  It doesn't sound like much, but the kids were crazy about it, and it's certainly easier than carving an actual pumpkin!

Here's my pancake recipe: Buttermilk Pancakes

Then you just have to dye a little bit of the batter green (no more than 1/2 cup), and the rest orange, and make some nice pumpkin shapes.

Serve them up nice and hot, and go at the carving!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chicken, Sausage, and Leek Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is one of those homey foods, like macaroni and cheese, that just feels comfortable on a cool fall night.  This recipe fulfills all those comfort-food requirements, but is dressed up enough to serve to company.

The sausage is really the key to making this recipe amazing.  Don't leave it out!

A note on leeks.  Leeks are usually pretty dirty when you buy them, and even if they look clean, they need solid washing.  Cut of the tops first, then slice the stem part into rounds.  Separate the rounds and put them in a sink or bowl of clean water.  Let all the dirt settle to the bottom, and then scoop out the clean leeks.

Chicken, Sausage, and Leek Pot Pie
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver

1 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (you can use breasts, but it won't taste as good)
2 medium leeks, trimmed, sliced, and washed
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 Tbs flour
1 cup white grape juice or white wine
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz ground italian sausage
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg + 1 tsp water

Preheat oven to 425F.  Remove puff pastry from freezer and set out to thaw.

In a large pot heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add chicken, leeks, carrots, celery and thyme and cook slowly on the stove for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat to medium-high and add flour, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add juice, water, and milk and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn't stick.  If sauce is still very thin, simmer uncovered until mixture thickens slightly.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a skillet until browned and crumbled.  Mix them into the thickened chicken mixture.

Pour the chicken mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.  Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4-inch thick.  Make an egg wash with the egg and 1 tsp water beaten together.  Rub the rim of the pie pan with the egg wash and then put the pastry on top of the pie.  Trim the edges of the pastry and crimp the edges.  Using a knife, lightly score the top of the pastry in a crisscross pattern, which will allow it to puff without shrinking around the edges.  Egg wash the entire top of the pastry, then place in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes at 425F.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6.

French Dip

When I was in elementary school, the lunch menu had ten items on it, repeating every two weeks.  French dip was one of my favorites, and I always ate every bit.  That's why I was pleased when my own children, upon first trying this delightful treat, also loved it.  There's something about dipping a sandwich into a hot liquid that just immediately appeals to kids.  And even though they don't like swiss cheese on its own, they loved it on the sandwich.

The other great thing about French Dip is that it's easy.  Slow cooker cooking at it's best.  I bought some hard French rolls at my local grocery store's bakery section, but you could, of course, make your own.  This makes enough to feed a crowd, so be prepared for leftovers if you're feeding your family of 4!

French Dip au Jus
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

2 T olive or vegetable oil
1 beef roast, 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 lbs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package (1-oz) dry onion soup mix, or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup water
1 can (14.5 oz) beef broth
Swiss cheese, sliced (about 1/2 lb)
Crusty buns or rolls, for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While oil is heating, sprinkle salt and pepper over the whole roast.  Sear the roast in the hot oil on all sides, just long enough to lightly brown the meat.  This seals in the moisture and adds flavor.
Transfer seared meat into the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with dry onion soup mix, or onion, and add water (omit if using fresh onion).  Add beef broth.
Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.  When the meat shreds easily with a fork, shred the entire roast with two forks.  Serve on sliced crusty rolls with a slice of swiss cheese.  Serve with a side bowl of the juices from the meat, for dipping the sandwiches into.
Serves about 8.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beef and Broccoli

This is a quintessential Chinese dish, found at every Chinese restaurant in America.  I've tried several different recipes for Beef and Broccoli over the years, and stopped looking when I found this one.  It came from my good friend Ie Li, who once told me that she spent a good portion of her growing up years playing under the table at Chinese restaurants.  That's all the qualification I needed to trust her Asian faire.

Beef and Broccoli
Recipe by Ie Li Zachrison

1 lb flank steak, sliced across the grain into strips 2 inches long and 1/4 inch thick
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs chicken broth
2 Tbs oyster sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs cornstarch
6 cloves garlic, mined
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 lb broccoli florets
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
3 medium scallions (green onions), cut on the diagonal into 1/2" pieces

Combine the beef and soy sauce in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour.  Meanwhile, whisk chicken broth, oyster sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Combine the garlic, ginger, and 1 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil in a separate small bowl.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a nonstick 12-inch skillet over high heat until smoking.  Drain the beef and discard the liquid.  Add the beef to the skillet and break up the clumps.  Cook without stirring for 1 minute, then stir and cook until the beef is brown around the edges, about 30 seconds.  Remove the beef to a serving bowl.

Add 1 tsp oil to the empty skillet and heat until smoking.  Add broccoli and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes.  Transfer into the bowl with the beef.

Add the remaining oil to the empty skillet and heat until smoking.  Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Clear the center of the skillet and add the garlic and ginger mixture, mashing with a spoon until fragrant, about 15-20 seconds.  Stir the mixture into the peppers, then return the beef and broccoli to the pan, stirring to combine.  Pour the sauce over everything and stir and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to the serving bowl, sprinkle with scallions, and serve over steamed rice.

Serves 4.

Furry Chicken

There are a million recipes out there for breaded chicken breasts.  I have at least three on the blog, and many more in the cookbooks that line my shelves.  But this is one of my favorites, because the flavor is unique and extra delicious.  Give it a try--it makes a great quick dinner.

You can also make the chicken ahead of time and freeze it until you're ready to use it.  Just bake at 425F for 20 minutes instead of following the baking instructions below.

Furry Chicken
Recipe by Ruth Beal

4 Boneless-skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally to create 8 thinner chicken breasts
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbs dried parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F and lightly grease a large baking pan or cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl combine melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and garlic.  In a shallow dish (such as a pie pan) combine bread crumbs, parsley, and parmesan cheese.  Dip the chicken first into the butter mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture, patting the crumb mixture on to coat.  Place coated chicken onto baking pan.  Bake at 375F for 15-25 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 8.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cinnamon Buns

I have a million different recipes for cinnamon buns, because everyone makes the dough a little different, and everyone does the filling a little different. This one is by Peter Reinhart, who is widely considered the authority on bread-making in the United States.

I love the dough in this recipe because it's so light and fluffy, and because it has an amazing flavor to it. The filling is just plain cinnamon-sugar, which is nice, but I prefer add a little butter to my filling.  So feel free to make that change if you'd like--I know I will be.

As a note, the glaze, while good, can quickly mask the nuanced flavor of the roll itself, so go easy on it. That picture, by the way, has waaaay too much icing.  Drizzle, not pour, is the key to getting the right amount to heighten the sweetness without killing the flavor.

Cinnamon Buns
Recipe by Peter Reinhart

6 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
5 Tbs unsalted butter (you can use salted, just cut the salt measurement in half) or shortening
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp lemon extract (NOT lemon juice) or lemon zest
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (7 Tbs sugar plus 2 Tbs cinnamon)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs milk
1/4 tsp lemon extract or vanilla extract

In a mixer, cream together sugar, salt, and butter or shortening on medium-high with the paddle attachment.  Whip in egg and lemon until smooth, then add flour, yeast, and buttermilk.  Mix on low speed until dough forms a ball.  Switch to the dough hook and increase speed to medium.  Machine knead for approximately 10 minutes or knead by hand for about 15 minutes, until dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  You may need to add a little extra flour to achieve the right texture, but don't add more than 1/2 cup.

Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl.  Spray the top with oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Punch the dough down. Spray the countertop with cooking spray and transfer the dough to the counter.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until you have a rectangle about 2/3" thick and 14" wide by 12" long.  Don't roll too thin or the rolls will be tough instead of tender.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the dough all the way to the edges.  Roll up the dough, beginning with the long side, into a long roll.  Using a sharp knife, bench scraper, or some dental floss, cut the long into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 3/4 inches thick.  Place each roll, cut-side down, 1/2" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Mist the dough with cooking spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until large and puffy and touching.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes while you prepare the icing.

In a small pan combine powdered sugar, lemon or vanilla, and 1 Tbs milk. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until a thick but pourable glaze is created.  While the buns are still warm, drizzle the icing on top.

Makes 8 large buns.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Glazed Carrots

My mom discovered this recipe a few years back and now it makes it onto her table fairly frequently.  It's great for holidays, because it does that great trick of making a vegetable taste like a dessert.  Even my cousin, who hates vegetables, has seconds with this one.

Glazed Carrots

2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8"-thick "pennies"
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbs water
4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup butter

Boil the carrots in a saucepan of slightly salted water until just tender, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F. Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, and butter in a small saucepan and cook until translucent and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

When carrots are tender, drain and place in an 8x8" or casserole dish. Pour glaze over carrots and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Makes about 6 servings.

Steakhouse Pizza

I saw this recipe on The Pioneer Woman Cooks website. I knew immediately I had to try it.  I was not disappointed.

This pizza is delicious and unique, and is definitely a must for steak-lovers.  My husband, who usually does not like "gourmet" pizza (or at least prefers a standard one over a gourmet one) ate half the pizza in one sitting.  He couldn't get enough of it. 

The key to the deliciousness is the mixture of the flavors--the acid from the balsamic vinegar, the sweetness from the caramelized onions, the tang from the Worchestershire sauce and steak sauce, and of course the creamy, salty mozzarella and the rich and juicy steak.  A.Maz.Ing.  Seriously.

I used a homemade whole wheat crust, but you can make your own or buy a premade dough if you'd like.  Either way, it's sooo good.

Steakhouse Pizza
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Pizza dough, enough to make a 10" crust
Skirt steak or flank steak, or a sirloin roast steak (I used the last one)
Salt and pepper
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs butter
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup marinara sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/8"-thick slices
1/4 cup Your Favorite Steak Sauce (I used A1)

Preheat oven to 475F degrees. 

Grill the steak over high heat, flipping every three minutes, until medium rare, approximately 12 minutes total.  Set aside to rest.

Saute red onions in butter and half of the balsamic vinegar over medium heat until dark and caramelized, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine marinara sauce with the Worcestershire sauce and remaining balsamic vinegar. 

Roll out pizza dough until thin and about 10" in diameter.  Spread marinara sauce on the crust and top with red onions and then mozzarella cheese.  Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly but not burned.

While pizza is cooking, slice steak into very thin slices.  When pizza is done, remove from oven and drape slices of steak to cover pizza.  Drizzle steak sauce on top of the steak, and serve immediately.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer Pasta with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil

There are few meals that are quicker and easier to throw together than pasta.  Additionally, the variations you can do with simple pasta are endless.  This one utilizes fresh garden tomatoes and basil, along with some white beans and goat cheese for protein.  A perfectly light and delicious meal!

Summer Pasta with Tomatoes, Goat Cheese, and Basil

1/2 lb (8 oz) angel hair pasta (or your favorite type of pasta)
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 T fresh goat cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 T olive oil
8 oz (about half a can) of Cannellini or Great Northern beans

Cook pasta according to directions on package.  When pasta is done cooking, drain, and then put into serving bowl.  Toss pasta with olive oil and then garlic powder.  Add goat cheese and toss for a minute until the cheese is slightly melty.  Toss in the tomatoes, beans, and basil.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I love crepes.  Since I was a child they had this aura of being exotic and rich and special and, above all, delicious.  When we went to places like IHOP (which was a rarity for my family), I always checked to see if they had crepes. 

When I was 15 I flew to Paris to spend a month with my sister, who was there doing a semester abroad.  The two of us often stopped to buy an enormous crepe from the sidewalk vendors. I was fascinated with watching them pour the batter out of the ladle onto the huge spinning skillet, flipping it with skill, and then deftly folding it into quarters, sprinkling it with powdered sugar and lemon juice, and plating it up.  My mouth still waters when thinking about them.

So you can imagine my delight when I married into a family that made crepes for lots of special occasions.  My mother-in-law patiently taught me the tricks of getting the batter evenly distributed around the pan, how to turn them without tearing them, and the best fillings and toppings.  Now I'm a pro (or so I think, though hers are still thinner than mine!) and we make them on special occasions at my home, or sometimes just on a random Sunday morning. 

They still make my mouth water.

Recipe by Ruth Beal

1 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 T sugar
3 eggs

In a mixing bowl combine flour, milk and salt with a whisk.  Add the lemon zest, sugar, and eggs and beat well.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

You'll need something to grease your pan with.  My mother-in-law using shortening, but I use cooking spray.  I think it's easier and you get more consistent results.  But you use whatever you'd like. 

I use an 8-inch skillet, though you could use one larger, you would just have to pour in more batter.

Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat (my stove works best when set at number 6 out of 10).  When it's hot, grease it lightly, then take 1/4 cup of batter (or more if you're using a larger pan) and pour it quickly into the pan WHILE tipping the pan in a circular manner to let the batter evenly coat the pan.  This is really the trickiest part of the whole enterprise and mostly requires practice, so don't give up if you don't do it right the first (or fourth) time around.  They still taste good regardless of how they look.

You'll notice that the edges (which are generally thinner) will start to brown and crisp up before the rest. 

Once you notice them browning a bit, run around the entire edge with a thin pancake turner or spatula.  I've found that I like plastic ones better than metal because they slide easier without breaking the crepe. 

After loosening the edges, I usually grab one bit of the edge with my finger and start to lift the crepe up, while sliding the pancake turner underneath.  Then you just lift up carefully and flip the crepe over. 

It only needs to cook a little while on the second side, and then place it on a plate.  Regrease the pan and begin again!

Makes about 15 crepes.

We eat these with fruit, jam, Nutella, yogurt, syrup, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or anything else that seems good at the time.  My husband's family spreads the following mixture on the crepes, then rolls them up and tops with a fruit compote or jam:

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 package cream cheese
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs milk
A squeeze of lemon juice and zest

Beat the above with a mixer until light and fluffy. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Breaded Chicken Pita Sandwiches

We spent some time with my sister-in-law and her family this past week, and this was one of the things we ate there.  I thought it was so tasty, pretty quick and simple, and everyone liked it.  That pretty much makes for a perfect dinner in  my opinion.

Breaded Chicken Pita Sandwiches
Recipe by Emily Nuzman

1 lb chicken, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
2 T olive or vegetable oil
6 pocket pitas, cut in half
Tomatoes, diced
Cucumbers, diced
Red peppers, diced
Green onions, chopped
Ranch dressing

In a small bowl combine breadcrumbs and garlic powder.  Place milk in a separate small bowl.  Heat oil a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Toss chicken pieces into milk, then breadcrumb mixture, then into the hot pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Line half a pita with lettuce leaves, then add chicken and desired vegetables, topping with a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Serves 6.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Peach and Basil Salad

My sister told me about this salad, which a friend had made for her, and I decided I had to try it.  It's so simple and delicious, and the flavor combinations are unique and beautiful.  This is a great way to showcase the peaches that are in season right now.  If you'd like, you can drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar on top just before serving, but it's plenty delicious without it.

Peach and Basil Salad
Recipe by Rachel Morrissey

5 peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 large basil leaves, thinly sliced into long strips
2 T goat cheese or feta

In a medium serving bowl toss together the peaches and basil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6.  Just before serving, remove peaches from refrigerator and crumble cheese on top.

Makes 4-6 side dish servings.

Lemon Meltaways

These cookies are quick to make and quickly disappear!  The original recipe calls for lime, but I had lemons so that's what I used. I love that you can make these ahead of time and throw them in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to bake.  A busy mom's dream!

Lemon Meltaways
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
Zest of 2 lemons
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T vanilla
2 cups flour
2 T cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Put butter and 1/3 cup powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add lemon zest and juice and vanilla and mix until fluffy, about 1 minutes.  In a separate bowl combine flour, cornstarch, and salt.  Add to butter mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.

Divide dough in half.  Place each half on an 8x12-inch piece of parchment or wax paper.  Roll dough to form a log 1 1/4-inches in diameter.  Wrap up in parchment or wax paper and refrigerate  until cold and firm, at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove cookie dough from fridge and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.  Place rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, just for about 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, place remaining 2/3 cup powdered sugar in a resealable plastic bag.  Toss warm cookies gently in bag with powdered sugar until coated.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Many years ago, when I first got married, someone gave me a cookbook called Intercourses, which supposedly contains recipes full of aphrodisiacs.  It has lots of fun recipes in it, but the one that I have gone back to multiple times is the one for Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas.  I can't say that it makes me feel anything other than happy that I'm eating something delicious, but since that's my main requirement for food, I'd say it passes the test!  This is how I make it.

Chicken, Asparagus, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Recipe adapted from Intercourses by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge

2 T olive oil
1/2 - 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups salsa, divided
1 (15-oz) can black beans, undrained
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground chile powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions
6 flour tortillas
3/4 pound blanched asparagus (about 18 stalks)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and garlic and stir fry until tender and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup salsa, beans, bell pepper, cumin, and chile powder.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 7-8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Sir in the green onions.
Spoon the filling down the center of each tortilla.  Add 3 asparagus stalks and top with cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for garnish.  Roll up and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Enchiladas can be prepared up to this point and then refrigerated up to 8 hours, or can be baked immediately.
Combine remaining salsa with sour cream and pour over the top of the enchiladas.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.  Top with remaining cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.  Can serve with chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and/or additional salsa.
Makes 6 enchiladas.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tomato Basil Tart

The other day we were eating this for dinner and my sister, who often dines with us, asked why this recipe wasn't on my blog.  I was shocked.  Surely it was on my blog.  This is a go-to summertime recipe for me.  So I checked, and lo and behold, she was right.  So here it is.

This recipe is a great way to showcase your garden tomatoes, especially if you (like me) get about 20 ripe all at once.  It's prettier if you have tomatoes of varying size and color, but plain red ones will work just fine. 

The thing I love about this recipe is that it's unique.  The crust is made with pureed corn as well as cornmeal, and gives a great flavor to the crust, which in my opinion is usually the worst part of the pizza.  The fresh herbs and rustic look just add to the overall light and fresh feeling.  It really is my favorite thing to make in summertime. 

As a note, if you can't find fontina cheese you can substitute mozzarella, but it's really much better with the fontina.

Tomato Basil Tart
Adapted from Cooking Light

2-3 lbs tomatoes
1 tsp salt, divided
1 cup corn kernels (you can use canned, fresh, or frozen)
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup cold butter
1 T cornmeal
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil (you can substitute dried, about 2 T)
4 oz shredded fontina cheese
1 T chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Slice tomatoes into 1/4"-thick circles and arrange in a single layer on several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and let stand about 20 minutes, while you make the rest of the tart.

Preheat oven to 400F. 
In blender or food processor combine corn, lemon juice, and sour cream, processing until mostly smooth.  In a medium bowl whisk together flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Using the large holes in a box grater, grate the cold butter over the flour mixture.  Use hands to toss and rub the butter into the flour mixture until evenly distributed.  Add the corn mixture and mix into a soft dough.

Lay out two overlapping sheets of plastic wrap.  Place the dough on the wrap and press into a circle.  Cover with two more overlapping sheets of plastic wrap.  Roll into a 14-inch circle, then place the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, sprinkle the 1 T cornmeal on a baking sheet in a 12-inch circle.  Combine basil, fontina cheese, oregano, and ground black pepper in a small bowl.

Remove dough from freezer.  Removing plastic wrap, place dough on baking sheet.  Arrange cheese mixture on dough, leaving a 2" border around the edges.  Arrange tomato slices on the cheese, overlapping and creating more than one layer if you have that many tomatoes.  Fold edges of dough in towards the center, slightly overlapping the tomatoes, and crimping the edges to seal. 

Bake at 400F for 35 minutes or until the edges are browned.  Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spoon Bread

I have to admit that I had never heard of spoon bread before making this recipe.  Apparently it's quite popular in the Southern US, and is served alongside meats for lunch or dinner, or with syrup for breakfast.  It's not a bread in the traditional sense, more like a cross between cornbread and a souffle.  It's quite delicious, and although this is the first recipe for it I've tried, I'm willing to bet that it's one of the better ones just because it comes from America's Test Kitchen.  I can imagine that it would be fantastic with a Pot Roast, or with Pulled Pork or BBQ Chicken.  Anything that has a bit of sauce or juices to soak up would be good.  Try it out.  And to my Southern friends, what do YOU serve spoon bread with? Leave a comment and let me know, because I want to make it again!

Spoon Bread
Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

3 cups half-and-half (no substitutions, or the texture and volume with suffer!)
1 tsp salt
1 cup white or yellow cornmeal (fine-ground is better if you have it)
2 Tbs butter
3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
1-2 tsp water

Heat oven to 350F.  Butter or grease a 1 1/2 quart souffle dish, or an 8-inch high-sided cast iron skillet.

Bring half-and-half and salt to a simmer in a large heavy saucepan.  Reduce heat to low, then slowly whisk in the cornmeal.  Don't stop whisking or you'll end up with lumps.  Once cornmeal is all added, continue whisking for another 2 minutes or so, until it thickens and develops a satin sheen.  Turn off the heat and stir in the butter.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together egg yolks and 1-2 tsp water until lemon-colored and very frothy, about 2 minutes.  Stir them into the slightly cooled mush, a little at a time so the yolks don't set.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they just form stiff peaks, but they still look wet.  Gently fold them into the mush.

Pour the mixture (or spread--it's rather thick) into the greased souffle dish.  Bake until the spoon bread is golden brown and has risen about the rim of the dish, about 45 minutes.  Serve immediately.  If you don't serve immediately, it will fall a bit, but will still taste delicious.  You can refrigerate leftovers and eat them with syrup for breakfast. 

You can also add in 1/2 cup grated cheese along with the butter if you'd like a cheesy variation.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fruit Crisp--A Basic Recipe

Peach-Blueberry Crisp

Fruit crisps (or crumbles if you're British) are very simple, and so delicious.  They're a great way to showcase an abundance of in-season fruit.  You can combine different varieties or pick just one.  You can add different spices to change the flavor, and whatever you do it will always be delicious.  Well, unless you add something crazy like cumin.  Then it probably won't be.  But you never know! 

Here's the basic recipe:

Fruit Crisp -- A Basic Recipe

4 cups fruit, sliced and pitted.  Skinned if it's not a skin you would normally eat.  You can also mix fruits, such as berries and peaches, or pears and apples, or cherries and apricots; just be sure you have 4 cups of fruit total. 
1/4 - 3/4 cup sugar, depending on the tartness of your fruit.  If you're using something really tart, like rhubarb, you should use 3/4 cup.  If you're using something really sweet, like very ripe pears, use 1/4 cup.  For everything else, use 1/2 cup.
1 tsp lemon juice, regardless of the fruit you are using.  It brings out the flavor and preserves the color.
1 Tbs cornstarch, to thicken the mixture. 
1 Tbs butter, because it makes everything taste better.
Spices, a little bit (1/4-1/2 tsp) of something is usually nice.  Cinnamon goes with everything, but try to put other things in as well.  Ginger goes well with apples, pears, apricots, and peaches.  Chinese Five Spice goes with peaches and plums.  Cloves go with plums and oranges.  Nutmeg goes with cherries, apples, pears, or berries.  Cardamom is great with berries.  Try something out and see how it goes. 

Topping Ingredients:
6 T all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats
6 T butter

Optional items: Chopped nuts, coconut, or other spices.

Preheat your oven to 400-degrees F. You can make either the topping or the filling first, it doesn't really matter.  If you make the topping first, keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.  If you make the filling first, keep it in the saucepan until the topping is made.

For the filling: If your fruit isn't very juicy, toss it with the sugar and lemon juice and let it sit until the juices are released (15-30 minutes).  If you're using something like peaches or pears, which are very juicy to begin with, you can skip the macerating (which is a fancy way of saying "Let it sit until the juices are released.").

Next throw the fruit and the rest of the topping ingredients EXCEPT the butter into a saucepan.  Heat it until it boils, then stir and keep it boiling for a minute or two, until it's a bit thicker.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

For the topping:  Mix everything but the butter together.  Grate the butter (using the big holes on a cheese grater) into the mixture, then use your hands to evenly distribute it. 

To assemble: Pour the filling into a square 8" or 9" pan, or into a similarly-sized casserole dish.  Alternatively, you can use 4-6 individual ramekins.  Top the filling with the topping.  Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the topping is crispy.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fresh Cherry-Almond Crumble

A few years back I developed a recipe for a cherry crisp that used coconut and almond in the topping.  It was delicious, but it used canned cherries, and since cherries are in season and I happened to have a whole bag of them sitting on my counter-top, I decided to alter the recipe to use the fresh cherries.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out but it was fantastic!  So here it is, for you to enjoy.  You could, of course, leave out the coconut and/or almonds if you prefer, but I think they add a bit of flavor and texture that really makes this dish unique.  We served it with homemade vanilla ice cream on top.

As a note, if you don't have a cherry pitter you can just slice the cherries in half and remove the pit.  It takes a little longer but will still get the job done.

Fresh Cherry-Almond Crumble

Cherry Filling Ingredients:
4 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs butter

Crumble Topping Ingredients:
6 T all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 T shredded coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup chopped almonds
6 T butter

In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice.  Stir together and let sit for 15-30 minutes to release the juices. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400F and make the topping. 

In a small bowl combine all the topping ingredients except the butter.  Using the largest holes on a cheese grater, grate the butter over the topping mixture.  After all the butter has been grated, mix it lightly with your hands until the butter is evenly distributed.  Refrigerate the topping until needed.

Once the cherries have released some juices, add water and cornstarch to the saucepan with the cherries and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then stir constantly and continue to boil for at least one minute, or until the liquid thickens and the cherries are very soft.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

Pour cherry filling into an ungreased 8" or 9" square baking dish.  Spread topping evenly over cherry mixture.  Bake at 400-degrees F for 20 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-8.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Barbecue Pork Ribs

There are few things in this world that I like more than Barbecue Pork Ribs.  Several years ago, when my husband and I were living abroad, some friends invited us to dinner and served ribs.  I was in heaven.  They were amazing.  And then I found out how they were made, and was astounded at how simple they were to prepare.  Yes, they take all day to cook, but that's hardly difficult.  Since then I've made these on all my special BBQ occasions, such as Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day.  And sometimes I make them just because.  Because they're divine.  I'm often told by my guests that they're better than those you get at expensive restaurants. 

You can make as many racks of ribs as you want.  A rack usually has twelve rib bones in it and will serve 2 or 3 people, depending on how much they eat.  I don't recommend buying them without the bones, as you will lose some meat that way and definitely sacrifice on flavor.  By the time you're done cooking these the bones will be falling out of their own accord, so don't worry about them.  Generally when you buy ribs at the store they come packaged two racks together, though I've also seen them with three.  I buy some whenever they're on a good sale and throw them in the freezer until I'm ready for that special day.

Barbecue Pork Ribs
Recipe from Andrew Hill

2 racks pork ribs, bone-in
1 jar of your favorite barbecue sauce
2 T to 1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper

To begin with, wrap a large baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) with foil.  You'll probably need two overlapping sheets.  Turn the oven to 215F.  It's not very hot, because you'll be cooking them all day long.

In a small bowl mix 1 cup of barbecue sauce with 2 T water.  You want the sauce to be thin enough that it's easy to brush thinly over the meat, but not so thin that it's watery.  If you need more water, add more, up to 1/4 cup.

Place the raw ribs on the pan, bone-side up.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then brush with the thinned-out barbecue sauce.  Flip the meat over and repeat. 

After both sides have been covered with the sauce, they'll look like this:

Cover the whole tray very tightly with foil and place in the oven.  Cook at 215 F for at least 6 hours or up to 8.

When they come out of the oven they'll look like this:

Next you need to glaze them.  Some people prefer to glaze them on a grill, and you're certainly welcome to do so.  I prefer to glaze them under the broiler because it's easier not to move them so much when they're that tender.  Either way, you need to brush full-thickness barbecue sauce over the top of the ribs.  Be generous.  Then, if you're using the broiler, place the whole tray under the broiler (about 6 inches from the element) and let the sauce carmelize a bit, about 3-5 minutes.  If you'd like to you can carefully turn them over with tongs and do the other side, but I have to say that I usually just do the meaty side.

If you want to glaze on a grill, then apply the barbecue sauce to both sides of the cooked ribs (use tongs to turn), and then carefully lift the ribs AND the foil onto the preheated grill.  Let them carmelize for about 3 minutes, then carefully turn them over and do the other side. They should look like this:

Serve these babies immediately.  Serves 4-6.

Short version of the recipe:

Barbecue Pork Ribs
Recipe from Andrew Hill

2 racks pork ribs, bone-in
1 jar of your favorite barbecue sauce
2 T to 1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper

To begin with, wrap a large baking sheet (jelly-roll pan) with foil.  You'll probably need two overlapping sheets.  Turn the oven to 215F.  It's not very hot, because you'll be cooking them all day long.

In a small bowl mix 1 cup of barbecue sauce with 2 T water.  You want the sauce to be thin enough that it's easy to brush thinly over the meat, but not so thin that it's watery.  If you need more water, add more, up to 1/4 cup.

Place the raw ribs on the pan, bone-side up.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then brush with the thinned-out barbecue sauce.  Flip the meat over and repeat.  Cover the whole tray very tightly with foil and place in the oven.  Cook at 215 F for at least 6 hours or up to 8.

Next you need to glaze them.  Some people prefer to glaze them on a grill, and you're certainly welcome to do so.  I prefer to glaze them under the broiler because it's easier not to move them so much when they're that tender.  Either way, you need to brush full-thickness barbecue sauce over the top of the ribs.  Be generous.  Then, if you're using the broiler, place the whole tray under the broiler (about 6 inches from the element) and let the sauce carmelize a bit, about 3-5 minutes.  If you'd like to you can carefully turn them over with tongs and do the other side, but I have to say that I usually just do the meaty side.

If you want to glaze on a grill, then apply the barbecue sauce to both sides of the cooked ribs (use tongs to turn), and then carefully lift the ribs AND the foil onto the preheated grill.  Let them carmelize for about 3 minutes, then carefully turn them over and do the other side. 

Serve these babies immediately.  Serves 4-6.

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Barbecue Sauce

I love pork tenderloin, but I only know a few ways to prepare it.  So when I saw this recipe online the other day I knew I had to try it.  I was richly rewarded for the effort!  The sauce is like a sweeter barbecue sauce, with chunks of tender and juicy plum and the subtle bite of the pepper and spices.  It didn't take long to make and was so worth the effort!

As a note, if you don't have whole cloves or star anise, you can substitute 1/4 tsp of ground Chinese Five Spice, which is a spice you can get in your local grocery store right next to the cumin and chili powder.  

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Plum Barbecue Sauce
Recipe from Cooking Light

For the Sauce:

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion 

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons dry mustard 

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 whole cloves
1 star anise

1 1/2 pounds black plums, quartered and pitted 

For the pork:

2 tablespoons canola oil 

2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed 
(these usually come together when you buy a whole pork tenderloin)
1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To make the Sauce:
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add sugar and the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until plums break down and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Discard cloves and anise.

To make the Pork:
Preheat oven to 450°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Add pork to pan; sauté 7 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Transfer pork to a foil-lined baking sheet or 9"-x-13" pan; coat with 1/2-1 cup plum sauce. Roast pork at 450°F for 15 minutes. Remove pork from oven. Turn pork over; coat with an additional 1/2-1 cup plum sauce. Roast an additional 10-15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of pork registers 155°. Remove from pan; let stand 10 minutes. Slice crosswise. Serve with remaining plum sauce.

Serves 6.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwiches

My daughter, who is nearly 4 years old, is crazy for ice cream sandwiches.  So in honor of the last day of school I thought we'd make some.  I played around with the cookie bit until I found something that worked.  And the ice cream bit is easy.  They turned out great, way better than store-bought! So here's the tutorial.  Make a bunch, and enjoy them all summer long!

Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 Devil's Food Cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream (or whatever flavor you prefer)
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix the cake mix, shortening, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until well mixed.

Take a leveled tablespoon of the dough and put it on the cookie sheet.  Then mold it into a square that is slightly bigger than an inch all around, and about 1/4-1/2-inch thick.

Keep the squares at least an inch and a half apart, because they spread quite a bit.  I had twelve raw cookies on my baking sheet.

Place cookies in oven and bake at 350F for 9 minutes.  When cookies are baked, remove from oven and immediately use a knife or spatula to make them square again.  Unless you don't care, in which case, don't. :)

Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a cooling rack that is lined with paper towels.

Let cookies cool completely, about an hour.  When you're ready to put the cookies together, place an empty baking sheet in your freezer and get out the ice cream!

Using a butter knife, spread ice cream in a thick layer on a cookie.  Mine was about 3/4-inch thick. 

Put another cookie on top and press down slightly, then use the knife to smooth out the edges, filling in any missing bits and getting rid of extra ice cream.

At this point my daughter suggested we put sprinkles on the edges, her logic being that, "It will give them more goodness."  Hard to argue with that.

After you're done with one, either put it on the baking sheet in your freezer, or if you're like my daughter, eat it immediately.

After they've been in the freezer for a good while and are nice and firm, you can remove them to a plastic zippered bag and store them there.

Makes about 15 ice cream sandwiches.  Recipe is easily doubled or tripled to make enough for all the neighborhood kids as well as your own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vietnamese Barbecue Tacos

This recipe comes from the April issue of Southern Living.  I must admit that generally when I get any magazine the first thing I do is flip to the recipes.  I saw lots of great recipes in this one, but none of them flipped my wig enough to add it to my weekly meals.  My husband picked it up later and marked this recipe.  I put it on the weekly menu, but I was hesitant about it.  I thought the picture looked weird, and that the ingredients seemed like an odd combination.  However, I reasoned, I do love Asian food, and I love tacos, so I may as well try them.

After cooking the meat and getting excited by the amazing smell of the marinade, I knew I was going to love the meat.  But I still wasn't sure about the toppings and dipping sauce.  Luckily I have kids, so I put on a brave face and put a taco together to demonstrate to them how to eat it.  I piled on the toppings and dipped it in the sauce.  It was like an amazing explosion of deliciousness.  I was in heaven.  I forgot the kids and hastily finished my taco, reveling in every single bite.  And then I went for more.

So I hope that you'll give this a try, even if it seems unfamiliar.  I promise that the sauce, while it looks like it should be really spicy, really isn't.  And the toppings, while they seem like an odd combination, are actually amazing together.  Try it.  You'll like it.  You might just love it.

As a note, the meat need to marinate for at least 8 hours, so plan ahead accordingly.

Vietnamese Barbecue Tacos
Recipe by Southern Living Magazine, April 2012

Marinade/Meat Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds beef steak (strip steaks, flank steaks, tri-tip steaks, or any other nice piece of meat you can get your hands on.  I used sirloin.)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 medium-sized red onion, sliced

 Dipping Sauce Ingredients:1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, mined
1 Serrano or Thai chili pepper, seeded and sliced (if you want your dipping sauce spicy, you can leave the seeds)

Topping Ingredients:
Thinly sliced red cabbage
Matchstick-sized or coarsely grated carrots
Thinly sliced red onion (use the rest of the onion from above)
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped fresh mint
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Small (8-inch) flour tortillas

For the meat:  In a bowl combine fish sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, honey, sugar, oil, and pepper.  Stir well.  Pour into a ziplock bag and add onions.  Add meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate 8-24 hours.

For the dipping sauce: In a small bowl whisk together water, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, lime juice, and garlic.  Stir in chili pepper.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

To assemble:  Grill meat over medium-high heat for 3 minutes per side.  Turn heat to low and cook an additional 1-2 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness.  Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into thin strips across the grain. 

On a flour tortilla, place some meat and desired toppings.  Roll into taco and serve with dipping sauce.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zucchini Bread

The other day I bought two zucchinis but only ended up using one in my recipe, so I was left wondering what to do with the remaining one.  I thought of the amazing zucchini bread I've had here and there throughout my life, and set out to find a good recipe.  This one is moist, tender, hearty, and delicious.  It tastes like a sweet but has a lot of good stuff in there too, and the addition of the applesauce boosts the flavor and vitamins while cutting the fat.  Give it a try!

Zucchini Bread
Recipe by Ellie Krieger

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour is best, but regular will work)
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup natural unsweetened applesauce** (see note below)
2 large eggs
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.  In another bowl, combine oil, applesauce, and eggs until well mixed.  Stir in zucchini, then add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until evenly moistened.  Stir in walnuts, if using.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on wire rack.
Makes 1 loaf.

**It might be difficult to find natural unsweetened applesauce, but it is very easy to make your own.  Simply take 2 medium-sized apples, any variety you like, peel them and cut them into 1" pieces.  Place them in a small pot with a tablespoon of water, cover them, and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very tender.  Keep an eye on them while cooking, and if they seem to be drying out add another tablespoon of water whenever they need it.  Remove from heat and puree in a blender or food processor.

Moroccan Chicken and Carrot Tagine

If you've never heard of a tagine, you need to first read my post about the Kefta Tagine.  If you don't have a tagine, you can easily use a stock pot.

This tagine is great for those who like to keep their flavors more like that at home in America.  There are some Middle Eastern spices in there, but the flavor is by no means overwhelming.  My mother really doesn't like most Middle Eastern food, or Asian or Indian food for that matter, and I am confident that she would love this.

The recipe specifically calls for carrots, but you can also add in peas, green beans, potatoes, or other vegetables as you desire.  Additionally, if you would rather not use a whole chicken, you can use whatever parts of a chicken you prefer, but they're better if you have them bone-in and skinless.

Moroccan Chicken and Carrot Tagine
Recipe by Norma Bergaust

1 whole roaster chicken, cut into pieces (bone-in, skin removed if you desire)
1 medium onion, finely minced or grated (I used my food processor)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 T cooking oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into finger-sized pieces
1 small wedge of lemon
1/4 tsp salt (to taste)

Combine chicken, minced onion, ginger, pepper, garlic, parsley, 1/2 cup water, and bay leaf in a tagine or stock pot set on the stove over medium heat.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Add cooking oil and enough water to cover the chicken.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Add carrots, lemon, salt, and any other vegetables you'd like to add.  Push the vegetables under the chicken so they are in the liquid.  Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with artisan bread.

Serves 6.

Moroccan Cucumber Salad

This is a very basic and easy salad, but with the addition of the Moroccan spices it turns into a tasty and healthy side dish for Moroccan food.

Moroccan Cucumber Salad
Recipe by Norma Bergaust

2-3 cucumbers, diced
4-5 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, minced
Juice of one lemon
2 T olive oil
Small bunch of cilantro, chopped
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp cumin

Combine all in a serving bowl and toss well.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.