Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best of 2014


It's almost time to end the year, and time to reflect on some recipes that you thought were the most popular this past year.

Taking a look back on the recipes that you liked most provides memories of the occasion, or time of year. Food is a good way to reflect on past memories and they bring you comfort.

In addition, they also tell me what types of food you are drawn too.  From this compilation of recipes I see that most of you like no fuss meals.  Ones that are easy to fix, comforting, can be put together during the week.  I also see that you like some great weekend breakfasts, as do I!  I'll keep all of this in mind during the upcoming year.

So on to the top 10 countdown of all time favorite recipes for 2014...


Tuscan White Bean Soup - this was last year's New Year's Resolution dish.  A perfect way to start off the new year!




Chicken Brussels Sprouts, and Noodle Stir Fry - A wonderful stir fry using winter vegetables that comes together quickly for a weeknight meal.




Lynn's Chicken Pasta Salad - Perfect for a spring lunch or wonderful as a potluck dish.  A classic that's a winner!




Caribbean Chicken Salad - This has to be my favorite salad this year.  I'm in love with fruit and when you combine these together with chicken in a zesty salad you had me at "Caribbean".




Grandma Landon's Strawberry Cake - This cake has been a family favorite for so many years. Everyone knows about Grandma Landon's famous strawberry cake.  Can't beat the family heirloom recipes.




Garlic Parmesan Chicken Strips - Another quick weeknight meal that the kids will just love.   So tasty and now healthier since you bake the strips.




Mediterranean Beef Stew - A great slow cooker meal.  Just toss it together and go!




Szechwan Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry - Another fantastic stir fry that showcases spicy beef.  I love this dish, and so did you!




Oatmeal Brown Sugar Pancakes with Banana Walnut Syrup - Love my breakfast items....and this one will make and Sunday morning special.  Great combination of flavors.




Apple Cider Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter - Another breakfast item that stands out based upon the flavors.  Apple cider works so well in waffles and when you top if with Cinnamon Honey Butter...oh my!

Let's enjoy these dishes one more time, and get ready to make some new favorites in 2015!


Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Eve Pizza

Recipe photo

It's almost New Year's Eve!

Usually, I make several appetizers for our New Years Eve get together. However, this year I came across a wonderful recipe that I just had to share with you. Its called New Years Eve Pizza which I found on the King Arthur Flour site.

A wonderful tradition in Sicily is to make this pizza on New Years Eve. The pizza is a deep dish style Sicilian pizza however, the ingredients are simple with tomatoes, onions and cheese, and the secret is to top it with breadcrumbs creating a crusty texture on top. YUM!

I hope you enjoy this recipe and get to make this pizza this New Year's Eve! Its always fun to carry on your own or someone else's tradition.  

img_5510.JPG
I hope you have a safe and Happy New Year!!

Kitchen Tip:  Use store bought pizza dough to save on time! Optional items are sometimes specialty items that can be bought at KingArthurFlour.com and are just that...optional. They can be left out if you like.

Note:  pictures courtesy of www.KingArthurFlour.com




new year's eve pizza

source:  www.kingarthurflour.com

Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield:One large pizza, about 12 to 15 servings

Crust

  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor, optional but delicious
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water*
  • *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

Topping

  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 28-ounce can chopped or diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Pizza Seasoning, optional
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 4 ounces provolone, shredded
  • 3/4 to 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups coarse dried bread crumbs, such as Panko
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning, optional

Directions

  1. 1) To make the crust: Combine all of the ingredients and mix and knead to make a smooth, soft dough, using a stand mixer, bread machine, or your hands.
  2. 2) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large 8-cup measure (or leave it in the bread machine), and let it rise till it's very puffy, about 90 minutes.
  3. 3) While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings. Start by peeling and slicing the onions, and frying them with a bit of olive oil till they're golden brown. This will take about 20 minutes. Midway through, add salt and sugar to taste, if desired; about 1 tablespoon sugar will heighten their flavor.
  4. 4) Add the tomatoes to the fried onions, along with the Pizza Seasoning, if desired. Simmer and stir for a couple of minutes. If the sauce seems overly liquid, continue to cook till it's firmed up a bit. You don't want it totally dry, like scrambled eggs, but neither do you want it swimming in liquid. Use your judgment. Turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool while the dough rises.
  5. 5) Stir together the bread crumbs, oil, and Pizza Seasoning, if you're using it. Set it aside.
  6. 6) Spray a large rimmed baking sheet (a 13" x 18" half sheet pan is perfect) with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Drizzle it with olive oil, tilting the pan so the oil spreads out a bit.
  7. 7) Gently deflate the risen dough, and stretch it into an oval in your hands. Plop the oval onto the baking sheet, and press it towards the edges. When it starts to fight back, walk away for 15 minutes. When you return, you should be able to press it to the edges and nearly into the corners. If you can't, give it another short rest, and try again. You want the dough to cover as much of the pan's bottom as possible (without making yourself too crazy about it).
  8. 8) Cover the dough, and let it rise till puffy, about 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  9. 9) Uncover the dough, and sprinkle it with the shredded mozzarella and provolone. Then spread the tomato/onion sauce over the cheese.
  10. 10) Top with the Parmesan, then the bread crumbs.
  11. 11) Bake the pizza for 35 minutes, or until the crust and crumbs are brown. Remove it from the oven, and serve it hot or warm. Hint: to prevent a soggy bottom crust, cut the pizza in half crosswise, then lift each half onto a cooling rack. Cut individual slices with a pair of scissors.
  12. Yield: about 12 servings.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day After Christmas Breakfast: Harvest Apple Muffins







Christmas isn't over...until the fat lady sings!

One remembrance of Christmas that I have is receiving an orange and an apple in my stocking each year.

It's a tradition that my mom started and that I've maintained. Some traditions bring back the best memories and are just worth continuing don't you think?

With that, I'm sharing a recipe with you today to use those apples in a wonderful day after Christmas breakfast.  YUM YUM!  Full of fresh tart, sweet, apples and cinnamon....to DIE for!



This recipe makes 6 but you can certainly double it for a dozen.  As for the apple, I found a new apple at the store the other day.  It comes from New York and it's call Macoun.  I must say it is a tasty apple...a little tart, a little sweet, but nice and crisp, I just loved it!  You can use your favorite apple as long as it is a good firm apple.  Ones like red delicious tend to be a little mushy for baking, so choose a firm one like, Jazz, Pink Lady, Pippin, or Granny Smith.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  Try these muffins today to extend that holiday feeling a little bit longer.



Enjoy!


Harvest Apple Muffins

Makes: 6 muffins

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 T brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples; about 1 large apple


Topping:  1/4 cup brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease 6-cup muffin pan.
Mix together the oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the egg and milk and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in the chopped apples.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas! Homemade Pie Seasoning Mix



Tis the season of cooking feasts for holiday dinners and pies for holiday desserts!

Pies are one of the most popular dessert for holiday time and with good reason! They have that homey feeling and they taste fabulous!

To help you along with you pie making this year I wanted to give you some simple recipes that will make you life just a little easier.  How about making some homemade Pie Seasoning mixes?  They will save you time in the long run, and are just great to have around for so many baking needs.

So I'm sharing my favorite for pumpkin pie, along with another for apple pie.  And then....I'm throwing in a few savory mixes that will spice up your dinners all year long.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!  
Enjoy!


Pie Seasoning Mixes

Pumpkin pie spice:  1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Apple pie spice:  1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp allspice, dash or ground ginger



Savory Seasoning Mixes

Cajun seasoning:  1/2 tsp white pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp ground red pepper, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Poultry seasoning:  3/4 tsp sage, 1/4 tsp. thyme


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Night With Ina Garten: Winter Slaw



Don't you just love Ina Garten?

I sure do.  My mom and I have been watching her show on the Food Network for years.  So when I was notified that she was coming to town and holding an event to talk about her new cookbook "Make It Ahead: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" I jumped at the chance to spend an evening listening to her.


It was a wonderful event held in an old 1920's art deco theater in Beverly Hills.  The place was packed with Ina fans both young and old.  There's no wonder why either. If you've ever tried any of her recipes you will know that they are very easy to follow. Her instructions are spot on, the food is not fussy, but so full of flavor, and as her book claims you can make these meals ahead.

So we spent the evening with Ina, listening to her tell stories about entertaining, her love of food, and the love of her life, Jeffrey.  She was funny, gracious, and vibrant.  I had the most wonderful time and got a signed cookbook!  She is such an inspiration to so many people who love to cook and entertain.  I certainly wanted to go straight home and cook from her new book.


And that's almost just what I did.  Thumbing through the book I found several recipes I wanted to try right off the bat. One particular item that caught my eye was her Winter Slaw. Such a simple salad with amazing flavors.  Remember the rule when you have few ingredients is to buy the best, and ingredients that have big flavor punches.  This salad is just that and more!  

I ended up making this salad for our Thanksgiving meal.  I put together the salad ingredients the day before as Ina suggested and put it all together in a flash an hour or so before serving. The only thing I changed was to add some toasted pecans for a little crunch.  I just love any help that makes things go smoother on a big cooking day, don't you?


The salad was a huge hit!  MGG and our guests just loved, loved, loved it.  Again, the flavors are distinct and pack a punch.  So I'm thinking that this would be the perfect salad for Christmas dinner, or New Year's eve!  The colors alone draw you to this salad.  You have to try it!

I've tried 2 or 3 other items from the book so far, and each one has been fantastic.  This book is a winner and one that I highly recommend.  Enjoy!





Winter Slaw

serves 8

adapted from: Make It Ahead a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1/2 pound large kale leaves, center rib removed (6-8 leaves)
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed halved and cored
1/2 small head of radicchio, cored
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) chunk good Parmesan cheese
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans

With a sharp chef's knife cut the kale, Brussels spouts, radicchio crosswise into thin shreds, as you would cut cabbage for coleslaw, and place them in a large bowl.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to just moisten it, reserving the rest.

Shave the Parmesan in big shards with a vegetable peeler.  Add the cheese, dried cranberries, and pecans to the salad and toss it carefully to avoid breaking up the cheese.  Check for seasoning and add more vinaigrette if necessary, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Make it ahead:  Prepare the salad ingredients, store in plastic bags, and refrigerate for a day or two.  Make the vinaigrette and refrigerate for up to one day.  Toss together a few hours before serving.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chicken Ditalini Soup


Have you ever had one of those days?

You know, the kind where you feel you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and then everything snowballs from there and just goes kinda off.  Well, I had one yesterday.

It started with breakfast.  I was making some new muffins, that just about burnt.  I don't like the flavor of "over browned" muffins, and I'm sure you don't either. So wasn't to pleased with them.  Then I was rushing off to an appointment and couldn't find my keys. That never happens, cause I leave them in the same place all the time...but no, they were not there.  Now I'm rushing and having found my keys in my purse, I rush to the car....Oops!  no GAS!



What else is going to happen?  So, I made it to my appointment on time (barely) and things seemed to calm down for the moment.  So I decided to take a moment and re-adjust my outlook since it was spiraling out of control just as fast as the issues were occurring.  Turning on some music, I decided I needed to cook.

Comfort food was in order.  So I picked up some staples, a rotisserie chicken, and rounded up MGG for an early dinner and a movie.  Soup was in order.  Hot comforting chicken noodle soup, Italian style.  Served with some crusty bread and a nice Mediterranean style salad, the meal was just what the doctor ordered!



It's nothing fancy, but the flavors are hard to beat.  You can make this hearty satisfying soup in about 45 minutes.  Now that's a winner in my book.  

Comfort food is always a perfect way to set things back on the right track.  Trust me, I know!

Enjoy!



Chicken Ditalini Soup


45 min meal

serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
7 cups chicken broth, low sodium
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) ditalini pasta
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 rotisserie chicken breasts, cubed
salt and black pepper

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add carrots and saute for 4 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and saute for an additional 5 minutes. 
Add chicken broth, tomatoes, thyme, oregano, basil and stir to combine. 

Bring soup to a boil, add chicken and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 min.  Add pasta and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey and Swiss Panini


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family and fun!

MGG and I hosted a nice dinner with some friends.  The food was perfect and the company even better!  It's so good to spend time laughing, telling stories, and just enjoying friends.

With that said I was exhausted the next day.  I mean I didn't want to even think about putting all the decorations away and getting the house back in order. After 2 days of cooking (the make ahead items were soooo helpful!)  Least of all was that I really didn't want to put much effort into a meal.  With all the leftovers around I always try and find ways to change them up and utilize them in different dishes.



For lunch I whipped up this wonderful Turkey and Swiss Panini.  A perfect way to use the leftover turkey!  You'll need some good bread, I used a country loaf, some leftover turkey slices, Swiss cheese, and veggies like lettuce and tomato. 
For the spread you can swap out several kinds to make it your own version such as leftover cranberry sauce, artichoke garlic spread, mayo, mustard, even tapenade would be great!

Once you put this together you just cook it in your panini grill, or a grill pan and weight it down with another pan....or break out the Foreman grill...!  All work fine.  Soon you will have a wonderful hearty sandwich.



Here's the recipe for this wonderful sandwich, served with a nice green salad.

For more thanksgiving Leftover ideas click on the link below.
Thanksgiving Leftover Ideas: Let's talk turkey!


Turkey and Swiss Panini

makes: 1 sandwich

2 slices of country bread
spread - mayo, mustard, artichoke spread, cranberry sauce etc.
3 slices of turkey
2 slices of Swiss cheese
tomato slices
lettuce

Spread your choice of sandwich spread on each slice of bread.  Layer turkey, cheese, tomato, and lettuce on one slice of bread and top with the other slice.  Cook in a panini grill until golden brown on the outside and the cheese has melted.  About 6 minutes.  Cut in half and serve.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classic Thanksgiving Side Dish: Mashed Potatoes - Make Ahead Tips!




Don't you just love a potato?

Potatoes today symbolize comfort, especially around the holidays.  They are earthy-tasting, easy to prepare, and are compatible with many other foods and adaptable to all sorts of cooking methods.

Let's talk a little about potatoes...
There are three basic types of potato varieties: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose.

  • Starchy or mealy potatoes, such as russets, are best for baking and mashing because they cook up dry and fluffy, but do not hold their shape well.
  • Waxy potatoes, such as red or white potatoes, are low in starch.  Use them for potato salads and other recipes where you want them to hold their shape and are not relying on their starch content to thicken a soup or sauce. (Great for roasting!)
  • All-purpose potatoes have a medium starch content and are good for both uses.  Yukon Golds are among the best known.
Select potatoes that are firm, not blemished, wrinkled, tinged with green, or cracked.  The eyes, of the potatoes should not have sprouted.

Store them in a cool dark place with good circulation for up to 2 weeks. Don't put them with onions!  These two veggies together produce gases that cause rapid spoilage.  Best when used 2 or 3 days from purchase for their fresh sweet flavor and texture.

Mashed Potato Techniques

Cooking the Potatoes:  Boiling whole potatoes with their skins on keeps the potatoes from becoming waterlogged, improving the texture of the final dish, and help to prevent nutrients from being lost in the water.  If you want to boil peeled potatoes, cut them into small cubs so that they cook quickly and are exposed to the water as briefly as possible.

Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

KITCHEN TIPS:

  • Ricing, hand mashing, using a mixer...it's up to you and what you prefer. 
  • One great tip is to melt your butter and heat some half and half or cream with it to a warm temperature.  When you add warm milk and butter as you are mashing the potatoes they will stay nice and hot. 



Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

This has been my go to method for several years now and they always turn out wonderful!  

1.  Boil and mash your potatoes early in the day.  
2.  Then place the completed dish in a crock pot on low.  
3.  Add a little cream on top and let them sit there until dinner time. (I would say for 5 hours at most)  
4.  Stir and serve.  You will always have HOT potatoes!



My favorite Mashed Potato recipes

Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root
by Williams-Sonoma


Also known as celeriac, celery root is a knobby, round winter vegetable that contributes a subtle celery flavor to purees when cooked and a crisp crunch to salads when used raw. In this recipe, celery root is mashed with potatoes, giving the dish a lighter texture than if potatoes alone were used, and an interesting, fresh taste that matches well with full-flavored foods such as roast turkey. Both peeled celery root and potatoes discolor quickly when exposed to air and should be immersed in water if not cooked at once to prevent discoloring.


Ingredients:
2 large celery roots, about 2 lb. total, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick 
2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
Kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup half-and-half
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Directions:
Put the celery roots and potatoes in separate large saucepans. Add water to cover and a large pinch of kosher salt to each pan. Bring both to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Just before they are done, place an ovenproof serving bowl in a 200°F oven. (There is no need to preheat the oven.)

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the half-and-half and 2 Tbs. of the butter and heat until the butter melts. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Drain the potatoes and celery root, then return them to one of the large saucepans and set over medium-low heat; shake the pan until the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom. Remove from the heat.

Pass the vegetables through a ricer into the warmed serving bowl. Alternatively, pass the vegetables through a food mill, or mash them in the pan with a potato masher. Stir in the warm half-and-half mixture. Season with kosher salt and white pepper. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and swirl the top of the puree. Top with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and serve immediately. If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or cover the bowl and set it in a pan of hot water.

Classic Mashed Potatoes
by Williams-Sonoma
Ingredients:

5 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups half-and-half, heated
salt & pepper

 
Directions:
Put the potatoes and the 2 tsp. salt in a large pot, add water to cover the potatoes by 3 inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Place hot potatoes in the large bowl of a mixer.  Mix on medium low speed until potatoes are smooth.  Add butter and a little half and half at a time until your desired consistency is reached.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.
Picture courtesy of Southern Living.com

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