Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spinach and Feta Mini Turnovers

Tomorrow is New Years Eve!

A special time for all to ring in the new year.  I'm off to do some girly stuff today like get a mani/pedi, and some light shopping.  Celebration time!  Some sparkly is in order don't you think?

But before I go I wanted to show you these wonderful appetizers.  A friend of mine brought these to a function at work and I decided to try my hand and make my version of Spinach and Feta Mini Turnovers.

The Greek flavors inside a nicely browned and flaky pie dough is just the right combination for a small appetizer to serve anytime...but especially on new years eve.  What a great New Year's Eve appetizer!!

I bought this handy turnover mold (filled pastry press) at Williams-Sonoma a couple of weeks ago and was so eager to try it out.  It's really easy to use and it gives me a reason to make all types of appetizers or desserts using this gadget, where as I might now want to fuss with otherwise.  How does apple, pear, and raisin turnovers sounds?  How about mushroom turnovers?  Limitless variations await you!  Here is the item I used, and you can find it here.

Nordic Ware Filled Pastry Press
It made making the appetizers really easy, and you can imagine the endless variations you could come up with.  A simple ready made pie dough is all you need.  If you wants puff pastry works really well as well.

Using a store bought dough I made about 10 appetizers with the 2 rolls.  Perfect for a small intimate party or a piece of a larger arrange of appetizers.

If you don't want to purchase the mold then you can make these the old fashioned way by cutting squares, adding the filling, and then creating triangles to enclose the filling.  Works as well, but is a little more work and effort than this mold.

So while I'm out doing my pampering, take a look at this recipe and try these delicious bites!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Spinach and Feta Mini Turnovers 

Serves 10

1 package of ready- made pie crust (2 crusts)
1 pkg. (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained 
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese 
½ tsp onion powder 
¼ tsp garlic powder 
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper 
1 egg beaten for an egg wash

Heat the oven to 400°F. 

Drain thawed spinach really well getting out all water. Place in a medium bowl. Add cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir to combine.

Unroll the pie crust lightly floured surface. Place over the bottom of a floured pastry mold, and gently press down dough in triangles to mold. Brush edges of the triangles with an egg wash. Place about 1 tablespoon spinach mixture in the center of each triangle mold.

Unroll the other pie crust on the floured surface. Place the pie crust over the top of the filling. Take the top pastry mold and place upside down over the pastries. Press down tightly to score the dough and assist with sealing the dough. Take off the top mold. Turn the bottom mold over to release the pastries.

Using a knife or pastry cuter trim each pastry along the edges using the scoring as a guideline. Remove any excess pie crust dough. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with an egg wash.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.  Remove the pastries from the baking sheet and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012

As the year comes to a close I thought it would be fun to review the top 16 food items (10 is such an over used number don't you think?) viewed by you.  It was one tasty year.  I'm looking forward to sharing more flavors and dishes with you next year.  Here's to a tastier 2013!
The most popular dish by far is the one pictured above.  The Cheesy Garlic Herb Bread.  Enough said!

major comfort food
oh yum!


need I say more? good
so darn good!

want some now...
a taste of Louisiana

simple and excellent!
I hope you enjoyed some of these dishes!  I think I just reminded myself to make a couple of these next week!
Cheers to 2012...a sweet adieu!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best "Herby" Bread

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.   

We had a fantastic one.  I just noticed that while I brought you a great pasta dish to serve on Christmas Eve...I FORGOT the bread!  My gosh, what is a great pasta without a great bread?

The good thing is this pasta can be made anytime...and you can still make the bread!  Even better, New Year's Eve is right around the corner and this bread would make a great appetizer.

This bread is not unlike your typical garlic bread.  I usually make the standard garlic and butter bread, broiled in the oven.  One day I decided to give it a little twist and added olive oil to replace the butter and some herbs for a little zip.  It was the birth of a new fabulous creation.  From then on MGG has been asking for that "Herby" Bread!

Now I consider myself a bread connoisseur.  It's a weakness with me, you see. I swoon over piping hot bread slathered with butter, there's nothing more pleasureful.   That being said, take it from me, the bread-aholic, this bread is the BEST herby garlic bread you will find.


The Best "Herby" Bread

makes 10 - 12 slices (20-24 for appetizers)

1 loaf of Italian or French bread
2-3 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 t oregano
1/4 t thyme
1 T grated Parmesan

Preheat the broiler. 
Slice the loaf in half lengthwise.  Brush olive oil on the cut side of each half.  Sprinkle the garlic, oregano, thyme, and Parmesan on top of the olive oil.  Place the loaves on a flat baking sheet.  Place in the oven under the broiler for about 2 minutes or until the edges are brown and the toppings are bubbly.  

Slice each half into 5-6 pieces.  Serve immediately.  For appetizers cut each half into 10-12 small slices.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Dinner: Spaghetti and Cherry Tomato Aglio Olio

A family tradition has been to serve pasta on Christmas Eve.  Typically, spaghetti with our secret family meat sauce recipe.  It easy to make and no fuss, plus it is the ultimate comfort food.  All perfect for an easy dinner the night before the 'big day'!

Besides, who wants to cook a big complicated meal the day before another 'big' meal?  Not I and I'm sure that many of your would agree.

This year I am keeping with the pasta theme but changing up my Christmas Eve Dinner with a new, lighter pasta dish.  Spaghetti and Cherry Tomato Aglio Olio is even easier to make.  It will have dinner on the table in about 15 minutes.  All this needs is a nice salad and some crusty Italian bread and you are all set.

Aglio Olio means "with garlic and oil".  So basically this is a no sauce recipe.  The flavors of a good olive oil, some garlic, some cherry tomatoes, and some red pepper flakes really punch up the spaghetti.  Trust me, this is good!

I soooo like my red sauces.  So I'm a hard sell on a pasta that is just tossed in oil.  But one bite of this and the flavor punch from the red pepper flakes.....Ohhhh!  I am sold!  I would have never thought that I would like this as much as I did.  I thought it would be 'just ok..."  but is really, really good.  Hot tomatoes burst in your mouth...and then the touch of garlic.  Fabulous.  You have to try this...really, no really.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas Eve, and make you and your family something simple but fabulous to eat!

Spaghetti and Cherry Tomato Aglio Olio
serves 4

1 lb. Spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 T. finely chopped garlic cloves
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c flat leaf parsley, chopped

Cook spaghettini according to package directions.  In a large skillet over medium high heat add the olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes.  

Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant.  About 1 minute.  Don't let the garlic burn.  Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes.  

Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water.  Add the pasta to the skillet and  return to the stove-top   Heat over medium heat tossing mixture until everything is coated and warm.  Add parsley and toss.  At this point you can add some of the reserved pasta liquid if the sauce seems a little dry.  Serve immediately.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Not Your Typical Christmas Cookie: Zucchini Cookies

This is not your typical Christmas cookie.
That's why I love it!

Sure you can make the holiday sugar cookies, or spritz cookies.  I love them all.  My all time favorite was a spritz cookie that my neighbor's mom made in the shape of a tree, colored green, with little sprinkles on top.  We used to get them every year, and I would be looking forward to those soooo much.  More than the fudge, or the other cookies.  I would even try to sneak and take all the trees before the rest of the family got to them!  

But I decided to be a little unconventional this year.  I wanted to go with a nice cakey cookie.  One with a hint of spice, some chocolate, and something zucchini.

Just look at those green cool!

Do you like zucchini bread?  Love it!  And you know you can't really taste the zucchini.  Same thing with these cookies.  They are smart that way.  Add a little fiber, some vitamins, textures, and moisture and you have one heck of a cookie!  

These are perfect for the holidays or anytime of year.  Especially in summer with a nice bumper crop of zucchini.  So this is a good recipe to keep on hand.  Oh yea, you can also make these a lower carb cookie by using Splenda Blend.  You need to make sure it is the blend (half sugar half Splenda) in order for these to rise well.  Trust me they turn out'll see.

So come along with me and be a little "unconventional" this year.  Make some zucchini cookies.  You can thank me later!

Zucchini Cookies

Adapted from Sunset

makes about 3 dozen medium sized cookies 
(freeze any leftovers, they freeze well)

1 cup butter, at room temperature 
1 1/2 cups sugar or Splenda Blend equivalent
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
2 3/4 cups flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.   Stir in zucchini.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.   Add to zucchini mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.  

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Bake until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Potato Coins

What do we know about side dishes?

One thing is for sure, we serve lots of them with the holiday feast!  I think Thanksgiving is a prime example of having so many different side dishes to accompany one main entree.  For Christmas I don't go quite that far but I do serve a variety.

Today's recipe is a simple roasted potato side dish.  Perfect as your starch with your meal.  What is unique about this dish is the cut of the potato.  Using a small round white potatoes and cutting them into rounds turns this dish into something fun.  I call them coins!  They kinda look like gold coins when roasted all nice and brown don't you think?  They are cute, and fun to eat.  Plus they taste great as well!

If you are roasting vegetables for your holiday meal throw some of these in as well.  The kids will love the "coins" as well!

Potato Coins
serves 4

1 lb of small white potatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper
garlic powder

1 T thyme, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut potatoes into 1/3" rounds, leaving the skin on.  Place on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.  Sprinkle with chopped thyme.  Spread out potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Cook for about 20 minutes, turning potatoes over half way through the cooking time.  Remove when golden brown and serve.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Appetizers: Plum and Mascarpone Crostini

A few days ago I brought you a wonderful muffin for your Christmas Breakfast.  Today's goody is going to be a simple yet elegant appetizer to make.

Appetizers are wonderful little tidbits to serve to family and guests at a holiday party, Christmas dinner, or even New Years eve.  They are perfect for keeping hunger at bay while the dinner is being cooked.  Wouldn't it be fun to host a holiday party of all appetizers?  Just an array of small bites?  I often do that for New Years Eve.

MGG is a BIG snacker.  So keeping him from munching on all the food that I'm cooking is a task.  By preparing a few appetizers ahead of time and having them on hand when the snack monster attacks seems to do the trick!  Does anyone else have a snack monster in their house, or am I facing this monster alone??

These Plum and Mascarpone Crostini are super delishhh!  They go together pretty quickly once you re-constitute the plums, and they can be made ahead of time and assembled at the last minute.

What's better than toasted bites of bread, a blend of mascarpone and ricotta cheese, a little arugula, and some dried plums reconstituted in Sherry?  Not much!  This dish is very easy to change depending upon your tastes too.  Use figs, or cherries instead.  The Sherry can be substituted out if your don't want the alcohol, but I must say it's mighty tasty with it!

That's all there is to it!  Simple and elegant, that's what I like during the holiday festivities.  Enjoy!

Plum and Mascarpone Crostini 

8-10 dried plums, chopped
1/3 c Sherry
1 french baguette, sliced into thin rounds
1/4 c mascarpone cheese
1/4 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c arugula leaves
balsamic vinegar for drizzling

In a small saucepan place the chopped plums and the sherry.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes until plums have plumped up and the sherry is thick and syrupy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Take the baguette rounds and place them flat on a baking sheet, not touching.  Bake in the oven until toasted, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Meanwhile combine the mascarpone cheese and the ricotta cheese together in a small bowl and blend to mix.  

To assemble take one bread round and spread some of the cheese mixture on the toasted side.  Top with a leaf of arugula and a small spoon full of the reconstituted plums.  Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.  Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew made in your slow cooker! - Slice of Southern

Some things are worth a second look don't you think?

Well this stew certainly is!  In October of last year I posted a dish of Pork and Pumpkin Stew.  It's an easy crock pot dish using Williams-Sonoma's product.  Stewsday Pumpkin Stew Starter.

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew made in your slow cooker! - Slice of Southern

Well I couldn't resist posting is again.  This time I made it with Chicken.    Pumpkin Stew Starter is an all-natural blend of roasted pumpkin, tomatoes and carrots, gently seasoned with garlic and aromatic autumn spices.  Pretty much all natural ingredients.  I love that about their items.  While it is a little costly $16.95 each or 2 for $30.00 this stew makes a great meal, and calls for 3lbs of pork, so it will feed quite a few people.  Great to make a big batch and freeze part of it for future meals.

This is so easy to do, and with the holidays staring me in the face I need something hearty but quick.   You just need 3 pounds of chicken cut up into chunks.  Season it with salt and pepper and toss it in your slow cooker.  Pour the jar of stew starter over the chicken and place the lid on it.  Cook it on high for 3 hours or low for 5-6.  Woohoo, instant stew!

When it is done the chicken will be pull apart tender.  Just take a fork and shred up some of the chicken and mixing it with the sauce.  I always serve it over a nice bed of rice.  Yum!

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew made in your slow cooker! - Slice of Southern

Chicken and Pumpkin Stew made in your slow cooker! - Slice of Southern

You can also make this from scratch.  For the recipe click here.
Enjoy and easy meal during the holidays!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Breakfast: Blackberry Muffins with a Pecan Streusel

Have any leftover Blackberries or did you freeze any from this summer's bounty?

I froze a lot of blackberries during the summer and I can even find some fresh ones still on the grocery store that look nice and plump.  What to do with your blackberries?  Make muffins, and that's what I did!

I chose this recipe to share with you as an idea for your Holiday Breakfast, excellent on Christmas morning.  They are easy to make but the best part about them is the special flavor combination.  

I haven't made muffins in awhile, so I thought, "today is the day!"  I love a good hot muffin for breakfast and when you have these along with some eggs and bacon or sausage they will just take your breakfast over the top.

Blackberries are tart, and delicious when baked.  They come out all juicy and warm.  These muffins are a great way to showcase this fruit.  Warm piping hot sweet muffins bursting with blackberries.  And then there's the topping...oh the topping.  A warm buttery, sugary pecan mixture on top.  Heaven...Heaven...Heaven!  Make sure not to skip the topping as it makes the muffins special occasion worthy!

Fresh or frozen fruit may be used in this dish.  This recipe is very forgiving and you could use raspberries or blueberries instead, but try the blackberries first!  I tend to make a recipe that produces 6 muffins cause I don't want so many tempting me and MGG.  However, if you are inclined to make 12 muffins (muffins freeze well) you can easily double this recipe and they will work just fine.  

Trust me, you want to make these muffins, they will make your Holiday Breakfast special.

Kitchen tip:  Be very careful when folding the blackberries in the batter to not break any, otherwise you will end up with a purple mess.

Blackberry Muffins with a Pecan Streusel
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Serves 6

For the topping:
1⁄6 c sugar
1 ½ T flour
Grated zest of 1⁄4 lemon
1 T unsalted butter, melted
1⁄6 c pecans, chopped

For the muffins:
1 c flour
1/4 cup + 2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1⁄4 t baking soda
1⁄4 t cinnamon
Grated zest of 1⁄4 lemon
1⁄8 t salt
1 egg, beaten
2 ½ T unsalted butter, melted
½  c buttermilk
1 c fresh blackberries

Preheat an oven to 375°F.  Grease 6 muffin cups nonstick cooking spray.

Make the topping:  in a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon zest.  Stir in the melted butter until the mixture is crumbly.  Add the pecans and stir to combine.  Set aside.

Make the muffins:  in a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Make a well in the center and add the egg, melted butter and buttermilk.   Stir just until evenly moistened.   The batter will be slightly lumpy.  Add blackberries and gently fold in.  Try not to break up the fruit.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each to a bit above the rim of the cup. Top each muffin with the topping, dividing it evenly (the sugar will melt and produce a glaze effect).

Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Product Review: Market Classics Harvest Vegetable Soup Mix

One of my favorite stores is Cost Plus World Market.  The treasures you can find at this store are unique and priced right.  I love to browse their kitchenware for unique serving dishes and baking items.

Another area I love to browse is their food section.  Mostly imported items, you can find so many good things here such as spices, sauces, and soups.

Today I've made Market Classics Harvest Vegetable Soup Mix.  They have a great variety of soup mixes, such as lentil, potato, tortellini, and tortilla.  Today I chose Harvest Vegetable.  All these choices and more, for only $3.99.  Great price!  The Harvest Vegetable comes with a blend of vegetables  pasta, and rice.  I added the cooked chicken, the broth and some onion.  What transpired was a nicely spiced chicken vegetable soup.  A blend of carrots, red bell peppers, corn and wonderful seasonings and herb.  This mix makes about 8 1-cup servings.  A good sized portion for about 4 people.  

This was easy enough to make during the week with leftover cooked chicken breasts.  Leftovers were not quite as soupy as the first day due to the rice and the pasta soaking up some of the liquid.  The addition of more chicken broth helped to fill the leftovers out without watering down the seasonings too much.

If you love soup, and want one that quick try this one or grab another flavor at  Cost Plus World Market.  You can find them on line or in the store.

It's always great to find an item that will help you out in a pinch with a good hearty meal.  These soups do just that.  I'm going back to choose some other flavors now...see you!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pumpkin Pie Bars:  Need a fall flavored dessert that will feed a crowd?  It is a cross between a pumpkin pie and a cake.  It is out of this world! - Slice of Southern

Need a fall flavored dessert that will feed a crowd?

I have one for you!  It's perfect for a crowd.  It is a cross between a pumpkin pie and a cake.  It is out of this world. Really.

We were having a holiday luncheon at work and everyone was bringing a dish.  So I thought I'd change up the dessert menu a bit from the standard pumpkin pie.  Most everyone loves the flavors of pumpkin, so I went on the search for a different recipe featuring pumpkin.

In an old Betty Crocker recipe book I found these Pumpkin Pie Bars.  Perfect!  And they were made in a 9x13 dish so they would feed a crowd.  Double perfect!

Pumpkin Pie Bars:  Need a fall flavored dessert that will feed a crowd?  It is a cross between a pumpkin pie and a cake.  It is out of this world! - Slice of Southern

Reading the recipe told me that it would come out as a layered dish.  Part cake and part pie.  The addition of a butter and brown sugar crumble on the top just put this over the edge!  First, the aroma in the house...OMG.  I was walking around just sniffing the air.  WOW!

I couldn't wait to taste it.  As it turned out neither could anyone else.  We had an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, and my dessert.  I must say my dessert was the one with no leftovers!  It was a major hit.  Several people asked to take some home and a couple wanted the recipe ASAP!

So if you want a great dessert for the holidays this is the one.  It would be perfect to take to a party.  Served with a little whipped cream on top, it doesn't get much better than this!

Pumpkin Pie Bars:  Need a fall flavored dessert that will feed a crowd?  It is a cross between a pumpkin pie and a cake.  It is out of this world! - Slice of Southern


Pumpkin Pie Bars
adapted from Betty Crocker
serves 16

1 ½ cups ready made baking mix
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
½ cup pecans halves

1 cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs

1 cup ready made baking mix

½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter or margarine
¾ cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.   Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray.  In a food processor bowl add ingredients for the base (baking mix, butter, and cup pecans).  Pulse 8-12 times until butter mixture is crumbly and pecans are roughly chopped.  With floured fingers, press mixture in bottom of pan.  Bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat filling ingredients with wire whisk until smooth; set aside.  Back in the food processor bowl add the topping items (baking mix, brown sugar, butter, and pecan halves).  Pulse about 10-15 times until butter/sugar until mixture is crumbly and pecans are roughly chopped. 

Pour filling over hot partially baked base. Sprinkle topping over filling.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes before cutting into squares. Serve with whipped cream, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Note:  If you don't have pumpkin pie spice substitute with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.  If you don't have a food processor you can cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two forks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cooking Oils 101 - Top 10 Best Cooking Oils

The Top 10 Best Cooking Oils

Cooking Oils 101

When used in moderation, cooking oils are a wonderful addition to your kitchen's pantry.  But, with all the different cooking oil out there is becomes confusing about which to use for sauteing, frying, baking, and for use in dressings.  Each one has its own benefits and uses, though the most important factor to pay attention to is the oil's smoke point, which indicates the highest temperature the oil can be heated to safely.
Peanut Oil
Peanut oil has a high smoke point, and it's a favorite oil for stir-frying and deep-frying.
Sesame Oil
There are two kinds of sesame oil: light and dark.  Light sesame oil has a light, nutty flavor and is good for sauteing, and salad dressings.  Dark sesame oil, on the other hand, has a more intense flavor.  Only a little bit is needed to accent other flavors.  It is great used in Asian-inspired dishes.

Coconut Oil

One of the more eclectic oils, coconut oil is good for deep-frying due to its light coconut flavor.  It's solid at room temperature, but liquid when heated just slightly.  Try substituting it for other oils in baked goods or use to add tropical flair to sides and entrees. Finally, coconut oil is also an excellent moisturizer for skin and hair!

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil, a mixture of corn, safflower, and canola oils, is a great all-purpose oil with a neutral flavor.  It has a high smoke point, so it's good for frying.  Vegetable oil is perfect for baking too, and keeps muffins and cakes from drying out.

Corn Oil

Corn oil has a mild flavor and is another great all-purpose oil for general cooking and deep-frying.  The mild flavor also makes it an especially good choice for baking.

Canola Oil

When you'd like to cook with an unsaturated oil but don't want the added flavor of olive oil, turn to canola oil.  It has a bland flavor and a fairly high smoke point, making it good for sauteingfrying, baking, and salad dressings.  For an easy weeknight side, try drizzling cut-up seasonal vegetables with canola oil and roasting in the oven.

Olive Oil

There's a lot of talk about the health benefits of flavorful olive oil.  The flavor of quality olive oils depends on the particular olives used and the unique characteristics of their growing region.  Extra-virgin olive oil is pressed from whole olives within a day after the harvest and is the highest quality olive oil.  Heating olive oil causes it to lose a lot of flavor, so avoid using more expensive extra-virgin olive oil for cooking.  Extra-virgin olive oil is better for tossing with roasted vegetables, pasta, etc.  No matter the variety, be sure to store olive oil in a cool cabinet away from heat and use within 6 months, or store in the refrigerator.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is a flavorless oil high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.  It has a fairly low smoke point, so try it whenever your recipe calls for a quick saute or homemade dressing.  It's also great for baking fries in the oven -- a healthy alternative to traditional deep-fried french fries.

Some new oils I've used:

Walnut Oil
Walnut oil contains polyunsaturated fats, and is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. This is a very heart-healthy oil, and is a great cooking oil to use if you are diabetic.  Walnut oil has a very high smoke point of about 400 degrees F, which makes it a great oil to use for baking. It’s also great for sauteing at low-medium heat. It can also make your salad pop, simply by drizzling it over the top.

Almond Oil
Almond oil also contains monounsaturated fats, which makes it good for your cholesterol. It's also an ideal cooking choice if you are diabetic.  Almond oil has a high smoke point of about 495 degrees F, and is good for high heat cooking, like sauteing. It’s great flavor also works well as a healthier substitute in dessert recipes, like whipped cream.

Grapeseed Oil  
This oil contains polyunsaturated fats, and is low in saturated fat, making it very heart healthy. Grapeseed oil is very versatile, and can be used to add a very mild, nutty flavor to almost any dish. It’s great for salads, and can make for a nice drizzle over toasted bread.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Product Review: Giada De Laurentiis' Classic Minestrone Soup Starter Mix

Has the weather changed where you are?

Here in Southern California the weather is up and down.  Today it is down and raining, and they say we'll have ran for a few days.  Boy, do we need the rain, so it's welcome.

When the weather changes I like to make some simple dishes for packed lunches to take to work.  Soup is one of my favorite midday meals.  

So, the other day I was walking around Target and found this soup starter from Giada De Laurentiis.  I adore her and her food is simple, tasty, and easy to prepare.  So this caught my eye and I picked up the package for the Classic Minestrone Soup.  It comes in a cute little box which includes white beans, pasta, dried vegetables, and herbs.  A lot of times I don't feel that the dried vegetables are substantial enough and I end up adding some of my own.  So I though I'd give this a try.

To make the soup all you have to add of your own ingredients are onion, olive oil, stock, and diced tomatoes.  Not bad!  Pantry items in my house, so I was all set!

So I made made the soup, and was pleasantly surprised that the vegetables were nice and hearty.  They had plumped up really well.  Carrots, cabbage, bell pepper, zucchini, and celery were all included and even recognizable   Great job Giada!  I didn't even need to add a thing.  This soup calls for vegetable broth, but I substituted chicken broth as I like the flavor better.  One of the best things is that the ingredients are straight forward.  This doesn't have all the additives that other packaged soup mixes have.  

The package says that this make 5 1 cup servings.  I'm not sure about you but I eat more than 1 cup of soup as a main course.  Even with the side of crusty bread!  So I would say that there are about 2-3 portions in here.  Not much so you might want to double this if you are cooking for a family. 

The soups gets a thumbs up from me!  It is really tasty.  Just perfect for the rainy weather.  I placed the soup in a nice handy take along container to heat up at work.  A nice thermos would be good as well and you can take this along with you most places.

You can find the soup at Target, or click here.

Try Giada De Laurentiis' Classic Minestrone Soup Starter Mix.  You can't go wrong!


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