Friday, December 30, 2011

Baking in the empty nest

Abigail left for the east coast and a quick New Years in Europe this week and the house is very quiet. I started cleaning up and taking down decorations today and the house just seems quieter and more empty. So I decided to bake! The wonderful and talented Abbey from Everyday Champagne posted a recipe for banana bread with peanut butter chips. I meant to make it while Abigail was here but there was just too many Christmas goodies around. Here's the link to Abbey's blog Please check out her blog she is very creative and has fabulous ideas and tips. I love the way she added unsweetened applesauce here and cut back on sugar to make a healthier bread. I added the oatmeal for the flavor and the chewy texture and it goes well with the bananas and peanut butter.

Abbey's Peanut Butter Banana Bread my way

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
3 very ripe bananas
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cupped rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 4 mini loafs pans with vegetable spray or 1 large loaf pan.

Mix your flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer, cream your butter and applesauce until smooth. Add in your eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add in bananas and brown sugar and mix well. Add in your dry ingredients and mix until just combined, but be careful to not overmix.

Remove mixer bowl from stand and fold in your peanut butter chips and oatmeal.

Pour into your prepared pans. Bake for ~30 minutes, or until the edges are a golden brown, the top of the loaf is firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out relatively clean.

Cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

I love peanut butter and bananas and the combination sounded perfect in a quick bread. I made the small loaves to give a couple away and Mike and I tried one while it was still alittle warm-heaven! Thank you Abbey. I think I'll need to make more and send to Abigail once she starts her new college in January, the University of Vermont. I just wish I could figure out a way that it could arrive hot! She'll need the warmth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Gingerbread Pancakes

My daughter, Abigail, was home for Christmas and requested these pancakes for Christmas morning. I believe that this recipe comes from Jigger's Diner in RI via Gourmet magazine long ago.

These pancakes are wonderful on a cold morning with maple syrup, applesauce or just alittle butter.

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 cup hot brewed coffee
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour (or 1 cup of 1 type of flour)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl stir together coffee and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. When the coffee has cooled to room temperature whisk in the egg and butter. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until blended. Batter will be thin. Let it stand for 10 minutes. It will thicken up alittle.

Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Spray with vegetable spray. Ladle batter on griddle. Cook pancakes until bubbles appear on surface and the undersides turn brown. Flip pancakes and cook about 1 more minute.

Makes about 16 5" pancakes.

Happy Holidays! Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peppermint Bark means Christmas

There is something so Christmas-y about peppermint and chocolate just ups the ante. I look forward to my annual peppermint mocha and Ghirardelli dark chocolate peppermint bark squares every year. This year I made some peppermint bark to give as gifts and it looked and tasted delicious. The red and white crushed peppermint with white and dark chocolate just looks festive to me.

I found this recipe in the Chefs catalog and here's the link

Christmas Peppermint Bark

12 ounces high quality semi sweet chocolate chips like Guittard
1 pound white chocolate chips (with cocoa butter) like Guittard
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 cup peppermint candy canes, crushed

Place candy canes or peppermint candies in mini-food processor and pulse until in small pieces. Set aside.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil, letting it hang over the sides. Grease foil with nonstick spray. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler* over medium-low heat. Pour evenly into jelly roll pan and smooth into approximately 10 x 15 rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup peppermint candy. Place in refrigerator until cold and firm, about 15-20 minutes.

Heat white chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat until chocolate is almost melted. Remove double boiler* insert from pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in extract. Cool slightly. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup crushed candy.

Chill until both layers are firm. Lift foil out of pan and shake off excess candy. Peel foil from bottom of peppermint bark. Trim edges. Break into pieces or cut into squares.

Makes approximately 2 pounds

*I don't have a double boiler so I use a large pot filled about 1/3 with water. I place a metal bowl that does not slip all the way into the pan on top. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Let the water simmer and place chips in metal bowl over water. Stir until they are melted. The bowl gets hot so remember to use a oven mitt or towel when touching the bowl.

I took the first batch to work and it disappeared in no time. I sent some to my folks in NC and to Mike's family in TN. This was fun and easy and if you're like me the taste of Christmas. I apologize for not taking pictures. I am trying to improve on that-my New Year's resolution maybe? Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spur of the moment turkey soup/chili

Mike and I got our tree on Sunday and as I knew we would hunker down to put it up and decorate it, I ran to the store to make sure we were set. I bought some things for the week and decided to pick up some things to make soup. I ended up with a soup chile combo that really hit the spot.

Turkey Soup/Chili

~1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons oregano
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes (to taste)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
~2 cups chicken stock
~2 cups white wine
14 ounces chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato paste
14 ounces Italian cannellini beans
1/2 can creamed corn

Heat oil over medium high heat, add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add garlic and stir into onions and cook a couple of minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook until softened. Put in thyme, oregano and chile flakes and stir until fragrant.

Cook turkey until no longer pink. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and simmer for about 1 hour. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more chili flakes. This is even better made a day ahead.

We had a green leaf salad, with toasted walnuts and shaved Pecorino and freshly baked bread with a bottle of 2010 Vino Robles Viognier. This was a warm and cozy meal and perfect for a cold evening at home. Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pomegranate Molasses

I read this recipe by Eric Gower in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday November 27th. I had a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my refrigerator and thought it would be fun to give this a try. Here's the link
I bought prawns from Gulf of Mexico as suggested by the article. We had this as a main course with a simple salad.

Pomegranate Molasses Prawns my way

12 large prawns, peeled and deveined, with tails left on
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon white rice, finely ground in a spice grinder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

Rinse and dry the prawns, and place in a bowl; add the 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, and mix gently.

Combine the ground rice, cinnamon, black pepper and cayenne in a small  bowl. Set the prawns on a flat surface, and sprinkle with half of the ground rice-spice mixture. Turn prawns over, and repeat.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add the  prawns and brown, about 2 minutes. Turn over and brown the other side, about 1 minute or so, depending on the size of the prawns.
Liberally sprinkle with salt and serve hot, with pomegranate molasses for dipping, if desired.

This was quick and easy and very delicious. Mike and I really enjoyed it. I want to discover some more recipes to use my pomegranate molasses with. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Everything but the kitchen sink soup....

I decided to make soup and figured I'd use what I had in the fridge and pantry. I had a lamb shoulder leftover and figured I could make stock with it and get the rest of the meat off the bones. Since there wasn't much meat left I looked in the pantry and found dried white beans and farro. I made Jamie Oliver's tray chicken while the soup cooked and we had the soup another night. If you want to try the tray chicken google it or look on my blog, January 24, 2011.

Everything but the kitchen sink soup....

1 lamb shoulder bone or chicken carcass
2 bay leaves
4 - 5 quarts of water

8 ounces dried white beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
3 carrots, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 cup farro
2 cups white wine
1-2 cups chicken stock
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the lamb bones in the water with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of hours. Strain out the bones and stray bits. Shred the lamb. Set aside.

Place white beans in a pan and cover with water. Let soak for a couple of hours. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and saute until it is softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes. Throw in the farro and toast about 5 minutes. Pour in 1 cup wine and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the lamb stock and 1 cup of the chicken stock, tomatoes, the white beans, shredded lamb and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for at least an hour. Best if made a day or 2 ahead and reheated. The farro will absorb alot of liquid. Add more stock and/or wine if it becomes too thick. Season to taste.

Serve with hot sauce and warm crusty bread. Share with your friends and neighbors. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dinner Party with Friends

I had been wanting to have our friends Duke and Jan over for months to celebrate Duke's birthday. We finally got our schedules straightened out and made a date. I wanted to make something warm and cozy for a rainy evening. I found this recipe in the October issue of Food & Wine. Here's the link I knew we all loved lamb and braising meant I didn't have to fuss over anything when my guests arrived. I also chose Broccoli with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Ranch Dressing from the September issue of Food & Wine. Here's the link For dessert I made a Southern Pecan Pie like my mother and grandmother made.

Braised Lamb with Potatoes my way

One ~4 pound lamb shoulder roast, well trimmed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2-3 thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Chives, chopped for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper.

In a large stove and oven safe pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the lamb and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb to a plate.

Add the bacon to the pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the bacon is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Return the lamb to the pan along with any accumulated juices. Cover with foil. Braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the lamb to a plate. Nestle the potato slices into the cooking liquid. Turn the lamb over and set it on top of the potatoes. Replace the foil and bake for ~1 1/2 hours longer, until the lamb falls apart and the potatoes are very tender.

Let lamb rest for 15 minutes. Cut or pull apart lamb. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and season the braising liquid with salt and pepper.

Garnish the potatoes with the chives.

Broccoli with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Ranch Dressing my way

1 large garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 3/4 cup buttermilk
~1/2 cup plain, fat free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large heads of broccoli, cut into florets or bite size pieces
4 slices of bacon
Roquefort cheese, crumbled 
Chives, chopped for garnish

Add the garlic with a generous pinch of salt to a 2 cup glass measuring cup. Mash together the gralic and salt and whisk in the buttermilk, yogurt and cider vinegar. Whisk in the vegetable oil and season the ranch dressing generously with pepper.

In a large, deep pot, bring water to a boil. Set the broccoli in a steamer basket and steam until bright green and crisp-tender, ~5 minutes. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until it's golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop into pieces.

Drizzle broccoli with the ranch dressing, top with the bacon and Roquefort and sprinkle with chives.

Southern Pecan Pie

1 cup Karo dark corn syrup
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sherry or bourbon
1-1/2 cups pecans, toasted for about 5 minutes
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and sherry using a spoon. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into pie crust.

Bake on center rack of oven for 60 minutes (see tips for doneness, below). Cool before serving.

See the crust recipe below. Add the chocolate to the warm crust.

Basic Pie Dough from The Fearless Baker by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weiss (my cousin)

2 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ~16 cubes
~ 5 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pressing the pulse button quickly, pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of small peas, about 5-10 pulses. Do not overmix.

Add the 5 tablespoons of the water then pulse until the dough is crumbly. Stop the food processor and gently squeeze about 1/3 cup of the dough in your hand. If it comes together without dry pieces, you've added enough water. If it still floury, pulse in more water if necessary or continue to mix until the dough forms small clumps. Do not process it to the point where it forms a ball.

Form the into 2 flat disks about 1 inch thick. Don't overwork the dough. You can 2 pies or divide so that 1 disk is about 2/3 of the dough and the other 1/3. Use the larger one for the bottom crust and the smaller one for the top of a pie. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour. You can also freeze it for about 2 months. Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before trying to roll it out. If frozen let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

Roll out the dough using the rolling pin. The dough should be about 2 inches bigger than your pie dish. This is not for a deep dish pie. Place dough in your pie pan and crimp the edges.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line the bottom with parchment pepper and fill with pie weights. Trim any excess parchment paper. You can also line with foil and prick holes in the dough through the foil. Bake the dough 20-30 minutes until brown. Remove from the oven and place chocolate in the warm pie crust.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fast and easy Greek food

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whole Grain Goodness

Mike and I love whole grains like barley and bulgur and I like finding new recipes with these ingredients. This recipe from Good Housekeeping is a one dish meal with chicken, barley and vegetables. Here's the link

Toasted Barley and Chicken Pilaf

 1 1/2 cups pearl barley
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
~1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
~1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat deep nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add barley and cook ~5 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Transfer barley to large bowl.

In same skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes or just until it loses its pink color on the outside, stirring occasionally. Transfer chicken to bowl with barley.

In same skillet, in remaining 1 teaspoon oil, cook carrots, celery, and onion over medium heat ~7 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook about 2 minutes longer or until most of liquid evaporates and vegetables are tender and lightly browned.

Return chicken and barley to skillet; stir in broth, thyme, nutmeg,  kosher salt, and pepper. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 to 35 minutes or until barley is tender and chicken is no longer pink in center.

This was a heart warming dish and hit the spot. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autumn Vegetables

Some of our favorite vegetables are in season like Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. This recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle by Amanda Gold combines the vegetables plus toasted croutons in a fall version of panzanella. Panzanella usually combines stale bread cut in cubes with fresh tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar. This recipe takes the panzanella into fall. Here's the link

Sorry charley29, I forgot to take pictures again. Too hungry I guess.

Autumn Panzanella my way

2 cups day-old Italian bread or levain, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 of 1 large butternut squash, stem end trimmed and cut in half lengthwise (I'm going to make soup with the other half)
1 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Scoop out the seeds from the butternut squash. I've found a melon baller works best. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Coat cut size with a thin layer of olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Place cut side down on baking sheet. Bake for ~ 30 minutes until flesh is soft and skin or peel browns and blisters. Remove from oven and let cool. The skin will peel off.

On half of one rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread out in a single layer. On the other half of the sheet pan, do the same with the Brussels sprouts, using another 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

Bake the bread for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan once about halfway through cooking. Place in a large bowl and set aside. Let Brussels sprouts cook for about 20 minutes, turn them over so that both sides brown.

While the bread and vegetables are roasting, make the vinaigrette. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat. Cook until the butter begins to take on a golden brown color and nutty aroma, stirring periodically, about 4-5 minutes. Take care not to let the butter burn. Remove from heat, and whisk in the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and syrup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are done, add them to the bowl, along with the sliced onions. Toss everything together with the vinaigrette and toss with the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed.

I cooked turkey Italian sausages and finished them with a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was a wonderful combo. We drank a Beringer Meritage with our dinner and it was a great match. Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Southern roots are showing

I found a recipe for a slow cooker braised pork. I don't have a crock pot so I took the flavors and ingredients and adapted it for the oven. The recipe is from Here's the link

I decided to make cornbread to go with it and used an old recipe from a Southern Junior League cookbook that was my grandmother's. The pork and cornbread combo reminds me of growing up in NC and eating at my grandparents' house. So here's alittle a piece of the South with alittle South of the Border.

Braised Pork in Tomatillo Salsa my way

~2 pounds boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into pieces
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cumin
kosher salt and pepper
~2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
~2 cups white wine
~2 cups chicken stock
1 red onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
3 tomatoes, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 jar tomatillo salsa (pick your heat level)
optional garnishes: chopped cilantro, sour cream, chopped green onions, shredded Monterey jack cheese or queso fresco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put flour, cumin and salt and pepper into ziplock bag. Add pork, seal and shake until the pork is well coated.

Heat oil in large pan able to go on stove and into oven. Shake excess flour off of pork and add to pan. Brown pork over medium heat on all sides. Remove from pan.

Pour in more oil if too dry. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add garlic and cook a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to fall apart. Add wine and let simmer about 4-5 minutes until sauce thickens. Stir in chicken stock and salsa. Add pork.

Cover pan and place in oven. Bake for ~2 hours until pork is fall apart tender. I made this the day before and reheated it.

Serve in bowls with any desired garnishes.

Zola's cornbread from Furniture City Feasts High Point, NC Junior League Cookbook 1974

1 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 vegetable oil
1/2 can creamed corn
1/2 container light sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into large cast iron skillet sprayed with vegetable spray. Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes until the cornbread pulls away from the sides and is golden brown. Serve with butter.

Mike and I really enjoyed this and the cornbread was wonderful with it. Cold weather comfort food. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

This is one of my old, favorite recipes that I have made over and over since before Abigail was born-more than 20 years. I remember that I got it from Pacific Sun, a freebie local paper but can not credit the original cook. Sorry about that but I have lost the clipping. Here's link at their website if you're interested in the paper, I still pick it every week I made 5 mini loaves around Halloween and gave as gifts to some friends from Abigail's elementary school days. Then I made 2 large loaves, one I took to work and the other I gave to our neighbors who are expecting their 2nd baby. I just made 2 more large loaves that I'm going to freeze and send back to Abigail in NY and my parents in NC. I don't know why I so obsessed with it right now except that makes your house smell amazing and it is delicious. I'm into making it without nuts, raisins or anything else these days but I have added those in the past and it is good that way. I have also thought of putting a cream cheese frosting on it but it doesn't really need it.

Pumpkin Bread my way

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
~6 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2-9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans or 5 mini foil loaf pans and sprinkle with flour. Tip pans to evenly coat with flour and knock out excess.

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a deep mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs in one at a time and then add the pumpkin.

Add the dry ingredients about 1 cup at a time. After the cup of dry ingredients is fully incorporated add 2 tablespoons water and beat. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and water, 1 cup and 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat well after each addition.

Pour batter into pans and gently shake pans to distribute batter evenly (the batter is delicious by the way, feel free to lick the beaters). Bake in the middle of the oven for about 55 minutes for the large loaves and about 45 minutes for the small ones depending on your oven and until the sides of the loaves shrink away from the pans and a cake tester comes out of the center cleanly. Do not fill the pans full as these loaves rise and will overflow.

Cool on wire racks.

This bread is incredibly moist and not too sweet. It is delicious alone or toasted with cream cheese. Mike is not a pumpkin pie fan and loves this bread. The loaves make great homemade gifts or hostess gifts during the holidays. I plan on making more and might add raisins, pecans, walnuts or even chopped dried apricots. Experiment and enjoy!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Braise Week

My Facebook Foodies group is doing braises this week. Conveniently it got cool here-perfect weather for braises. I found this recipe on from Bon Appetit October 2007. Here's the link: I have been making pumpkin bread and have cans of pumpkin and partial cans of pumpkin around so this was a perfect recipe for this week.

Pumpkin Chicken Goulash my way

~1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces
~1 teaspoon smoked paprika
~1/2 cup Hungarian paprika
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
~1 1/2 cups canned pure pumpkin
4 garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
1 bay leaf
1 dried thyme sprig

~1/2 pound egg noodles like De Cecco egg fettuccine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 /2 cup low fat sour cream

Place chicken, paprika, salt, and pepper in large resealable plastic bag. Seal bag; shake. Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Remove chicken from spice mixture (reserve spice mixture in bag). Add chicken to pot; cook 5 minutes. Place onions in bag with spice mixture. Seal bag; shake to coat. Add onions to pot; cook 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Add broth, pumpkin, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add sour cream.

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain noodles; return to pot. Add butter and caraway seeds to noodles. Toss until butter melts. Place noodles in bowls and put goulash over the noodles.

Fantastic! Mike and I loved this and had a local Pinot Noir with it, Pey Marin Vineyards Pinot Noir, It was great for a cold night and we have some leftovers too.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pan Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto oh yeah!

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto and Pumpkin Seeds and roasted sweet potatoes
My Facebook Foodie group has picked some food themes and we post what we cooked. Last week was fish, my pick-I'm trying to eat it more often. I saw this wonderful looking recipe in the November Bon Appetit by Janet McCracken. Here's the link

Pan-Seared Salmon with Pumpkin Seed-Cilantro Pesto my way

~2 1/2 teaspoons teaspoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (firmly packed) cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 small garlic clove, cored and chopped in several pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2  6 ounce fresh wild King salmon fillets 

Heat ~1 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin seeds; sauté until beginning to brown and pop, about 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to paper towels to drain; let cool. Reserve skillet.

Pulse 6 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, cilantro, coriander, cumin seeds, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 cup oil, then 1/4 cup water and blend. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining ~1 teaspoon olive oil in reserved skillet over medium heat. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook until just opaque in center, 3–4 minutes per side. Place fillets on plates. Spoon pesto over. Garnish with remaining pumpkin seeds.

Peel 1 sweet potato and slice into thick slices. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread on cookie sheet and cook in approximately 375 degree oven until brown and crispy outside and soft and creamy inside, about 20 minutes.

This pesto and salmon combo was delicious and the pan searing method was easy. I loved the crispy outside of the salmon. The sweet potatoes were a nice side accompaniment. All in all 2 thumbs up from Mike and I! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soul warming braised lamb

Braised Lamb with Almonds and mint, barley and roasted tomatoes
I started the Braised Lamb with Almonds and Mint by Mario Leon from the November Bon Appetit last night. It needs to cook for over 1 1/2 hour so it's not something to start when you get home late from work but good for a weekend or to do like I did and cook the night. The recipe is from a Basque restaurant and I wasn't sure what to serve with it. I decided on roasted tomatoes and barley. I know, not traditional but I had more home grown tomatoes I needed to use. I started the barley and tomatoes while I made fig preserves for my Dad's 86th birthday, 11/11/11. Here's the link from Bon Appetit

Basque Braised Lamb my way

~1 1/2 pounds trimmed lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2"–2" cubes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed 
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 cups canned tomato juice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
small carrots, chopped 
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook lamb until golden brown on all sides, 7–8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned lamb to a medium bowl and set aside.

Add onions to same pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add wine and reserved browned lamb along with any accumulated juices. Simmer lamb until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato juice, chicken broth, ground cumin and paprika and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate overnight.

Return lamb to a pan and re-heat. Add chopped carrot and cook un-covered, stirring occasionally, until carrot is tender and sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Garnish lamb with almonds and mint.

Barley and Roasted Tomatoes

1 cup pearled barley
2 cups chicken stock
6-8 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine barley, chicken stock and a pinch of salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Stir once, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for approximately 40 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine tomatoes, olive oil, shallot and season with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 20-30 minutes. Stir once or twice.

Serve tomatoes over barley with braised lamb. Garnish with almonds and mint.

This was a wonderful combination, rich and warming, perfect for a cold fall night. This dish benefited from sitting overnight, the flavors melded beautifully. Serve with red wine. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autumn Chicken Salad

The November issue of Bon Appetit is a treasure trove of recipes and ideas. I'm going to make several things from this magazine. Tonight I started a lamb stew but it will be for tomorrow night. I made the Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts Apple Fennel Salad to eat tonight. Here's the link

Cider Glazed Chicken Breasts Apple Salad my way

skinless, boneless chicken breasts 
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 Granny Smith apple
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
3 tablespoons olive oil oil, divided
1/2 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
~4 cups romaine lettuce

Preheat oven to 400°. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper; set aside. Cut 1 small slice from apple and finely chop. Transfer minced apple to a small Pyrex measuring cup. Add shallot to bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons cider vinegar and mustard. Whisk in 2 tablespoons oil; season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until cooked through, 13–15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving skillet; set aside. Let cool.

Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add cider, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan; boil until liquid is reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter. Season cider sauce with salt and pepper set aside.

Thinly slice remaining apple and transfer to a large salad bowl; add lettuces. Shred chicken and place on top of lettuce and apple slices. Pour sauce over chicken. Drizzle some vinaigrette over and toss to coat.

This had wonderful flavor. I left out the fennel because I'm not a fan. Feel free to leave it in, celery would have given the salad a nice crunch. The lamb stew smells wonderful and should be better tomorrow. I'm also making fig preserves for my dad so I'll update my blog soon, Enjoy!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I love this time of year - pumpkins, fall, changing leaves, Halloween and the holidays coming. Not to mention the end of Dayight Savings time-I love that extra hour of sleep. I was sick last week and was reminded of pumpkin bread but my lovely admin assistant, Jenny, who sent me a pumpkin cake recipe. I decided to make my favorite pumpkin bread and send some to Abigail, keep some and share some with friends. I got this recipe many years ago from the Pacifc Sun, a free weekly newspaper. I could not find the original recipe so I can not give credit where credit is due so I apologize but here's the link to the Pacific Sun.

Pumpkin Bread my way

8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons unbleached flour plus 3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon  cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
~1/2 cup water

5 mini foil loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position racks into the center. Spray vegetable spray in the foil loaf pans and sprinkle with flour. Knock out any excess. Set aside.

Combine remaining 3 cups of flour with the dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then add the pumpkin and mix.

Add about 1 cup of the flour mixture at a time. After it is incorporated beat in about 2 tablespoons water and repeat until all the flour mixture is well incorporated.

Pour the batter into the 5  mini loaf pans, about 3/4 full. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool.

I like to keep it simple but feel free to add raisins, walnuts or pecans at the end.

Mike loved this bread. I'm thinking of frosting it with cream cream frosting and making it more cake like. It's good toasted for breakfast with coffee or in the evening with a cup of tea. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Home Grown Tomatoes

My friend, Cooper, gave me some of the tomatoes from her garden. We had a wacky summer weather wise and lucky for us we still have delicious tomatoes. I had seen a recipe in Food & Wine magazine that I wanted to try that had tomatoes and fish with pasta. Here's the link

Pasta with Halibut and Homegrown Tomatoes

12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
~12 dozen ripe medium tomatoes, chopped with juice
1 small bottle clam juice
~1 pound skinless halibut fish fillets, cut into 3/4-inch dice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 8 minutes. Add the clam juice and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Season the fish with salt and stir it into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes, until the fish is nearly cooked through.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce along with the parsley and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat the pasta. Serve immediately.

This recipe was from an article entitled Rustic Italian Pastas in the November issue. This was the first recipe in the article and we loved it. I think I'm going to work my way through this article and try a few more of these recipes. Maybe Bucatini with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts next. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quick Chicken Stew

I was looking forward to the Sunday paper for new recipes. We get 2 papers, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Marin IJ. I usually find great ideas in the Chronicle and in Parade magazine. This week I found a recipe in the USA Today magazine by Pam Anderson. Here's the link:

I wasn't really excited about this recipe but it sounded like it had potential. Since there was nothing else I wanted to try I put the ingredients on my shopping list. I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe and could see adapting with other ingredients like bone in chicken or pork or beef.

Quick Red Wine Chicken Stew my way

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, extra if needed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 medium carrots peeled and cut into small chunks
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
1 package (8 ounces) baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 ounces prosciutto, minced
4 garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups dry red wine
1½ cups chicken broth
1 package frozen peas with onions, not thawed (I used Birds Eye® Peas & Pearl Onions in Lightly Seasoned Sauce.")
6 new potatoes, rinsed and halved

Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs to hot skillet. Cook until well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and continue to cook until well browned on remaining side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.

Add onions to skillet and saute until softened. Add the carrots and celery (and additional oil if pan is dry); saute until they start to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently and seasoning lightly with salt and pepper, until carrots and mushrooms are well browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in prosciutto, garlic and thyme; cook until fragrant, about a minute. Sprinkle in flour, then stir in wine and broth, along with frozen peas and pearl onions. Bring to a simmer, breaking up peas and onions as they start to thaw. Add chicken and potatoes; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partly covered, about 20 minutes. Stir, turn over chicken and simmer another 10-15 minutes until flavors blend and potatoes are tender.

As advertised this was a quick and easy dish, good for an evening when you're running late like I was. I always like 1 dish meals and this was a good one. Mike and I enjoyed this, a good fall dish. I would make this again and maybe try pork or beef. The vegetables were delicious and you can do different combos. We finished the bottle of red wine with our meal. Yummy! Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Early Fall Brunch

An employee of Mike's gave us some homegrown tomatoes. We used some for BLTs and they were delicious. I needed to use the rest soon before they went bad. I decided to roast them and use them for brunch.

Here's what I made:

~1 dozen tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

grated Pecorino Romano

Toss together the first 5 ingredients. Roast in a 425 degree oven for approximately  30 minutes.

Make an omelette or scrambled eggs and use the tomatoes as a filling or to scramble with eggs. Serve with bacon and toast or your favorite brunch dishes.

This was an amazing combination and a special brunch. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Out of this world...

I have been enjoying Parade Magazine Sunday Dinner series. I have tried several recipes including Jamie Olivers' and Salman Rushdie's and this past week's recipe from Rachel Bilson. This is one of her family's favorites called Chicken Sputnik.

Chicken Sputnik my way

4 chicken thighs,  skin removed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
~1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large red onion, sliced thickly
1 large Russet potato, sliced thickly
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese 
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
3/4 cup dry sherry
1 can chicken stock

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and coat it with flour.

In a heavy skillet, sauté the chicken in butter until it is golden over medium heat. 

Layer the onions and potatoes on top of the chicken. Top with the cheese, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sherry and chicken broth. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through.

This smelled delicious and tasted better. Mike and I totally enjoyed this and wished we had something to soak up the leftover sauce. This dish was wonderful with white wine. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Soup Night

I belong to a group on Facebook called Facebook Foodies. We've decided to do some theme nights and tonight was Tuesday Soup Night. I saw a recipe in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle called 3 Cs Canellini Beans with Chiles, Chicken and Corn. Here the link

It looked delicious and has some of my favorite ingredients in it, chicken thighs, corn, garlic, onions, cumin and oregano. I didn't get to the store yesterday so I used canned beans. It was delicious.

3-Cs Canellini Beans With Chiles, Chicken & Corn my way

3 14 ounce cans of canellini beans, drained and rinsed
~1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
2 large pinches ground cumin
3 tablespoons dry Sherry 
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1 large Anaheim chile, roasted and chopped
1 ear of corn, (see note)
squeeze of lime juice, to taste
Asian fish sauce, optional to taste

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces; season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and quickly brown all over. Transfer to a plate.

Add onion to pot, with a little more oil if needed; cook until softened. Add garlic, cook briefly until aromatic, then add cumin, stirring. Add sherry, chicken broth, beans, oregano and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and add the reserved chicken to finish cooking with the chiles and the corn kernels. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.  Taste and add some white wine or water if more liquid is needed. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lime juice and fish sauce.

This note is from the Chronicle and worked well: Remove all but the most innermost leaves from the corn. Microwave the corn at high for 1-2 minutes. This makes it easy to remove the silk and cut the kernels from the cob.

Mike and I had some warm whole wheat bread and butter with the soup. He was raving and had seconds.  I had a glass (or two) of Chardonnay which was delicious with the soup and cut some of the heat. Enjoy!