Archive for the ‘Cooking tips’ Category

Give Your Grilled Cheese Some Olympic Flair

Sunday, February 9, 2014
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If you’re watching the 2014 Winter Olympics and get a serious case of the munchies, why not cook up a quick snack with the same international flair you’re watching unfold on the screen before you?

Maria Zoitas, creator of the “Maria’s Homemade” line of prepared foods sold exclusively at Westside Market NYC, offers a few unique twists on a classic sandwich – thanks to a few worldly ingredients.

We’re talking grilled cheese sandwiches made with international cheese combos like … 

  • Kefalograviera (Greece), Kerrygold (Ireland) and Red Gouda (Holland)
  • Raclette (Switzerland), Organic Sharp Cheddar (Australia) and Asiago (Italy)
  • Limburger (Germany) and Pepper Jack (America) 

Oh yeah. 

Make them using wedges of French baguette, Italian focaccia or some other international-style bread and you’ll score bonus points – even from the Russian judge!

Oh, Deer! What To Do With All That Venison?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
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With another deer-hunting season wrapping up, many of you may find your freezers full of rich venison meat waiting to be put to good use.

Well look no further!

Today’s Charleston Daily Mail offers a variety of suggestions to inspire you, including ideas from some from the area’s finest restaurants. (You can check them out here: http://bit.ly/Juxu5z) And here’s another idea from my own experience …

My mother-in-law has served venison for big family dinners twice in the past week – and the results have been phenomenal. Born and raised in Austria, Louise Wiseman knows her way around the kitchen, and is especially skilled at baking world-class desserts and preparing flavorful, fork-tender meat.

This week’s venison was no exception.

Although she’s hesitant to reveal her precise recipe, I can tell you she braised it in a flavorful broth seasoned with mushrooms and onions until a fork pierced it as if it were soft butter. (You can make your own braising liquid, or use any combination of prepared broths/soups to create the taste you want.)

Pair this awesome venison with some roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a hearty red wine for one heckuva meal!

The Last Supper … For Turkey Leftovers

Monday, December 2, 2013
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We’re now entering Day 4 of turkey leftovers. Or as I like to call it …  

ENOUGH ALREADY! 

After today, I’ll be breaking down what’s left of that big bird to make a giant pot of homemade stock to freeze in smaller containers that can be pulled out to flavor soups, stews, rice and more over the coming weeks. 

But if you have any meat left, you can still get one more meal out of the thing. Today’s recipe calls for angel hair “nests” (available in some specialty food stores) but you can also just serve this over any ol’ pasta for similar results. 

 

Angel Hair Nests with Turkey and Leek

 

1–2 packages of angel hair nests

5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

1-1.5 cups cooked, skinless turkey breast

5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and thinly sliced

1 cup water

3/4 cup finely chopped green onions, divided

1/3 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Cut cooked, skinless turkey into bite-size pieces or shreds; set aside.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Reduce heat to medium, and add leeks. Cook 7 minutes or until tender-crisp, stirring frequently. Add water, 1/2 cup green onions and wine; cook, covered, 10 minutes or until leeks are soft.
  3. Transfer mixture to a blender. Cover and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Cover and keep warm.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 3 batches, gently lower pasta into boiling water. Cook 6 minutes or until al dente. Carefully remove pasta with a large slotted spoon, gently shaking to remove excess liquid. Repeat procedure with remaining pasta.
  5. Arrange cooked pasta nests on a large rimmed platter. Spoon sauce evenly over each nest. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese, and top with turkey. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup green onions.

     

    Recipe courtesy www.dececcousa.com

Beef Stroganoff – Beef + Turkey = Tasty Results

Sunday, December 1, 2013
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I adore Beef Stroganoff, with its chunks of meat and fat egg noodles bathed in a creamy sauce made with sour cream, Dijon mustard, onions and parsley. 

So why not replicate the dish with a few leftovers from the Thanksgiving table? 

Today’s recipe takes advantage of some of that turkey (you can use white or dark meat), plus adds mushrooms and cranberries for a super-quick satisfying meal. 

And if the addition of cranberries doesn’t tempt your taste buds, you can easily omit them – no harm done.  

 

Turkey Stroganoff with Mushrooms & Cranberries

9 oz. wide egg noodles

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 ½ cups/8 oz. finely chopped onion

1 ½ cups/4 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

6 Tbsp./3 oz. dry white wine

6 Tbsp./2 oz. dried cranberries, preferably unsweetened

3 cups/12 oz. shredded cooked white and dark meat turkey

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

12 oz. reduced fat sour cream

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley

 

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and sauté the onions and mushrooms until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and add the cranberries. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the turkey, Dijon mustard and sour cream. Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Divide the noodles between 6 bowls. Top with stroganoff mixture and sprinkle with parsley.
    Recipe courtesy www.pastafits.org

More Turkey Leftovers? More Recipe Ideas!

Saturday, November 30, 2013
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We’re still in full “Thanksgiving Leftover Mode” at our house, with the boys requesting hot open-faced turkey sandwiches for both lunch AND dinner yesterday.

Happy to oblige with that deliciousness – no arguments here.

But if you’re looking for something a bit more creative, here’s a recipe that brings turkey, pumpkin and cranberries together in an unusual pasta dish.

The combination sounds a bit odd, I know. But pumpkin pairs well with savory flavors so the garlic, scallions and fennel called for here shouldn’t scare you. Throwing cranberries into the mix admittedly throws me a bit but, hey, live a little!

 

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce, Turkey & Cranberries

 

1 lb. bowtie or any medium pasta shape, uncooked

1 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup sliced scallions, white and green parts

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 12-oz. can evaporated skim milk

1/2 cup low-fat milk

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 15-oz. can solid pack pumpkin

3 cups chopped cooked turkey

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 fresh fennel sprigs (optional)

 

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large, deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add scallions, garlic and fennel seeds; sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Combine milk, flour, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir into saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat; boil until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in pumpkin, turkey and cranberries until well blended. Reduce heat to medium; cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.
  3. Drain pasta. Place in large bowl. Add pumpkin sauce and toss. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. (Garnished with sprigs of fresh fennel, if desired.)
    Recipe courtesy www.pastafits.org

Give Turkey Leftovers a Little Mediterranean Flair

Friday, November 29, 2013
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We enjoyed a super-traditional Thanksgiving menu at our house yesterday featuring a bounty of family-favorite recipes. A simple herb-roasted turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, sautéed Brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole and rolls. 

And I’m sure we’ll scarf down our fair share of traditional leftovers today. 

But come tomorrow, I’m thinking we’ll be ready to throw a few new flavors into the turkey-leftover equation. 

Check out this recipe for a lively turkey casserole that uses artichokes, roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives to give your Thanksgiving bird some Mediterranean flair! 

 

Mediterranean Turkey Casserole
1 lb. penne pasta or any medium pasta shape, uncooked

1 14 1/2-oz. can low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup skim milk

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 cups chopped cooked turkey

1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1 7 1/2-oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced

9 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

 

  1. Prepare noodles according to package directions; drain. Stir the broth, milk, salt and cornstarch together in a large pot or Dutch oven until the cornstarch is dissolved. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in noodles, turkey, artichoke hearts, red peppers, olives, mozzarella cheese, wine, lemon juice and pepper.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon noodle mixture into dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
    Recipe courtesy www.pastafits.org

Bacon … The Next Health Craze?

Thursday, August 1, 2013
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Could bacon be the next hot health craze?

I doubt it.

But there are those who tout its benefits as a good-for-you indulgence.

Dr. John Salerno, for one, believes bacon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Of course, he’s also a protégé of Dr. Robert Atkins (gasp), creator of the once-hot “eat all the bacon you want but don’t dare touch a slice o’ bread” Atkins Diet.

“Many think of bacon as one of the guiltiest pleasures possible, but it has also been shown to alleviate the effects of diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” says Salerno, author of “The Silver Cloud Diet.”

“Nitrate-free bacon is an excellent source of high-protein, low-carbohydrate energy that helps to reset the metabolism,” he continues, “and it’s filled with amino acids delivered without the risk of dangerous levels of mercury, which can be found in many fish.”

Need more reasons to praise the pig?

  • Bacon has a 4-to-1 ratio of protein to fat.
  • It contains choline, which boosts memory and healthy brain function.
  • It’s composed of monounsaturated fats, the kind that contains lots of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
  • And it’s a potent source of oleic acid and saturated fats, which help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lower triglycerides and raise HDL, commonly referred to as the “good” type of cholesterol.

I do love the stuff and will continue to chomp down on more than my fair share. But let’s not kid ourselves about its debatable health benefits.

Wheatgrass, it’s not.

But man cannot live on wheatgrass alone, which is why the occasional slab of bacon is such a joy. Everything in moderation.

So when you’re ready to moderate, here are a few fine bacon-blessed treats you might want to try …

  • Wrap a slice of bacon around your favorite items when grilling. Chicken or a nice filet, of course, but also around asparagus, scallops, even some grilled fruits.
  • Bling up a traditional BLT with creole mayo, sliced avocado or spicy pickles.
  • For an incredible appetizer, wrap bacon around a feta stuffed fig or a chunk of apricot rolled in brown sugar. Bake until the bacon is cooked through.
  • Three words: bacon cinnamon rolls. Unroll cinnamon buns from a refrigerated canned dough and roll them back up with a cooked slice of crisp bacon inside. Bake per package directions.
  • Two more words: bacon candy! Spread sliced bacon across a slotted baking pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup, then bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Best bacon ever.

 

x   x   x

 

Bacon also played a supporting role in a great appetizer idea a neighbor recently shared. Actually, she didn’t just give me a recipe but also brought over all the ingredients I needed to make it.

What a gal!

Her Cheesy Stuffed Peppers featured an assortment of red, orange and yellow peppers filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sautéed onions, garlic and bacon, then baked until warm and gooey inside.

The results were so good, I’m sharing Naomi’s recipe this week. But like me, she didn’t really measure anything so just adjust all amounts to taste.

 

Cheesy Stuffed Peppers

assorted small red, orange and yellow peppers
medium onion, chopped
cream cheese, softened
cooked bacon
garlic, salt and pepper (to taste)

  1. Cut off (and save) the tops of all peppers and scoop out seeds.
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but a scant amount of bacon grease and sauté onions in the same pan. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from skillet and let cool.
  3. Mix onions and crumbled bacon into softened cream cheese, then use this filling to stuff each pepper. Replace tops and place upright in a baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes a 350 degrees or until peppers are a little tender.

 

 

Leftover Eggnog? Make Tasty Scones, French Toast!

Thursday, January 3, 2013
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So here’s the thing …

I love a mug or two of eggnog this time of year. A sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg on top (maybe) and a splash of rum, whiskey or brandy inside (definitely).

The holidays just aren’t the same without it.

But after a few days, I’m pretty much over it until next Christmas. I mean, the stuff is pretty heavy – like drinking melted ice cream – and there’s only so much abuse your arteries can take.

So what to do with your eggnog leftovers?

I shared an awesome recipe (below) for Eggnog and Dried Cranberry Scones a few weeks ago. And here’s another idea: Eggnog French Toast. Oh yeah.

For breakfast Sunday morning, I soaked a couple thick slices of whole grain bread in a bath of whisked eggs, eggnog (instead of milk) and a dusting of cinnamon. Then I cooked it up in a skillet just like regular French toast. Man, was it good!?


Eggnog Scones with Dried Cranberries

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cups dried cranberries
grated rind of half an orange

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl. Add butter and stir until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, leaving some large crumbs. Add dried cranberries, orange rind and eggnog, and stir gently until the dough pulls together and no dry parts remain in bowl, being careful not to over-mix.

2. Gather dough and knead a few times to make a cohesive mass. Roll out to a thickness of 1 inch and cut into triangles or desired shape. Place on lightly greased baking sheet.

3. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar before placing in oven. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Serve warm.

Makes 24 scones. Recipe from Shelburne Inn & China Beach Retreat in Seaview, Wash.

The 3 S’s of Fall — Soups, Stews and Side Dishes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012
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When temps start to fall, my taste buds turn to the three S’s of fall – soups, stews and sides.

A creamy potato soup. A chunky beef stew. A filling side dish. The heartier the better!

And soups, especially, are so easy to make at home.

“People are often intimidated when it comes to making tasty soups, but it’s not nearly as challenging as it may seem,” says Ryan Fichter, Executive Chef of Thunder Burger. “Great tasting soups are within reach for everyone to make.”

Here are his 5 tips for making it happen:

  1. STOCK UP. The soup base, or stock, is a big part of the equation. Good tasting stock makes good tasting soup. Homemade is best, but if that’s not an option choose a store-bought kind low in sodium.
  2. MIND THE MACARONI. If you are going to have pasta in your soup, be sure to cook it before adding it in. Many people skip this step, and it can throw off their whole recipe.
  3. FRESH IS BEST. When it comes to any of the ingredients going into your soup, fresh is the best option. If that’s not an option, go for frozen over canned.
  4. USE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT. Using the right kitchen tools is important. Some people prefer to use a slow cooker, which is fine. If you will be using a pot, choose one that is large and heavy. Also, an immersion blender makes easy work of creaming/pureeing soups.
  5. THE FINISHING TOUCH. Enhance the soup’s presentation by using a garnish. Also, most people prefer to have something with their soup, so choose the right addition, such as crackers, biscuits, muffins, bread or breadsticks.

“One of the great things about soup is that it is so versatile,” Fichter adds. “Soup can be a great appetizer, side dish or even a main course. Leftovers also heat up well for lunch the next day.”

Here here, I say.

And here here is his recipe for a simple Creamy Potato Soup. You can bulk it up with veggies or top it off with fresh herbs or crumbled bacon.

 

Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ pounds of Idaho potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 ½ cups heavy cream

1. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.

2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, allspice, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With an immersion blender puree soup in blender until smooth.

4. Add cream and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead).

Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Ice, Ice, Baby! Chill Out with these Clever Cubes

Friday, August 24, 2012
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I was recently enjoying a couple glasses of wine one night and – in an EXTREMELY rare occurrence – had a few sips left that I didn’t feel like finishing. (Still can’t figure that one out!)

Not enough to save, too much to toss. So I poured it in a small plastic container and popped it in the freezer. A few days later I was making a pan sauce for a beef dish and needed a little something to punch up up.

The wine!

So I dropped my little red wine ice cube into that pan and whisked it in as the sauce reduced. Fantastic.

Then a few days later I see this article in Taste of Home magazine touting “Clever Cubes.”

“Don’t ditch those last dabs and dribbles,” it said. “They’re culinary gold after a spell in the deep freeze.”

Among items the magazine suggested freezing in an ice cube tray to work into recipes later …

  • Chopped onions frozen in water can be quickly thawed to stir into soups, sauces and more.
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
  • Yogurt, which can be added to smoothies to thicken and chill.
  • Lemon and lime juice.
  • Tomato paste for savory sauces.
  • Pesto or any other chopped fresh herbs.
  • Chicken broth for sauces, rice dishes and more.
  • Coffee, to add a kick to desserts and gravies.
  • Tomato juice – to chill your Bloody Mary!
  • And, wait for it, wine!