Monday, July 9, 2012

Orzo Salad

A good summer salad... perfect for potlucks as there is no dairy in this.... enjoy!

Orzo Salad


2 lemons, zested and juiced

1 clove garlic, minced

2-3 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together (or use immersion blender for best results) all ingredients except olive oil.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Adjust seasonings. 


3 cubes chicken bouillon (optional)

1 lb. orzo

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

½ teaspoon salt

7 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup chopped green onions

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped

½ cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts

½ cup pine nuts, gently toasted to golden brown

Bring large stock pot of water to boil.  Add chicken bouillon cubes (for additional flavor).  When water is at rolling boil, stir in orzo and cook until tender but still firm to bite (make sure to stir occasionally). Drain.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the halved tomatoes with salt and let set while prepping the remaining ingredients. 

As soon as the pasta has drained, toss in large wide bowl with the dressing.  Stir well to coat and cool.  After this has cooled add remaining ingredients and toss to coat. 

COOKS NOTES:  This salad does well to prepare head of time, even overnight. 

Florentine Artichoke Dip

Florentine Artichoke Dip

16 oz sour cream
½ cup mayo (add more if needed)
1 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 green onions, chopped
14 oz. can, water packed artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
10 cloves roasted garlic, finely chopped.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Mix all ingrediens until well combined. Transfer to an oven safe serving dish. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until bubbling.

Serve with crackers or your choice of dippers.

COOKS NOTES: If you don’t have the time to roast the garlic, substitute with 1 -2 cloves of garlic finely minced.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kids in the Kitchen - Thumbprint Cookies

Here is the recipe I used for my first 4-H demonstration..Happiness is a Full Cookie Jar.  I think I was in 6th grade ... and that was a few years ago!  I hope this will give some other young cooks a little kitchen confidence!

Thumbprint Cookies

About 36 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

In the large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy (use an electric mixer for best results). Add the egg, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract.  Beat until combined.  Stir in flour and mix until just blended.

Divide the dough into 3 disks and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line 2 cookie sheets.

Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  Place balls on cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.   Using your thumb or a deep rounded measuring spoon, make an imprint in each cookie.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the cookies are lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges.  When you remove from the oven, let the cookies stand briefly in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack. 

COOKS NOTES:  Dough can be made several hours ahead of time.
For best results, bake one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven.  If you need to speed up the process, bake two sheets at a time, but make sure to rotate them half way through the baking time.

 Place a small amount of green icing into each cookie imprint.  Top with a bit of green tinted coconut.  Using small candy eggs, anchor the egg into the next using a dab of the frosting. 

 When the cookies have baked for 5 minutes, remove from the oven.  Place an unwrapped chocolate kiss candy in each imprint.  Return to the oven and bake for the remaining 5 -7 minutes. 

Quick White Icing

1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ (powdered)  sugar, sifted
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
4 - 6 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional:         food coloring of choice
In a medium bowl, beat together the sugar and butter, using an electric mixer on medium speed.

Add 4 tablespoons milk, vanilla and salt.  Beat until smooth. Add additional milk as needed to the desired consistency.  Note that this icing tends to thicken on its own after it sets for a few minutes. 

To add food coloring:  add a few drops mixed in with the milk.  If you desire a darker color, add more drops while mixing. 

Cooks Notes:  An easy way to sift the sugar is to place it in a colander set over a large bowl.  Simply tap the colander against your hand to sift into the bowl. This will give the icing a much lighter consistency.
Optional Flavoring
For lemon icing, add the grated zest of 1 lemon to the sugar mixture and use 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus milk as needed for the liquid.
For orange icing,  add the grated zest of 1 small orange to the sugar mixture and replace the milk with fresh orange juice. 

Do Ahead Notes:
This can be kept at room temperature for 3 days when kept covered.  It will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.  Make sure to soften and stir or beat until smooth before using 

Tinted Coconut

Coconut, flaked 

Food coloring
Put ½  - 1 cup of coconut into a glass jar with lid.  Add a few drops of food coloring.  Close lid and shake until the coconut is completely colored.
NOTES:  You can use a plastic container but the food coloring may stain. 
Start with 2-3 drops of food coloring and add more when you desire a darker color.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Clam Chowder

It's winter and soup weather!  This is a wonderful recipe for a  large pot of Clam Chowder.  I've been making this for 25 years and it is always a big hit...... enjoy!

Clam Chowder

¼ pound bacon, diced
6 stalks celery, cut thin
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 quart chicken stock
Black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon thyme ( leaves, not ground)
1 ½ pounds potatoes
8 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons flour
1 quart milk, hot
20 oz minced clams

Chopped parsley for garnish

OPTIONAL  4 very ripe tomatoes, diced. 

In a large stock pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Blanch the bacon in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain the bacon.

In the bottom of that large stock pot, sauté celery and onions in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until soft, but not browned.

Into the pot, add the chicken stock.  Add juice only from the clams, reserving the meat.  Bring to a simmer and add pepper and thyme.

Wash the potatoes and dice without peeling.  Add to the pot and simmer until potatoes are cooked but still firm.

In a medium sauce plan, melt the 8 tablespoons butter then whisk in the flour.  Cook over low heat and stir for 1 minute but do not brown.  Add hot milk and stir until thickened.  Set aside (you have just made a béchamel sauce!)

When the potatoes are just tender, add drained clams and béchamel sauce.  Stir and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with parsley garnish.

OPTIONAL:  add 4 very ripe diced tomatoes along with the drained clams and the béchamel sauce.  This is not a Manhattan chowder, it simply is a blend that turns out to be very rich!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quick Cooking Polenta

This is a great quick and easy recipe to use in place of pasta or rice.  By using the microwave technique in place of stove top, you have time prepare the remainder of your meal.

 If you want to make the day ahead, cool the cooked polenta in a large flat pan.  Before serving, you can then slice and saute in olive oil, top with a little cheese or sauce... and yummy eats are there before you!  OR, if you want to serve a soft polenta with a sauce on top, add extra liquid to make 'softer', and just keep it covered for an hour or so before you want to serve.  You can also keep it warm in the oven while the rest of the mail is prepared.  I hope you enjoy!  Also, send me any comments, as I love to here how these recipes work in your kitchen!

Baked Polenta

This is a technique, not a precise recipe

Quick Cooking Polenta
Liquid:  chicken stock or water
2 or more tablespoons butter
Grated Cheese  (Jack, Swiss, Cheddar, Parmesan), optional and amount depends on the amount of polenta you are preparing.  (1/4 – 1 cup)

Grated Parmesan cheese for topping.

Using instruction on package, measure out dry polenta and water or stock. 
Add salt as per package directions and 2 - 4 Tablespoons butter. 

Preparation techniques:  following package directions, you can make on stove top.

 Alternative preparation method is to place casserole or glass pan in microwave oven (turn off turntable if you have this feature on microwave).  Microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Stir. Cook another 5 minutes.  Stir. Cook another 5 minutes Repeat.  The 3rd time you remove from the microwave, check the liquid. Depending on your polenta, you may need to add additional liquid.  At this time add grated cheese. 

Cook another 1 – 2 times, each for 5 minutes.  Stir after each 5 minute increment.  Taste to check when the polenta has your preferred consistency. 

When cooked to your satisfaction, top the dish with parmesan cheese and place under broiler to brown.  Serve.

NOTE:  For each 1-cup dry polenta, use ½ cup of grated cheese and 1 tsp salt You do not have to make the entire box of polenta!  Also, I like to replace the water with chicken stock.  This makes it more flavorful. 

Leftovers.  Slice thinly and fry in olive oil.  Top with cheese, pesto or marinara sauce.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

It's time to get ready for Thanksgiving and all the fun cooking and culinary traditions that have special food memories for our family.  One frequently requested dish is Pumpkin Soup.  This is spectacular when served in a scooped out pumpkin, using it as your soup tureen.  Enjoy!!

Pumpkin Soup

16 ounces canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
10 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Sugar, to taste
2 cups half-and-half

Curry powder (optional)
Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Sauté the celery and onion in the butter until tender, but not brown.

Simmer the tapioca in 2 cups of the chicken stock until tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir this regularly while cooking.  Set aside.

Method A:  If using an immersion blender:  Place the pumpkin into a 6 quart soup pot.  Add the celery and onion along with a bit of the chicken stock and puree until smooth

Method B:  If using a blender:  Blend the celery and onion with 1 cup of the stock until smooth.  Add this to the pumpkin into a 6 quart soup pot.   

Into the kettle with the pumpkin, celery and onion, add all the remaining chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Be careful that you do not burn this soup.

Add the tapioca, nutmeg, salt, pepper and sugar, all to taste. 

If using curry powder, this is the time to add to the pot. 

When hot and ready to serve, add the half-and-half and correct the seasoning. 

This is spectacular when served in a scooped out pumpkin, using it as your soup tureen. 

NOTE:  if you want to use fresh pumpkin, use 2 ½ pounds fresh pumpkin, cleaned and peeled.  Cut into large pieces and steam until tender, about 45 minutes.  Or, you can bake the pieces until tender.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lamb Cacciatore

Are you ready for a "hit out of the park" dish???  This is it.. so enjoy!  (wish I had a picture, but we ate it too fast!)

Lamb Cacciatore

Kathleen Barnett

Serves 6

This is a classic stew from Italy and a favorite for the fall.  It is a braised dish and the sauce is flavored with anchovies.  Don’t let that put you off as they finish the sauce and your guest will say…”this is great!”.

3 lbs boneless lamb
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Flour for browning
½ cup olive oil
2 large carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, rough chop
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped,  or 1 teaspoon dried sage
1 long sprig fresh rosemary, chopped

1 cup beef stock
¼ cup red wine
¼ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar

6 anchovy fillets OR 2 teaspoons anchovy paste

Pre heat oven to 375°

Cut the lamb into 2-inch cubes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Dredge the lamb in flour.  Heat the olive oil in large casserole or dutch oven, and in batches,  brown the lamb on all sides.  As done, transfer into a holding plate. 

Into pan, add carrots, celery and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, sage and rosemary and continue to cook for 1 minute.  Add stock, wine and vinegar to deglaze pan.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan; then add lamb into pan.  Cover and braise in the oven until tender.  Check at 45 minutes and every 15 minutes thereafter, about 1 ½ hours maximum.   

Mash anchovies, or stir in anchovy paste into small about of the sauce.  Return to the casserole, stir well and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and taste for seasoning before serving.