Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Tasty Twist to Hummus

We have a place in town run by a 1st generation Lebanese family. The husband and I go there for lunch every so often and if you are not there at just the right time, you will end up waiting a long time for a table. They have a little counter with about 5 stools and about 8 tables. It is a tiny place filled with wonderful aromas. Their hummus is, by far, the best I have ever had. Everything in this restaurant is home made...their flat bread...OMG. Most of the time I have a large order of hummus. I eat part of it for lunch and share the rest with my hubby. His favorite is the peas and rice or kidney beans and rice. YUM...I am drooling on the keyboard just thinking about the food. In the summer, they make koosa, which is a small green summer squash that is stuffed with ground lamb, rice and spices. These are tricky to hollow out and you need the right tool to do that. But it is sooooooooo good! Anyway, back to the hummus. I have had the store bought hummus and well, it just doesn't have the same taste and consistency as the homemade kind. Do I buy it? Sure. In a pinch it has to do. But we do make our own once in awhile. This is a twist on plain hummus and adds some sweet sundried tomatoes to the mix. I like using the ones packed in oil as they add more flavor. This is a great appetizer and I just set out some flat bread to use as dippers. This is a healthy appetizer and can also be used as a spread on sandwiches!

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

1 16 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed·
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained (or rehydrated dried sun-dried tomatoes)·
1/2 cup (1 large bunch) fresh parsley, washed and picked·
2 tablespoons lemon juice·
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped·
1 heaping tablespoon tahini·
salt and crushed red pepper to taste

1. Place garbanzo beans and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor and blend into a paste. You may have to scrape down the sides of the food process and add lemon juice to keep the mixture moving. Mix in lemon juice, garlic, tahini, salt and crushed red pepper. Blend until smooth, using more lemon juice if consistency is too thick. Transfer to medium sized bowl.
2. Coarsely chop the parsley leaves. Fold the parsley into the hummus, reserving some of the parsley to sprinkle on top for garnish.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Berry Trifle

I am a berry-a-holic! I guess that is better than other types of addictions, right? I have posted other recipes using berries and they are, by far, my favorite types of fruit because they are easy to eat and bake with! This is a nice dessert because you can make it kid friendly or kick it up for adult servings. It is very pretty in a trifle bowl. This can also be a great dessert at Christmas because of the red and white colors. Also, if you want, you can use both red raspberries and blackberries. So, to make this a nice weekday dessert, use cranberry juice cocktail to sprinkle over the pound cake. Or for an adult dinner party, sprinkle your poundcake with Chambord. This is a lovely, smooth raspberry liqueur. You can garnish the top with some fresh raspberries or even red sanding sugar. Either way, this will go fast.
Double Berry Trifle
Yield: 15 servings
12 oz. pound cake, cut into 10 slices
3 tablespoons cranberry juice cocktail
2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 cups cold milk
2 packages (3 oz. each) vanilla instant pudding and pie mix

1 container (8 oz.) frozen cool whip topping, thawed
Save today, with ingredients featured in our Weekly Specials! Weekly Special ingredients have the link. Click to view the savings!

Arrange cake slices on bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish. Drizzle cranberry juice cocktail over cake slices. Top with frozen
raspberries, separating as needed. Sprinkle with sugar.
Pour milk into large bowl; add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 1 minute. Gently stir in 1 cup whipped topping. Spoon mixture over raspberries; top with remaining whipped topping. Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beer not served in a mug!

I don't own a bread machine and have never wanted to own one. I have heard the pros (homemade bread all the time, the house always smells so good) and the cons (I gained weight from eating and smelling the homemade bread all the time, it takes up space and now I don't use it anymore). I don't love working with yeast dough so I was really happy when Panera's moved into town a few years ago. But every now and then I come across a recipe that does not require yeast and is easy, good and not a sweet quick bread. This is one of those recipes. A couple of the home parties I have attended have these Beer Bread mixes that are convenient and good, but still have those pesky preservatives. And they want you to pour a whole lot of butter over the top, so that makes it even less figure friendly.
This particular recipe is quite nice for a weeknight dinner and doesn't require a lot of work or time. I have mixed all the dry ingredients together in the morning and covered the bowl or put them in a zip-loc bag. When I get home, I only have to grease the pan, add beer to the mix, pour into the loaf pan and pop into the oven. In an hour I have a nice fresh bread to go with a salad, soup or stew. You can even add some dill to this or some crushed red pepper for some kick and it is really good. And depending on the kind of beer you use it will take on a different flavor. So experiment! And the bonus is that you know what went into this bread with no preservatives!!

Beer Bread
Stir Together:
3 cups unsifted white flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp salt
Gradually add:
12 oz. beer at room temperature
Pour into a well greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until loaf is brown on the bottom and sounds hollow when you thump it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Using April

The sun is shining and the trees are in bud and the forsythia is in bloom. And this is not the time of year to be thinking about pumpkin. But, one of the women in my department was celebrating her 10 year company anniversary today and her favorite sweet is pumpkin pie. Well, I didn't want to do the traditional, so I pulled out the recipe I got from whipped it up for today. Awhile ago, I made the plain Snickerdoodle Bars off her blog and commented on how great they were. She wrote back to say if I liked those,I should try them with the pumpkin. All I can say is that this has the WOW factor. The fact that the recipe looks long belies the actual time to prepare it. It goes together easily and the house is fragrant with the baking spices. When it was cool, I drizzled it in a crisscross fashion with the white chocolate glaze and put it in the fridge overnight. It was gone in 2 hours today...clean plate! It was a hit and a lot of people were asking for the recipe. So I am definitely putting this in my fall folder of wonderful desserts. I could see this with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top and drizzled with caramel a brownie sundae. Plus it is a great alternative to pumpkin pie.
NOTE: For the drizzle, I filled my Pampered Chef little decorator with the glaze and used the small tip. I went back and forth over the top in a diagonal fashion and crossed it the opposite way....quite pretty.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Bars

Snickerdoodle Layer
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Layer
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups Libby pure canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 oz white chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan and lay a piece of parchment paper across the pan, so that it extends the pan slightly. The parchment paper is an optional step, but it will make it easier to get the bars out later.

To make snickerdoodle layer: Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be thick and cookiebatter-ish.)

In a mixer bowl (you can use the same one you used to make the snickerdoodle batter) with a paddle attachment, mix together all ingredients until well combined. This layer will be less thick and more pourable. Pour over the snickerdoodle layer, smoothing out the top.

Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

Bake for 33-40 minutes (maybe more depending on your oven) or until a toothpick inserted into the *center* of the pan comes out clean.

Let the bars cool completely (about an hour). They will deflate a bit and remain a bit pie-like on the top layer. The bars that are closer to the edges of the pan will be more firm, but are still equally as yummy.

After the bars are completely cool, place the chopped white chocolate into a bowl or zip-lock bag and melt on low power. When it's completely melted, add the pumpkin pie spice and mix (or knead if using a zip lock bag). Use a spoon or cut a small corner off the bag and drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the bars and let it cool and harden. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and cut into bars. Store in a covered container.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Go Green..... Eat Your Asparagus

Now that spring is here and the tender shoots of asparagus are showing up more frequently in the market, I have found some interesting and different ways to use it other than as a side for dinner. Our favorite way is to just roast it in the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper. But to jazz it up a bit, I found a recipe that used roasted asparagus but with a delicious sounding dressing made from good Parmesan cheese. I also found a great appetizer that uses blanched asparagus spears. Making food fun and interesting is what will set you apart from the crowd and with your kids. Especially with the kids, if you find something they like and can incorporate it with something new (especially if they helped select it) they are more likely to try it. I did not like asparagus until about 8 or 9 years ago. Why? I don't have a clue. Mostly it was a fear of trying something new. It so happened I was at a dinner party where it was served with a lovely light lemon sauce. So I branched out and tried it. What? I loved it! Why didn't I try this before? So my taste expanded. Now I am no longer afraid to use this springtime delight in many different ways. Here are a couple of ideas for you to try that have been successful for me.

3 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved from a block of cheese. (You cannot used the grated stuff from the store)
1 1/2 cups water
5 Tbsp minced shallots (about 2 large)
2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and thick stalks removed (use all green or green and white)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Simmer the cheese and the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until a milky liquid forms. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a small saucepan and discard the solids. Boil until liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup (8-10 minutes).
Transfer to a small bowl and add 3 Tbsp. minced shallots and vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook all the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water.
Transfer to bowl of ice water and cool completely. Drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place asparagus in single layer on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until crisp tender.

Meanwhile heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add 3 Tbsp shallots. When asparagus is done, place on a platter and sprinkle shallots and dressing over. Sprinkle with a little more fresh cracked black pepper.


1 lb. fresh asparagus
6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto

5.2 oz pkg Boursin cheese

1/4 cup honey mustard Black pepper

Snap tough end off asparagus, peel and remove 3/4 -in from bottom ends and trim into a point. Place asparagus in a deep skillet of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes until crisp tender. Carefully drain and rinse under cold running water. Blot dry.

Separate slices of prosciutto and cut each slice in half, lengthwise.

Place one strip of prosciutto on a flat surface and spread with 1/2 tsp Boursin cheese, 1/2 tsp honey mustard and freshly ground black pepper.

Place asparagus spears at a 90 degree angle on the shot end of the prosciutto strip. Carefully roll up as tightly as possible. Place on a platter and serve.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chocolate Malt Cheesecake...Happy Birthday to my Husband

Yesterday was the husband's birthday. He didn't want a party, but I did arrange for dinner with some friends at a favorite local restaurant. After a birthday toast and a great meal, we headed on over to our house for dessert. A few posts ago, I talked about chocolate malt cupcakes. This time I made a chocolate malt cheesecake. It was easy, rich and had the wow factor! I baked this the night before so it had plenty of time to cool and live in the fridge to set up nicely. A few hours before dinner, I crushed some malted milk balls and liberally sprinkled them on top. Then I melted some chocolate chips and drizzed a basket weave pattern on top of the crushed candy.
YUM! So that and a platter of grapes, blackberries, strawberries and fragrant coffee topped off our evening. We laughed and talked...mostly about our grandkids. It was a fun night. Happy Birthday, honey!!

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

3 Pkgs (8 oz each) cream cheese (1/3 less fat is fine)
1 can (14 oz)sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chocolate malted milk powder
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine crust ingredients; pat firmly in bottom and about 1/2-in up the side of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan; chill. Combine chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in top of double boiler over boiling water. Stir occasionally until melted. Let cool.

To make the filling, beat cheese until fluffy; add eggs and malted milk powder and blend well. Blend in melted chocolate mixture and the vanilla. Pour into prepared crust. Bake at 300 degrees for about 65 minutes or until filling shakes only slightly near the center when moved. Cool, chill thoroughly.

Garnish with chocolate curls or crushed malted milk balls or drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blueberry Cream Pie Not for Throwing!

I was able to pick up some frozen pie shells for $1.00 a package (for 2) at a local co-op. These provide an easy way to whip up dessert in a hurry! It was a great find, so now I am looking through my recipes to find things that I haven't made in awhile. This is a nice recipe, especially in the summer when local blueberries are so plentiful. We put blueberries on cereal, in fruit salad, muffins, breads, pancakes and pies. Blueberries are chock full of antioxidants, have twice the capacity of spinach and 3 times that of oranges. They are rich in pectin and are a soluble fiber that has been shown in studies to help lower cholesterol. Fresh blueberries are higher in Vitamin A and C than frozen and canned. This recipe is a twist to the traditional blueberry pie and is also a pretty presentation. I like to add a bit of cinnamon sugar to the pecan topping. Just NO THROWING these cream pies...why waste those good blueberries?
Blueberry Cream Pie

Makes 8 servings
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh
1 pie crust, 9"
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp margarine
3 tbsp pecans


1. Mix first six ingredients with electric mixer until smooth.
2. Fold in blueberries.
3. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
4. Mix last three ingredients. Dot over top of pie and continue to bake for 10 minutes.
5. Cool and serve.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sangria for Cinco De Mayo

This is another idea for your Cinco de Mayo party! I admit to taking shortcuts and buying prepared sangria from the liquor store and adding fruit. Simple and easy especially when you are pressed for time. But, when you can take the time, there is nothing that can compare to making your own and this is a recipe that I found quite awhile ago and is really good. I try to rationalize drinking this as having all those nice healthy fruits in there!! OK, so they become happy fruits. But if you are having some friends over for a little Mexican fiesta, give this a try. If you double the recipe , put it in a punch bowl. It looks very pretty.

Best Party Sangria Recipe
Perfect for big parties, you may want to double the recipe.

1 bottle of red wine (Cabernet, Rioja or Red Zinfandel....I like the Rioja)
1 lemon cut into wedges
1 orange cut into wedges
1 lime cut into wedges
2 Tbsp sugar
Splash of orange juice
2 shots of gin
1 cup of sliced strawberries or raspberries (you can use frozen, but I like fresh better
1 small can of diced pineapples with juice
4 cups of ginger ale

Pour wine into a large pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the lemon , orange and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges, leaving out the seeds. Add the diced pineapple, sugar, orange juice and gin. Chill overnight. The next day, add ginger ale, berries and ice just before serving. I usually do this in a punch bowl. Remember, the best sangrias are chilled around 24 hours in the fridge to allow the flavors to really marinate into each other.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Colorful Meal Fit for Cinco de Mayo!

Yesterday I made a light and delicious salad using ribbons of fresh carrots, thinly sliced radishes and their greens and green onions. I found this recipe in the latest issue of Cooking Light. Having never used radish greens before, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the bitterness. But when I put this together it was out of the park! While having dinner, my husband asked what radishes are good for nutritionally. So on to the computer I hopped after dinner and found out that this lovely little red orb is good for a variety of things. 100g of radish contains 16 calories only. Radish is low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol. They are also very good source of dietary fiber. Radish has anti-bacterial as well as anti-fungal properties. It is beneficial for cough, respiratory problems, digestive disorders, asthma, bronchitis and liver and gallbladder troubles. Radishes are diurectic in nature. Radish also cleans the kidneys and inhibits infections in kidneys and urinary system. Thus it helps a great deal in curing urinary disorders. It is a very good dietary option for those determined to lose weight. More info can be found on Color us red (like the radish) that we didn't know this before, but we are going to include these into our diet more regularly. I also made another recipe from the same issue and we had a very colorful fiesta of foods for our Sunday dinner. The chicken was tender and juicy and the addition of a tomato/avocado salsa was so delicious. On the side I served orzo pasta with some fresh chopped parsley and olive oil. I used a couple of plump chicken breasts, but after making this once, I think it would be a great dish to serve on a buffet using chicken cutlets. And, if you are thinking "Cinco de Mayo", both of these would be very colorful on your table. Enjoy!

Raw Spring Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese
2 medium carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced spring onion
1 8-0z. bunch radishes with tops
1 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basis
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshlky ground black pepper
1 4-oz. pkg. goat cheese cut into 8 slices
Shave carrots into ribbons with a vegetable peeler to measure 2 cups. Combine carrots and onion in a large bowl.

Wash radishes and radish greens thoroughly; drain and pat fry. Cut radishes into thin slices to equal 1 3/4 cups; thinly slice radish greens to equal 1 cup. Add radishes, radish greens, basil abd next 4 infredients through pepper, to carrot mixture; toss gently to coat.

Arrange goat cheese on a serving platter; top with salad. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings

Cilanto Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa
2 TBSP fresh minced cilantro
2-1/2 TBSP fresh lime juice
1-1/2 TBSP olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup chopped plum tomato (about 2)
2 TBSP finely chopped onion
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp saltBold
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled and finely chopped

To prepare chicken, combine 1st 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss and let stand 3 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes each side or until done.

To prepare salsa, combine tomato and next 4 ingredients through pepper in a medium bowl. Add avocado; stir gently to combine. Serve salsa over chicken. Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Caramelized Onion Pizza

Today it is so easy to find many different types of pizza, but I have trouble with trying non-traditional items on pineapple or buffalo chicken wings. We usually make or buy pizza that has little on it. Maybe some mushrooms, peppers and once in awhile sausage. We also like "white pizza". This has a distinctly wonderful garlic flavor, so all of you better be eating it if you make it!! I have experimented a bit with the white pizza and one of our favorites is with carmelized onions and sundried tomatoes. I usually just sprinkle Romano cheese over it, but have spread some ricotta mixed with dried basil before putting the onions and tomatoes on top, and that is really good.
I will say that people have used their imaginations when it comes to pizza toppings today. One of these days, I will branch out and take a bite of pineapple pizza and see what I think! But for now, if you need a quick Sunday afternoon meal, try this with a hearty bowl of lentil soup or a romaine salad.

Carmelized Onion Pizza
2 large sweet onions, halved through cores and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup pitted sliced black olives
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 12-inch pre-made thin sliced pizza shell
½-3/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (I used the ones packed in oil)
Shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large deep nonstick skillet over medium heat, stir together sliced onions, oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook onions down and add garlic. Cook onions, stirring often until soft and very tender and they start to get golden.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza crust on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Brush with olive oil and place in oven for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, leaving a 1-inch border. Spread onion/tomato mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle with the olives and sprinkle top with Romano cheese. Bake about 10 minutes or until cheeses are melted and crust is brown. Cut into slices and serve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Get Your Fruit!

I have been able to buy blackberries at a very good price for the past 3 weeks. My favorite way to eat these is just pop them into my mouth and savor the juice! But mixing them with other fruits is fun to do as well. This might be a way to introduce different fruits to the kids. Or you can make a nice fruit salad for breakfast or even dessert by mixing your fruits together. Whatever you choose, it is getting your colors in a fun, nutritional way. With the blackberries, I tossed them with one cantaloupe that I cut into chunks and 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced. I whisked together 3 Tbsp of fresh lime juice and 3 Tbsp of honey. I tossed the fruits lightly together with the sweet sauce and put it into dessert bowls with a sprig of mint. It's quick and easy and very delicious. For a crunchy alternative at breakfast, sprinkle some granola on top!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Color my World with Salad

I think I could live on different types of salads. I am always on the lookout for different ideas. I love to mix and match vegetables and fruits and experiment with the different flavors of vinegars, oils and ingredients in dressings.
I NEVER BUY BOTTLED! For some reason, I can't even think of buying a bottled dressing. Maybe it is because of preservatives or the fact that I just prefer to KNOW what is going into my dressing, I always make my own. I made a beautiful side vegetable on Easter Sunday which I will share in another post. It included sauteed radishes. And it was delicate and delicious. So now I am on a radish kick. And tonight's salad includes radishes.

This is going to be our salad tonight. One of the things I am anxious for is the local Farmer's Market so I can buy locally. There is nothing better than the fresh produce from your local grower. Or maybe you grow your own beautiful veggies. Bring in the Northeast, our season is short so we value whatever we grow and savor it when we can finally taste our crop. My husband and I have a small garden with tomatoes and garlic. In addition I grow many of my own fresh herbs. I dry these so I can have them throughout the winter, but use them fresh in the summer and into the early fall. But, for tonight's salad I have to rely on my local grocer.
So when you think of preparing a salad, think beyond iceberg lettuce. Make it colorful and healthy. Your eyes and your belly will say thanks.

2 medium carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced small spring onion
1 (8-oz.) bunch of radishes with tops
1 TBSP. thinly sliced fresh basil
2 TBSP. fresh lemon juice
1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-oz) pkg. goat cheese, cut into 8 slices

Shave carrots into ribbons with a vegetable peeler to measure 2 cups.
Combine carrots and onion in a large bowl.
Wash radishes and radish greens thoroughly; drain and pat dry. Cut radishes into thin slices to equal 1-3/4 cups; thinly slice radish greens to equal 1 cup.
Add radishes, radish greens, basil and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) to carrot mixture; toss gently to coat.
Arrange goat cheese on a serving platter; top with salad. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings. Source: Cooking Light, April 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dreaming of Light Meals on the Deck

With dreams of nicer weather, I keep thinking of evenings on the deck with good friends. There are times when we just kick back and don't feel like fussing. We start with a crisp white wine and baked Brie. This particular one is a favorite and is wonderful served with sliced apples and pears. After that we have a beautiful antipasto....garlicky salami and sausage in oil, smoked provolone, a tangy wedge of gorgonzola, kalamata black olives, garlic green olives, succulent vine ripened tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and tuna in olive oil. Serve along with a crusty baguette and a good Chianti. For dessert, an aperitif of limoncello or sambuca and a cup of espresso with a little lemon rind to end a lovely evening. Ah...dreams of summer.... soon we will be able to share this al fresco meal....soon.....
Baked Brie
3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup chopped almonds
8 ounces brie cheese
3 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 frozen puff pastry
1 egg white

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C). Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan.
2. Slice the wheel of Brie in half, horizontally, so that the halves are two, flatter wheels of Brie. Lay the puff pastry in the pie pan. Place half of the Brie (rind-side down) onto the pastry dough. Sprinkle almonds, brown sugar, and fruit preserves evenly over the top. Place the other half of the Brie (rind-side up) over the almonds. Bundle the pastry dough around the Brie.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Turkey Burgers

This is a really great recipe I got from the Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine. These burgers were so tasty. The blue cheese gives them a nice bite and creaminess to the mixture. We really liked the red pepper sauce too. It would make a nice sandwich spread as an alternative. Plus, I think if you want to add a little zestiness, sprinkle in a little crushed red pepper into the blender. I had purchased the ground turkey because it was on sale and had fresh romaine, which I used instead of the spinach. So on my way home from work last week, I stopped and picked up the blue cheese and rolls. I am keeping this on my list for the summer. These will be nice on the grill and a healthier choice.
Turkey Burgers
Makes 4-5 burgers
1 pound ground turkey
1 (5-oz) container blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tsp. Worcestershite sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, drained
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Fresh spinach leaves
4-5 onion rolls, split and toasted

1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, blue cheese, bread crumbs, Worcestershire, garlic powder, salt and pepper until well combined. Shape meat into 4-5 patties depending on the desired size.

2. In a large non-stick skillet, add patties and cook over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

3. In the work bowl of a food processor or blender, combine red peppers and mayonnaise; pulse until smooth. Set aside.

4. Layer the burgers and spinach on bottom halves of buns. Spread red pepper mixture evenly over the flat side of the top halves of buns. Cover burgers with bun tops. Serve immediately.

From Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Excellent Caramel Crunch for Passover

I have made this recipe for the past few years for my Jewish friends. We have been invited to many Seders and I always want to bring something. By luck, I found this on the Internet and it is easy and good. Package it up with some pretty cellophane and ribbons and it makes a nice hostess gift. Enjoy.

An outstanding, unique, and easy confection. If you make only one thing at Passover, make this.
4-6 unsalted matzohs
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil.
Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.
Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.
In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).
Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.
This makes a good gift.
Variation:You can also use coarsely chopped white chocolate (or a combination of white and dark), and chopped or slivered toasted almonds (sprinkled on top as the chocolate sets). You can also omit the chocolate for a caramel-alone buttercrunch.
A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking1998by Marcy GoldmanDoubleday © CondéNet, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Not Your Grandmother's Fig Newton

It seems that at holiday times, we have some foods that are comfort for us. Figs, Dates and Chestnuts (especially chestnuts at Thanksgiving and Christmas), evoke memories of holidays past and those no longer with us. We think of who liked what foods, funny stories that might have been told, funny incidents that may have happened...and these get told over and over at each special holiday. This Easter, I am going to set out some figs to snack on before dinner. Have you ever tasted a fresh fig? Juicy, sweet and delicious are the three words that come to my mind when I think of biting into one. I usually set out some died figs after dinner as a dessert alternative at holiday time. Figs are good for you because they are a good source of potassium that helps control blood pressure, are a good source of dietary fiber, are a good source of calcium and have been shown to help lower triglycerides.

But these will not be just plain dried figs this year. I found this recipe on the Food Network website and is Nigella's. The blending of the flavors sounds wonderful....the sweet figs, the creamy goat cheese and the salty prosciutto. I am ready to take a bit into one of these! I have also made a similar snacker with dates. If you use the Medjool dates, they are very sweet and combine well with the goat cheese. Those are served slightly warmed and are so good! And in keeping with the fig theme, make some fig-swirl cookies. These came off of the website. You will never want a packaged fig newton when you taste these. The nice part is that you can make these ahead and bake them when ready. They slice more easily when they are very cold so I usually make them a day ahead of baking. Also, be sure your knife is very sharp. There you are...three nice ideas for fruits that are sweet AND healthy.
Prosciutto Bundles
Nigella Lawson
14 ounces (400 grams) sliced prosciutto

7 ounces (200 grams) ready-to-eat dried figs

5 1/4 ounces (150 grams) mild soft goat cheese

Cut each slice of prosciutto into 2 to 3 strips. Slice each fig in half, and spread a teaspoon of goat cheese onto the cut half of each of the figs.
Place the piece of fig cheese side down onto the center of a strip of prosciutto ham. Then roll the fig up in the prosciutto to make it into a parcel.
Place the fig parcels onto a clean plate and serve.


Stuffed Dates

Large dates- pit removed- cut in half like you would an Italian hero roll
Fill with goat cheese (may have been mixed with a little cream cheese to "soften the taste"
Top with browned in butter, plain bread crumbs
Put in oven @ 350- just to warm.


Fig Swirl Cookies

The intricate swirls are attained with a specific kitchen skill: slice and bake. You'll get a little sweet pastry and a little fig filling in every bite.
Yield: Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Active Time: 1 hr Total Time: 7 1/4 hr (includes chilling)

For pastry dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 1 stick
(1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For filling 1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
3/4 cup mild honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make pastry dough:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Pulse butter, cream cheese, yolk, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth, then add flour mixture and pulse until dough just forms a ball.
Halve dough and form each half into a roughly 6- by 2-inch rectangle. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.
Make filling:
Purée figs, honey, juice, zest, and cinnamon in cleaned food processor until almost smooth.

Make logs:
Roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle (about 1/3 inch thick), long side facing you.

Remove top sheet of wax paper and gently spread one fourth of fig mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border.
Using wax paper as an aid, roll dough, jelly-roll style, halfway, enclosing fig mixture.

Flip dough, with wax paper. Remove paper.
Spread with one third of remaining fig mixture and roll in same manner, to form an S-shaped log. Make another log. Chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours.
Bake cookies:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on lightly buttered baking sheets. Bake until pastry is pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.
Cooks' notes: · Unbaked logs can be chilled up to 3 days. · Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pear Cake for Breakfast

This is a very dense cake that works well for breakfast or snacking. I have been on a pear kick for the past few weeks and decided to make this again. I found this recipe on line several months ago...have no idea how it got it's name, but we loved it. I took the author's suggestion and added cardamom to the batter. It was fragrant and gave the cake a beautiful flavor. I also made sure that the pears were very ripe. I think apples , tossed with some cinnamon and sugar, would work very well in this cake. So maybe you need an Easter breakfast treat! Serve it warm as an alternative to toast or bagels. It is so good.
The photo and recipe are copied right from the author's site.
New Year’s Pear Cake
Adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

A quick note: In the spirit of “breaking the rules,” feel free to break the ones given here! Throw in some cinnamon or cloves, or even some cardamom, which goes wonderfully with pears. You can also, as Alford and Duguid suggest, substitute apples or plums for the pears, in which case you should toss them with some sugar first. Just make sure the fruit is ripe and flavorful; the dense cake almost seems to be there just to hold the fruit together.

About 1-1.5 lbs pears (enough for 2 cups chopped)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for greasing the pan)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (or more “as necessary”)
For glaze:
2 tablespoons flavorful honey, such as wildflower (you can substitute clover)
1 tablespoon hot water

Adjust your oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Place a baking stone or baking sheet on the rack and preheat the oven to 350F.
Brush an 8″x8″ square pan with some melted butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, using a long enough piece so that it comes up and over two of the sides. Butter the paper.
Peel, core and chop the pears into 1/2-inch chunks. Place them in a bowl and set aside (you can squirt with a touch of lemon juice if you want; I didn’t).
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the eggs, butter and vanilla and beat until you have a stiff batter (I used an electric mixer for this, which made this easier, but you could do it by hand).
Fold in the pears, then add the milk and mix until the batter is completely moistened. Add more milk, if necessary.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with a little sugar, then place in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove the pan from the oven and, using the parchment paper, lift the cake onto a rack to cool. Mix the honey with the hot water and brush the top of the cake with the honey glaze. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the glaze to set.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Monday, April 6, 2009

McCormick's Color Creator

Have you seen what you can do to really kick up your egg coloring this year?

McCormick's Color Creator is where you should go to create colors that will impress everyone.

Do you want Dusty Rose, Teal, Deep Purple? Just select what you want to color...icing, eggs or cake batter. Magically you will find out how many
drops of food coloring you need to create your special colors. This is just so cool! And these will look so upscale.
I am going to be busy this week preparing my Easter dinner. We have an Italian/Polish household so we try to incorporate traditions from each into our holiday dinners. Colored eggs are traditional in both. The Italians bake a sweet bread that is braided with colored eggs. A Polish tradition is to crack a hard-boiled colored egg and share it at the dinner table for good luck.
So this year, I hope to make some really neat colors for our holiday dinner. I think it will be fun and very pretty as we celebrate this beautiful season and welcome spring.

Friday, April 3, 2009


This recipe comes straight out of the South Beach Diet Cookbook. They sound decadent and they taste decadent! When you are trying to watch carb intake, these are a great way to get a lot of protein to get you through the morning. I use turkey sausage all the time and have gotten so that I prefer it to regular. When I use it, I find that there is not the heavy feeling after eating it that you get from regular sausage. (My apologies to the pork industry.)
While the recipe calls to make 6 large "muffins", I have made these in a mini muffin pan and frozen them. When I need a quick "on the go" breakfast, I pop a couple of these babies out and nuke them a bit in the microwave. Also, if you like a little spice in your breakfast, add some crushed red pepper into the mix...woohoo! That will get your morning started! For more color, use sweet red peppers rather than green.
The mini version also works well on a brunch buffet or is a great item to take to tailgate party when you start early in the morning.
Sausage and Cheese Breakfast Cups - South Beach Diet Recipe
From the South Beach Diet Cookbook. Easy take along breakfast idea.
35 min 15 min prep
4 ounces turkey sausage or crumbled turkey bacon

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
5 large eggs or 1 1/4 cups Egg Beaters egg substitute
1 (12 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained (TO MAKE MINI MUFFINS, USE CHOPPED MUSHROOMS)
1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (2 oz.)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Coat a 6 cup non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.
3. In a medium non-stick skillet, cook the sausage, peppers, and onions for 5 minutes, or until sausage is no longer pink.
4. Spoon mixture and cool slightly.
5. Stir in eggs and mushrooms.
6. Evenly divide mixture into 6 muffin cups; Sprinkle with cheese.
7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until egg is set.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Time for Tea and Scones

The husband is a BIG fan of scones. When I make them, whether they are savory or sweet, he is dashing into the kitchen to see when they will be done. We've had scones with currants, raisins, chives, rosemary, you name it. Depending on what I need them for is how I alter the recipe. They are good for breakfast , afternoon tea or a snack in the evening.

A little about scones..... This Scottish QUICK BREAD is said to have taken its name from the Stone of Destiny (or Scone), the place where Scottish kings were once crowned. The original triangular-shaped scone was made with oats and griddle-baked. Today's versions are more often flour-based and baked in the oven. They come in various shapes including triangles, rounds, squares and diamonds. This information came from a site called The Kitchen Project and you can find many different varieties of scone recipes here. Another interesting site that talks about scones is Now that, I am sure, is all you ever wanted to know...about scones that is! I personally love to know the origins of food but well, some aren't as interested unless they are fanatical foodies too!

SO,as I was leafing through my new issue of Bon Apetit (May 09), I came across a very healthy scone recipe that I think we are going to love....and which led me to write about our love affair with scones. It has wheat germ and dried berries/cherries mixture in it and lots of healthy spices. There have been many articles that I have read regarding the healthy aspects of using cardamom, ginger, cinnamon....all those nice fragrant spices. And the people of India and the Middle East have used these forever. They stand by the healthful properties of the spices. So I can't wait to try these scones. I bet they will smell awesome in the oven and I will check back to let you know how they came out!
1/2 cup chilled buttermilk plus additional for brushing
3/4 cup dried berries and cherries mixture, large pieces coarsely chopped
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups self rising flour
1/3 cup honey crunch wheat germ
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
1 tsp. ground cardamom
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1/2 cup chopped almonds
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix 1/2 cup buttermilk, dried fruit and vanilla in medium bowl. Whisk self-rising flour, wheat germ, 1/3 cup brown sugar, cardamom and ginger in large bowl.Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in almonds, then buttermilk mixture. Mix until dough comes together in moist clumps. Gather dough together. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface; flatten to 8-inch round. Using large knife, cut round into 8 wedges. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with additional brown sugar. Bake scones until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.