Saturday, October 8, 2011

They popped their tops....

Thanks to a sweet relative I became the recipient of these fantastic new popover trays.  So, of course, the first order of business was to fill them and try them out.  But....not to try just any "ole" recipe, I went searching for a special recipe.  Last Christmas Rick and I went on our annual San Francisco trip and we ate at Tyler Florence's Wayfarer Tavern.  Well, their bread of choice is fresh popovers!  They were so delicious that I knew I had to try them first.  Eureka!  I found the recipe on another blogger's site.  Thank you for sharing.

Now, the preparation experience was quite a funny site.  The recipe is for 12 popovers which was what I had the pans for; however, the recipe must be prepared in a commercial blender because there is no home blender that can accommodate 6 eggs, 3 1/2 cups of milk and 4 cups of flour!!!  But, be not dismayed, we did prevail and the end result was 'over the top'!

Popovers will definately become a household choice for many menus from savory to sweet to buttery plain. 

Along with popovers, it's time to crank up the fire and let the soups and stews begin.  The first stew of the season which I made this week was Giada's Butternut Squash and Beef Stew.  (This recipe can be found at the foodnetwork site)  This was very tasty and a little change from the typical beef, potato and carrot type stew.  This was done totally on the stove and was rather quick to prepare.  An easy trick in cutting the butternut squash is to use a vegetable peeler and remove the skin, then just cut it in chunk, remove the seeds and it is ready for the pot.  I even used tapioca flour to dust the meat with and if you are gluten intolerant then be sure to use tapioca flour as it is gluten free.

In our attempt to prepare a quick and easy dinner and low calorie to go with our popovers, we choose to whip up some Basque soup.  So good, easy and quick.  Depending on how many you want to serve, you will need to multiply the ingredients, but all you need is chicken broth, cabbage, leeks, carrots, garlic, tomato sauce and beans to add at the end.  Some people like to also serve a salsa of their choice.

Enjoy the beginning of the fall season.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bye-Bye-Summer Fruit

Fruit is one of my favorite food items in the whole wide world.  Summertime is always so welcome for the great fruit, (I know you are thinking, summertime makes you think of hot, hot, hot)!  But, there is so much wonderful delicious dishes to make and feel cool with fresh fruit.  One of my last culinery food dishes this season was a fabulous nectarine tart.

This is really "as good as it looks" and not sugary sweet, the natural sweetness of the nectarines come shining through.  A lovely simple crust and a thin cream center topping the fruit with a low-sugar jam keeps your diabetic counter in check.

Nice, sweet, ripe fruit is key to the best flavor.  Keep this in mind for next season.  Buy your fruit at its peak when the grocery store puts it on sale.  They do that because there is usually an abundance as the fruit is ripening quickly and they need to move it and not keep it in cold storage, (especially the deciduous fruit---which are peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums).  Or, if you happen to have a tree with fruit, there are untold ways to use it and keep it either by freezing or canning; then you'll have great fruit through the fall and maybe winter.

For this tart, I tried to imagine what cookie flavors would work with the nectarines.  Ginger of course would be a natural and vanilla works with most everything.  So, not to overpower the fruit, I chose to mix part ginger cookies and part vanilla cookies.  I went to one of my favorite stores, (Trader Joe's) and picked up a container of Madagascar vanilla cookies and a tub of those wonderful chewy three ginger cookies.  Now if you are having a bad day, this is a good recipe.  If you are having a good day, this is a great recipe.  If it's a bad day, use a hammer or as I had to, the handle of a flashlight!  (I was at our cabin and didn't have a food processor or a blender).  Put the cookies in a bag and "bang" away and crumble up the cookies.  The result will tell if you had a good day or bad depending on how fine your crumbs become!!!  Mix in about 1/4 cup of melted butter to the cookie crumbs and voila, your crust is ready for the tart pan.  The 9" removable tart pan is perfect but you can use whatever you have in that approximate size.  You will then put the crust into the oven while you prepare the cream center.  The cream center will consist of three smooth dairy items, mascarpone cheese, sour cream and cream cheese.  Here again, you can choose your "poison" and use whatever your palate says to you.  I used "light" on the sour cream and cream cheese with no deletion of flavor.  The crust needs to be completely cooled before you pour in the cream mixture.  The creams also need to be at room temperature when you mix them together.

Once the cream filling is spread over the cooled crust, then thiny slice your nectarines, (you, of course could use peaches, skinned or not, which ever you prefer) and arrange in a circular position.  Use your favorite peach or apricot jelly, or jam and warm it in the microwave so it is a little runny and pour it over the top of the fruit.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Devour!
Until next season, I say farewell to the sweet nectarine.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brazilian Cheese Bread


My last blog on Valentine's dinner should have also included these lovely little puffs of goodness.  We also had included these with our dinner.  They were such a big hit that we just can't resist making them as often as possible.

It all began when Rick and I were on a business trip to Texas.  While in Houston we went to a Brazilian restaurant which served these little chewy cheesy popovers.  I was so intrigued with the texture so I had to ask what they were called.  The nice waiter explained to me what they were and what was in them and that I could find the recipe on the web.  So, the search was on!  I found several recipes and then came upon one that seemed the most like what we had enjoyed.  I shared them with our Friday night culinary buddies and we made them for dinner.  We both (secretly) made them again the following week; they were so good.

Since, they have become a staple for bread for soup, salad, a fancy meal or even breakfast.  The secret ingredient is tapioca flour and you can actually use any kind of cheese you'd like.  We also determined that you could make up a batch in the regular muffin tin instead of the mini tins and then stuff them with either a savory or a sweet  filling for a luncheon or a fancy dessert.  These wonderful little morsels are also gluten free as they are made with tapioca flour.

If you are interested in the recipe, let me know.  It is five ingredients and you put it all in a blender, mix it up and pour it into the muffin pans, bake them and then eat them all up!

Fun Times

February and March have been filled with fun times, great friends and fantastic food.  The first big event was our annual Valentine's dinner shared with our good friends each year.  We prepare a fun and fabulous meal for our sweeties.  This year was extra memorable since the power went out after we had eaten dinner.  So, our dessert was consumed by candlelight.  How fun is that?

The beginning of March we celebrated our good friend's 65th birthday in Lake Arrowhead.  What a beautiful and relaxing time that was.  A special birthday meal was prepared for him (and we all joined him in filling our stomachs).

An Irish meal came next giving us an excuse to serve corned beef and cabbage alongside homemade Irish soda bread ending with a phenomenal spiced gingerbread topped with Guiness dark carmel sauce and a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Our Valentine dinner consisted of bacon wrapped filet, hasselback potatoes, grilled tomatos stuffed with broccolini, fresh fruit salad with grated whole cinnamon and grated whole nutmeg.  A special spicy shrimp cocktail was the opening dish.

First we had to set a pretty table for the special meal...... to start the food prep...

Berries had to be marinated for the special dessert

Spicy shrimp cocktails chilling out

Stuffed tomatoes

topped with bleu cheese

Hasselback potatoes

Fresh fruit salad with cinnamon and nutmeg

The star of the evening---bacon wrapped filet


Another fantastic Valentine dinner
enjoyed by all.

Next event.....coming up

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Going Green....

....or orange or whatever color you like.

So, I was reading a health magazine last weekend while relaxing at Lake Arrowhead with friends.  I found a smoothie recipe that was green using spinach, fruit and a touch of yogurt.  It sorta intrigued me and I thought I am going to try that when I get home.  After work I picked up some spinach and fresh pineapple, green grapes and headed for the house.  I, of course, had to change up the recipe a little.  When I opened my refrigerator I remembered that I had a big box of fresh basil sitting there.  Hmmm, now basil is a part of the mint family, so why not?  I love basil and I've used it in fruit salad in the past, so in a smoothie in place of the spinach this time, go for it.  I also added some strawberries I had and fresh squeezed orange juice, banana and some ice cubes.

Oh delish!  The basil was a fantastic added flavor.  I will make this again and use basil.  I will also be making the spinach version soon as well.  Just think of all the vitamins and minerals that smoothie will have.

Now you could call that your St. Patrick's smoothie.


You could throw together some other fruit and just have a fresh homemade fruit smoothie so the fruit in the refrigerator doesn't begin to grow anything green on it!

Tonight a cold fruit smoothie just sounded good and refreshing as a dessert.  I simply threw a mango, banana, strawberries, grapes, fresh squeezed orange juice and some ice cubes into the blender and hit the button. 
Sooooooo yummy!

This is the orange fruite smoothie!  Such original names, huh?


Coming soon.....special events menus.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meatless Protein

Sometimes you just don't feel like cooking or eating meat so you look to other foods that will give you the protein that you need.  Beans and grains are good sources for that.  I love beans in almost every form.  Also, a great little grain that cooks so quickly and simply is a complete protein.  It contains fiber, calcium, iron and amino acids.  Now what more could you ask?  You can cook this and serve it in so many different ways and not even mess up your stove!

So, the other night, I decided to cook up a couple cups of red quinoa and you know it puffed up and made quite a bit....more than two people could eat in one meal or even two.  I took the leftover and put it in the refrigerator.  The next night I just wanted a nice crisp salad but also wanted to use the quinoa because I really like the taste and consistency of the quinoa and it had a nice color.

Here's what I did...

I started with 1 can of black beans, to it I added 2 cups frozen corn, (still frozen); to that I added 1/2 cup of finely diced red onion.  I stirred this up.  Then I cut up an avocado into little chunks and added that to the veggie mixture.  I added a small amount---maybe a 1/4 cup of homemade dressing that I had in the refrigerator.  I folded this together very carefully so as not to mash the avocado.

Now, I took the qunioa and tossed it with a small amount of olive oil, zest of one lime and a dash of salt and pepper.  At this point you can add some chopped cilantro or parsley whichever you like the best.  You can also add small grape or cherry tomatoes or any other veggies you enjoy to add some crunch or color.

The final product ended up with a nice bed of spring greens as the foundation of the dish, adding a half cup of red quinoa next and topping off the dish with the bean and veggie mixture. 

This was such a beautiful and colorful fresh salad loaded with protein from the beans and the quinoa with no fat!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Feeling Nostalgic!

 Challenge should be my middle name.  I love a challenge no matter what it is.  My Bible Study group challenges me as I am always trying to be the devil's advocate and anticipate questions that some might have.  I love challenges at work....between environmental and communications.....that is an endless challenge to keep up with changes and the current regs or products.  Then comes my cooking....I challenge myself all the time to find special recipes for friends and their dietary needs; challenges to change great tasting recipes that contain items that I can't eat or my hubby doesn't do well with.  Also, I love to challenge myself to use leftovers from one meal to make another great meal....not just warm up the same meal.  Many times certain dishes actually taste better the next day because the flavors have had a chance to really marry.  So, don't get me wrong, I LOVE leftovers especially when I can take them for lunch and have a great tasting and great looking meal that the whole office can smell as I heat it up! 

But, tonight I made a meal using a leg of lamb which I had cut off pieces to make a lamb shish-ka-bob meal a while ago.  Once I cut off the pieces I needed, I carefully packaged the remainder which included the bone and froze it, labeled it and planned to use to for a roasted leg of lamb dinner.  Well, that dinner was tonight.  It's a long slow roast, so today was a perfect day for me to do this. 

Preparing the meat for roasting couldn't be simpler.  First, I thawed the meat, dried it with a paper towel (this is something I always do with meat, it helps to give a much better sear rather than a steam) and then rubbed it with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Prior to prepping the lamb, I weighed it so I would know which pot to use.  I heated up my wonderful orange-red LeCreuset pot, (I love those pots, they not only cook great, but they clean like a dream).  Once the pot was hot enough I put the lamb in the pot and seared it well on all sides.

The smell of searing meat wafting through the house is so inviting.  Once the sear was complete, I removed the meat and added white wine (leftover from a chicken recipe) and some water.  I stirred and scraped the pot for all the goodies on the bottom of the pan.  While this was steaming I went outside to my herb garden and snipped fresh rosemary and thyme.  I cut a whole garlic in half skin and all, placed all the herbs along with some bay leaves in the bottom of the pot, replaced the leg of lamb on top of all the herbs and placed the lid on the top.  It was time to go into the pre-heated oven.  Two and a half hours later it was ready.  The lamb was then placed on a plate to rest while I strained the liquid to heat and reduce for an au jus.

While the meat cooked, I just had a hankering for thousand island dressing on my salad and also wanted to cook carrots.  So, I decided that this was becoming a nostalgic family meal.  The lamb is one of my mom's favorites, the thousand island dressing I made from scratch which is how my auntie always made it and the carrots were prepared with butter and cinnamon which my cousin and I call "granny's carrots".  It seemed like I was going down memory lane.  Boy, is that dressing good....I love the tartness that I add with red wine vinegar. 

I can taste this just by looking at it!
Auntie's thousand island dressing...

"Granny's carrots"

With this one piece of lamb I was able to prepare two simple meals and also incorporate leftover wine from another dish.  A couple weeks ago I made a whole roasted chicken and then have made four different variations using some of the leftovers; in fact I have another part of that meal as a leftover which I can use for a fifth meal!  This is so much fun.  Less food goes down the drain or in the garbage can while trying to create something different from something already cooked.

Nostalgia makes me think of not wasting anything and eating everything on your plate!