Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Penne Pasta with Fresh and Sun-dried Tomatoes




You can make this sauce in literally as little time as it takes to boil pasta. Toss it all together and dinner's ready! It's fresh, uncomplicated and flavorful.

2 tbs. olive oil
4 plum tomatoes
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
10 leaves fresh basil or 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Bring a large pasta pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute diced onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add sun-dried and diced plum tomatoes. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add cheese and basil or parsley.
Drain pasta (don't rinse!!) and add to the skillet with sauce. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce. Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.

Tips:
If the sauce is too thick, add a little splash of the pasta cooking water.
You can peel and seed the tomatoes or you can just dice them and add them as is. It all depends on what you like.
Feel free to add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little zing!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Joey's Favorite Marinara Sauce



I was recently watching Lidia Bastianich's TV show, Lidia's Italy, and she made three completely different dishes, all using the same marinara sauce. How cool is that? All it took was the addition of a few minor ingredients and each dish was off and running in a different direction. I LOVE that!
This is a wonderful sauce that can be used as a starting point for any number of dishes. I'm sure there are a million different versions of this. Here's mine. I've taken a classic recipe and adjusted it so that it's a little bit thicker and sweeter than traditional marinara sauce. Feel free to adjust it to your own personal tastes.
Enjoy!


2 or 3 tbs olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 large cans peeled whole tomatoes
10 or 12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbs sugar
salt and pepper


In a large saucepan, saute garlic and onions until softened but not browned. Meanwhile, pour canned tomatoes into a large bowl. Using your impeccably clean hands, squish the tomatoes to a chunky consistency. Pour the tomatoes into the saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Give it a good stir, and simmer for about 10 minutes. That's all there is to it!

Tip:
If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water to thin it down a bit.
Be careful not to brown the garlic because it will become bitter.
For an added layer of flavor, add a few glugs of wine and then let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mom's Chicken Cutlets




I always think of Mom whenever I make this. When planning dinner, she always told me, "you have to have all the parts", meaning there's the main protein, the starch, and the veggie side dishes. This is great to serve with some roasted vegetables and your favorite potatoes. Whenever I make it for friends, they say "Wow, a real home cooked dinner!" What a concept, right?


boneless chicken breasts
2 eggs, beaten
bread crumbs
melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice each chicken breast horizontally so that you have twice as many pieces that are half as thick. Dip each chicken breast first into egg, then into bread crumbs. Place breaded chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Drizzle each one with a tablespoon of melted butter. Place tray in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until done.

Tip:
Mom always lined the baking tray with aluminium foil, so of course, that's what I do too. It makes cleanup up a lot faster.
If you like a thicker breading, you can dredge each piece of chicken in flour before dipping in egg and then bread crumbs.
To keep from breading your fingers, keep one hand wet and one hand dry. In other words, dredge the chicken in flour with your left hand and put it into the egg. Then use your right hand to dip it until it's coated with egg and drop it into the bread crumbs. Then use your left hand again to coat it with bread crumbs. Get it? One hand stays wet, the other stays dry. You won't bread your fingers when you bread the chicken.

Roasted Asparagus



This is, by far, my favorite way to enjoy asparagus. Yes, you can steam or boil or microwave, but none of those cooking methods gives you the concentrated smokiness of roasting. You can use this method with just about any vegetable. Try it!

fresh asparagus spears
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Yes, really, 500 degrees! That's not a typo!

Break off the woody end of the asparagus and arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place baking tray in oven for 10-12 minutes. That's all there is to it!

Tip:
It's SO tasty just as it is, but if you want, you can add a little squeeze of lemon just after you finish roasting. For a little kick, sprinkle with a little Montreal Steak Seasoning before roasting in the oven.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Swiss Vegetable Medley




So, my Jeanie and Roz called me to ask me if I could remember a recipe that Mom used to make all the time, like a million years ago.
"Do you remember it? It was like a casserole with vegetables, and it had French fried onion rings in it, or something like that."
I immediately knew what recipe she meant.
"Not only do I know what recipe it is, but I know the actual name of the recipe, where Mom got it, and I even remember how to make it (since I just made it recently!) It was called Swiss Vegetable Medley. Mom clipped the recipe out of the newspaper because she thought it looked good."
When I told Jeanie this, she was amazed!
"How do you remember that?? It was a million years ago! You were probably, like, 10 years old when she used to make it!"
Well, even then, I was watching and learning everything that my Mother cooked. I used to come home from school and sit and watch and ask questions.
So, here it is. It's very similar to my Chicken DiQuaile but just slightly different.
Last year, before Jason and Jimmy got married, I made it when I catered their engagement party, but I added chicken to it (because I wanted it to be an entree instead of a side dish). It was a big hit!
I've seen versions of it that have chopped pimento, or water chestnuts, but I didn't include them. I'm sure it's delicious any way you make it!


1 (16 oz.) bag frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1/3 c. sour cream
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 (2.8 oz.) can French fried onions

Thaw and drain vegetables. Mix vegetables, soup, 1/2 amount of the Swiss cheese, sour cream, black pepper and 1/2 amount of the French fried onions. Put into casserole dish. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with remainder of the Swiss cheese and French fired onions. Bake 5 minutes more.

Tip:
When I made this, I used fresh vegetables instead of frozen. Also, I like to mix it up instead of always using the same vegetables. I like to see what looks good at the produce section of the grocery store and then decide which veggies to use.
If you'd like to add chicken to it, like I did for Jason and Jimmy's engagement party, just cut some boneless chicken into bite sized pieces and saute them in a skillet until they're almost but not completely cooked. Stir them up with your vegetables and bake as usual. YUM!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tyler's Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze




When my blogtastic friend, Michael Paul, asked me to make scones, I immediately said SURE! Again, as I often do, I said this without ever having made them. But as I always say "How hard can it be?" So I started to research. Who would've guessed that there would be so many opinions about scones? Apparently many people have differing ideas on what makes a good scone. Some complain about scones being too dry, hence the need for jam or clotted cream. Some hope for something a little more sweet and moist like a pastry, as opposed to something resembling more of a biscuit. British scones, American scones, Irish scones, and on and on and on. Where does one begin??
Then I remembered seeing Ina Garten make scones on her show, The Barefoot Contessa. I'm a HUGE fan of the show, and frankly, in my humble opinion, she's brilliant. I've learned SO much about cooking, just by watching her. I figured, well, if anyone knows how to make a good scone, Ina Garten does. So, I tried her recipe for Cranberry Orange Scones.
They looked beautiful, they had wonderful flavor, but it was all about the texture. They were a little bit dry for my taste. Nothing against Miss Ina, of course. Some would say that classic scones are supposed to be on the dry side. I guess I'm just one of the ones who likes his scones on the pastry side of things rather than the biscuit side of things.
So, then I tried Tyler Florence's Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze. THIS was the scone recipe that I wanted. They're light, they're moist, they're flavorful, they're not dry, and I wanted to eat more than one. Well, OK fine. I did. I brought some for Trish and her Mother to try and they both loved them (even though they both usually don't like scones). Trish's Mother loved them so much she asked if I could show her how to make them sometime. I said "How about right now?" So, I hopped in the car and went right over to Trish's house to make them. True story!
So, Michael Paul, oh blogmeister, Yes, I'll make scones for you the next time you visit NJ. You'll love 'em!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
1 cup fresh blueberries
Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 1/4 inches. Cut the rectangle in 1/2 then cut the pieces in 1/2 again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in 1/2 on a diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

Technically you should make this simple lemon glaze in a double boiler (i.e. over a pot of simmering water with a heatproof bowl set on top) but it's even simpler to zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and butter. Nuke it for 30 seconds on high. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.



A few ideas from Joey:
I made this recipe twice, and both times I added an extra little splash of heavy cream because the dough wasn't pulling together as well as I wanted.
Even though I liked Tyler's better, there are a few things I liked about Ina's. So I guess my favorite scone would be a cross between the two:
After brushing them with cream as with Tyler's, I sprinkled sugar over them, which gave them a nice sparkly crust just like Ina's. I LOVED the fresh berries from Tyler's and the flavorful orange zest from Ina's. So, I think the next time I make these, they'll be Fresh Blueberry Orange Scones with Orange Glaze. Fabulous!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Biba's Savory Eggplant Polpette



I've always loved watching Biba Caggiano. She made food that you wanted to eat. It was always simple, fresh, and delicious. My Mom and I used to watch her show together all the time. She always liked that Biba would say things like "Use real cream and real butter, but eat just one." In other words, it's better to have just one really good one, rather than several that aren't as good. I love that.
So, of course, I HAD to buy From Biba's Italian Kitchen. I'm not kidding when I tell you that every single recipe I've tried from this cookbook is amazing.
This is the very first recipe I tried. The polpette are simple yet elegant. Try serving them with drinks the next time you entertain friends.

1 medium eggplant, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch rounds.
salt
1 large egg yolk
1 clove garlic, minced
10-12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
or 2 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

Place the eggplant slices on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and let stand one hour. The salt will draw out the bitter eggplant juices. Pat the slices dry with a paper towel.
Bring a medium-size saucepan of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the eggplant slices and cook 3-4 minutes, or until eggplant is tender. Drain and place slices on paper towels to drain and to cool.
Chop The eggplant very fine with a large knife or in a food processor, and place in a medium size bowl. (if you're using a food processor, make sure not to puree the eggplant.)
Add egg yolk and garlic to the eggplant, along with the basil or parsley, the Parmesan and 2-3 tbs of bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together. Cover bowl and refrigerate for about an hour to allow mixture to firm up.
Take about 1 tablespoon of the eggplant mixture between the palms of your hands and roll into a ball. Repeat with the remaining mixture. When all the polpette have been shaped, coat them in bread crumbs. They can be fried immediately, or they can be placed on a platter and refrigerated uncovered, for a few hours.
Heat one inch of oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, lower a few polpette at a time into the oil with with a slotted spoon. Cook until they are lightly golden, about 1-2 minutes. Remove them with the slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain.
Serve hot or at room temperature.


Tip from Joey:
I like to serve them with marinara sauce for dipping. Unbelievably good!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Joey's Favorite Baked Beans



Whenever we have a Quaile Family BBQ, everyone brings a different delicious something. Before you know it, there's enough food to feed an army. We often say that some families plan for weeks for what we put together at a moment's notice. We definitely have it down to a system. The emails start flying, menu suggestions are made, and suddenly we have a list of who's making what. Everyone seems to have his or her own specialty. As much as I love bringing new and fun desserts, I'm always glad when everyone requests my baked beans. What's a BBQ without baked beans, right? This is my own recipe and I hope you like it. I even got Uncle Herb's seal of approval for this one. And remember the Cass Quaile School of Cooking. "If you like a lot of bacon, add a lot of bacon. If you like a lot of onions, add a lot of onions."

1/2 lb. bacon, thick cut
1 onion, diced
2 28 oz cans baked beans
2 tbs yellow mustard
1 cup ketchup
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cut bacon into small bits and then saute in a skillet along with the onions until the bacon is slightly crisp and the onions are soft. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together all other ingredients. Add onions and bacon to bowl and stir. Pour into a casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Tip:
After baking them in the oven, feel free to transfer them to a crock pot to keep them warm at your BBQ. Come to think of it, you could actually just cook them in a crock pot and forget the oven, if that makes your life easier. They'll be delicious no matter how you do it.
By the way, you can usually find liquid smoke in the supermarket aisle where you'd find BBQ sauce.

Melexican Taco Casserole


My fabulous friend, Melissa, asked me if I would teach her how to cook, and of course, I said yes. One night we were bouncing culinary ideas back and forth and we eventually came up with this recipe. It's SO easy and delicious, just like Miss Melissa. You should try it!



2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, diced
tiny bit of butter or oil for saute pan
1 large can Manwich sauce
1 small can Mexicorn
1 packet taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
shredded cheddar cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese
tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large skillet, saute diced onion in butter or oil over medium heat until softened. Add ground beef and break it up using wooden spoon. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, sour cream and half of taco seasoning packet. set aside. When beef is completely browned, drain off the fat. Add the other half of the taco seasoning packet, Mexicorn and Manwich sauce. stir together making sure there are no browned bits on the bottom of the skillet.

Butter a 9x13x2 glass casserole dish on the bottom and up the sides. Crush a few handfuls of tortilla chips and place them in an even layer covering bottom of casserole dish. Cover chips with half of beef mixture, spreading to the sides forming an even layer. Do the same thing with half of the sour cream mixture, then half of the cheddar cheese and then half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat all layers using all remaining ingredients. Place in oven and bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let it stand for about 10 minutes allowing it to set up making it easier to cut into squares as one would do with a lasagna. Serve with additional sour cream, taco sauce and salsa. For added crunch, top with additional crushed tortilla chips.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Garlic Dip




I got this recipe from my friend Brenda, or Brendala, as I like to call her. I'm not sure where she got it, but since she's the one who brought it to me, she's the one who gets the credit. It's for SERIOUS garlic fans! I love it on vegetables, specifically carrots and celery, but it's great on any kind of veggies. Daniel Boone puts it on EVERYTHING. I think someone forgot to tell him that it was not intended to be a sandwich spread. But hey, who am I to argue? I usually make it for him in quadruple batches. Every time I make it, I try to 'out-garlic' him. Maybe SOMEDAY I'll make a batch of it for him and he'll say "ok FINE you got me. That was too much garlic." Frankly, I don't think it's possible.

5 cloves pressed garlic
2 cups mayonnaise
5 tbs. plain bread crumbs
2 tbs. parsely
1/4 cup ground pecans or walnuts

Mix all ingredients together.
Let it sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
Serve with raw veggies.


Tip:
The key to this dip is to make it in advance. I usually make it the night before I'll be serving it, but it's fine after a few hours. As it sits, the bread crumbs and nuts soak up the oil from the mayonnaise and gradually the whole texture changes until it's nice and thick and rich. YUM.
This recipe uses fresh cloves of garlic. It doesn't really work so well with the garlic that comes in a jar. If you don't have a garlic press, you can put the garlic and the mayonnaise into a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process it until smooth. Add more or less garlic depending on your own personal tastes.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cranberry Chicken




Here's another simple throw-together chicken dish. The combination of ingredients seems slightly odd at first, but they're so delicious when you put them together.

boneless chicken breasts
1 16 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
1 8oz bottle Catalina French dressing
1 packet onion soup mix


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Trim chicken of any fat. Slice chicken in half horizontally so that you have twice as many pieces that are half as thick. Arrange chicken pieces in a 9x13x2 baking pan. In a separate bowl, combine cranberry sauce, French dressing and onion soup mix. Whisk together until it's mixed well. Pour over chicken. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until done. Serve over rice.


Tip:
There are several variations of this recipe. You can omit the onion soup mix altogether and just use the dressing and the cranberry sauce. You can use regular French dressing or country French dressing. You can also use Red Russian dressing, either with the onion soup mix or without. Any combination will work and it's all delicious!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Coconut Shrimp

































For the past few years, I've gone on vacation to Provincetown, MA with Nick and Mitch. It's always SO much fun! So many laughs! So many DRINKS! Whew! Not only do I love the afternoon tea dances at the Boat Slip and the dancing every night at the A-House, but I also love the nights when I get to cook dinner for everyone. Last year, Nick asked me if I knew how to make coconut shrimp. To be honest, I thought "Well, I've never made it before, but how hard can it be?" So, I said "SURE! No problem!" (as if I've made it a hundred times.) I looked at several recipes online and found this one from Tyler Florence. It's so simple to make and it's delicious! I included recipes for two different dipping sauces. Try them both!
This is for you, Nick. Now you don't have to wait until Ptown to have your coconut shrimp. (or as Mitch likes to call them, SKRIMPS!)


1 pound jumbo shrimp
1/4 cup corn starch
3 egg whites
coconut
oil for frying

In a small bowl, whisk together corn starch and egg whites until foamy. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving the tail on. In a deep saute pan, add an inch or two of oil. Heat oil to medium heat, not scorching hot. Dip each shrimp into cornstarch/egg mixture, then dredge in coconut. Turn shrimp so that the coconut sticks to all sides. Saute shrimp in oil for about a minute or two, then turn and saute for another minute or two. Remove shrimp from pan and drain on a paper towel. Serve with dipping sauces (recipes below). For each recipe, simply combine all sauce ingredients and serve alongside your cooked shrimp.


Orange Marmalade Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 tbs horseradish
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp salt

Hawaiian Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup cocktail sauce
1/2 cup crushed pineapple


Tips:
For the dipping sauces....You can use pineapple or apricot preserves if you're not a fan of the orange marmalade. And the cocktail sauce is just a mixture of ketchup and horseradish. You can easily make your own instead of buying it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tuna Dip




Here's an easy dip that only takes 5 minutes to throw together. It's perfect if you have unexpected company, or if you're running late for a party with no idea what to bring. Great then!


1 6oz can solid white tuna in water, drained
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise


Put all ingredients in small bowl and mix with a mixer.
That's all there is to it!
Serve with Wheat Thins.

Tip:
This one has to be done with a mixer. It sort of doesn't really work so well if you mix it by hand. The mixer breaks up the tuna and gives it more of a whipped consistency.
You can use any other kind of tuna (packed in oil or chunk light), but I prefer the solid white packed in water.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes



Who doesn't love potatoes? This recipe is absurdly easy to make and goes with just about any dinner menu. While it's in the oven, the fresh rosemary leaves will perfume the entire house and everyone will say "Mmmmm, what's cooking????????" I'm not kidding.

2 lbs. baby red potatoes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
salt
pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse potatoes with cold water and pat dry. Cut the potatoes into halves and place in a large shallow baking pan. Add remaining ingredients and toss until well coated. Bake in oven for one hour or until lightly golden.

Tip:
Using a spatula, give the potatoes a toss about halfway through cooking time just to help them brown evenly and to keep them from sticking to the pan.

Mom's Pound Cake




My Mom always said this was a great recipe because "All you do is throw everything into a bowl and mix it up." It's not too sweet and goes perfectly with a nice cup of coffee. Always hits the spot!

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter
4 eggs
3/4 milk
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Place all ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour batter into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly tapped or an inserted tooth pick comes out clean.

Tip:
As always, I only use pure vanilla extract, especially when vanilla is the key flavor. Another great tip comes from Aunt Marie, my Mom's sister. She always said to double the amount of vanilla whenever you bake a cake because that extra bit of liquid makes the cake extra moist. She's right, ya know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shrimp Maureen




My sister, Maureen, first introduced me to this dish. I don't think she's the Maureen for whom the recipe is named, but I'm sure she doesn't mind that she made it famous.
Serve this if you're cooking for someone you'd like to impress. It's sophisticated and delicious and goes perfectly with candles, soft music and a glass of wine. Party of two? Right this way please...

Sauce:
2 packets Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1 stick butter
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbs. onion, minced
3 tbs. olive oil
2 large pinches fresh rosemary
pinch black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white wine


1 lb. angel hair pasta
1 lb. uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 bunch broccoli florets

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine all sauce ingredients. Bring sauce to a slow boil. Use the boiling water to steam or boil the broccoli until just tender. Set aside. Add angel hair to the pot of water, and at the same time, add shrimp to the pot of sauce. It only takes two minutes for both the pasta and the shrimp to cook. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Add broccoli and shrimp sauce to pasta. Gently toss until everything is coated with sauce. Allow the sauce to soak into the pasta for a few minutes before serving.

Tip:
This sauce recipe has been doubled because I like more sauce with my pasta, especially since the pasta soaks up the sauce as it sits. Like I always say, more is more. If you prefer a little less sauce, then by all means cut the amounts of the sauce ingredients in half.
Be sure to always use a wine that you'd like to drink instead of using "cooking wine". You won't have to worry about whether or not your wine will go well with the dish if you include the same wine as an ingredient. It'll be perfect!

Oh, and one other thing...If you're not a seafood person, you can substitute chicken for the shrimp. Just cut boneless chicken into small pieces. (I would dredge them in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper, but that's completely optional.) Then saute the chicken in a skillet until almost cooked through. Finish the cooking in the sauce, just as you would've done with the shrimp. Simple!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Joey's Fettuccine Carbonara




I recently had dinner at an intimate family-owned Italian restaurant. There was a large group of us, and we enjoyed sampling each others' menu selections. I immediately fell in love with the spaghetti carbonara and decided that I needed to come up with my own version of it. So, I did a little research. Clearly, this is one of those dishes that is open to one's own interpretation. There are SO many variations! Certain ingredients were common to most of the recipes that I found, so I incorporated many of them into my own. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Not only is it simple and flavorful, but it's also rich and decadent. It's perfect for a special occasion! Enjoy!

1 lb. fettuccine
4 oz pancetta or bacon, cut up
1 small onion, diced
splash of white wine
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy skillet, saute onion and pancetta until the onions are soft and the pancetta is slightly crispy. Drain any fat. Remove skillet from heat, add a splash of white wine and give it a good stir. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook until al dente. While the pasta is boiling, beat the eggs and heavy cream in a large serving bowl. When the pasta is done, quickly add it to the bowl, along with the bacon, onions, cheese, parsley and black pepper. Toss everything together. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs. Top with a little more cheese and some freshly chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Tip:
Since you want the pasta to cook the eggs, you can help that process by starting with eggs and milk that are room temperature. You can also use an oven proof pasta bowl and put it into the oven at the lowest setting while you're cooking the other ingredients, and then remove it just before you toss everything together. Don't be nervous about adding raw eggs to the pasta. They really do cook from the heat of pasta. Have I ever lied to you before? If you're still not sold on the idea, you can use an egg substitute. If the sauce is too thick, thin it down with a little of the pasta cooking water or a splash of milk.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tandy Takes







Those in the Philadelphia region know what Tandy Takes are. They're sold by The Tasty Baking Company and we all grew up loving them. Actually, they're now called Kandy Kakes. I guess people just didn't get the concept that a small child who is just learning to grasp the English language might have called them "Tandy Takes". Here's a home made version of them. You might even like these better than the original because you can adjust the cake/topping ratio to suit your own personal tastes. Isn't it fun to be a kid again?

Cake:
4 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbs. melted butter
pinch salt

Topping:
8 oz giant Hershey bar (or a bag of Hershey's milk chocolate chips)
1 tbs shortening
1 small jar peanut butter


Mix together all cake ingredients until smooth. Grease a 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" x 1" jelly roll pan. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely. Spread with a layer of peanut butter then place in fridge to chill. Melt the chocolate and shortening in the microwave and stir until smooth. Carefully pour melted chocolate over the layer of peanut butter and spread evenly to edges. Place in the fridge again and chill until chocolate is firm. Cut into squares.

Tip:
If you warm your jar of peanut butter in the microwave and then give it a good stir, you'll be able to spread much more easily. It doesn't matter if you use creamy, crunchy, honey roasted, etc. Use whichever peanut butter is your favorite.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hershey's Filled Rich Chocolate Cupcakes




In my opinion, there's just no better chocolate than Hershey's. I've tried several of their recipes and every single one of them is a showstopper. Usually, I would try a new recipe and then put my own personal twist on it. But when it comes to Hershey's recipes, you just can't. Basically, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
This is one of my all time favorites and as soon as you try it, you'll understand why.

cupcake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Directions:
1. Prepare FILLING (recipe follows). set aside. Heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups.

2. Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 3 minutes. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Spoon 1 level tablespoon FILLING into center of each cupcake.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake portion comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. About 2-1/2 dozen cupcakes.


FILLING:
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY'S
Mini Chips Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt in small bowl until smooth and creamy. Stir in chocolate chips.


VARIATIONS from Hershey:
GOBLIN'S DELIGHT FILLING: Add 2 teaspoons grated orange peel, 4 drops yellow food color and 3 drops red food color to FILLING before stirring in chips.

VALENTINE FILLING: Stir 4 to 5 drops red food color into FILLING.

PEANUT BUTTER CHIP FILLING: Omit chocolate; stir in 1 cup REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips.


Tip from Joey:
I prefer to have the filling in the center of the cupcake as opposed to sitting on top. So, before baking them, I always push the filling down into the cupcake so that it's submerged under the cupcake batter. This allows for the cupcake batter to bake over the filling.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Isabel's Italian Apricot Chicken



One of my dearest friends in the whole wide world is my friend, Janet. She was in my very first show at the Ritz Theatre so many years ago. I think we were considered "the kids" back then, weren't we, Jan? Aaaanyway, since then we've shared many a scene together and 10,000 more laughs. I love her dearly and I'm thrilled that she shared her mother's super easy recipe with me.
Thanx Ja-nette!

boneless chicken breasts
1 regular size bottle Italian dressing
1 small jar apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350.
Place chicken in a 9x13x2 baking dish. Stir together the jam and the dressing, and pour it over the chicken. Bake it, uncovered, 30 minutes or until done. Adjust the cooking time depending on the thickness of the chicken breast. Serve over rice.

Tip:
I like to cut chicken breasts in half horizontally, or "flatways" so that each piece of chicken becomes 2 pieces that are half as thick. It'll take less time to cook and it doubles the amount of portions.

Coconut Lime Squares




This is a little gem of a recipe that I found not too long ago. Of course, I had to change it to suit my own personal tastes and now it's quickly becoming a favorite among friends. After much consideration, Dana decided that this was her favorite Joey treat. So, this one's for YOU, Dana!


2 cups flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup butter, melted
4 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbs grated lime zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, powdered sugar,
pecans and 1/2 cup of the coconut. Stir in butter or margarine. Firmly press mixture into a greased 9x13x2-inch baking pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat eggs slightly. Stir in granulated sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and baking powder. Stir in remaining coconut. Sprinkle white chocolate chips evenly over crust. Carefully pour coconut mixture over chips and crust. Bake about 20 minutes or until edges are light brown and center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack or chill before dusting with powdered sugar and then cutting into squares.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jeanie's Feed a Crowd Pancakes




Every year, my family has an Easter brunch. This year, my sister, Jeanie, made a pancake casserole. As with everything My Jeanie makes, it was amazing. No, wait, it wasn't amazing. It was out of this world! Since then, many people have asked her for the recipe. So, ladies and gentleman, for the first time on any stage, in her own words, I give you Jeanie's Feed a Crowd Pancakes!

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup (I actually used the real thing)

2 cups flour
2 tbs, sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 tbs. melted butter
2 cups buttermilk
fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 350. Combine brown sugar, butter and syrup (you could heat first but I didn't) and pour into 13 x 9 pan. Beat remaining ingredients until blended.

Pour over syrup mixture.

Sprinkle blueberries over batter. (They will sink to bottom anyway, but I put them on top.) Bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes or until top springs back when touched in center. Cut into squares.


Tips:
Jeanie: Remember, my measurements are merely "guidelines." You can take it from there. Enjoy!

Joey: In my opinion, you can never have too many blueberries, so I added some on the bottom, and then threw some more on the top too!!! I was also VERY generous with the syrup and brown sugar, because, well, more is more.
And since I can never leave a recipe alone without thinking up variations, I think this would be FABULOUS if you added bananas or peaches. yum!
THANX My Jeanie!!

Hot Artichoke Dip




Only a few ingredients, check. Easy to prepare, check. Easy to serve, check. EVERYONE LOVES IT, check! I'm not gonna lie, sometimes I feel a little guilty when everyone makes such a fuss about this dish. It couldn't be simpler to make, but everyone thinks you went to a lot of trouble! Make it the next time you're having friends over for cocktails, and be sure to tell them you slaved all day in the kitchen.

2 14 oz. cans artichoke hearts(packed in water, NOT in oil)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350.
Coarsely chop artichoke hearts. Stir together with mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. Place in a shallow casserole dish or pie plate. Sprinkle top with a little extra cheese. Bake until bubbly and slightly golden, about 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite crackers.


Tip:
I like to serve this with a hearty multi grain cracker. The crunchy texture is perfect with the creaminess of the dip.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Honey Chicken


Many, many years ago, our good friend, Roz, was taking a class in ceramics. They had a class Christmas party where they served Honey Dipped Chicken. She liked it so much she asked for the recipe, and it immediately became every one's favorite dish. Every bridal shower, baby shower, surprise birthday party, and any other family event had Honey Dipped Chicken on the menu. Seriously, EVERYONE made it for EVERY event. Eventually, we sort of moved on to newer exciting and delicious things to cook and this was sort of pushed to the back of the recipe box.
Last year I catered a retirement party for one of my coworkers and I decided to make it because I remembered how it was always a huge hit. Let me just say, it was a big success! Everyone LOVED it, once again, just as everyone loved it so many years ago! This one is definitely worth bringing back! Thanx Roz!!


8 pieces of chicken, skin on
1 tbs. granulated chicken bouillon
salt and pepper
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
a little squeeze of lemon juice


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange pieces of chicken in a baking dish. Sprinkle with granulated bouillon, salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake for one hour. Combine honey, melted butter, and lemon juice. Pour some of the honey mixture over the chicken and bake for another hour, basting periodically with the rest of the honey mixture.


Tip:
I like to use legs and thighs for this recipe, mainly because that's what was served the first time I tasted it. Yes, I leave the skin on because it gets nice and crispy and helps keep the chicken unbelievably moist. Of course, you have the option of discarding the skin after it's baked, but are you kidding? That's the best part!
The original recipe used the same ingredients, but a slightly different cooking method. It also required baking at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. I prefer to go the 'low and slow' route. When you taste how moist and delicious the final result is, you'll see that it's totally worth the wait!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hershey's Black Magic Cake


This is, without a doubt, my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I've tried several. This one wins. I think the key to it is the coffee. It adds a depth of flavor that sets it apart from all others. Whenever I make it, I always make the coffee a little stronger than the recipe requires. I also like to double the amount of vanilla extract. And no, I didn't bake the cake in the picture and I have no idea how to make the chocolate butterflies that are on top. hee hee

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 10 to 12 servings.


Tip:
To make buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to equal 1 cup. Microwave for 15 seconds. The milk will curdle which is exactly what you want. If you don't have a microwave, you can just let it stand until the milk curdles. you'll get the same result. The microwave just speeds the process.

Joey's Favorite Meatloaf



One of the most under rated dishes in the world is meatloaf. Why is that? Everyody loves it, right? It's delicious, it's comfort food, it always hits the spot. Serve it up with some mashed potatoes and a green veggie and you're good to go. I say it's time to bring meatloaf back! Who's with me?!?!?!?

2 lbs. ground beef
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 cup bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1/2 cup ketchup, plus extra

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In large bowl, combine all ingredients. In a 13x9x2 casserole dish, shape into a loaf. Spread extra ketchup over the top and sides.
Bake one hour, or until done. Let stand 10 minutes.

Crock Pot Beef Stew


The great thing about this recipe is that it requires minimal prep work. You can throw it together in literally about 15 minutes before you go to bed at night, then turn it on before you go to work in the morning. When you get home, dinner's ready!

1-2 lbs. beef cubes
1 lb baby carrots
4 red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 18 oz jar beef gravy
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, brown beef cubes in a little bit of oil. Meanwhile add all of the remaining ingredients to the crock pot. Add the beef to the pot and give it a good stir. Deglaze the pan with a little water (or a little more red wine, if desired) and add liquid to the pot. Replace lid. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 5-6 hours. Remove lid for the last half hour so it will thicken slightly. Serve with your favorite crusty bread. YUM!

Tip:
Be sure to use baby carrots so that you don't have to do any peeling or slicing. I like to leave the potato skins on, so again, no peeling. Just cut them into small pieces or even use baby red potatoes and just cut them in half. For a little variation, you can also add frozen peas and/or corn.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kickass Tuna Casserole


My oldest nephew's name is Dan, but to me he'll always be Daniel Boone. I made this recipe for him several years ago. After his first bite, he declared that this was KICKASS! Could this be one of the reasons he calls me Uncle Favorite? (or just Favey, for short). This one's for you, Daniel Boone!


1 lb. wide egg noodles
1 onion, diced
1 lb baby carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
1 can white albacore tuna, packed in water, drained well
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
milk to fill up one soup can
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles until al dente. In the meantime, saute vegetables until slightly softened. In a large bowl, mix tuna, soups, milk, and shredded cheese. Drain cooked noodles and add to bowl, along with sauteed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until everything is evenly coated with sauce. Pour everything into a large casserole dish. Bake for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender and everything is bubbly.


Tip:
This is another one of those recipes that can be changed and varied depending on what ingredients you might have on hand. You can substitute cooked cubed chicken for the tuna, and vary the vegetables to your heart's content. And again, it's the Cass Quaile School of Cooking. The amounts are just guidelines. "Do you like a lot of carrots? Add a lot of carrots. Do you like a lot of mushrooms? Add a lot of mushrooms."