Monday, June 30, 2008

Joey's Favorite Cole Slaw

A July 4th Celebration.
A Corned Beef Special.
Barbecued Ribs.
Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner.
What do these things have in common?
Cole Slaw, of course!
You simply can't have ANY of them without it. Everyone seems to have his or her own version of it. Some people add pickle juice, some people add carrots or peppers, some people use yogurt or sour cream, and on and on. It's sort of like marinara sauce - no two people make it the same way. This recipe isn't Mom's, but it's really delicious and simple and you only need a few ingredients. LOVE it!

1 large head of green cabbage, shredded
6 tbs. sugar
3 tbs. white vinegar
about a cup of mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Simply place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until the dressing is well combined and the cabbage is well coated. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Give it an extra stir just before you bring it to the table.

All of the amounts are just guidelines. Not all heads of cabbage are the same size, so you'll have to adjust the amounts of the dressing ingredients to suit your own tastes. I always use 2 tbs of sugar for every 1 tbs of vinegar. You can cut the sugar a little bit if you prefer a your cole slaw to be more tangy that sweet.
When you first add the mayonnaise, you'll stir it up and you'll think "that's not enough mayo, it's too dry" and you'll want to add more. Don't do it! The very first time I made it, I thought the same thing, so I added more. After about an hour, I was swimming in coleslaw dressing. The salt and vinegar pull all the moisture out of the cabbage. So, just be patient and add only about half as much as you think you should add. If you do wind up adding too much mayonnaise, it's not the end of the world. Just drain some of the excess dressing and no one will ever know the difference. It'll all turn out fine. I promise!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Westmont Ladies' Punch

So, here's another recipe from my sister Cathy. She's clearly WAY ahead on the list of most loyal readers. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'!
I was at her house celebrating Casey's graduation with 200 of her closest family and friends and I noticed a pitcher of something labeled "Westmont Ladies' Punch". Being the fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister that she is, she agreed to share the recipe. I asked her to take a picture of the group, all raising a glass of punch so I could post it with the recipe for all to enjoy.....

"So, about the Westmont Ladies' Punch... By the time I thought of taking the picture, some of them had already left. We'll try to get that picture the next time we get together, (which happens fairly often). Because it's so delicious & refreshing, you might tend to drink too much. So, be careful! Middle-aged ladies drinking too much - now that's funny. So here's the recipe, which I made up one night during a "girls' night", and my friend Linda Miller named it "Westmont Ladies' Punch." It's really very simple."

one part vodka (or more, to taste)
two parts Dole pineapple mango juice (which you can get at our little Thriftway in Westmont, NJ)
one part cranberry juice, or until the punch turns a pretty color
Fresh pineapple slices to float in the pitcher and also as garnish in individual glasses

That's it -- just mix it, add ice & enjoy!
(Another idea came up to whir it up in a blender w/ ice and serve it as a frozen drink -- mmmm!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Corn on the Cob

This is a recipe that we found in a newspaper over ten years ago, and we've been making it this way ever since. My Dad still keeps the news clipping hanging on his fridge, which has yellowed over time. It's the only recipe I've ever seen that calls for a splash of milk in the boiling water. I've no idea what purpose this serves, but Mom always said "follow the recipe as it's written". So, that's what we do. Maybe it keeps the corn from becoming tough while it sits in the water? Just a thought. Enjoy!

Half-fill a pot with cold water; add a splash of milk (no salt) and bring to a boil. Drop the shucked ears of corn into the pot and cover. When the water returns to a boil, turn off the heat and let the corn stand in the water for 5 to 7 minutes.
Result: tender corn, never overcooked. And the corn can sit in the pot longer without overcooking while you get the rest of the meal on the table. Have plenty of salt and sweet butter on hand too.

Be sure the corn is fresh. Leaves should be green and pliable. The silk should be dry, not soggy.
Avoid buying corn with husks removed. It's probably old. The husk keeps it fresher.
Cook fresh corn within 24 hours of purchase.
If the corn is good and sweet, you shouldn't need to add any sugar to the water, but that's totally up to you. If you want REALLY sweet corn, knock yourself out. Add all the sugar you want. Salt, however, should NEVER be added. It makes the corn really tough. Save the salt for the table, and use kosher salt. It tastes the best!
Oh, and one other extremely important thing to order to TRULY enjoy corn on the cob... when you eat it, make sure you get melted butter all over your face.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

This is one of those recipes that's absurdly simple to make and insanely delicious. Even if you have absolutely no culinary skill at all whatsoever, it'll still turn out perfectly! You should make this!

pork roast (shoulder cut works very well)
any favorite barbecue sauce

Place pork roast in a crock pot. Pour about a cup of barbecue sauce over it. Turn on the crock pot to the low setting and let it slow cook for about 10 hours. You'll know it's ready when the meat easily falls apart. Remove meat from crock pot and pull it apart using two forks. Discard any fat. Place pulled pork in a large serving bowl and pour some of the meat drippings over it along with a little more barbecue sauce. Serve on fresh rolls or over rice.

Choose a barbecue sauce that's sweet and smokey, like a honey or brown sugar variety. You could even add some brown sugar or honey and a few drops of liquid smoke to your favorite brand. You can find liquid smoke at your grocery store in the same aisle as you'd find barbecue sauce. Be sure to only use a few drops. A little goes a long way!
If you need to adjust the cooking time, figure one hour on high equals two hours on low. Basically, you'll need a total of about 10 hours of cooking time, so you can do any combination of high and low, as long as you come out to 10 hours at the end. The crock pot is extremely forgiving, so if you should happen to let it cook for an extra hour, all will still be right with the world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

String Bean Salad with Artichokes and Tomatoes

Here's a simple summer salad that's always fresh and light. There's really nothing to it. I just like this flavor combination. Apparently everyone at Marie's birthday party liked it too!

fresh string beans
grape tomatoes
artichoke hearts
basil vinaigrette dressing (or your favorite dressing)

Snap off the ends of the string beans. Place them in a large colander over a pot of boiling water. Steam until tender. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well. Slice tomatoes in half. Drain artichokes and cut into quarters. Toss everything together with the dressing.

My favorite dressing for this salad is Good Seasons Basil Vinaigrette, (the one that comes in a little packet). Use balsamic vinegar instead of white vinegar and just mix it up following the directions on the packet. Delish!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pesto Cheesecake

Usually when someone mentions cheesecake, you immediately think of something rich and sweet and creamy with graham crackers and strawberries or blueberries or chocolate or a million other delicious and fabulous dessert variations. But have you ever thought of serving a cheesecake as a savory appetizer? The first time I ever heard of a savory cheesecake was a few years ago when my sister, Jeanie, made one for a family holiday event. It was delicious! I seem to remember hers also had tomatoes and fresh herbs. I guess one could come up with as many savory varieties of cheesecake as dessert varieties! Think of it as one of those herb cheese spreads that comes in a little tub, only much much better!
This is another recipe from Eileen and I'm thrilled that she shared it with me. I'm not sure if it's hers or where she got it, but like I always say, since she gave it to me, she gets the credit. You should definitely give this one a try.
Thanx Eileen!

Pesto ingredients:
1 package fresh basil, about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated

Cheesecake ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese -- grated
2 package,8oz cream cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 large eggs
1/4 cup pine nuts

For Pesto:
Finely chop first three ingredients in processor. With motor still running pour olive oil slowly down feed tube, process until well incorporated. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and blend well. You could also use 1/2 cup of your favorite commercial pesto sauce or 1/2 cup Chris's Pesto Sauce.

For Cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub butter over bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch spring form pan. Mix breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons Parmesan and coat pan with the crumb mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, salt and cayenne in a large bowl until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Transfer half of mixture to medium bowl. Mix pesto mixture into remaining half. Pour pesto mixture into prepared pan; smooth top. Carefully spoon plain mixture over; gently smooth top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup pine nuts and bake until center no longer moves when pan is shaken, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Serve with crackers.

Tips from Joey:
For a pesto swirled cheesecake, you could spoon the plain mixture alternately with the pesto mixture, then swirl it with knife instead of adding all of the pesto mixture to the pan and then adding all of the plain mixture on top of it.
For an elegant presentation, decorate the top of the chilled cheesecake with slices of fresh tomato or sun dried tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves. You could even cut grape tomatoes in half and arrange them around the perimeter of the cake (I think that's how my sister did it).
Obviously, this recipe makes an entire cheesecake, which might be too much for your intimate party. Here's one solution. After baking it, you can cut the whole cake into quarters and just serve one wedge at your party. Wrap the remainder of the cheesecake in plastic and then foil and store it in the freezer until your next party. Then all you'll have to do is take it out of the freezer in time to let it thaw, then garnish just before you serve.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Strawberry French Toast Sandwiches

My sister, Cathy, mentioned my blog to her friend, Eileen, who found this recipe in a magazine and then passed it along to me, and my first thought was "OMG Are you kidding me????" (Well, actually, there was an expletive in there too, but we won't discuss that). Does this sound like the most decadent thing you've ever heard of? What's not to love? French toast? Strawberry? Cream cheese? Eileen, you've just hit me right smack in the middle of my weakness. Let me know in which magazine you found this so I can let everyone know ok? Thanx!
I WILL be making these.

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs whipped cream cheese
12 slices bread
3 tbs strawberry jam
3 large eggs
3 tbs milk
1/8 tsp salt
butter or margarine

Spread one tablespoon cream cheese on each of 6 slices of bread. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of jam over cream cheese. Top with slice of bread.
Combine eggs, milk and salt in shallow dish, beating well.
Dip each sandwich into egg, turning to coat.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet.
Cook sandwiches, turning to brown both sides. Repeat, adding more butter as needed.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Try using other kinds of jam and topping it with fresh berries and/or sliced bananas. Even add a few slices of fruit in the center of the sandwich with the cream cheese and jam.
If you want to push the decadence even further, try adding a 1/4 tsp. EACH of pure vanilla extract and cinnamon and a tsp. of sugar to the eggs before you dip the sandwiches. Oh and I bet cinnamon swirled bread would be amazing.
You could even serve this as an amazing dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top (sort of along the same lines as Belgian waffles).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Joey's Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle

This dessert is all about presentation. It's the one that inspires a bunch of OOOOs and AAAHHHHs when guests see it, usually followed by "oh my God, you made that?????" You get the idea. The Patriotic colors make it perfect for your July 4th celebration but it's fabulous at any summer party. It's best to serve this in a trifle bowl, but if you don't have one, use any high-sided glass bowl.

2 small boxes vanilla instant pudding
2 cups milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 Entennman's All Butter Pound Cake
2 pints fresh strawberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 cup seedless strawberry jam
1 small can blueberry pie filling

In a large bowl, mix together the instant pudding and milk until the powder is dissolved and the milk is well incorporated. Add cream. Mix on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Slice pound cake into about 10 slices, then make two slices longways so that you now have 3 rows of ten pieces. Set aside.
Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Reserve a few of the more perfect looking ones. Set aside.
Wash and pick over the blueberries and remove any stems. Reserve a few of the more perfect looking ones. Set aside.
Add a tablespoon or two of water to the jam to thin it down a bit. Set aside.

Now that you have all the pieces ready, it's time to assemble! You're going to make 4 layers of cream filling, 3 layers of cake, 2 layers of strawberries and one layer of blueberries. Don't panic. I promise you it will all come out even.
Ok, here we go. Just add each ingredient in this order making sure each layer is smooth and even:

the first 1/4 of the cream filling
the first 1/3 of the cake
the first 1/2 of the strawberries
the first 1/2 of the strawberry jam

the second 1/4 of the cream filling
the second 1/3 of the cake
all of the blueberries
all of the blueberry filling

the third 1/4 of the cream filling
the third 1/3 of the cake
the other 1/2 of the strawberries
the other 1/2 of the strawberry jam

the fourth 1/4 of the cream filling.
Top with reserved strawberries and blueberries as a garnish, and you're done!

Did you come out even? Did you use up all of your ingredients? I hope all of that made sense. I tried to be as clear about it as I could. It's really simple once you see how it all goes together. Keep it chilled in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

The key to the presentation is to make it look pretty around the edges of each layer as you assemble. So, when you're placing the pieces of cake, make them all even up against the sides of the bowl, then fill in the center. Do the same thing with the fruit and especially the jam and the pie filling. I just take a spoon and very slowly drizzle the jam around the side of the bowl over the cake. You'll wind up with nice even pretty stripes. Then when you put the next layer of cream, make sure you don't disturb the previous perfect layer that you just created.
If you're not going for the Patriotic theme, try switching up the flavors. Use any kind of cake, any kind of instant pudding, any kind of fruit, pie filling or preserves. The combinations are limitless. I've done peach and raspberry, I've done chocolate and cherry, there's really no wrong combination. It'll always turn out beautifully and it'll always be a hit!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Easy Grilled Potato & Onion Bundles

This is one of those old stand by recipes that everyone makes at barbecues and it's always been one of my favorites. You could do them in the oven instead of on the grill, but who wants to deal with an oven on a hot summer day? Clearly, the grill is the way to go. Happy grilling!

large baking potatoes
large onions
fresh herbs (optional)

Wash potatoes and pat them dry, leaving skins on. Slice each potato into 6 or 7 slices (depending on the size and length of the potato), but keep all the slices together. Peel onion and slice into thick slices. Cut each onion slice in half. Place a sliced potato in the center of a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil. Separate slices and put a half slice of onion between each potato slice. Top with salt, pepper, (fresh herbs if using), and a pat of butter. Wrap foil up around it and pinch foil edges together to form a little bundle, making sure to seal it. Place each bundle on grill for about an hour or until tender. Serve with a big dollop of sour cream.

You can vary this as much as you want. Add garlic or fresh herbs like fresh dill or rosemary, or other spices like seasoned salts or peppers.
Unfortunately, there's no exact cooking time. Grilling temperatures, wind, and other weather conditions will affect your cooking time, so the best way to check them is to just open one of them. Since potatoes are different sizes, I'd open the largest one. If the largest one is tender, then you know the smaller ones will be tender as well. If you're baking these in the oven, figure about an hour at 350 degrees or about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Keep that in mind when you're figuring your cooking times for the grill.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

White Bean Dip with Rosemary

Mary Lynn recently told me of this recipe that she found in Cottage Living Magazine. She told me how delicious it is, and I must say, I have to agree with her! It's awesome and it couldn't be simpler! Now that's my kind of recipe! Thanx ML!

1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 small clove garlic, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish dip with a rosemary spring. Serve with sliced baguette or crackers.

Note from ML: I added an extra garlic clove to it, and used alot more rosemary then the recipe calls for. So, definitely make it 'to taste' and see what you think.

Tip from Joey:
This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups, which isn't really a huge amount if you're making it for a party. So, I'd double or even triple the amounts if you're planning on serving it at your next bash.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paula's Creamy Shrimp Bisque

I was watching Paula's Best Dishes, starring the fabulous Paula Deen, and she made this soup that looked so easy and delicious I just wanted to immediately run out to the store and buy the ingredients to make it. I noticed a couple things about her recipe, though. Not that I would ever say anything against the Queen of Food TV, but cooking is a collaborative process, isn't it? Usually, I think of a bisque as being a smooth and creamy puree. Paula's has chunks of shrimp. The other thing is that I always thought bisque had some sort of sherry or cognac or brandy in it. Paula's does not.
So, I decided to make her recipe as written, but I think a little added shot of sherry or cognac would be fabulous. No matter how you decide to make it, it'll be amazing!!! It's SO good!

2 celery stalks, chopped
1 green onion with tops, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 glove garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 1/2 cups fish stock
8 ounces cooked shrimp, chopped

In a medium saucepan, add celery, onions and butter, stirring occasionally. When tender add garlic and mix together. Stir in flour and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Stir in fish stock and parsley. Cook for 10 minutes until it thickens. Add shrimp meat and let simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through. Stir occasionally. Add salt, to taste. When ready, serve with croutons.

Feel free to add or substitute lobster or crab meat. If you're not a fan of seafood, then use chicken broth instead of the fish stock and add shredded cooked rotisserie chicken instead of the shrimp. You could even use vegetables and vegetable stock and leave out the meat. You'll get a different result with each variation, but the recipe is so delicious and versatile, it'll still be fabulous.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marinated Salmon

Mary Lynn emailed me the other day to see if I had any ideas about cooking salmon. She was looking to marinate it in something. So I did some browsing and found a recipe that looked delicious. I changed it slightly and I'm thrilled with the result!
Hope you like it, ML!

1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 c. soy sauce
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. grated ginger root
salmon steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick

Mix all marinade ingredients together.
Marinate salmon for several hours or overnight.
Grill or broil for about 10 minutes on each side.
Serve it over rice with some Roasted Asparagus and you're good to go!

Be sure to adjust cooking time depending on the thickness of your salmon steaks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bow Ties with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

One of life's simple pleasures is a big plate of sauteed sausage, peppers, and onions. It's great as is, or on a long Italian roll. Some people like to keep it simple with just those three ingredients, but others take it a step further and add a can of tomatoes, which turns it into a delicious sauce. So, I thought, why not pour this over pasta? Good idea, don't ya think?
This is one of those really easy recipes for which everyone thinks you went to a lot of trouble. Not only that, it smells REALLY good while it's cooking. When I made it, friends were telling me that they could smell it cooking throughout my entire apt building. All of my neighbors wanted to come over for dinner that night! Fabulous.

1 lb. bow tie or other pasta
1 package sweet Italian sausage (about 2 lbs)
1 large yellow onion
2 green bell peppers
1 large can stewed or crushed tomatoes
white wine
chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese

Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. In the meantime, slice sausage into small pieces. Saute in a large saute pan until lightly browned. Do this in batches if it doesn't all fit in the pan. Remove all cooked sausage and set aside in a bowl. Peel onion and cut off both ends. Cut it in half, slicing in the same direction as the grain. Slice each half, again going in the same direction as the grain, so that you're left with strips of onion (instead of dice). Saute onions in the same large saute pan over medium heat, adding a little olive oil if necessary. Core the peppers, cut into strips, and add to the pan with the onions. Continue to saute until everything has softened and cooked down. Add sausage back to the pan along with the tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and a few glugs of wine. Give it a good stir. Reduce heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain pasta (don't rinse!) and toss with the sausage and sauce. Top with grated cheese.

I chose to keep it simple, but you can go a lot further with this recipe. Add some chopped garlic to the saute pan with the onions and peppers. Add some other fresh herbs such as fresh oregano or even thyme. If you're really feeling spicy, add some crushed red pepper flakes or use half hot sausage and half sweet sausage.
You can also enjoy this dish without the pasta. Just saute the sausage in large pieces and serve on fresh Italian rolls.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Seafood Salad

Some people don't enjoy imitation crab meat, but I've always loved it. It's a good choice for people who have an allergy to crab because it's made from fish, usually Alaska Pollock, Snow Cod, or Whiting. No, I didn't know this off the top of my head. I looked it up, silly. Actually, I found it to be quite interesting. In order to make the faux crab, they mince the fish into a fine paste which is called Surimi, which means "minced fish" in Japanese. Then they cook it and add other ingredients to it to make it look and taste like crab. Usually, I just make seafood salad with it, but you can use it for a million other things. Well, it'll basically work with any recipe calling for crab meat. Makes sense, right? Use it for casseroles or quiches, salads or dips, or simply enjoy it on a sandwich with some leafy lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a little spritz of lemon. This is how I make seafood salad, but you can switch it up any way you please.

2 cups imitation crab
1 4oz can medium shrimp, drained
1-2 scallions, chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 tbs chopped fresh herbs, such as dill or basil
salt and pepper
garlic powder

Break up the pieces of crab and stir together with all the other ingredients. If you have a stand up mixer with a paddle attachment, just put everything in the mixing bowl and the paddle will break up the crab pieces while it stirs everything together. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Use any kind of onion, or fresh herbs or even mustard to give it your own flair. Also feel free to vary the seafood. You can do just imitation crab or just shrimp or add any other types of diced cooked seafood.
These amounts are just guidelines. Use the Cass Quaile Method to decide how much of everything to add. In this case, she'd probably say "Do you like a lot of celery? Add a lot of celery. Do you like a lot of mayonnaise? Add a lot of mayonnaise."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Classic Egg Salad

I never thought of egg salad as needing an official recipe. I always just throw it together. When I posted the recipe for Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, I mentioned cutting hard boiled eggs in an egg slicer "as you would do for egg salad.." Then I received an email from a friend asking "well, how do you make egg salad?" I thought, "Seriously??" "Yes! Seriously!!" I guess I'll have to start posting some recipes for the culinary novice. Everyone has to start somewhere, right??? So here you go. This is the basic idea, but it's as versatile as your imagination.

Base recipe:
6 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbs mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Remove shells from hard boiled eggs. Place each egg in the well of an egg slicer, and close it to slice. Remove the egg and turn it a quarter turn, place it back in the well and slice again. Repeat with all eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients as well as any variations you'd like to add. Serve on your favorite bread for sandwiches or on a bed of lettuce. Even better on toast!

For a variation, add any combination of these additional ingredients:
1 rib of celery, finely diced
1 scallion, finely chopped (or 1 tbs. of any kind of onion)
1 tbs chopped pimento
1 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tbs chopped fresh dill
sprinkle of curry powder
sprinkle of paprika

To make hard boiled eggs, place a few eggs in a saucepan, cover with at least an inch of water. Cover and bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling, remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 12 minutes. Drain water, add cold water to cool the eggs, let sit a couple minutes longer.
If you want to, you can add a half teaspoon of vinegar and some salt to the water (if the shells crack while boiling, the vinegar will help keep the egg in the shell).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oven Roasted Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad is one of my favorite things to order at a fabulous Italian restaurant. It's also quite simple and easy to make at home. Normally, it's just a few slices of tomato, some fresh mozzarella cheese, a few basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Since I'm always thinking up variations to every recipe, I figured why not make this salad with oven roasted tomatoes? Cool. OK, so I looked up a few recipes explaining how to roast them. Wow! Apparently there are as many different methods of roasting tomatoes as there are different kinds of tomato! It's clearly all about time and temperature. I found that you can roast your tomatoes in as little as an hour or as much as eight hours or overnight! Crazy, huh? Who knew?
So, for my Caprese Salad, I decided to go "low and slow". Clearly, this is the way to go. Let me just tell you, you will not believe how delicious a tomato can be. The sugars caramelize, the flavors concentrate, and you're left with an insanely delicious and elegant first course.
You MUST try this. Seriously.

vine ripened tomatoes
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
fresh basil leaves
fresh soft mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Remove stems and slice each tomato in half. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a generous pinch of sugar. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 7-8 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. HOURS. They will shrink and shrivel and become darker in color.
Remove from oven. Let them cool completely. Arrange tomatoes on a serving plate with slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Drizzle lightly with a little more olive oil and serve!

I'd only use fresh mozzarella cheese for this. You know the kind I mean, the little balls of cheese that are sold in small containers in liquid (as opposed to the kind that's harder and dryer that you'd shred to put on top of pizza).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Many people wind up with tons and tons of extra tomatoes from their gardens and they have no idea what to do with them. This is the answer! Here's a great summer appy that's always delicious and fresh. Make a large batch and serve it at your next barbecue! SO yummy!

several plum tomatoes
1/2 small yellow onion
9-10 fresh basil leaves
a few glugs olive oil
a few glugs balsamic vinegar
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic
more olive oil
Italian bread

Dice tomatoes and onion to a really small dice. Chop basil. Stir everything together with the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cover and place bowl in fridge, allowing flavors to marry for a little while. Grill or toast slices of Italian bread. Rub slices with garlic clove. Drizzle each slice with a little bit of oil. Top each slice with tomato mixture.

The amounts are just guidelines. I usually go light on the onion, heavier on the fresh basil. Use your own judgement and taste it as you make it to find the right balance. If you add too much of anything (like salt, or onion), add more diced tomatoes.
For a variation, you can top everything with fresh mozzarella cheese, or chopped ripe olives.
If you don't have time to rub each piece of bread with garlic, you can just mince the garlic and stir it in. It's not the traditional way to go about it, but I don't think anyone will mind.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Super Smoothie

I recently read this recipe on another blog and immediately wanted to make one. It's a great way to start your day plus you get all the added health benefits that come along with it. Have one every morning! It'll definitely add some sweetness to your life!

1 cup pineapple, fresh or canned
1 banana, frozen
1 cup apple juice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs honey

Optional ingredients:
1 raw egg white
2 TBS wheat germ
2 TBS flax seed
1 shot wheat grass juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Drink immediately and enjoy!

I like to go a little lighter on the spices, so I usually cut those amounts in half. This allows the freshness of the fruit to come through.
To freeze bananas, peel and slice them, then arrange slices in a single layer on a parchment lined tray. Place the tray in the freezer until the slices are frozen, then bag them in ziploc bags. Freezing them separately keeps them from becoming one big frozen clump. Then you can use just as much as you need for smoothies, baking, or even straight from the freezer for cereal or desserts.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Creamy Maple Tarts

Ever since I made Chris's Ricotta Cheese Pancakes, I've been in the mood for something maple. I thought of baking a pie, but then opted to make little bite sized mini muffin tarts instead. You can use this recipe to bake a pie, if you like. Just keep an eye on it and adjust your baking time until the pie is set. It's very similar to a Molasses Pie or Shoo Fly Pie. Sweet and delicious!

2 pie crusts
2 1/4 cups maple syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 375.
Using a small round cookie cutter, cut circles out of pie crust and fit each circle into mini muffin pans. Collect scraps, reroll crust, and cut more circles. Repeat until all pastry is used. Set aside. In mixing bowl, whisk together maple syrup, cream, flour, and eggs until blended; Pour into crust-lined muffin pans. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until set. cool completely. Top with Whipped Cream.

For a variation, stir some chopped nuts into the batter before filling the muffin cups.
You can also just sprinkle them on top of the cups just before you bake them.
If you don't have a mini muffin pan you can use a regular muffin pan. Just cut larger circles of pie crust to be fitted into each cup.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Here's a great party dip that's definitely not the norm. It's an amazing blend of flavors that you'd never think to put together. It's sweet but it has a spicy bite. I first heard of it from one of my favorite people on the entire planet, my friend Suz. She served it at a get together at her home about a million years ago and I immediately asked her for the recipe. 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. Thanx Suz! And no, I don't have any idea where it gets its name. Maybe it's because it has that spicy bite!

8oz cream cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup pineapple preserves
1 heaping tbs horseradish
multi grain crackers

Cut the bar of cream cheese in half horizontally, and place the halves next to each other on a serving plate. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the preserves and horseradish. Pour fruit mixture over the cream cheese. Serve as a spread on crackers.

There are many other versions of this recipe. Some have apple jelly, some have orange marmalade, some have dry mustard. The one constant is horseradish paired with a combination of fruit preserves. Feel free to experiment with different flavors.
Instead of serving this as a party dip, try using the fruit mixture as a glaze for a baked ham or pork roast.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

ML's Eggs-ellent Quiche

I met Mary Lynn a few years ago when I started going to Jason's apt for TV/Game night. We'd watch Grey's Anatomy, play Sorry! and cook something fabulous and have a million laughs too. Since then, ML has become one of my favorite people, always being so supportive of everything I do, from cooking to performing in shows. I asked her if she had any recipes she'd like to share, and of course, being the true friend that she is, she came through for me.
Thanx Mary Lynn!!

Hi Joey,
I did not see a quiche
recipe on your site -
this one is a big hit with
Jimmy, Jason, Amber and Courtney.
So, if you want to spread the love,
go for it, thanks!

Pillsbury Pie Crust
1 box frozen spinach
cheese (shredded, or cubed if you buy a block) Get any kind you like, or use 2 kinds if possible.
any other veggie you might want
2 1/2 c Milk
4 eggs
salt & pepper

Put the pie crust in a pie pan and bake for 8 minutes or so on 425 and then take it out of the oven and reduce the temp to 325. I like to put foil in the bottom and up the sides while it bakes because the sides tend to slide down otherwise. It is no big deal if this happens.
In the meantime, take the defrosted spinach and SQUEEZE all the water out and set it aside. You may not need the entire box, you can decide later.
Cook the bacon, then chop the onions and cook them in some of the bacon juices. I pour most of the bacon grease out because only the pan needs to be coated to cook the onions and who needs all that extra fat?!
When the pie crust is out of the oven, spread the spinach around the dish evenly. Then sprinkle the bacon (chopped) around the dish, and then the fried onions.
Next, evenly distribute the cheese around the dish (as well as any veggie you may be adding). Beat the eggs together and add the milk and as much salt and pepper as you like. Pour it over everything in the dish.
Bake it in the oven for about 45 minutes. I watch to see when it gets slightly brown on the top and the middle sets.

Tips from Joey:
-To squeeze out as much water as possible, place defrosted spinach in the center of a clean towel. Gather corners together to form a small bundle. Holding the gathered ends, tightly and firmly twist bundle until no more water can be drained.
-Whenever I make a quiche, I like to top it with some additional shredded cheese about 15 minutes before I take it out of the oven. Make sure to cover any veggies that aren't completely submerged in egg. This will keep them from becoming burnt and it also looks great when the cheese becomes golden and bubbly.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jason's Guacamole

Jason always says that I'm the one who taught him how to cook, but I suspect he was a pretty good cook before I ever knew him. He showed me how to make guacamole and I honestly don't think you'll find one that's tastier than this. This is why I asked him if I could share it. It's so delicious! I could tell you how to make it, but it's more fun to let HIM tell you. Thanx Jason!

8 avocados
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined, and finely chopped
4 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
1 small tomato, chopped and rinsed (so as to remove seeds and goo)
¼ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lime
4 tsp Kosher Salt

Scoop out the avocados into a bowl big enough to fit 8 avocados and a bunch of other stuff. Using 2 spoons, mash the avocados into large chunks. (don’t over-mash them, as they will get smoother as you stir in other ingredients)
Add everything else except the lime and salt. I use the Cass Quaile method with this recipe. If I feel like a lot of onion, I add more onion. If I’m not feeling the cilantro, I use a little less cilantro. Your avocados are never going to be the same size as mine (I have HUGE avocados!!) so you’ll need to play with the other ingredients each time you make this to get the proportions right.
Once all the other stuff is mixed in, add lime juice and salt to taste. I like a buttload of salt, but if you’re using especially salty corn chips, you may only want half a buttload.

Conversation with Jason:
Jason: When you put it in a serving dish, garnish with the avocado pits. This not only looks fancy, but it keeps the guacamole from browning too quickly.

Joey: Ok, when you say "garnish with the avocado pit", you mean the big stone in the center, right? How does one garnish with a big rock? And how does it keep anything from turning brown? The citric acid from the lime juice will do the same thing, so I'm wondering where the stone comes into play.

Jason: Yep, the big stone in the center. By garnish, I just mean put it on top of the mound of guac to make it look fancy. Or sometimes I’ll take all the pits and place them around the edges of the bowl. I think I saw it on a cooking show. Or an episode of Gilliagan’s Island. I guess since the pit is where all the nutrients were when it was alive, there may still be some that act as a preservative? Kinda like leaving the root thing on a head of lettuce to keep it fresh longer. The lime juice does that also, but I guess it’s an extra measure. It may be all lies, but I stick to it. Feel free to change the word garnish to “ass it up with a big brown pit” if you’d like. Or skip it.

Tip from Joey:
I like to serve this with the tortilla chips that have "a hint of lime", but you can serve it with whatever chips you like. So, when I make it, I usually go with a little less than a whole buttload of salt.
For the picture, I decided to go with a simple cilantro garnish, but if you really want to, you can ass it up with a big brown pit.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Double Blueberry Muffins

My fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, asked me if I had a favorite recipe for blueberry muffins. Not only did I not have a favorite recipe, I had never even made them!! Can you believe I had never made something as basic as blueberry muffins?? ME!!! Who knew? You'd think that I'd have whipped up a batch at some point in my life, especially being a lover of all things blueberry, but no. Never.
Anyway, my fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister Cathy's blueberry muffin request was very specific. "No crumb topping, please, not too sweet, not too spongy, not too dry."
Right. Got it. I'm on it.
So, my search began. I immediately started with my favorite TV chefs and from there I moved on to the Internet and magazines. I found many recipes, all with varying amounts of butter and sugar. I settled on a recipe that I liked, and then changed a few things. I think this recipe fits all requirements. As you can plainly see, there is no crumb topping to be found. It has a fair amount of sugar, but clearly not as much as some recipes I've seen, so it's not overly sweet. It has milk and a good amount of butter, so it's not too dry, and not too spongy. It gets added sweetness from the dried blueberries and moisture from the fresh blueberries, which is, in my humble opinion, how blueberry muffins are meant to be.
This is for you, Sissy! I hope you like them! You're now looking at my very first batch of blueberry muffins. Aren't you proud? I totally feel like Bree Hodge right now.

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 3/4 cup sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
2 tbs flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar. Add milk and egg, and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Mix just until combined. Toss blueberries with flour and fold into batter. Fill greased muffin pan with 1/4 cup of batter for each muffin. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly tapped.

Vary the flavors as much as you like. Add lemon or orange zest, or any combination of other fresh or dried berries or even cinnamon.
If you don't want to grease the pan, you can just line your muffin pan with paper or foil cups.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chris's Ricotta Cheese Pancakes

My brother, Chris, recently took a trip up to the Pocono Mountains. When he got to his rented cabin, he found an unopened container of ricotta cheese in the fridge, apparently left by the previous vacationers. Never wanting to let anything go to waste, he decided to add some of the ricotta cheese to his pancake batter at breakfast. It was a huge hit! So, now you know what to make the next time you find some cheese in a random refrigerator. Thanx, Chris.

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp oil
1 cup milk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Sift dry ingredients in bowl and stir in remaining ingredients with wire whisk or spoon until mixed. Do not beat. Rub griddle or fry pan with oil. Heat until water dropped from your hand bounces around. Drop about 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until bubbled all over the top and brown on bottom. Flip, cook until brown on other side. Serve immediately or place in a warm oven until ready to serve.

These pancakes are pretty darn good when you top them with the usual butter and maple syrup, but they're slammin' when you top them with raspberry, strawberry or blueberry jam and a little dusting of powdered sugar.