Monday, July 27, 2009

Denny's Pasta Primavera

Even though no one can seem to remember this recipe's origins, my brother Denny still gets the credit for it because he's the one who gave it to me. It's one of my all time favorite throw-together dishes. It's ready in as little time as it takes to cook pasta and you'll easily feed a crowd with it. It's SO good!
Thanx Den!

4 tbs. butter or margarine
4 tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
dash pepper
2 cups milk

any mixed or fresh veggies
1 lb any kind of long pasta

Melt butter, blend in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk all at once, continue cooking until mixture is thick. Steam veggies. Put noodles on to cook half hour before serving time. Put veggies in sauce and put over low low heat. Pour over cooked noodles.

Joey's Tips:
Choose any favorite veggies. I like to add a rainbow of vegetables, specifically baby carrots, broccoli florets, yellow squash, and red bell peppers.
Quick tip - use your boiling pasta water to steam your veggies at the same time.
The sauce ingredients are double the amount of the original recipe, but we usually double everything anyway, so I just posted it that way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Banana Nut Cookies

Here's another favorite recipe from my favorite Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. I know I've said this before, but seriously, there isn't a bad recipe in this book. Every single recipe that I've tried has been a huge success. This is one of the all time faves. LOVE it!

2 2/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon banana liqueur or extract
3/4 cup ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 300F.
In a medium bowl, combine four, soda and salt. Mix well and set aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend sugars at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add egg, liqueur and banana, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture, 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the walnuts and blend at low speed until just combined. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Sprinkle cookies with chocolate chips, 6 to 8 per cookie. Bake 25-27 minutes until cookie edges begin to brown. Transfer immediately to a cool surface.

I always add a little extra banana liqueur to give it an added punch of banana flavor. I also like to use pecans instead of walnuts, just because I like them better! If you don't like nuts or chocolate chips, you can simply omit them from the recipe. You can do either one, or both, or neither. You could even add peanut butter chips instead of the nuts and chocolate chips.
They'll be delicious!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baking Tips!

Many people ask me where I learned to bake. Yes, I watch cooking shows and I read cookbooks, but more than anything, I learned from my Mom.
When I was growing up, I used to come home from school, and more times than not, my Mom would be baking a cake. Half of the cake would be dessert after that night's dinner, and the other half would be sliced up and we'd each get a piece of cake in our lunch box for school the next day. It was a lot more economical to bake a cake for our school lunches than buying snack cakes for everyone. And since Mom had 11 of us to take care of, more economical was the way to go. Funny story...the other kids in school were always jealous that we had home made cake in our lunches and my brother Michael used to sell his. True story! Anyway....
Now that I'm an adult, I bake all the time, probably as much as Mom did. Not only do I love the yummy final product, but I also find it to be extremely therapeutic. There's just something wonderful about starting with an empty bowl, and ending with something warm and comforting. I guess that's why it always boggles my mind when I hear someone say "I love to cook, but I don't bake." I always want to say to them "Why not?". Yes, I know baking is a science, but it's no more difficult than cooking a stew or a casserole. As far as I'm concerned, there's only one thing that separates baking from cooking, and that's measuring your ingredients.
When you cook a stew or a casserole, you throw in a little of this and a little of that. With baking, you can't do that. You have to follow a recipe and measure everything as the recipe dictates. It's my guess that the only reason a good cook doesn't bake is because he or she doesn't know how to measure things properly. So, this is the reason I wanted to do this video. Not only will you see how easy it is to measure your ingredients, but you'll also see how to prepare your baking pans, and remove the cake from the pan. Mom always told me "When you bake something, follow the recipe." Hopefully this video will help you to do that. If you think about it, baking is easier than cooking, because all you have to do is what the recipe tells you. There's no guess work involved! Am I right? So, give it a shot! It's easy enough for anyone to learn and it's a great thing to share with your kids. It's one of the greatest gifts my Mom ever gave me. Thanx Mom.

So, always remember, it's better when YOU make it!

Just ask the kids in Michael's class who bought cake from him!

Big HUGE thanx to Katie and also to Anthony for helping me with the video!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Orange Glaze

I first used this glaze on Paula's Orange Brownies, but it also works perfectly on any cake baked in a Bundt pan. Try it on my Orange Creamsicle Cake, Mom's Pound Cake, or your favorite Chocolate Cake.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Simply mix all ingredients together until smooth, and drizzle over cake.
That's all there is to it!

Orange Cream Cheese Icing

This is simply regular cream cheese icing with some orange zest or pure orange extract added to it. Simple! That's all there is to it!

2 pkgs cream cheese
2 sticks butter
1 or 2 tsp of grated zest or about 1/2 tsp orange extract
1 box 10x sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese, butter, and zest (or extract).
Add sugar and vanilla. Mix until well combined and smooth.

Stove Top Rice Pudding

Here's an easy and delicious dessert to make when your oven is otherwise occupied. It's a simple recipe using simple ingredients. Sometimes those are the best ones, don't you think?

5 cups whole milk
2/3 cup long grain white rice or short-grain white rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, rice, and salt. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender (about 25 minutes). To prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, stir the mixture frequently with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
When the rice is tender, remove from heat and add the sugar and ground cinnamon. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens, about 10 minutes. If you prefer a thicker pudding, continue to cook and stir until it reaches the desired consistency. Keep in mind, though, that it will continue to thicken as it cools. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir until well combined. Serve warm or chilled.

-For an even richer pudding, substitute half of the milk with half and half.
-If your pudding has become too thick, just add a little milk, a tablespoon at a time, to loosen it up a little.
-If you like raisins, go ahead and add about a cup when you add the vanilla. Also feel free to add other flavorings in addition to the vanilla such as coconut or rum extract. Yum!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chickpea Salad

Once upon a time, like a million years ago, Kathy and I were classmates in High School. I wouldn't say we were BEST friends who called each other every night, but we were good enough friends that we could steal homework from each other in the cafeteria before class. Well, actually, I probably stole more homework from her than she ever stole from me, but I digress. Anyway, after we graduated, we went our separate ways and I never heard from her again.
Then came a little thing called Facebook. Even though she now lives thousands of miles away from me, she still managed to find me, and now we talk all the time. Don't you just love technology? So, now I get to steal RECIPES from her instead of stealing homework! Isn't that fun?
Thanx Kath!

Do you like garbanzo beans (chickpeas)?? I have a recipe for the BEST chickpea salad I have ever had in my LIFE!!! It is from Planet Green's Emeril show. It is a WONDERFUL, garlicky, super fresh tasting, Mediterranean-style salad. Even my KIDS like it, it is so yummy!!!! What kid likes garbanzo beans?!?!?!
I'm making some today to take with me on our camping trip (travels well and is even better the second day!!). My kitchen smells like HEAVEN right now!!!! The only change I make to this recipe is to use black olives instead of green. My family prefers black olives. And I always use flat leaf Italian parsley whenever parsley is called for in a dish...tastes better!!! Now I can't wait until tomorrow night to dig in!!!!! Mmmmmmmmmmm!!!!
It is just that good!!

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed briefly under cool running water
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tbs small diced pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
6 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup crumbled sheep’s milk feta
Lettuce leaves and tomato slices for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas with the roasted red peppers, red onion, parsley, olives, garlic, oregano, sea salt, crushed red pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and the olive oil. Add the feta and stir gently to combine. Allow the chickpeas to marinate for at least one hour or refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.

Line a serving platter with the lettuce and tomato and spoon the chickpea salad over the leaves.

Kathy's tips:
I serve this as a light side dish, or as a light entree with warm toasted pita that was brushed with a little olive oil before I toasted it in triangle shapes in the oven. Add a glass of chardonnay and...voila! A FANTASTIC meal!!! :D You will LOVE IT!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Liberty Squares

July 4th just wouldn't be the same without a BBQ. In my family, as with most holidays, everyone chooses a different something to bring, and we wind up with a fabulous spread. I always like to bring something patriotically colorful. In the past I've done a Red White and Blueberry Trifle and also a Raspberry Pretzel Delight. Here's another red white and blue dessert that is as simple as it is rich and creamy and delicious.
Hope you like it!

12 tbs. chilled butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar

3 pkg (8oz ea) softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pkg (5oz) instant vanilla pudding
1 pint fresh blueberries
12 large fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F.
To make crust, sift together flour and sugar. Using two knives, cut butter into sifted mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. If you have a food processor, it's easiest just to throw everything in with a metal blade and pulse until it is well combined. Press firmly into an 9" x 13" baking pan and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely. In the meantime, make the filling.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add vanilla extract. Add dry pudding mix. Mix well. Gently fold in blueberries. Spread filling over cooled crust. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until set. Cut into 24 squares. Slice each strawberry in half going right through the stem. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on top of each square.

Use any flavor of pudding you like. Be creative! A white chocolate pudding would make your squares a true red, white, and blue. A lemon pudding would also work beautifully. If you like raspberries instead of strawberries, go for it! You could even add flavored extracts, such as lemon, orange, almond, or coconut in addition to the vanilla.
Oh, and one other thing...
Whenever I make any kind of squares, I like to remove the whole batch from the pan in one piece, which makes it easier to cleanly cut it into perfect squares. This recipe, however, doesn't lend itself to doing that.
So, here's the solution: Make a sling!
Before you bake your crust, place a large piece of parchment paper in the pan, making sure you have several inches hanging over each side. Press your crust over the paper and proceed with the recipe as usual. When you're ready to cut it into squares, use the parchment paper to lift it right out of the pan onto a flat surface. Now you're ready to cut it into perfectly perfect squares! Oh, be sure to run your knife under hot water before you make each cut. It really makes a difference. Presentation is everything!