Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fresh Lemon Sorbet

Now that the weather is getting warmer and summer is upon us, I think it's time for a refreshing frozen taste treat. Don't you agree?
 If you've never had sorbet, it's sort of like water ice, only smoother. It's like a more gourmet version of water ice. Oh, and I must say, just for the record, sorbet is not the same as sherbet. Yes, I know some people use those two words interchangeably, but it's just not so. Even though the word "sherbet" is derived from the word "sorbet", a sherbet is usually creamy in texture because of the addition of, well yes, you guessed it, cream! So now you know. I'm really glad we cleared that up. Aren't you?
 Anyway, give this a try, and serve it as a refreshing treat on a hot day. Also, a small scoop would be the perfect thing to cleanse one's palate between courses of your next elegant dinner.
Love it!

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
    Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, and place in the fridge. Once it's chilled, combine the syrup with the lemon juice and zest and pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. After the sorbet is made, transfer to an airtight container. Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.

    -For an easy variation, simply substitute orange or lime juice and zest in place of the lemon. I must say, I'm particularly fond of the orange variation. You won't believe how refreshing it is!! It's like eating a frozen orange. SO yummy!
     -Before you pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker, give it a quick taste to see if it suits you. Everyone has a different idea of what is too sweet or too tart. Especially when using lemon or lime, you don't want it to taste like lemonade concentrate. You know, like the kind you add to a pitcher of water?
    -I use a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. It couldn't be easier to use. You just leave the canister in the freezer until you're ready to use it. Then you just pour in the chilled ingredients and turn it on. In a matter of 30 minutes, you have sorbet! How easy is that? If you have the means, I HIGHLY recommend picking one up!

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Mashed Potato Pancakes

      I have a question for you. Do you throw away leftovers? BE HONEST! Some people throw away leftovers because "Well, no one will eat it, so I might as well just get rid of it." Are you kidding? That's such a waste! I NEVER throw away leftovers because there's always a way to use them in another recipe and breathe new life into them. My Dad used to always say "Wrap it up, I'll put it on a sandwich later." And he always did!
     My parents were brilliant in figuring ways to stretch a dollar, especially since they had 11 children to feed. I guess that's how Mom came up with this little gem of a idea.
      You have a bunch of mashed potatoes leftover from dinner last night, what do you do? Fry them up and serve them with breakfast the next day! They're SO yummy and hearty. It's sort of like a different twist on hash browned potatoes.
     So this isn't really a recipe as much as it's a leftover user upper. Just scoop up some leftover mashed potatoes, throw them into a hot skillet with a little oil or butter, and let them saute until they're golden on the bottom, then flip it over and do the same thing on the other side. The key is to leave them alone while you're waiting to flip them. Otherwise, they'll fall apart. If you added a lot of butter to your mashed potatoes, you probably don't even need to add very much oil or butter to the pan (if any). Just use your own judgment. You can also add things to your potatoes before you fry them up. Chopped onions or scallions, minced garlic, any fresh herbs or seasonings. Anything at all!
    If you like hash browns, I know you like this too!

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Oatmeal Toffee Chip Cookies

     My niece, Kristin, recently had a jewelry party and she invited me to stop by for a drink and a nosh. Frankly, I had no plans of buying any jewelry, (which she knew when she invited me) but a party is a party, right? The more the merrier! So, I was happy to stop by. She had a tasteful variety of hors d'oeuvres, some sweet, some savory, and ALL so delicious, especially these cookies!
     They're so buttery and chewy! As soon as I took a bite, I knew I wanted the recipe. She told me she got the recipe from, only she made a slight change. When she made them, she used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour, which worked absolutely perfectly.  I'm sure yours will turn out perfectly as well, regardless of which type of flour you choose. Oh!  Here's an idea.... Make a double batch of dough, roll them into balls, and store them in the freezer for up to three months. Then whenever you want some home baked cookies, just bake up a tray or two!  Wait, actually, I think you should bake up a batch, like, right now!
    Thanx Kristin!

    1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
    1 large egg
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 cup oatmeal, uncooked (not quick oats)
    1/2 cup (about 3 oz) toffee crunch candy, such as Heath Bar or Skor

    1. Position 2 oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

    2. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together. Set aside. Put the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until they are blended thoroughly, about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl during this time. Decrease the speed to low and add the flour mixture and oatmeal. Stir in the crushed toffee. Using 2 tablespoons of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between the palms of your hands to form 1 1/2-inch balls. Place the cookie balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

    3. Bake the cookies until golden brown, 12 to 13 minutes. After 7 minutes of baking, reverse the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom to ensure even browning. Watch the cookies carefully as they near the end of their baking time.

    4. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to 2 wire racks to cool completely. Makes about sixteen 3-inch cookies.
     Notes: Lining the baking sheets with parchment paper will prevent the melted toffee from sticking to the baking sheet. The bottoms of these sweet cookies can burn easily, so watch the cookies carefully at the end of their baking time. To crush the toffee, leave it in its paper wrapper and crush it with the flat side of a meat pounder. Unwrap the toffee and break up any pieces larger than 1/2 inch.

    To Freeze: Place the bottoms of 2 cookies together and wrap them in plastic wrap. Put the wrapped cookies in a metal or plastic freezer container and cover tightly. Label with date and contents. Freeze up to 3 months. To serve, remove as many cookies from the freezer as needed and defrost the wrapped cookies at room temperature. Serve within 3 days.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Reuben Stromboli

    Usually, when you think of a stromboli, you think of pizza sauce and mozzarella or provolone cheese wrapped up and baked in a hearty dough, right? Sometimes you add pepperoni to it.....basically anything you'd put on a pizza, right? Well, how about something completely different? This recipe takes all of the components of a Reuben sandwich and rolls it all up into a fabulous stromboli. Brilliant! Now why didn't I think of that?
    I recently received this recipe from my sister Cathy, who got it from her friend, Jane. As soon as I read it, I immediately knew I'd soon be making it. It's so simple! I've always loved a good Reuben sandwich, and this is a great twist. Thanx Jane! And of course, I love that she serves it with thousand island dressing. It's a must! How can you have a Reuben without it, right? Oh, and btw, a big hello to Jane's mom and her bridge ladies! Hello Ladies!

    Here's the recipe in Jane's own words:

    I lost my recipe but this is what I did.

    3/4 lb of corn beef
    3/4 pound Swiss cheese
    can of sauerkraut - drained - I used 3/4 of a can the size of soup -
    believe I used entire small can before
    mayo-few tablespoons
    Dijon mustard - I used about 1 heaping
    2 packages of pizza crust dough

    I always make 2 small strombolis out of it but the recipe calls for
    one big-so what ever you want to do.
    I chop the meat & cheese into tiny pieces and then add everything. I
    think mayo and mustard are really just to hold together.
    It also calls for caraway seeds but I rarely use.
    It takes a long time to bake...
    I usually serve with thousand island dressing.


    Note from Joey-
    I made it a couple times. The first time, I chopped everything up, and then rolled it up in the pizza crust, then baked it at 350 for about 30 minutes.
    It turned out great. SO delicious! But here's the thing..
    I was missing the swirl design in the cross section of the cut stromboli. So, I tried it again, and this time, I just did a little spread of mayo and mustard on the dough, then I layered the pieces of corned beef, the sauerkraut, then the cheese. Now when you roll it up, bake it and slice it, you have the pretty spiral design that I missed with the first technique.
    Whichever way you decide to make it, I'm sure you'll love it!
    Oh, and for the dressing, choose your favorite brand, or make it fresh!
    Click here for the recipe: Thousand Island Dressing

    If you'd prefer to have a milder sauerkraut flavor, either use a little less, or rinse it well, then squeeze it dry before adding it to your stromboli.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Top Secret

    I honestly don't know where I got this recipe. I vaguely remember getting some sort of blueberry recipe from my sister, Jeanie, about a million years ago. (a blueberry crumble, mayhaps? I can't remember). Anyway, I think this came with it, but I'm not exactly sure. The other thing that lingers in the back of my mind is a story of how someone was serving pie and didn't have any whipped topping to serve with it, so he used what he had on hand, and this was the result. None of his guests could guess what the main ingredient was, so he called it "Top Secret" (as in "secret topping"), and there you have it.
     I've made this a million times and it's always a huge hit. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not even sure if this is the exact original recipe. You know how I'm always tweaking recipes. So this is how I make it now. It's absurdly simple to make and I know you'll love it.  Serve it as a topping for any fruit desserts,  fruit pies, fruit salads, or even as a dip in the center of a fruit tray. Sprinkle it with a little cinnamon and you'll be in heaven!
    And if your guests are wondering what the topping is, tell them it's Top Secret!

    1 32oz container cottage cheese
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

    Simply place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process for several minutes, until it's satiny smooth and until the sugar is dissolved. Cover or place in an airtight container (I always just store it right back in the cottage cheese container). Chill until ready to serve.

    -If you don't have a food processor, you can also use a hand blender . You can probably use a regular blender, but you might have to stop several times and use a spatula or spoon to help things along.
    -Feel free to reduce the amount of sugar if you'd prefer a topping that isn't as sweet. I've used as little as 1/4 cup, and it's still delicious, but I must say, I do like it better with 1/2 cup!
    -I always use 4% cottage cheese because it makes a richer and more decadent topping, but feel free to use any low fat cheese, if you so desire. I wouldn't use a nonfat cottage cheese because it never tastes as good. (not to mention, it seems to me that they always add a bunch of fillers and things that I can't pronounce. I'd rather go for the one that tastes better!)