Monday, November 29, 2010

Pork and Apple Saute

Whenever I see my sister, Reen, we inevitably wind up discussing recipes. Most times she tells me of something that she made that was SO good, that everyone LOVED. And most times it was something she just threw together and probably wouldn't be able to recreate if her life depended on it. I keep telling her "Write it down, take a picture of it, and send me the recipe!" Well, finally, she did! And it's fabulous!
Thanx Been!
To be honest, I have no idea of this is Reen's recipe or if it belongs to someone else, but as I always say, she's the one who brought it to me, so she's the one who gets the credit! It's an easy dinner that's ready in no time! Just throw everything together the night before, and let it marinate until you get home from work the next day. It's ready in as little time as it takes to cook the rice. Easy! It's the perfect Fall dinner.
You should try it!

6-8 pork chops
4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sherry
1/2 t. freshly grated ginger (I add about a tablespoon more!)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 peeled and sliced apples
3 strips bacon, crisped and crumbled (optional)

Cut pork off bone (if there is one). Cut into strips. Mix garlic, soy sauce, sherry, ginger and onion. Add pork. Marinade overnight. Peel and slice apples. Saute pork in vegetable oil. Add apples. Cook until tender. Serve with rice. Top with crumbled bacon, if desired.

Choose an apple that holds up well when it's cooked, such as Granny Smith. As much as I love Macintosh or Golden Delicious apples, they'll just break down and become mushy when you cook them.
Serve with any green vegetable, such as steamed broccoli, Roasted Asparagus, or Caramelized Brussels Sprouts.
When serving rice, instead of using plain white rice, try different kinds! (lately, I've been using Jasmine rice quite a lot. Love it!) Also,cook it in vegetable or chicken stock instead of water. You won't believe how much more flavorful it'll be!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey and Stuffing Casserole

Here's a repost of Jeanie's "day after Thanksgiving" dish.
It's so good that it's worth reposting and it still hits the spot.
Try it!!!!

Well, once again my sister Jeanie has created a fabulous 'feed a crowd' dish. She's good like that, you know? I love that I'll be at work, just going about my day, and I'll receive a random picture message on my phone of whatever new dish she's just created. When she first described it to me, all I could think of was "what's not to love?" It seriously screams "comfort food", and you know how I love that! This is the perfect recipe to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. Thanx My Jeanie!

4 cups cooked turkey, diced
4 cups diced red potatoes
3 stalks celery, diced
1 or 2 onions
2 cups baby carrots
1 bag frozen peas
6 cups chicken (or turkey) broth
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. sage
1 jar turkey gravy
1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
fresh rosemary, 1 sprig
fresh thyme
1 recipe stuffing – Stove Top or your own

1. Cook potatoes – I put them in a skillet with a little oil, seared them for about 10 minutes, then added some water to cover, put a lid on and cooked for another 5 or 10 until tender. Drain and place into bottom of a greased 13 x 9. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, saute celery, onion and carrots in a little butter until tender. Add chicken broth, poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup flour in about 1 cup of water, whisk until smooth, and add to skillet mixture. Add jar of turkey gravy. Simmer until thickened.
4. Add diced turkey and frozen peas (no need to thaw them).
5. Pour entire mixture on top of potatoes in 13 x 9.
6. Prepare the Stove Top as directed and sprinkle over top of the casserole.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Clearly, you could use chicken instead of turkey and switch the vegetables to suit your own tastes or to use up whatever you have leftover!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Balsamic Root Vegetables

Usually, when you're cooking a turkey dinner, you have to figure out how to keep everything hot at the same time, right? This can sometimes be tricky, since the turkey is taking up all the room in the oven. Often times, it's easiest to have all of your side dishes ready to go, and then when you take the turkey out, you put the side dishes in. The turkey has to rest anyway, so now you can cook everything else. Great.
 But wait! What if everything doesn't fit in your oven at the same time? Well, here's a solution. Use your counter top instead! I'm talking about your crock pot, of course. You can set this up the night before, turn it on when you put your turkey in the oven, and boom, everybody gets to the finish line at the same time. Problem solved! So now, Brian, you don't have to get nervous when I mention "oven management". This recipe is fabulously delicious, and it's just as easy. Even if you've never cooked a thing in your life (just like Brian), you can absolutely do this one. If you can peel a potato, you're halfway there!
I saw this recipe in a magazine, and I liked the idea of  cooking the vegetables with balsamic vinegar. It reminded me of seeing Jamie Oliver making different kinds of oven roasted vegetables and he used a different kind of vinegar for each one. Fabulous. Every other ingredient in this recipe has a natural sweetness and the vinegar balances everything beautifully. The final dish kind of reminds you of pot roast vegetables, only they have a little extra tang and a little extra sweet. Jason gave them a big 'thumbs up' when I was testing the recipe. I think you'll give them a big 'thumbs up' too!

1 1/2 lbs fresh sweet potatoes
1 lb fresh parsnips
1 lb baby carrots
2 large red onions
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
3 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh flat leave parsley, if desired

Peel sweet potatoes and parsnips. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Peel and roughly chop onions. In a lightly buttered 6-qt crock pot, stir together the parsnips, carrots, onions and cranberries. Layer the sweet potatoes on top. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper. Drizzle over potatoes. Do not stir. Place lid on top. Cook on high heat for 4-5 hours. Toss with chopped parsley, if desired, just before serving.

When you whisk up the vinegar mixture, you'll think that there must be a typo and that this couldn't possibly be enough liquid, but trust me. It'll be the perfect amount. There's plenty of moisture in the rest of the veggies.
I'm sure you could change the amounts of vegetables to suit your likes or dislikes. Maybe you're not feeling the parsnips, but you love carrots. So add more carrots and omit the parsnips. Cook what you like! I thought of adding fresh beets to the mix, but then of course realized that it would turn everything red. Not that it would be a bad thing, but it was just a thought.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chrissy's Baked Ginger Cranberries

As I was browsing through the produce department at the supermarket, I saw my friend Laura who works there. We see each other all the time and she always asks me what deliciousness I'll be cooking up that day. We got to talking about cranberry sauce, and I told her I always make them the way my Mom always did. Simple basic Cranberry Sauce, with nothing else to complicate it. Call me a purist, what can I say. Anyway, she mentioned this recipe that she got from her cousin, Chrissy. Actually, to be honest, she said Chrissy got it from a friend, but like I always say, since Chrissy is the one who brought it to us, she's the one who gets the credit for it. It sounded so fabulous I absolutely HAD to try it.
 Can I just tell you, this recipe simply couldn't be any easier. You just throw everything in a dish and bake it! Easy, right? You don't even have to be exact with the measurements. Serve with your next holiday meal! Better yet, why wait until then? It's perfect with any mid-week chicken dinner as well.
Thanx Laura! And Thanx to Chrissy too!

1 12oz bag whole fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbs crystallized ginger, chopped

Simply place all ingredients in a small casserole dish and bake at 350F for a half hour. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Be sure to give it a good stir about halfway through baking time, otherwise the sugar might clump on the bottom. Even if that happens, though, it'll still be fine. Just stir it all together while it's still warm. the sugar will melt and become all syrupy and sticky and mmmmmm.
The original recipe called for just 2 cups of cranberries. Laura and I decided to just use the whole bag and adjust the amounts of the other ingredients accordingly. Seems silly not to just throw the whole bag in, right?
Make sure you really super mince the ginger. Personally, I just like the added layer of flavor that the ginger brings to the whole dish and I'd rather not bite into a big honkin' piece of ginger. And btw, if you like a lot of ginger, add more! And if you have a big group to feed, double everything!
I bet this would be fabulous if you add a little Grand Marnier or a little orange zest. Yum!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

If you're looking for a super decadent chocoholic's dream of a dessert, then you've come to the right place. I happened to notice this recipe on the cover of a Kraft Foods magazine, and I immediately wanted to try it. I made it for my family's "Halloween, Dad's Birthday, Pick Christmas Pollyanna Quailapalooza" a few weeks ago and it was a MAJOR hit. After all, what's not to love? Rich chocolate syrup drizzled over a velvety layer of chocolate mousse on top of a delectable chocolate cake....Scrumptious! It was pretty easy to make too! It does take a little extra time to bake and then extra time for chilling in the fridge, but that just makes it the perfect dessert to make ahead. Oh, and the cool thing about this cake is that the mousse layer and the cake layer trade places in the pan when you bake it. Pretty cool, huh? So, the next time you have a special occasion or a dinner that requires a showstopper of a dessert, give this one a try. The chocoholics in your life will thank you!

1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 pkg.  (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup  oil
7 eggs, divided
1/2 cup  sour cream
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup  sugar
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Whipped cream or nondairy whipped topping, if desired

Heat oven to 375F.
Spray 12-cup fluted tube pan with baking spray. Pour syrup in pan.
Beat cake mix, water, oil, and 3 eggs with mixer for 2 minutes or until well blended. Blend in sour cream. Pour over syrup in pan.
Beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer until blended. Add remaining eggs. Mix well. Blend in milk and chocolate. Gently spoon over cake batter. Loosely cover with foil sprayed with cooking spray, sprayed side down.
Place tube pan in a large pan. Add 2 inches of water to the larger pan to create a water bath. Bake 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate 2 hours. Invert onto cake plate, remove pan.
Serve with whipped cream or non dairy whipped topping, if desired.

Tips from Kraft Kitchens:
The cream cheese mixture sinks to the bottom of the cake batter in pan as the cake bakes, forming the mousse layer at the top of the unmolded cake. To unmold cooled cake, use long thin spatula to loosen cake from side of pan. Place plate over cake pan; invert cake onto plate. Gently remove pan. Spoon any chocolate syrup remaining in pan over cake.
Important Note
To prevent overflow, check cake pan to confirm it is the required 12-cup size. Just measure 3 qt. (12 cups) water and pour into empty pan to verify the volume before using as directed. If you only have a 10-cup fluted tube pan, reserve 2 cups cake batter before pouring remaining batter into prepared tube pan. Continue as directed. Reserved cake batter will make 9 cupcakes. Bake as directed on cake mix package. 

Tips from Joey:
When I made this, the bottom of the cake wasn't exactly level. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but since the mousse layer is so soft, the uneven bottom caused it to crack when I turned it out onto the plate. To make sure this doesn't happen, just slice off an even layer of the cake before you invert it onto your cake plate. Use The side of the tube pan as your guide. This will insure a perfect presentation with no crackage!
Oh, and one other thing, I posted the picture of the one I made, but I also included the Kraft picture so you can see the pretty layers. As you can see, I decided that more is more with the chocolate syrup!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jeanie's Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon


 Every year on Thanksgiving, my sister, Jeanie, introduces a new side dish to the holiday feast. It's just for the sake of variety, which is, after all, the spice of life. Sometimes Jeanie's introductory side dishes even become a permanent part of the menu. (Corn Casserole anyone?) 
  This was a recent addition that I absolutely LOVE. Now, I know one or two of you may be crinkling your noses at the thought of having brussel sprouts, but seriously, just go with me on this. Have I ever lied to you before? Perhaps you don't like the brussel sprouts because they weren't prepared properly, no?  Even if you've passed on them in the past, I think it's time to give them another try! And seriously, they're cooked with bacon and you KNOW everything is better with bacon, right?
So PLEASE! Give them a try! You just might be surprised! And who knows, maybe they'll become a permanent part of YOUR holiday meal!
 Thanx My Jeanie!

2 pints fresh brussel sprouts
4 strips bacon
1 small onion
half cup chicken broth
freshly cracked black pepper
kosher salt

Using a sharp knife, cut the bacon into small pieces and add them to a large skillet over medium heat. Slowly let the fat render from the bacon. Dice the onion and add it to the skillet. While they're cooking, prepare the sprouts. Slice each one in half, making sure to slice through the root end. When the onions are soft and the bacon is crisp, remove them from the pan, leaving the bacon fat behind. Add the sprouts to the pan, making sure they're cut side down. I know you'll want to toss them around in the pan, but try to control yourself. Just let them sit until they begin to caramelize on the bottom. Now add the chicken broth, salt and pepper. Place a lid on the skillet and simmer until the sprouts are tender. (Add more broth if you need to). When the sprouts are tender, add the bacon and onions back to the pan and toss all together. Serve immediately.

Be sure to cook the bacon and onions over medium low heat. You want to gradually render the fat. If you have the heat up any higher, you'll quickly brown the bacon into a crisp but you won't get as much fat to render.
It's important to cut the sprouts though the root end because if you cut them in the other direction, they'll fall apart.
As far as I'm concerned there's just no comparison between fresh and frozen brussel sprouts. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sue's Cider Carrots


 Many many years ago, I met my fabulous friend, Sue, when a few of my theater friends and I were putting together a cabaret road show. We needed someone to play the piano, and lucky for us, Sue agreed! Seriously, she's possibly the best accompanist with whom I've ever had the pleasure of working. No matter how lost I would get in the middle of a song, Sue would play me back on track. And by the same token, if I ever took a major wrong turn in the middle of a song, she'd jump ahead to be right there with me and the audience would never have any idea. Simply amazing. Anyway, ever since then, Sue has been a trusted friend whose opinion is always requested and respected. So, when I got an email from her saying that this is 'the only way she'll ever cook carrots again", you  KNOW I had to try them.
  She told me she originally made them to go with a cold couscous salad with feta cheese and pecans, and suggested adding a pat of butter for serving them hot. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of those "how can this not be good" recipes and it SCREAMS holiday side dish, don't you think? It's almost absurdly simple to make, and the flavors go together so perfectly that this might possibly be the only way you'll ever cook carrots again!
Thanx Sue!!

1 lb bag baby carrots
1 bottle sparkling apple cider*

Simply boil the carrots in the apple cider with a few pinches of nutmeg until tender. Drain. Dust with a few pinches of cinnamon. Add a little knob of butter, if desired.

*Sue suggested using Martinelli's Sparkling Cider, but I'd just bet that any apple cider would be delish!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Joey's Butternut Apple Gratin

 Lately I've been playing around with different ingredients, coming up with some new recipes, trying different combinations of savory and sweet. I love a fabulous dish that embraces that balance of flavors. As I often do, I browsed around the produce section of the supermarket, just to see what looks good, what's in season, what sparks inspiration. I noticed the butternut squash and wondered "why have I never done anything with that?" So that set the recipe creating wheels in motion. To be honest, I knew right away what I DIDN'T want the recipe to be, more than what I WANTED it to be. Even though I wanted to keep the sweet and savory theme going, I didn't want it to be as sweet as candied yams. I didn't want to add any meat to it, like crumbled bacon, etc, because I thought it would be nice to make it a vegetarian dish. I didn't want it to have cheese or eggs in it, because I thought that would make it too heavy. Great, now that that's settled, lets figure out what I WANT the recipe to be. I already had a bag of apples in my shopping cart because I was planning to bake an apple pie. Ooo good idea. I'll add them to the dish. Hmm...maybe some onion too....and some fresh herbs....  with a buttered crust topping. Perfect! After bouncing a few ideas around with Marie, I tried a couple versions of my new dish, each time changing it just a little. And Eureka! This is the one! It's exactly what I had in mind! It's the perfect side dish for your next holiday meal and it's simple to make too! Try it! Oh, and be sure to let me know how you like it! Thanx!

1 large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)
2 Granny Smith apples
1 small onion
a few big pinches of:
 fresh parsley
 fresh sage
 fresh rosemary
 fresh thyme
 kosher salt
 freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbs honey
4 tbs butter

1 cup coarse bread crumbs
2 tbs butter

Heat oven to 350F.
Peel squash and cut in half. Using a spoon, scrape out the insides, just like you'd do if you were carving a pumpkin. Cut the squash into large chunks. Place in a large bowl.
Peel and core apples. Cut into large chunks. Add to the bowl.
Peel and roughly chop the onion. Add to the bowl.
Chop the parsley, sage, and rosemary. Remove the leaves from the sprigs of thyme. Add all of the herbs to the bowl along with a good dash of salt and black pepper. Toss everything together. Dump everything into a 9x13 casserole dish. Drizzle with honey. Dot with butter. Cover with foil. Bake for about 45 minutes or until almost tender.
Mix bread crumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle buttered bread crumbs over all. Place back in the oven, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes or until the bread crumbs are golden.

Be sure to use a sharp knife when cutting the squash. I usually cut it across the width first (instead of cutting it lengthwise), just because it's easier to work with. It's also easier to cut each half into chunks if you place it cut side down. It's more stable that way.
Even though the apples and the squash are naturally sweet, I still added the honey. It's only a tablespoon. It's not enough to make it overly sweet, but it's just enough to smooth over the tart edge from the apples.
I like chunks of apple, as opposed to slices. I just think they hold up better when they're cooked. So, I cut each apple in half, then each half into large dice (about 8-10 pieces). I do the same thing with the onions.
For the bread crumbs, place a few slices of stale bread or rolls into a food processor and pulse until they're coarse crumbs. In this particular recipe, the finer store bought crumbs just aren't the same.
Many of the ingredients are just to taste. Do you like a lot of fresh rosemary? Do you like a lot of butter? I used about a tablespoon of each of the chopped fresh herbs. Add as much as you like! By the same token, if there's anything that you particularly DON'T like, then by all means, just leave it out. It'll still be fabulous!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Joey's Salted Caramel Apple Pie


One of the fastest growing flavor trends is the combination of salt and caramel. What originally started as an elite culinary obsession among French and American chefs, has now sprinted its way onto the menus of chain restaurants, gourmet coffee shops, and supermarkets. It's even a favorite at The White House! It makes perfect sense, though, when you think about it.  Everyone knows that salty and sweet compliment each other perfectly! Peanut brittle anyone?  Peanut butter cup? How about some kettle corn?
  I've often said that my favorite dessert in the whole wide world is a hot apple pie with caramel sauce. So, when I saw a salted caramel apple pie being made on a cooking show, I knew I had to try it for myself.
 When I started making it, I didn't really have a recipe. I just started adding things that sounded good to me, and VOILA! It turned out beautifully! As I told Paul, every so often I even impress myself!
   I really hope you'll give it a try!

Ready made pie crust for a 2 crust pie, or my Easy Pie Crust, or your own

1 bag of Kraft caramels (about 50)
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp sea salt

1 lemon
6 tart apples

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tbs flour

1 egg

1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 big pinch sea salt

Heat oven to 375F.
Roll out one pie crust and gently place it in a Pyrex pie plate, leaving about an inch of crust hanging over the edge. Set aside.
Unwrap the caramels. Place them in a microwave safe bowl. Add the evaporated milk and microwave until melted. Whisk in 1 tsp sea salt until smooth. Set aside.
Slice the lemon in half, squeeze the juice into a big bowl of cold water, and add the lemon halves as well. As you core and peel the apples, drop them into the lemon water to keep them from browning.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.
Now you're ready to put it all together.
Slice the apples as THINLY as you can. If you happen to have a mandolin slicer, even better! As you slice each apple, lay the slices in the pie crust, making sure to overlap so that there are no spaces. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of the sugar mixture, then drizzle with about a quarter cup of the salted caramel sauce. Continue layering apple slices, sugar mixture, and caramel until you use everything up, ending with the remaining caramel sauce.
Cut remaining pie crust into strips. (I like to use a pizza cutter). Arrange the strips of crust over the pie. Tuck the edges under, then crimp to make a decorative edge. Gently brush the crust with beaten egg. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over the top. Finally, sprinkle a little more sea salt over the top.
Place the pie on a baking sheet (just in case it spills over) and place it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it stand for at least an hour before slicing. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you'd like to get a little fancy, you can use Fleur de Sel, which is a much more gourmet sea salt that is hand harvested in France. If you don't have regular sea salt, you can get away with using kosher salt. I wouldn't use regular iodized table salt because it has a completely different flavor, and it's not as coarse.
Be sure your apple slices are as thin as you can make them, and shingle them in the pie plate so that there are no gaps. This lets the apples cook down on top of each other, resulting in a meatier pie.
It's important to let it sit for a while after you bake it because it needs time to set up. You'll wind up with a much neater slice. Otherwise, it'll fall apart when you cut it.
Oh, and one other thing.... I listed the ingredients in groups just so it's a little easier to follow the recipe. Since the pie has different components, I figured it would be easier to follow if each component's ingredients were grouped together.