Ham: An Easter Tradition | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2014 13:53

041714fIn the United States, baked ham is the traditional Easter Sunday meal. Before the days of refrigeration, meat spoiled quickly unless it was preserved in some manner. Pork was preserved over the winter by curing it with salt and smoke, a process that took six or seven months. It was ready just in time for Easter.

Despite today’s improved technology, ham has remained the traditional entrée for this spring holiday, largely because of that delicious salty-smoky flavor.

Since most hams we buy today are fully cooked, creating a meal around one doesn’t require all the preparation that the annual Thanksgiving turkey does. To be served warm, a fully cooked ham need only be reheated in a 325°F oven to an internal temperature of 140°F.

But there are many ways to “customize” the reheating process with glazes and sauces.

Leftover ham should be tightly wrapped and refrigerated within a couple of hours after cooking.

EASTER BAKED HAM

1 (7-pound) boneless ham
2 cups brown sugar
3tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1(8-ounce) can pineapple
rings in juice, drained and juice reserved
1 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Score ham by making 1/2-inch-deep diagonal cuts, creating a diamond pattern; transfer ham to a roasting pan.

Mix brown sugar with enough yellow mustard to make a smooth, pourable sauce.

Pour reserved pineapple juice over ham, followed by the honey.

Pour brown sugar mixture over honey and arrange pineapple rings decoratively atop ham. Secure pineapple rings with toothpicks.

Bake in the preheated oven until diamond pattern on ham splits open, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Baste ham every 15 minutes with pan drippings. Yields 18 servings.

MAPLE-GLAZED HAM

1/4 cup maple syrup
1(5-pound) fully-cooked, bone-in ham
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dry mustard

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Trim excess fat from ham and score in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife, making shallow cuts about 1 inch apart. Place in a roasting pan.

Roast for 30 minutes in the preheated oven. In a small bowl, mix together the syrup, vinegar, Dijon mustard and mustard powder.

When the 30 minutes are up, brush 1/3 of the glaze over the ham. Bake 20 minutes, and repeat twice with remaining glaze. Let the ham stand for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Serves 8.

STRAWBERRY-SPINACH SALAD

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced onion
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 quart strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover and chill for one hour. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

LEFTOVER HAM & SWISS CASSEROLE

2 cups egg noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 (6-ounce) can mushrooms, drained
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 cup diced Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss drained noodles with 2 teaspoons of the oil. Heat remaining oil in a skillet and saute onion over medium heat until soft.

Combine noodles, onion, mushrooms, ham, Swiss cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased 3-quart casserole dish. In a bowl, mix together egg and milk; pour over noodle mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

 

 
The Importance of Matzos in the Celebration of Passover | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 15:50

041014fPassover, one of the most significant observances on the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset on Monday with the first Seder meal and continues until the evening of Tuesday, April 22.

It celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. During the Seder banquet, the Haggadah is read which reenacts the journey.

The favorite kosher foods of Passover, baked or fried, are chock-full of symbolism – but no leavening. Matzo, an unleavened flat bread, is a staple that shows up in dozens of recipes. The dough is a mixture of flour and water, and is worked very quickly and baked in a very hot oven so it does not have a chance to rise.

MATZO BALL SOUP

Soup:
1 (5-pound) chicken
2 large celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, cut in chunks
1 onion, quartered
3 sprigs parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
Matzo Balls:
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons chicken fat (from the above soup)
1 cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup hot water
12 cups salted water

Wash the chicken with water and place in pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off bubbling foam as it forms. Add celery, carrots, onion, herbs, salt and pepper and simmer, half-covered at lower heat, for at least 45 minutes, until the chicken comes away easily from the bone. Pour soup through strainer to get a clear broth. Let cool. When broth has completely cooled, skim off the fat and save for the matzo balls.

In a mixing bowl, mix together 4 eggs and 4 tablespoons chicken fat. Stir in the matzo meal and salt. Add the 1/4 cup of hot water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Form the matzo dough into balls the size of walnuts. Bring the salted water to a boil. Add the matzo balls, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Remove matzo balls from hot water with a slotted spoon and add to the simmering chicken broth just a few minutes before serving.

PASSOVER MUFFINS

1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peanut oil
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 cup matzo meal
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix sugar, salt, oil and water in a saucepan and bring to full boil. Pour mixture over matzo meal and mix nutil well blended. Beat eggs thoroughly and add. Using wet hands, form mixture into small balls and drop into ungreased muffin tins. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, lower temperature to 350°F and bake for 50 minutes until golden brown.

MATZO MEAL PANCAKES

3/4 cup matzo meal
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
Oil for cooking

Soak matzo meal in water. Add sugar, salt and egg yolks. Mix well. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold them into matzo mixture. Let batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Coat large skillet with oil and place over medium heat. When oil is hot, spoon enough batter to form small pancakes in skillet and cook 3 minutes on each side. Turn over pancakes when bubbles appear at top and cook bottom side until golden brown, 1 minute or so more. Repeat with remaining batter, using additional oil as needed. Makes 18 pancakes.

MATZO CANDY

12 matzo crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place the matzo crackers in a single layer on the lined baking sheets, breaking to fit, if necessary.

Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Pour the hot sugar mixture over the matzo, and spread evenly with a heat proof spatula.

Place the caramel topped matzo in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Return pans to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 minute. Smooth melted chocolate to completely cover the caramel. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.

Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes, or until set. Break into about 4 dozen small pieces to serve.

 

 
Easy as Pie! | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:44

040314fIntimidated at the mere thought of making a pie from scratch? You have lots of company. It seems to rank high on the phobia list of cooking techniques.

The only tricky part is the pie crust. (See box at right.) Be sure all of the ingredients are cold.

When rolling out the dough, roll out from the center, never back and forth, and don’t roll off the edge of the dough.

Don’t overfill the crust. The filling will expand and ooze during the baking.

CLASSIC APPLE PIE

Pastry for double-crust pie
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (8 medium)
2 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 425°F. With floured rolling pin, roll one pastry round into round 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side.

In large bowl, mix sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in apples until well mixed. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over filling. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of plate.

Roll other round of pastry into 10-inch round. Fold into fourths and cut slits so steam can escape. Unfold top pastry over filling; trim overhanging edge 1 inch from rim of plate. Fold and roll top edge under lower edge, pressing on rim to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or a wedge of sharp Cheddar cheese.

NUT TREE CHESS PIE

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
4 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
4 teaspoons melted butter
1 unbaked pie shell

Combine dry ingredients, nuts and raisins in mixing bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs with fork; add milk and melted butter. Stir into dry ingredients, mixing well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in a slow oven (315°F) for an hour and 15 minutes. During the long, slow baking, the nuts rise and turn golden brown on top of the rich, firmly jelled filling. Serve cold. The pie cuts best after it stands chilled for 24 hours.

COCONUT CREAM PIE

1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
2-1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for the egg whites
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cups toasted coconut
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a saucepan, whisk the 2 cups of milk and 3/4 cup sugar together. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid up to a simmer.

Whisk the egg yolks together. Temper the hot milk into the egg yolks. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk mixture. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk, making a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the hot milk mixture. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer.

Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the filling is thick, about 4 to 6 minutes. Fold in the vanilla, coconut, and butter. Mix well. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and cool the pie completely. Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the egg white to soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Spread the egg whites over the top of the pie. Place the pie in the oven for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown.

BLACKBERRY PIE

Pastry for a double crust pie
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Line a 9-inch pie pan with half the pastry, saving remaining pastry for top crust. Chill both while preparing the blackberries.

Combine berries, flour, sugar and lemon juice. Spoon into pie shell, and dot with butter or margarine. Cover with top crust, and slash in several places.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, or until browned. Serves 5-6.

GRASSHOPPER PIE

25 Oreo cookies
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups marshmallow creme
1/4 cup creme de menthe
2 cups whipping cream

Crush cookies and set aside 1/4 cup of crumbs. Place remaining crumbs in a medium bowl and mix in melted butter. Press mixture firmly into bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whip together marshmallow creme and creme de menthe until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form, then fold into marshmallow mixture. Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle reserved cookie crumbs on top. Freeze at least 2 hours, until firm. Remove from freezer 20 minutes before serving to soften slightly.

Making a Perfect Pie Crust

Making pie crust isn’t difficult. With a little practice, anyone can learn to make a picture-perfect pie with a tender, flaky crust.

Unless the recipe directs you to sift the flour, measure by lightly spooning it into a dry measuring cup, then level off with a knife blade or spatula. Measure carefully, being certain not to shake the cup or pack the flour down.

Shortening, lard, butter, margarine or oil, any of these fats will give pie crust flavor and flakiness, in addition to promoting browning.

BASIC PIE CRUST (For Single-Crust Pie)

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening, or 1/3 cup lard
2-1/2 tablespoons ice water

040314f2Combine flour and salt in medium bowl. Place shortening on top, then using a pastry blender, cut shortening into flour until particles are about the size of small peas or coarse meal. Use a relaxed flick of the wrist to keep dough mixture from becoming a compact mass. If necessary, run finger across the inside arc of the pastry blender to release shortening.

Sprinkle cold water 1 tablespoon at a time over the mixture, tossing lightly with fork to distribute the liquid evenly. As water is added, flour-shortening mixture will begin to hold together. Mix only enough so dough sticks together. Form pastry into a ball and chill from 30 minutes to 2 days. Double the recipe for a 2-crust pie.

 

 
The Season for Lamb | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 March 2014 14:43

032714fHistorically, served as a spring delicacy, lamb’s delicate flavor combines and compliments a wide variety of herbs and spices, vegetables and fruits. It is a delicious, versatile alternative to other meats.

Lamb lends itself to roasting, broiling, grilling, braising, stewing and stir-frying. It is best served rare to medium. Overcooking can diminish its flavor and texture.

When purchasing lamb, let color be the guide. Look for meat with a soft pink to red color with white marbling.

It is best when cooked at low temperatures ( 325° to 350° F) and when not overcooked.

Lamb is usually tender because it is from animals less than one year old. However, look for good marbling (white flecks of fat), and meat that is fine textured and firm.

LAMB CHOPS WITH ROSEMARY

4 (1-1/2 inch thick) lamb chops
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Brown chops in hot oil in large skillet. Turn heat to low and cook to desired doneness, about 7 minutes on each side for medium. Remove to warm platter.

Add rosemary, parsley and wine to skillet, heat to boiling and reduce slightly. Add butter and stir in. Return lamb to pan and coat with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH HERB SAUCE

1 (6 to 7-1/2 pound) leg of lamb, bone in
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
Herb Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400°F..

Using your hands, rub the lamb all over with the lemon juice. Pat the garlic and rosemary evenly all over the surface of the meat. Season the meat with the salt and pepper and place the lamb in a roasting pan.

Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to cook for about 1 hour longer for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 145° F to 150°F (make sure the thermometer is not touching the bone.)

Remove lamb from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top. Serves 6 to 8.

Herb Sauce

1 cup chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, chives, and parsley)
2 cups diced onions
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine

Position the roasting pan over your stove burners. Add mixed herbs and onions to pan, and stir to combine with pan drippings. Add chicken stock and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any fond. Reduce over high heat until sauce consistency. Strain before serving, if desired. Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top.

ROAST RACK OF LAMB

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (7-bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450°F. Move oven rack to the center position.

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss in 2 tablespoons olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.

Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy oven proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1 to 2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Brush rack of lamb with the mustard. Roll in the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring.

Arrange the rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven for 12 to 18 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you want. With a meat thermometer, take a reading in the center of the meat after 10 to 12 minutes and remove the meat, or let it cook longer, to your taste. Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes, loosely covered, before carving between the ribs. Yields 4 servings.

LAMB BARLEY SOUP

1 pound ground lamb
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups water
3 (10.5-oz.) cans beef consommé
1 (10.75-oz.) can condensed tomato soup
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup barley

Place the lamb and onion into a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook and stir until the lamb is browned and crumbled. Drain excess grease if any. Stir in the tomatoes, water, consomme, and tomato soup. Add the carrots, celery, and barley, and season with chili powder and pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Serves 8.

ROQUEFORT LAMB PATTIES

2 pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 medium onions, sliced
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons Roquefort or blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons flour

In medium bowl, mix lamb, salt and pepper. Shaped into 6 patties and broil 3 to 4 inches from source of heat, 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until desired doneness.

In small skillet, sauté onions in butter until soft; remove and keep warm.

In small saucepan, mix together Roquefort, 1 tablespoon butter, parsley and flour. Stir in sour cream. Heat and stir 1 minute or until just warmed and slightly thickened.

To serve, place sautéed onions on lamb patties and spoon Roquefort sauce on top. Serves 6.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound ground lamb
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup chopped onion
1⁄2 cup chopped carrot
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup dry white wine
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup frozen green peas
1-1⁄2 pound gold potatoes, peeled, chopped
1⁄2 cup half-and-half
1⁄2 cup feta cheese
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium pot over medium. Season lamb with salt and pepper; add to pot and cook until browned, stirring, about 4 minutes. Remove from pot; set aside.

Add onion, carrot, garlic, and onion to pot; cook until softened, stirring, about 4 minutes. Add reserved lamb, wine, tomatoes, and tomato paste to pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes. Add peas and simmer an additional 10 minutes, until stew is thickened and lamb is very tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Add half-and-half, cheese, and butter; mash until just smooth.

Assemble the pie: Transfer stew filling to a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Spread potato topping evenly over. Bake until golden and puffy, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cool 10 minutes, and serve.

 

 
Nothing Says Spring Like Asparagus | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 20 March 2014 12:25

032014f2One sure sign of spring is fresh asparagus in the produce aisle.

This favorite vegetable can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, grilled, roasted or incorporated into casseroles and salads.

Choose bunches with tightly closed tips and no flowering. Stalks should be bright green and firm (or pale ivory for white asparagus).

It’s best cooked the day it’s purchased, but it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to five days by standing the bundled stalks in a bowl with about an inch of water.

Devotees like its unadorned flavor, but it’s nice to have a few recipes that add a note or two.

ASPARAGUS QUICHE

1 tablespoon butter
1 leek (white and light green
parts only), halved and thinly sliced, then well washed
Salt and ground pepper
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on the diagonal
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cups half-and-half
Ground nutmeg
Favorite pie crust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate, well chilled
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add leek and asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Place pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese; top with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top.

Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Yields 6 servings.

SCALLOPED ASPARAGUS

1 pound fresh asparagus
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
 1cup milk
4eggs, hard-cooked and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

Bring non-aluminum saucepan of salted water to boiling. Grease 1-1/2-quart shallow baking dish. Boil cleaned asparagus until fork-tender. Drain and transfer to paper towels.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in small saucepan. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk. Cook stirring constantly until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; reserve sauce.

Arrange half of asparagus in a layer in prepared baking dish; sprinkle with half of the chopped egg; dot with 1 tablespoon butter; season with salt and cayenne pepper. Arrange another layer with remaining asparagus. Sprinkle center portion with remaining chopped egg. Pour cream sauce down middle of casserole. Sprinkle sauce with bread crumbs and cheese. Dot uncovered portions of the asparagus with remaining 2 tablespoons butter to prevent drying during baking.

Bake covered in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and take 2 to 3 minute until top is browned. Serves 4.

SPRING ASPARAGUS SALAD

1 pound California asparagus
1 papaya, peeled, seeded, and halved
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup mango nectar
1-1/2 tablespoons bottled mango chutney
Peel of 1/2 lemon, grated
3 cups cooked curly pasta
1/3 pound small shelled and cooked shrimp
1/4 cup green onions
8 bibb lettuce leaves

Break off asparagus spears at the tender point, rinse and cook in a skillet until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Chill and set aside 12 spears; cut remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces.

Cut half of papaya into eight thin, lengthwise slices and chill. Cut remaining half into bite-size pieces.

In large bowl, combine sour cream, nectar, chutney and lemon peel. Add cooled pasta, mix well. Stir in asparagus and papaya pieces, shrimp and green onions. Chill briefly.

 To serve, spoon pasta mixture on lettuce leaves and arrange papaya and Asparagus spears. Garnish with lemon twists or wedges and fresh mint, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

ASPARAGUS CASHEW RICE PILAF

1/4 cup butter
2 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1-1/4 cups uncooked rice
2-1/4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup cashew halves

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Increase heat to medium, and stir in spaghetti, cooking until coated with the melted butter and lightly browned.

Stir onion and garlic into the saucepan, and cook about 2 minutes, until tender. Stir in jasmine rice, and cook about 5 minutes. Pour in vegetable broth. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and cook 20 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed.

Place asparagus in a separate medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender but firm.

Mix asparagus and cashew halves into the rice mixture, and serve warm. Serves 8.

SAUTEED ASPARAGUS WITH MUSHROOMS

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, bring 2 inches of water to a boil with a teaspoon salt. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set aside.

Add asparagus to the boiling water and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until barely tender but still firm. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the spears to the ice water bath. Leave in ice water 5 minutes or until cool. Drain and set aside. Discard blanching water.

Using the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, asparagus, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté until mushrooms are wilted and the asparagus is just heated through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. Yields 4 servings.

 

 
Celebrating St. Patrick | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 March 2014 14:38

031314fThe Irish have observed St. Patrick’s Day as a religious holiday for more than a 1,000 years.

Although it really isn’t an Irish food tradition, corned beef and cabbage has certainly become the American celebratory meal to honor St. Patrick.

So, come Monday, enjoy this delicacy at your favorite restaurant, or prepare it at home. As you can see, it’s an easy-to-prepare dinner – just give it time to simmer till it’s fork tender, and serve with Irish soda bread.

TRADITIONAL CORNED BEEF & CABBAGE

3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
10 small red potatoes
5 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 large head cabbage

Rinse corned beef, then place it in large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the spice packet that came with the corned beef.

Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer approximately 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

Add whole potatoes and carrots, and cook until the vegetables are almost tender. Add cabbage that has been cut into small wedges and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove meat and let rest 15 minutes.

Place vegetables in a bowl and cover. Add as much broth (cooking liquid reserved in the Dutch oven or large pot) as you want. Slice meat across the grain. Yields 5 servings.

Cook’s Tip: If seasoning packet is not included with corned beef brisket, substitute 1-1/4 teaspoons pickling spice, or just add 15 peppercorns, 8 whole cloves and a bay leaf.

IRISH SODA BREAD

2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup buttermilk*
2/3 cup raisins, chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

*If you don’t have buttermilk, put 1 tablespoon plain vinegar in measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch-round layer-cake pan.

In food-processor bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 3 tablespoons sugar and caraway seeds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles oatmeal. Put into medium-size bowl.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; pour in buttermilk and add raisins. Mix lightly.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently a few times. Shape into a 5-inch-round loaf and place in prepared pan.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough crosswise into quarters, about one-third of the way through. Brush top surface with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar that has been mixed with the cinnamon. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with butter. Makes 1 loaf.

APPLE & BARLEY PUDDING

4 tablespoons pearl barley
1-1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 ounces sugar
3/4 tablespoon heavy cream
1 quart water

Put the barley in the water and bring to a boil.

Add the sliced apples and continue cooking gently until the barley and apples are soft. Press through a sieve, or put through the blender, and put back in the saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice and bring to the boil again.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and then chill. Serve cool with the cream stirred in.

IRISH COFFEE

1 cup fresh, hot coffee
1 ounce Irish whiskey
Sugar cubes to taste
Whipped cream

Heat whiskey. Pour coffee into a warm cup with the desired amount of sugar. Then use a spoon turned upside down and pour whiskey over it so it flows down gently. Float a heaping tablespoon of whipped cream on top. Don’t stir – the coffee is sipped through the cream.


 
Cooking with Beer | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 March 2014 14:36

030614fBeer is wonderful to cook with and, besides being a lot cheaper than that other popular cooking beverage, it’s subtler and homier.

Because it is such a satisfying, cooling drink, many people forget that beer is also one of the world’s greatest seasoning agents.

As a marinade for meat, fish or seafood, it tenderizes. In roasting, baking or broiling, beer is used to baste the foods or as an ingredient in the basting sauce to impart a rich, dark color and highlight the gravy.

As a baking liquid, beer is unsurpassed, adding lightness and buoyancy to biscuits, pancakes, cakes and a variety of homemade breads.

So move over wine and make way for a little of the brewer’s art in the kitchen.

BEER-BATTERED ONION RINGS

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, separated
1 cup beer
4 tablespoons melted butter
Salt to taste
3 large onions, sliced into rings
2 quarts oil for frying

Sift flour into a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk egg yolks. Mix in beer, butter and salt. Set aside 1 cup of flour for dipping the onion rings. Slowly stir the egg yolk mixture into the remaining flour and mix well. Allow the mixture to stand 30 to 60 minutes.

Heat deep fryer to 375°F.

In a small bowl, stiffly beat the egg whites. Gently combine the egg whites with the batter. Coat each onion ring with flour and dip into batter.

Deep fry the battered rings, several at a time, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes 5 servings.

BEER CHEESE SOUP

2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 chicken bouillon cubes
6 cups milk
1-1/4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Pinch dry mustard
Salt, pepper and paprika
1-1/2 cups beer
Chopped green bell pepper
Crumbled crisp bacon

Cook onion in butter in top of double boiler directly over burner until golden brown. Stir in flour and bouillon cubes. Blend in milk. Place over bottom of double boiler with 1 inch hot water and cook until slightly thickened. Add cheese and mustard and cook until cheese melts, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt, pepper and paprika.

Add 1/4 cup beer to each serving and accompany with green pepper and bacon. Makes 6 servings.

TEXAS BEER CHILI

2 tablespoons lean ground beef
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne or less
1 (16-ounce) can tomatoes
1 (12-ounce) can beer
1 small onion, chopped

Cook ground beef in frying pan and drain liquid. Mix beef in large pot with tomato sauce, pinto beans and chopped up can of peeled tomatoes. Add chili powder, oregano and your favorite beer (or water, if preferred). Salt lightly to taste and add 1 small onion. Simmer for 10 minutes and then carefully add cayenne pepper. One teaspoon will be quite hot so you may want to try just a little. Stir it in slowly and cook another 5 minutes.

This chili tastes even better the next day and you can also try different kinds of beans.

SOUTHERN COOKED GREENS

1/2 pound chopped raw bacon
3 cups julienne onions
Salt and ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1(12-ounce) bottle beer
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses

6 pounds greens, such as mustard greens, collard greens, kale, and spinach, cleaned and stemmed

In a large pot, render the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes or until the onions are wilted. Season the mixture with salt, pepper and pinch of cayenne. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the beer, vinegar, and molasses. Stir in the greens, a third at a time, pressing the greens down as they start to wilt. Cook, uncovered for about 1-1/4 hours. Serves 8.

PASTA & EGGPLANT IN BEER

1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper
6 ounces smoked ham, cubed
1 cup lager (beer)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 pound large tubular pasta such as penne, cooked
Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Put in the eggplant, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, until it becomes soft.

Stir in the ham, and fry 2 minutes. Add the lager and rosemary, and bring to a boil. Reduce the liquid by half. Put in the peas, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce, and cook for 30 seconds to heat through. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with plenty of Parmesan cheese, and serve. Yields 4 to 6 servings.

Beer Cooking Tips

• Ales and lagers tend to be the best for cooking.
• Like wine, use dark beer for robust dishes and light beer for lighter fare. Generally, pale ale beer works well in nearly all recipes. Nut brown beer is ideal for rich dishes such as stews or cheese preparations.
• Lager beer works well for baking breads because it adds levity to the dough. Beer can be used instead of yeast in some breads and pancakes.
• Never cook or use beer that you wouldn’t enjoy drinking, but  don’t be afraid of using an opened bottle of stale beer, providing it has been refrigerated. Bring the beer to room temperature before cooking.


 
Get Out the Griddle... Pancake Day is Coming Up! | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 27 February 2014 11:58

022714fNext Tuesday is Mardi Gras (literally “Fat Tuesday”), or Shrove Tuesday – the last day to feast before Lent. But for most of us, it’s just Pancake Day. Or Hot Cake day. Or  Flapjack Day. (We report, you decide!)

Practically no one makes pancakes from scratch these days, but doing so yields a better cake than any packaged mix or frozen batter.

Making good pancakes depends on only three factors – mixing the batter to the right consistency, heating the griddle properly, and recognizing when to turn the cakes.

The batter should be stirred just enough to moisten the dry ingredients and should remain lumpy. Overmixing makes pancakes tough. For best results, cover the batter and refrigerate an hour or so (or overnight) so the flour expands and absorbs the moisture.

Preheat the griddle over medium heat. It’s ready when a few drops of cold water sizzle and dance when sprinkled onto the surface. If the water sits and boils, the griddle isn’t hot enough. If it evaporates instantly, reduce the heat.

Brush the griddle lightly with oil, butter or margarine (unless it has a nonstick surface).

Pour the batter close to the griddle surface to keep the pancake round.

Pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles form and begin to break on the upper surface and the edges look dry. Normally, the first side needs to cook two or three minutes, but the second side will cook in about half that time. Turn pancakes only once. They should turn out golden brown, light and tender. They’re best served at once.

Other pancake-making tips:

• Heavy-bottomed pans, such as seasoned cast iron, work best. Or, to cut calories and reduce sticking, use a nonstick pan.

• To cut down on cholesterol, substitute 2 egg whites for every whole egg and use low-cholesterol vegetable oil, such as canola.

• Cook a trial pancake first to check the consistency of the batter. Typically, 1/4-cup of batter forms a 5-inch pancake.

• If necessary, keep already cooked pancakes warm on a cake rack set over a baking sheet in a 225°F oven.

GOLDEN PANCAKES

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1-1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix just enough to moisten dry ingredients.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour the batter onto the griddle, using about 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot. Makes about 8 pancakes.

BUTTERMILK PANCAKES

1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 to 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in bowl. Set aside.

In separate large bowl, beat egg and blend in 1 cup buttermilk. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture and blend until flour disappears. Blend in melted butter. Add up to 1/4 cup more buttermilk, if thinner pancakes are desired.

Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle, lightly greased with butter. Cook until edges look dry and bubbles form and begin to break on upper surface. Turn and cook second side. Makes about 14 (3-inch) pancakes.

For Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes: Stir in 2/3 cup well-drained canned blueberries or 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries just before cooking. Serve with blueberry syrup or sour cream and additional blueberries.

BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES

3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 cups milk
2 cups cake flour
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup butter, melted

Blend together eggs, salt and sugar in bowl. Stir in milk. Sift together the flours and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk in egg mixture. Add melted butter and mix until ingredients are well moistened.

Do not overmix!

Let stand for about 20 minutes. Batter will be thick.

Drop by scant 1/4 cupful onto lightly greased griddle and cook until underside is lightly browned and the top is starting to bubble. Turn and cook other side until brown and dry. Makes about 30 cakes (8 servings).

OVERNIGHT SOURDOUGH PANCAKES

2 cups buttermilk
3 slices dry whole-wheat bread
1 packet active dry yeast
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil

Heat 1 cup buttermilk to lukewarm. Break the bread into pieces and place in a large mixing bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Pour warmed buttermilk over, cover and let stand at room temperature 12 hours or overnight.

The next morning, sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add to bread mixture. Add eggs, remaining 1 cup of buttermilk, and the melted butter and mix.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium heat. Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook, turning once until golden on both sides. Makes 15 pancakes.

WHOLE-WHEAT PANCAKES

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs.

Melt butter and stir in honey until dissolved. Add to buttermilk.

Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (mixture will be lumpy).

Heat a griddle or large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Grease lightly with oil.

Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Yields 5 servings.

OATMEAL PANCAKES

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Place flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, vanilla, oil and egg in a food processor and purée until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot. Serves 4.

 

 
Hearty Stew for a Perfect Supper | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 20 February 2014 14:54

022014fNothing warms the body on these cold, wintry nights like a steaming bowl of stew, a combination of vegetables – and usually some meat – simmered gently in natural juices.

Stews are nutritious one-dish meals that are easy on the cook and sure to be welcomed at the dinner table.

LEGACY BEEF STEW

Special enough for company, but delicious anytime, this unique stew needs nothing more than a good crusty bread to make a warming, nutritious winter meal.

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 tablespoon each oil and butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
4 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
4 to 6 carrots
1/2 winter squash
3 white potatoes
3 sweet potatoes
8 small white onions
8 whole cloves
1 pound green beans
1/2 pound small prunes

In large, heavy stewing pot, brown meat in oil-butter mixture. Set meat aside. Add chopped onion, garlic, and ginger to pot and saute. Add salt, black and cayenne peppers, and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Return meat to pot, add broth, bay leaf, and red wine. Add water to cover if necessary. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes, adding more water as needed.

Meanwhile, peel and cut up carrots, squash, and white and sweet potatoes. Peel onions and stick a whole clove into each. Wash, trim, and cut up green beans. Reduce heat. Place carrots and onions over top of stew; cover and steam for 10 minutes, then stir into meat. Repeat this procedure with sweet potatoes and beans. Repeat with squash and white potatoes. Check all for tenderness and correct seasoning. About 15 minutes before serving, lay prunes over top of stew. Cover and steam gently until soft. Makes 8 servings.

CROCK-POT BEEF STROGANOFF

2 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3-inch-long slices 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and halved
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Cooked thin egg noodles, for serving
Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, toss beef, onion, and mushrooms with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and teaspoon pepper. Cover, and cook on low until meat is tender, about 8 hours (or on high for 6 hours).

In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, whisk cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Ladle 1 cup cooking liquid into measuring cup; whisk to combine. Pour into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. With slow cooker turned off, stir in cornstarch mixture, then sour cream and mustard. Serve beef over noodles; sprinkle with dill, if desired. Yields 8 servings.

WINTER VEGETABLE RAGOUT

1/4 cup olive oil
4 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups butternut squash, cut into cubes
2 medium red onions, cut into thin strips
2 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage (optional)
2 medium turnips, coarsely chopped
Salt and black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 plum tomatoes, cut into cubes
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme or rubbed sage

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss the carrots, butternut squash, red onions, cabbage, and turnips with the olive oil and arrange the vegetables in a large roasting pan. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and then roast them in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Stir the vegetable stock, white wine, tomatoes, and thyme or sage into the vegetables and continue roasting them for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened considerably and the vegetables have started to caramelize. Serves 6.

This winter vegetable stew recipe makes 6 servings.

CHICKEN STEW

8 skinless chicken drumsticks
Salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced large
1 large celery stalk, diced large
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 large russet potato, diced large
1 pound collard greens, stems removed, leaves torn
1 (48-ounce) can  vegetable juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. In a 6-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Cook chicken until brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic to pot; cook until onion softens, 3 minutes. Add potato and collard greens; cook until greens begin to wilt, 3 minutes.

Return chicken to pot; add vegetable juice and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil; reduce to a medium simmer, partially cover, and cook until chicken is separating from the bone and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in vinegar just before serving. Serves 6.

LENTIL STEW

Grape seed oil
1 cup of dry lentils
1⁄2 cup chopped corn
1⁄2 cup of chopped celery
1⁄2 cup chopped onion
1⁄2 cup of chopped carrots
1 garlic clove
1⁄2 cup of red wine
Dash of soy sauce
Sprinkle of oregano

In a large pot, over high heat, pour some grape seed oil and add onion, garlic, celery, carrots and corn. When the ingredients have softened, add the wine and soy sauce and turn down the heat to medium-high. Then add the lentils, oregano and 4 cups of water and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

CARIBBEAN BEEF STEW

1 pound beef stew meat
2 large sweet potatoes (about
1-1/4 pounds), peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon jerk seasoning mix
1 (14-1/2 ounce) can beef broth
1/2 cup thickly sliced Lindsay pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives
2 tablespoons cornstarch
 2tablespoons water
Chopped cilantro or parsley, optional

Toss meat with jerk seasoning. Brown in large saucepan or Dutch oven in 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth; bring to simmer, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in sweet potatoes; continue to simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until beef and vegetables are tender. Stir in olives.

Combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water; mix well. Stir into stew. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

 

 
Sweet Temptations | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 13 February 2014 13:13

021314fTomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The most appreciated tokens of affection are the ones you make in your own kitchen. Here are some of the best.

VALENTINE’S DAY COOKIES

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4-2/3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into large bowl.

On low speed, gradually add flour mixture to mixer bowl, alternating with buttermilk, until combined.

Wrap dough in plastic; chill until firm, 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350°F with two racks centered. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

On lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut out hearts using any 2- to 3-1/2 inch heart cookie cutters.

Transfer with spatula to baking sheets. Chill for 30 minutes. Bake until just golden but not too brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack. Continue with dough; re-roll scraps. Frost cookies with favorite icing.

BASIC COOKIE ICING

For one dozen cookies:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (or vanilla, or lemon)
Assorted food coloring

In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.

Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce red food color
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla.

Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Makes 30 cupcakes.

CUPCAKE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (8 -ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy.

Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Frost cupcakes after they have cooled.

STRAWBERRY ICING

1/2 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of salt
3-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream. Yields frosting for 12 cupcakes.

MOLTEN CHOCOLATE MOCHA CUPCAKES

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for ramekins
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon espresso powder
Pinch salt
3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter two 6-ounce ramekins, then dust with sugar. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, 1/3 cup sugar, espresso powder, and salt. Add chocolate mixture; whisk to combine. Add flour, and whisk just until combined (do not overmix). Pour batter into prepared ramekins. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point.)

Bake until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from edge of ramekins comes out clean, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out wet, 10 to 12 minutes (do not overbake). Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around inside of ramekins to loosen. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Dust with sugar; serve immediately. Yields 2.

To double or triple this recipe, just add three or four minutes to the baking time.

OLD-FASHIONED FUDGE

2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup whipping cream
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Generously butter an 8-inch square cake pan. Combine melted unsalted butter, cream, granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium saucepan. Attach candy thermometer to pan. Heat to gentle boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring while mixture boils gently 5 minutes. Thermometer temperature will rise to approximately 225°F.

Add chocolate and continue to boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Temperature must reach 232° to 234°. Test mixture’s readiness by dropping small amount into a saucer of cold water. A soft ball should form.

Remove saucepan from heat and add vanilla. Beat fudge with heavy wooden spoon while cooling, scraping sides of pan while beating. When temperature drops to 200°F, stir in nuts and continue beating until fudge loses glass and temperature drops to 165°F, about 5 minutes.

Spread fudge in prepare pan. Let cool until pan is lukewarm to touch. Cut into 1-1/2 inch squares. When completely cool, remove from pan. Store in tightly covered container or wrap each piece in wax paper or plastic wrap. Makes about 24 squares.

BOURBON & CURRANT COOKIES

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus extra
1/3 cup bourbon
1/2 cup dried currants
4 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 egg, the flour, bourbon, and currants; mix until well combined.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Whisk together remaining egg and the cream in a small bowl, and brush cookies with egg wash. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake until pale golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Yields about 6 dozen cookies.

 

 
If You Don’t Know Beans... | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 06 February 2014 12:38

020614fBeans have been a food staple throughout the world for thousands of years. Once considered “peasant” food, they are one of today’s super foods – rich in fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron – yet low in sodium and fat, and completely cholesterol-free.

Beans have a long history in California, first grown to supply food for miners during the Gold Rush. Today the state produces about a dozen types of dried beans, all of which are interchangeable in recipes.

When buying, inspect the package and look for firm, clean, whole beans of uniform size and color. Dried beans should be less than one year old – older beans take much longer to cook.

Pick over beans, removing any broken beans, stones, or other foreign matter, then rinse them in cold water.

There are two steps to cooking beans – soaking and cooking, and a couple of important rules to follow (see box at right).

Although dried beans are by far the best value, canned beans are acceptable for nearly all recipes, saving time for busy cooks.

THREE BEAN PASTA

1 pound medium or wide egg noodles, uncooked
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
1 small red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain again.

In a large bowl, stir together the pasta, kidney beans, chickpeas, green beans, onion and bell pepper. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients.

Toss pasta with dressing and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Note: One pound of dry noodles will produce a cooked amount of 5 cups. Other pasta shapes may be substituted for the pound of noodles, however, a different amount (about 10 ounces) is needed as one pound of macaroni, spaghetti, penne, etc. equals 8 cups cooked volume.

ONE-DISH ROSEMARY CHICKEN & WHITE BEANS

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (1 pound)
1 (14-1/2 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine rosemary, salt and pepper; sprinkle over one side of chicken.

Place chicken in pan with seasoned side down, cook 3 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and turn chicken. Add tomatoes and beans, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Stir in olives. Yields 4 servings.

NAVY BEAN SOUP

3 cups (1-1/2 pounds) dried navy beans
1 (14-1/2 oz.) can  diced tomatoes, undrained
1 large onion, chopped
1 meaty ham hock or 1 cup diced cooked ham
2 cups chicken broth
2-1/2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced fresh parsley

Rinse and sort beans, then place them in a Dutch oven or soup kettle; add water to cover by 2 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 to 4 hours or until beans are softened.

Drain and rinse beans, discarding liquid. Place in a large Dutch oven or soup kettle. Add the tomatoes with juice, onion, ham hock, broth, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until beans are tender, about 1-1/2 hours.

Add more water if necessary. Remove ham hock and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bone; discard bone. Cut meat into bite-size pieces; set aside. (For a thicker soup, cool slightly, then puree beans in a food processor or blender and returned to pan.) Return ham to soup and heat through. Garnish with parsley. Yield: 10 servings (2-1/2 quarts).

VEGETARIAN BAKED BLACK BEANS

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans
1/2 cup water from beans
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 chili peppers (serrano or jalepeño) minced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Drain the beans, reserving the water. Measure out 1/2 cup of bean water and save the rest in case it is needed during the cooking process.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the beans, 1/2 cup bean water, onion, ketchup, molasses, salt, vinegar, curry powder, Worcestershire and minced chili peppers.

Mist a 7x9-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Place bean mixture in pan and spread evenly. Cover dish with foil.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil cover. If beans appear dry, mix in a bit more bean water. Return to oven. Continue baking, uncovered, for 30 minute more.

Serve hot with corn bread. Yields 6 servings.

QUICK HOT BEAN DIP

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
4 cups refried beans
1/2 (1-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
5 drops hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Cheddar cheese
1 (8-ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, blend the cream cheese and sour cream. Mix in the refried beans, taco seasoning, hot pepper sauce, parsley, green onions, 1/2 the Cheddar cheese and 1/2 the Monterey Jack cheese.

Transfer the mixture to an 8x12 inch baking dish. Top with remaining Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes, until cheese is slightly browned. Yields 7 cups.

 

 
Celebrating 4712 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 30 January 2014 12:30

013014fFor a quarter of the world’s population, Friday is New Year’s Day 4712 in the lunar calendar – the most important holiday of the year.

The celebration is also known as the Spring Festival, because the start of the Chinese New Year also marks the coming of spring, with its new beginnings and opportunities. It is a time for family get-togethers, parades, firecrackers and feasting.

For most non-Asian cooks, the big surprise is that Chinese cooking can be both fun and easy. The secret is to start with foolproof recipes and authentic sauces that do most of the heavy lifting for you.

EASY VEGETABLE STIR-FRY

1/4 cup bottled teriyaki marinade & sauce

1 tablespoon dry Sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 (16-ounce) package frozen stir-fry or Oriental-style vegetable mixture
2 cups sliced mushrooms

Combine teriyaki sauce, sherry, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Heat oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and stir-fry 15 seconds, or until golden brown. Add vegetables and mushrooms; stir-fry 3 minutes, or until vegetables are heated through. Stir in teriyaki sauce mixture. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens and vegetables are coated with sauce. Makes 6 servings.

KUNG PAO PORK

1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup bottled stir-fry sauce, divided
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry Sherry
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 whole dried red chiles
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1 large red or green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch squares
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

Coat pork with mixture of 2 tablespoons stir-fry sauce and cornstarch. Combine remaining 1/4 cup stir-fry sauce and sherry. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add chiles, breaking 2 peppers in half. Stir-fry 20 seconds, or until chiles turn black. Add pork and stir-fry 3 minutes; remove.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same pan; add onion, bell pepper and garlic; stir-fry 3 minutes. Stir in pork and stir-fry sauce mixture. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and all pieces are coated with sauce. Stir in peanuts; serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

EGG FRIED RICE

1 egg
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups cooked rice)
4 ounces frozen peas, thawed
4 green onions, finely chopped
4 ounces bean sprouts
1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce
Ground white pepper, to taste

Beat the egg and sesame oil in a small bowl.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan. When the oil is shimmering and almost smoking, add the rice and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until completely heated through.

Add the peas, onion and bean sprouts. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, turning the rice constantly.

(Add extras such as chopped ham or cooked prawns, if you wish.)

Season well with soy sauce and pepper, then push to one side of the pan. Pour the beaten egg on the other side of the pan and leave for about 10 seconds to set.

Using a chopstick, stir around the egg to break it up and then toss around with the rice. Stir-fry for a further minute and serve. Serves 4 to 5 as a side dish.

MOO SHU VEGETABLES

1 small cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
6 scallions, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 cup small white mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon peanut oil or 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
1/4 cup vegetable stock or 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 - 4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
12 moo shu pancakes

Warm pancakes as directed on package. Heat wok over high heat until almost smoking. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and stir-fry mushroom until softened. Remove mushrooms from wok.

Add remaining oil to the wok along with the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry spices 30 seconds, add cabbage and carrots. Continue cooking 2 minutes; add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and taste. Add additional soy sauce if desired.

When cabbage is close to crisp-tender, return mushrooms to the wok and add scallions. If the vegetables begin to stick, drizzle sparingly a little water or vegetable broth.

To serve, let each diner spoon a bit of Hoisin sauce onto a warmed pancake. Top with several tablespoons of the vegetables on top. Roll pancake as you would a burrito or crepe. Put lots of napkins on the table. Enjoy! Serves 4.

 

 

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