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Mmmmm-- Mac & Cheese!

It was the middle of Lent and I (surprise!) was watching Ina Garten (my mostly-favorite cooking show) make this ooey-gooey Mac & Cheese.  The reason I remember it being the middle of Lent?  I had given up cheese (among other things) for the season, and was just drooling over the cheesy-ness of her creation.  The kids taunted me, "Mom you can't have that-- but don't you want to!?!"  Of course I did!  What's not to like?!  Gruyere!  Cheddar!  Crispy crumb topping!  So, I took all this in, and stowed it away in my mental recipe box.  And today, today was the day (the last day of school for the kiddos) that I served this cheesy concoction.  BOY!  Was it worth the wait (and weight...)!

I tweaked Ina Garten's recipe: I'm a simple girl and I like to use stuff I already have in my pantry (like Panko bread crumbs). Plus, my husband is paid by the tax payers (and yet also pays taxes;does that make him self-employed? I digress...) and having a one meal cheese bill of over $20 doesn't really fit in the budget, so I tweaked some more (it's still not cheap.  Would have been cheaper if I had made this when I lived in Germany (where such gourmet cheeses are readily available at a fraction of the cost in America), or... well, anywhere on the mainland, but it's all part of the cost of living in paradise, no?  Seriously, I'm not complaining.  Much.) Also, if you like the crunchy topping, use a larger, shallow dish (and cut down on the bake time).  I used a deep lasagna dish and was very pleased (again, I like my dishes and was happy to see my lonely Polish pottery baking dish used, as it's been neglected for a while.)

Tips:  Grate all the cheese in the food processor, it's easy and fast.  Use kosher salt!  If you use table salt cut the salt to 1/2 T.  Don't leave out the nutmeg.  It might not seem like it belongs but it's REALLY missed if you omit... 

The surprise of the evening?  The tomatoes.  The kids loved them (as did I)!  And I think they are necessary, to balance some of the creamy-richness (and it IS rich) of the sauce.  

Rich Man-Poor Man Mac & Cheese (it's a RICH sauce and you're POOR after you pay for the gourmet cheese!)

1 lb elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 qt (4 cups) whole milk, warmed (microwave for one or so minutes, DO NOT BOIL)
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (I recommend white Cheddar)
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T Kosher salt, plus extra for salting pasta water
1/2 t ground nutmeg
3-4 small fresh tomatoes
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large pot of boiling salted water add the pasta and cook to al dente, according to the directions on the package. Drain well.
  3. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the warmed milk and cook for about 5 minutes more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
  4. Slice the tomatoes and arrange over the pasta and cheese.
  5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the Panko bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and bread crumbs are browned on the top.

Tagged with: Mac & Cheese
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Taste of the Tropics

A steal drum ringing in the background, a margarita in hand, the sun at your back, and this Caribbean chicken soup in a bowl with a spoon, ready for you to enjoy.  This soup has a wonderful tropical feel; make it to cure spring fever or mid-winter blues (when you can’t afford that vacation to the islands).  It pairs well with homemade cornbread, fresh chopped fruit, or a simple green salad.

I particularly like the bits of meaty coconut floating in the broth, but if it’s not your taste omit them (I would severely caution AGAINST omitting the coconut milk, as the taste is nearly imperceptible, but the broth is noticeably thin without it).  I used homemade chicken stock and would recommend the same, but if you don’t have any around then use a low sodium canned variety.  Lastly, the original recipe (I’ve adapted this from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein—a treasure of a book that my dear friend Celeste Cassino gave to me one Christmas) calls for some serious heat via 8 dashes of habanero sauce but if you’ve got folks in your family that can’t stand the heat (and therefore are usually out of the kitchen) then go forth with the recipe I state, and add more Tabasco sauce in your personal bowl.

I've also listed an Agave Margarita recipe.  I've copied it straight out of the May 2012 Bon Appetite.  It's PHENOMENAL on many levels; phenomenally easy ingredient list, phenomenally easy to make, and phenomenally easy to drink...  enjoy! (responsibly)

Caribbean Chicken Soup with Coconut

2 T olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 T fresh ginger, minced

½ large Spanish onion, peeled and diced

2 ribs of celery, diced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1 sweet red pepper, diced

3 cups cooked chicken meat, chopped or shredded

¾ cup whole corn kernels (I used frozen, defrosted)

½ cup shredded coconut

7 cups of chicken stock

1 ½ limes, juiced and zested

7 oz. coconut milk

1 t ground coriander

¼ t allspice

4 dashes of Tabasco sauce

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a stockpot over medium-high heat add the oil, garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots and red pepper.  Saute for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the chicken, corn, coconut, and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the head to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.  
  3. Add the lime juice and zest, coconut milk, coriander, allspice, hot sauce, cilantro, salt, and pepper.  Simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Agave Margarita

2 lime slices or wedges

1/4 cup tequila blanco

2 T agave syrup/nectar

2 T fresh lime juice

kosher salt

ice

  1. Pour some kosher salt into a small dish.  Rub 1 lime slice over half the rim of an Old Fashioned glass.  Dip rim of glass into salt.  Fill glass with 3-4 cubes of ice.
  2. Combine tequila, agave syrup, and juice in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice and shake well.  Strain into prepared glass.
  3. Garnish with second lime slice.
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Sweets Saavy

 

(Tongue actually in cheek:)  With so many of the cereals, snack bars, and drink mixes that are protein fortified these days I too thought I would jump on the bandwagon and amp up my dessert menu with a “healthy” sweet.  This pie has no trans-fats and is packed with health benefits from essential proteins, cancer fighting antioxidants, fiber, and is made with all natural sugar.

See? I can make something clearly NOT healthful sound good-for-you too.  Now, I’m not trying to discourage you from making this super simple, very tasty, and travel-easy treat, but I am trying to get you to THINK about what you are eating.  It seems like so many foods today are touting claims of being “healthfully natural” (or "naturally healthy" for that matter) when they are clearly not.  I assure you, there is nothing natural about Pepsi (or any other soda) just because it’s made with pure cane sugar.  Everything in moderation I say (even moderation).

Okay, off my soap box now.  This pie brings me back to my packed-lunch-school days of peanut butter sandwiches.  --And that gets me to thinking, for a variation idea, instead of the chocolate bottom, replace with a thin layer of jelly!  Which causes me to mention the variety of ways I've already made this pie: with and without the black-bottom, with and without the chocolate drizzle and chopped peanut garnish-- you pick what you believe will make your taste buds dance.   I hope you like it as much as our family does.


Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Pie  

1, 16 oz. Cool Whip, thawed and divided

1 graham cracker crust (though I usually make my own, cuz I like my pretty pie plates!)

1 c. smooth peanut butter

1, 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (room temperature)

1 c powdered sugar

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 c salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped


Black Bottom For black-bottom:

  1. In a microwave safe bowl melt chocolate chips and 1 cup of Cool Whip in microwave for approximately 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth.
  2. Reserve 1 ½ T in a snack-size reclosable plastic bag.  Pour remaining chocolate mixture over bottom and carefully spread evenly over bottom and up sides of empty graham cracker crust.
  3. Place in freezer while preparing pie filling.  (Do not freeze completely, just chill it.)

 

Pie filling:

  1. In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, mix peanut butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar until smooth.
  2. Fold in remaining Cool Whip (do not use hand mixer, the Cool Whip will deflate).
  3. Once thoroughly combined, remove the graham crust from the freezer and fill with peanut butter mixture.
  4. Snip a small hole in plastic bag's corner of reserved chocolate and drizzle over pie.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.
  5. Chill pie in refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

 

Graham Cracker Crust (in case you like your pie plates too!)

1 ¼ c graham cracker crumbs (crush them yourself or buy pre-crushed)

3 T sugar

1/3 c butter, melted

  1. Combine crumbs and sugar in a medium-sized bowl.  Stir in melted butter until thoroughly blended.
  2. Pack mixture firmly into 9” pie pan and pressing mixture to bottom and sides, bringing crumbs evenly up to the rim.
  3. Chill 1 hour before filling OR bake at 350 F for 8 minutes.  Cool completely before filling.

 

Filed in: dessert
Tagged with: pie, chocolate, peanut butter
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Sticky Situation...

Ooey-Gooey sticky buns

Hello.  My name is Meredith Hummel and I’m a food TV addict.  Cooking Channel?  Yup.  Foodnetwork?  Of course.  Random vintage Julia Child episode on PBS?  Ab-so-freaking-lute-ly!  Oh, and I should add that my addiction is fed (ha!) by my DVR.  I wouldn’t be the junkie I am today with out my supplier; the DVR.

So, it should be no surprise that I chose to bake something for breakfast on this fine Saturday morning that was featured on one of the many cooking shows I watch.  This mornings’ treat?  Ooey-gooey sticky buns!  Plus, the recipe looked simple enough for me to have the kiddos involved (what kind of mom would I be if I didn’t cast my children as enablers to my addiction?)

I must also tell you that I felt called – the food universe DEMANDED, for me to make this recipe.  Seriously.  Not only did my eyes grow wide and my mouth water the first time I saw the Barefoot Contessa episode where chef Ina Garten made them (and I’ve watched it again and again, like a porn-addicted-Charlie Sheen) but THEN, on the cover of this months’ Bon Appétit magazine (oh, yes, I also espouse my addiction in print form as well) is a close-up photo of what?!  A delectable Sticky Bun.  I had to obey and bake!

Okay so here’s where I need to caveat this recipe with a disclaimer—I’m not responsible for the possible (probable—make that, certain) expansion of your, uh… “assets”.  Yup, it’s a total diet buster.  But once you see those buttery rolls, dripping with caramelized pecans and raisins, you'll realize that an extra few minutes (or hours) at the gym are totally worth it.  I did.

I also want to point out that this isn’t the usual yeast-dough variety of sticky bun, it’s less bread-y, as it utilizes puff pastry as a time-saving-butter-adding base.  So you won't get “that” texture of sticky bun.  But for me?  I don’t have a surplus of time to dedicate to my craft (clearly, as I am too busy watching food television shows!); blooming yeast, making a dough, kneading said dough, letting it rise over night… no.  Simply defrost your box of store-bought puff pastry in the refrigerator over night (easy, right?) and you are good to go the next morning.  Oh, and put a stick of butter on the counter the night before too.

Pecan Sticky Buns

11 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided

1 c light brown sugar, lightly packed, divided

1/2 cup pecans, chopped in large pieces

1 package (17.3-ounces/ 2-sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

3 t ground cinnamon

1 c raisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  2. Melt 3 T of butter in a sauce pan and allow to cool slightly.  Reserve for later use.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine remaining 8 T of softened butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  Mix well.  Place 1 rounded teaspoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
    6 down, 6 to go
  4. Lightly flour counter-top (or a wooden board or stone surface). Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Place remaining sheet back in refrigerator to stay cold.  Lightly brush the whole opened sheet with some the reserved melted butter. Leaving a scant 1-inch border on the top edge of the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down. Trim the ends of the roll to even them up (about ¼ to ½ inch) and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (check at 20 as they can burn quickly!), until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Be careful - they're hot! Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.
    Hot from the oven

Variation idea:  Add a mixture of dried cranberries and golden raisins instead of regular raisins.

NOTE:  Out of curiosity we tried one 6-roll sheet with raisins and one with out.  Good either way!  Just omit raisins completely if they are not your thing.

Tagged with: Pecan Sticky Buns
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A Wee Bit(e) 'o Tasty!

Smoked Salmon and Bibb Lettuce with Lemon-Caper VinaigretteA few weeks ago I was pouring over Pinterest, Foodnetwork, and my other usual website hunting grounds, for St. Patrick’s Day dinner ideas.  I didn’t want to do the usual Corned Beef and Cabbage—seemed too trite (and Tim’s digestive system doesn’t really “get along” with cabbage…).  So, when I ran across Emeril Lagasse’s Smoked Irish Salmon and Watercress Salad with a Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette recipe I thought, “It says 'Irish' in the title so it’s Irish enough for a family of mixed German-Swedish-Brits to celebrate the over-Americanized holiday of St. Patrick’s Day with, right?”  Yes.  And it’s also perfect for a mid-week Tuesday or weekend-relaxing Saturday night too.  Try it, you’ll see.  In fact I was quite surprised by my family’s rave reviews. Tim stopped after one bite and said, “Take a picture of THIS dinner--its blog-worthy.”  Okay then!

While the ingredient list appears (is) long, don’t let that intimidate you (if you are going to be intimidated, let it be by the price of 8 oz. of smoked salmon!); this is a delicious and satisfying dinner.  I will admit, I was somewhat concerned that the protein portion (read: filling-Tim-up portion) seemed small… I was wrong.  It was filling and still felt “light”.  It’s a great spring/summer meal (or if you are my friend Jenn Seeley living in Alaska with a ready-abundant supply of smoked salmon-- an anytime meal.)

I’ve made a few simplifying changes to Mr. Lagasse’s recipe, and you could probably make more if need be (like purchasing pre-made pumpernickel croutons), but the vinaigrette is so layered with brilliant-fresh flavors, I strongly encourage you NOT to omit any of the ingredients there.  If you can’t find fresh herbs you can substitute dried varieties, but you will compromise the taste quality. Additionally, the original recipe calls for watercress, but at my market it looked dry and not very leafy (who wants to eat a salad of dry stems?  Not I!), so I switched to tender Bibb lettuce (the bagged variety), and I would recommend this wholly.  Lastly, while not necessary, to lessen some of the bite raw onions can sometimes have, I bloomed my red onion slices (just throw them into a bowl of cold water once you slice them, soaking while you prepare the meal).  I thought this might be more appetizing for my kids.  And while I can neither confirm nor deny that this was the reason, but all the onions were snarfed up with the salad (not a usual occurrence).

My consumption recommendation?  The perfect bite contains at least one part of each component; a sliver of salmon, some lettuce and a bit of onion, with a crouton and some of the egg--my mouth is watering!  Okay, on to the good stuff…

Smoked Salmon and Bibb Lettuce Salad with Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette

Dressing:

1 t minced shallots (don't substitute onion here-- it's just too strong!)

¼ t minced garlic

½ t Dijon mustard

1 ½ t honey

2 T chopped capers with their liquid

2 T lemon juice

1 T champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1 t chopped fresh dill (Can’t get fresh? Substitute ½ t dried dill)

2 t chopped fresh parsley (can substitute 1 t dried parsley)

¼ t kosher salt

¼ t freshly cracked black pepper

½ c extra-virgin olive oil

Croutons:

2 T unsalted butter

1 T olive oil

2 c pumpernickel bread, diced into ½” cubes

½ t kosher salt

¼ t ground white pepper

Salad:

8 oz. thinly sliced Irish smoked salmon (I used Alaskan)

1 lb. torn Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed and dried

2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

½ c thinly sliced red onion

salt & pepper for seasoning

For the Croutons:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add the butter and olive oil to pan.  Once the butter is melted, add the pumpernickel cubes to the pan and toss to coat.  Season with ½ t salt and white pepper.  Continue to cook and toss the bread until all the butter and oil have been absorbed.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until the bread is crisp, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool before using.

For the Dressing:

  1. In a non-reactive (non-metal) mixing bowl combine the shallots, garlic, mustard, honey, capers, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, and parsley.  Whisk to combine.  Season with ¼ t salt and black pepper.
  2. While whisking, add the extra-virgin olive oil in a thin, steady stream until the vinaigrette is well combined and partially emulsified.  Set the vinaigrette aside while you prepare the salad.

For the Salad:

  1. Soak red onion slices in a bowl of cold water, to bloom, for at least 5 minutes.
  2. On four plates, divide salmon slices according to appetite (read: my kids got less).  In a large non-reactive bowl, place the lettuce and (drained) red onion.  Season lightly with salt, pepper, and about ½ c of the dressing; toss lightly to combine.
  3. Divide the salad among the four plates, topping the salmon.  Sprinkle the croutons over the salads and then garnish with the chopped eggs and serve immediately.

 

P.S.  I got to thinking, I bet this would be really tasty topped with an egg over-easy (if you are prone to liking them) instead of the hard-cooked egg as well—very decadent!  Just a variation idea.

 



 



 

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The Key to Dessert

Macadamias and blind bake pie shellI just bought tickets for a Jimmy Buffet concert and that started me thinking about the Florida Keys (which I have never been to), and then of course I got to thinking about Key limes and that lead me to remember my Macadamia and Key Lime Pie!  Then I got to pondering the fact that I've never actually used Key limes in the pie (compared to persian limes (what you normally call "limes"), Key limes are smaller, tarter, and actually yellow when ripe)- can I really call it a Key Lime Pie? Then I couldn’t STOP thinking about the pie and now I’m making it.

A few notes: I adapted this from a Pampered Chef recipe so if you have their cookbooks you might recognize it.  BUT, like I stated, I’ve adapted it – I think my version is even easier, and the texture is better too--smoother.  Having said that, you will need one specialty tool; a microplane grater (or rasp).  If you don’t already have one of these in your kitchen drawer, go out and get one – RIGHT NOW!  The microplane grater (compared to many other zesting tools) makes a very fine zest, with little or no risk of adding the pith (distasteful white part).  You will find that adding zest will “brighten” your finished product—not just this pie, but in MANY recipes.  Basically anywhere a recipe calls for the juice of a lemon or lime, add some of its zest too. Sure it’s not for use in every occasion, but pretty darn close.  The microplane grater is a super-versitile tool; I highly recommend it!
Lime zest

Macadamia-Key Lime Pie

Crust:

1 Refrigerated pie crust (I prefer Pillsbury)

½ cup plus 1 T macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped, divided

Filling:

3 limes *

1, 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened (I use reduced fat, NOT fat free)

1, 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat free)

2 drops each green and yellow food coloring (optional)

1, 12 oz container frozen whipped topping (a.k.a. Cool Whip), thawed, divided

For crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.  Place pie crust into pie plate, pressing dough into bottom and up sides.  Prick bottom and sides with a fork.
  2. Sprinkle ½ cup of the nuts over bottom of pie crust.  Bake 10-11 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cool completely.

 

For filling:

  1. Zest 2 limes with microplane grater to measure 2-3 teaspoons of zest.  Juice limes to measure ½ cup of juice. *
  2. Combine softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk in a large mixing bowl and whip with a hand mixer (or if you are fit, a whisk) until smooth.  Stir zest, juice and food coloring (if desired) into cream cheese mixture; mix well.  Fold in 2 cups of the whipped topping.
  3. Pour mixture into crust and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

*You can cut down to 2 limes (1 for zesting/juicing and 1 for garnishing) if needed.  Simply top-off the fresh squeezed lime juice with bottled.  Or if you find your limes are not that juicy—again, simply use bottle lime juice to measure ½ cup total.

Serving:

  1. In a small sauté pan, toast remaining 1 tablespoon of chopped macadamia nuts over medium heat until light golden brown, stirring occasionally.  Remove nuts from pan and cool completely.
  2. Garnish top of pie with remaining whipped topping using a pastry bag and decorative tip (or a zip-top bag with ¼” slit in the corner). Add lime slices, if desired.  Sprinkle with nuts.
  3. Enjoy!

Macadamia & Key lime pie

 

Filed in: desserts
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Slow Cooker Happiness

Seeing as Hawaii doesn’t have what most Northern Hemisphere-ers would consider “winter weather,” I have found myself with less reason to pull out the (when living in Germany, ever-present) slow cooker.  Gasp! I know!  I LOVE MY SLOW COOKER!  And here we are, over half-way through winter and it is collecting dust in my culinary closet.  Well, fear not!  I have shown pity on this makes-your-house-smell-fantastic-all-day-time-saving-dinner-hour-is-a-breeze device and am simmering a hearty Gulasch in it as I type. Yum!

This morning, as I tossed in the browned steak chunks I could tell my slow cooker smiled.  Yes, it was happy again--and so am I!  I’m not sure why I got into the mind-set that my slow cooker was a winter item.  Sure, I have some fantastic slow cooker stew, chili, and soup recipes, that do appeal to me more in the typically colder months of winter, but why wouldn’t I utilize this cooking machine that keeps the heat OUT of my kitchen equally in warmer weather!?  Summer (type weather) is the PERFECT time to have your slow cooker keep an ovens worth of heat in a 1 cubic foots’ worth of space!  Yes, I am now vowing now to keep my slow cooker fed (and in the process my family) with new recipes (and some classic ones as well) that showcase what an energy efficient and time saving tool it can be, and how it’s a calming force during the dinner hour of an over-scheduled family.  I'm rediscovering how my slow cooker is one cool (and HOT!) device...

Here’s is what’s cooking right now:

Terry's Firehouse Gulasch*
Firehouse Gulasch

2 lbs. Beef Chuck cut into 1” pieces (make sure the meat isn't too lean-- or it will be REALLY tough)

2 T oil (vegetable, olive, canola-- your choice)

1 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ cup catsup

2 T Worchester sauce

1 T brown sugar

1 t salt (scant)

2 t paprika

½ t dry mustard

Dash of Cayenne pepper

1 ¼ cups water, divided

2 T corn starch

  1. Pre-heat slow cooker on high.
  2. In a large sauté pan heat oil.  Brown meat with onion and garlic.
  3. Transfer meat mixture and the juices from pan to slow cooker.
  4. Add catsup, Worchester sauce, brown sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, cayenne pepper, and 1 cup of water.  Cover and simmer for 6 hours on low, or 4 hours on high.
  5. If you desire a thicker stew:  one hour prior to serving mix corn starch and ¼ cup of water in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Add to gulasch and stir.  Re-cover and raise heat to high (if on low) for remaining hour.

Serve over cooked egg noodles or Spätzle.

*I’ve adapted my father-in-law’s (Terry) recipe (and added the Firehouse, cuz he was a Washington DC Firefighter, and did a lot of cooking) from a stove-top cooking method for that of a slow cooker.  For stove-top preparation simply up the water total to 1 ¾ cups (adding 1 ½ cups initially) and simmer on the stove over low heat for 2 hours.  Just prior to serving blend 2 T cornstartch and ¼ cup of water, then add to stew.  Finally, heat to boiling, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until thickened.  Enjoy!

 

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Super-Bowl(s)

It’s that time of year again—snack time for the Super Bowl!  It’s a FAN-tastic time to see folks paint their faces, play armchair quarterback, and eat like linebackers… I’m just excited to be in a time zone where the game doesn’t begin at 2am AND I’ll get to see the commercials!

So, what are ya’ll gonna snack on during the gridiron madness?  Here are a few EASY appetizers to bring/serve while watching the Super Bowl (or the commercials):

Jezebel Sauce

(This would be perfect if the Saints were playing, as it’s got a Cajun flair)

This makes about 3 servings, and when stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container it keeps indefinitely (really)—assuming you can keep it around that long!

1, 10 oz. jar Pineapple Preserves

1, 10 oz. jar Apple Jelly

¼ cup Dry Mustard

1/3 cup Prepared Horseradish

1 ½ t. Ground Black Pepper

  1. Food process all ingredients.
  2. Spoon over a block of cream cheese (reduced fat works juuuuust fine) and serve with crackers (I prefer Wheat Thins, again, reduced fat works just fine.)

 

Bachelor Queso Dip

(Tim used to make this as his “specialty” waaaay back in the day—it’s a recipe we kept, as it’s tasty.)

1 lb. Ground Beef

2/3 lb. Velveeta, cubed

1 jar Salsa (Medium or Hot)

1 pkg. Taco Seasoning

  1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef and drain excess fat.
  2. Lower to medium-low heat and sprinkle in taco seasoning packet.  Stir to combine.
  3. Add in cubed Velveeta, constantly stirring as Velveeta melts.
  4. Once Velveeta is completely melted, add salsa.  Remove from heat.

Keep dip warm (it solidifies quickly) in a slow cooker or over a tealight/heat safe bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Fruit Dip

(For something different)

1, 7 oz. jar of Marshmallow Fluff

1, 8 oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened

1 t. vanilla extract

  1. With a hand mixer, whip all ingredients together.  Food coloring can be added if desired.

Serve with cut fresh fruit:  strawberries, grapes, melon cubes, apple slices, pineapple chunks, etc.

 

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Pure Pineapple Pleasure

Pineapple Martinis

I live in Hawaii.  Pineapples are a way of life.  And while this iconic fruit is often associated with Hawaii (and if you are from Virginia, that whole colonial Williamsburg thing as well) where mass cultivation is concerned, most are imported from the Philippines, Thailand, or Costa Rica.  Yes, yes, there is the Dole plantation here on Oahu and on Maui they grow some pretty tasty ones that go under the brand "Maui Gold", but Del Monte left over 5 years ago and the land now grows hotels, condos and other housing developments.  So, while Hawaiian pineapple may soon become a thing of the past, it's presence in Hawaiian food, culture, and tradition will not.  It's everywhere!

And with that thought in mind, I would like to share two of my favorite pineapple recipes.  Fortunately for you (being "those who do not live in this tropical paradise"),  you can (and for ease, I do) use canned pineapple.  The first recipe is for Pineapple Bread (a bread pudding for those that do not like bread pudding) and the second a Pineapple Martini (think: Aloha Friday).  My mother got the Pineapple Bread recipe when they lived here ages ago, and I find it as tasty the second day (for breakfast?) as I do fresh from the oven.  (FYI: It's one of those dog-eared recipe cards with the tag "gotten in Hawaii" that I've posted about before.)

Pineapple Martini
party set-up

1 or 2 Pineapple chunks in Heavy Syrup

1 oz. Vanilla Vodka

1 oz. Pineapple Juice

Ice

  1. Into a sugar rimmed martini glass (or beverage glass of your choosing) place pineapple chunks.
  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vanilla vodka and pineapple juice.  Cap and shake well.
  3. Strain into serving glass and serve.

This is an easy cocktail recipe to have guests make themselves at a party.  When I served them at our recent Christmas-Housewarming Party, I simply had a full ice bucket, a carafe of pineapple juice, a carafe of vanilla vodka, and a bowl of pineapple chunks.  I pre-rimmed several glasses with sugar (to be festive, I used a combination of yellow sanding sugar (what you use on cakes and cookies) and regular white sugar) and pre-placed pineapple chunks, but also had a low bowl full of rimming sugar for guests to help themselves to more.  A cocktail shaker was at the ready and Aaaaloooha!

 

Pineapple Bread

4 Eggs, beaten

1 c. Sugar

1/2 c Butter, melted

2 T flour

1, 20 oz. can Crushed Pineapple in it's own juice

5 slices of White Bread, cubed

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, butter, flour and crushed pineapple.  Mix well.
  3. Add cubed bread and stir to moisten (do not over stir so as to ruin the integrity of the bread cubes).
  4. Pour into a greased 1 1/2 qt. baking dish.
  5. Bake for 1 hour.

I've used this as an appetizer (pupu), a side dish (goes well with tandoori chicken and roasted green beans), a dessert --even a breakfast main dish!  It travels well too.

 

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Italian-French Toast

Panettone

So, I received a Panettone for a New Year's gift from a neighbor (I love how she said, "I saw all your Italian pottery and so... I thought... you would like this." She has me read right!) and I'm SO excited!  If you are not familiar with Panettone it's an Italian sweet bread with bits of candied orange, lemon zest, raisins, citron, and baked in a cupola shape.  They are traditionally served at Christmas and New Years in many European homes with sweet-hot wine and sometimes a dollop of marscapone.  While popular in Italy, regions of France, Germany, and Switzerland; they've hit the world market too.  You've probably seen the distinctivly shaped box at your supermarket around this time of year.  If not, start looking --and buy one!  Even now, a little after the holiday rush, if you get one on sale it's all the better for my recipe! (I used to wait for them to go on clearance when we lived in Alabama, as I couldn't stomach the import price tag when they were at full- holiday cost.)

Not only are these 1 kilogram bread loaves tasty in a simple way, but they are so fun to make other stuff with.  I've seen recipes for Panettone bread puddings and breakfast casseroles, but my favorite way to nosh on it?  As French Toast.  It's just a little heaven on earth!  If you have a favorite way to prepare French Toast, simply substitute slices of Panettone for your bread.  If you don't have a favorite method.... read on.

This recipe is for a whole loaf of Panettone; that's a lot of French Toast.  Adjust ingredients to your serving needs.

Panettone French Toast

1 Panettone, sliced into 1" thick serving pieces

8 Eggs

1 t Vanilla Extract

1 t Sherry

1 cup Milk

1/8 t Ground Nutmeg

Ground Cinnamon

  1. Grease then pre-heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium to medium-high heat.
  2. In a shallow bowl combine eggs, vanilla, sherry, milk, and nutmeg, whisking well.
  3. Dunk Panettone slices one at a time into egg mixture, letting slices soak if need be (sometimes Panettone can be dry...)
  4. Place slices on hot pan and sprinkle tops with cinnamon.
  5. Cook until both sides are golden brown.

 

Serve with butter, a light drizzle of maple syrup and/or powdered sugar.  For something different, top with a dab of lemon curd and clotted cream. For an "adult" spin, sprinkle with Amaretto or Grand Marnier and dusting of powdered sugar.  Adding Mandarin oranges or sliced strawberries makes for very fresh tasting toppers.