Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rosemary Roasted Almonds

We all know almonds are good for us...monosaturated fats and all that jazz.  But plain old roasted almonds can get boring.  And buying something like smoke-flavored ones can get you a whole lot of extra salt and chemical stuff.  That's why I collect spiced nut recipes just about every time I come across one.  This one was put to the test last weekend at our Oscar party.  Well? I'm sitting here eating a handful right now with my cocktail, so it passed.  Nice and this seasoning mix would be good on pecans too. 

Rosemary Roasted Almonds
Makes 2 cups.

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chile powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash of Cayenne pepper
2 cups whole raw almonds

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss to coat. Arrange nut mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly toasted.

Cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tips

Another in an ad hoc series of posts collecting tips you can use in the kitchen.  These come from Food Network Magazine:
  • Cooking with kale, arugula or chard?  Prolong their lifespan after you get them home from the grocery by wrapping them loosely in a damp paper towel and placing in a Ziploc bag.  I know from experience it works...I had a bunch of kale last for a week before I got around to making that soup recipe I wanted to try.
  • Zesting?  Do it right over the mixing bowl.  You'll get aromaqtic citrus oils spritzed in with the zest.
  • It's always difficult to know if the oil is hot enough for frying.  Put the food into too-cool oil and you end up with a greasy mess.  Stick a wooden skewer or spoon in to the oil; if bubbles form around the wood, then you are good to go.
  • The same technique you use to get a sear on scallops applies to fish also.  Rest the fish on paper towels skin-side down for a few minutes before cooking.  Then cook skin-side down first over medium heat.  Flip over for the final few minutes of cooking.  The result?  Wonderfully crispy skin that no one will want to leave on their plates.
  • Looking to caramelize onions quickly?  Cook them in a dry non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Asian-Style Spinach

Looking for a way to sauce up that steamed spinach?  Here you go...Asian-style.

Asian-Style Spinach
Makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound leaf spinach, washed and stems removed, coarsely chopped (or use baby spinach)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Toasted sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Immediately add the spinach.  Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes, and reduce the heat to low.

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sugar and pepper.  Stir into the spinach and remove from the heat.  Top with sesame seeds.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Onion Dip

Here's a dip reminiscent of the stuff where you stir onion soup mix into sour cream, but this takes it up a quotient--fancyish enough to serve at your Academy Awards party tonight.  Try the variations and present a trio...

It's best served with sturdy kettle-cooked potato chips or bagel crisps.

Onion Dip
Makes about 3 cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher salt to taste

In a food processor, finely chop the onion.

In a sauté pan, cook the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat, until softened, about five minutes.

Return onion to the food processor.  Add the sour cream, lemon juice and paprika.  Pulse until combined.  Season with salt to taste.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • Top with poppy seeds, sesame seeds and dehydrated onion and serve with everything bagel chips.
  • Add prepared horseradish to taste.
  • Mix in some Ranch dressing mix.
  • Leave the paprika out and stir in smoked salmon and fresh dill.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Broiled Stuffed Oysters

We're still in a month with an "r" in it, so I am loving the plump briny oysters tat are coming from the Gulf Coast.  Thanks to Katrina and the oil spill, they're still a little more expensive.  But they're worth it.  Give me a dozen that I can douse in lemon and dip in a horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce please.

But here's another technique to enjoy these fantastic bivalves.  If you are uncomfortable using oysters on the shell, feel free to buy them shucked and nestle them in muffin pans to cook.  Then serve them in those little Chinese soup spoons.

(P.S. These are old-school and glamorous enough to serve at your Oscars party tomorrow night...with bubbly of course.)

Broiled Stuffed Oysters
Makes 4-6 servings.

1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced parsley
12 shucked oysters
Coarse (i.e. ice cream) salt
Fine dry breadcrumbs

Preheat broiler.

Combine garlic, butter, and parsley in a bowl.  Shuck oysters, discarding top shells, and nestle oysters in their shells into a bed of coarse salt in a roasting pan.

Put a knob of seasoned butter on each oyster and sprinkle bread crumbs on top.  Broil until golden, 4-5 minutes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lemon Curd

I can make fresh pasta.  Have made my own Asian dumplings.  I keep jars of wine I'm turning into vinegar in the pantry.  Cured salmon to end up with gravlax. And it's standard procedure for me to add a bit of lemon juice to milk to make fresh ricotta. Homemade chicken stock? That's a no-brainer.

Still on the list for me to try making on my own: mayonnaise, mustard, sauerkraut, and Canadian bacon.

But I've always wondered which things are worth making vs. what I should buy.  I have no trouble using refrigerated pie crusts and, while I CAN make fresh pasta, I hardly ever do.  The stuff from the grocery is just fine.

So how excited was I to run across a book that helps guide me through the decision process? Make the Bread, Buy the Butter includes more than 120 recipes for homemade foods like cheeses, condiments, cured meats and bread products.  Even more valuable, author Jennifer Reese shares her experiences and analyses in whether they are worth it or not--both in terms of cost and hassle factor. 

I won't spoil the book by listing which way she sends you on a variety of recipes, but I will share that I have been convinced to make lemon curd from this day forward.  No reason to spend a lot of money at the grocery store; I made a batch with some Meyer lemons and it was sublime.  It's delicious in tiny phyllo cups as mini-tarts.  Or a spoonful mixed into plain yogurt for a flavor boost.

Lemon Curd
Makes one cup.
From Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs

In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, whisk together all the ingredients.  Continue whisking until the curd is thick and shiny, about 10 minutes.

Pour the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to strain out any bits of zest and egg.

The curd will keep about a week, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sausage Breakfast Pockets

There are so many things you can make with crescent dough that I usually keep a cylinder or two on hand in the fridge.  For quick appetizers, a stand-in for pizza crust, or a yummy breakfast treat like these...

Sausage Breakfast Pockets
Makes four servings.

1 tube crescent dough
1/4 pound cooked pork breakfast sausage
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon parsley

Unroll the crescent dough and divide into four rectangles.

Combine the sausage, cheddar, cream cheese and parsley.  Divide mixture among the four rectangles.

Bring four corners of the dough to the center; twist and press to seal.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 375° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saffron Cream Sauce

If two years makes a tradition, we have a new Valentine's Day tradition.  We stay away from overpriced restaurant specials and crowds of folks placating their loves with a night out.  We stay in, pop a bottle of bubbly, and settle in with a good movie.

Dinner?  One of the other half's favorites...lobster ravioli.  I cheat and buy pre-made.  (Another confession: We've discovered that we like Buitoni better than the hand-made stuff at the gourmet market.)

But I DO make the's a recipe I've developed myself.  It's delicious on the ravioli, but would also be great on chicken, or shrimp and pasta, or steamed asparagus.

Saffron Cream Sauce
Makes a cup or so.

2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 pinches saffron (I grind it in a mortar before adding to the sauce.)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
Chopped chives to garnish if desired

In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the shallot and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Add the white wine and let simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the cream and saffron and simmer until reduced, about 20 minutes. (Watch carefully and adjust the heat as needed; you don't want the sauce to scald.)

Finish the sauce with cayenne pepper.  (You can check seasoning, but it usually doesn't need salt.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cocktail of the Week: Mescal Margarita

We all have our margarita tricks.  Sticky sweet sweet-and-sour mix.  Limeade.  Light beer and Diet Sprite.  (That last one is my sister-in-law, I swear.)

But I loved running across this one in a book entitled Antojitos. Buy it already if you don't have it. Lots of yummy recipes.  Including this one for a perfect margarita made even perfecter (Is that a word?) by the addition of smoky mescal.

Zihua Margarita
Makes one cocktail.

1 1/2 slices lime
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 ounces sour mix (recipe below)
2 ounces tequila (preferably reposado)
2 tablespoons Cointreau or triple sec
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon mescal

Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with the lime and dip into the salt. ( know what to do.)

In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine the remaining ingredients and shake. 

Strain into the prepared cocktail glass and enjoy.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Research Proves Why I Like the Hot Tub.....

I love my bathtub.  Warm to hot water with some bubbles. 

I also have my gym ritual.  Have to have enough time after my workout to chill out in the hot tub for a few.

And now I know that it's healthy.  A recent article in the research journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine says that soaking in warm water daily for 8 weeks is more effective at easing anxiety than a prescription.  Add essential oils and you benefit even more.  Sage? Sharpens memory.  Bergamot? Relieves stress.  Not to mention the fact that the steam helps opens those stuffy sinuses and the warm water soothes body aches.

Headed to the bath now....who's with me?

(Wait...that sounded wrong.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Broccoli Toppers

And no I don't mean melted Velveeta.  (Sorry...that was for the other half.)

OK...we know we're supposed to eat broccoli.  Green veggie.  Fiber.  Cancer-fighting properties.  All that jazz.

But is there a more boring vegetable than broccoli?  (OK..cauliflower is right up there too.)

Growing up, I learned to love the little stalks with just a touch of mayonnaise.  Creamy decadence that added something extra to all the healthiness.  So I was excited to run across a magazine page that offered up a couple of other topping ideas.  I liked them both.  Try them and see what you think.  (Supposedly the spicy components kick up the anti-cancer properties of the broccoli even more.)

  • Mix 1 tablespoon wasabi paste with 1 tablespoon sesame oil (I love the toasted version.) and a bit of soy sauce to taste.
  • Blend 1 tablespoon horseradish and 2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt.  (Make extra if you're serving beef tenderloin alongside.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Microwave Scrambled Eggs

I eat an egg or two lots of mornings for breakfast.  Scrambled or poached.  Or even hard-boiled.  When pressed for time, I've been known to "poach" an egg by putting it in a small ramekin and nuking it for 45 seconds or so.  Gives you a nice firm white and a runny yolk.

But I'd never nuked scrambled eggs.  Ran across one of those Incredible Edible Egg advertisements in a magazine that said you could make scrambled eggs in the microwave in a coffee cup.  I didn't believe it...until I tried it.  Great results.  Try it yourself and see if you don't agree.  It's a quick (and portable) way to start your day with some good-quality protein.

Microwave Scrambled Eggs
Makes one serving.

Coat a microwave-safe mug with cooking spray.

Add two eggs and 2 tablespoons milk and beat until blended.

Microwave on high for 45 seconds.  Stir.

Microwave until eggs are almost set, 30-45 seconds longer.

Season with salt and pepper.  Top with 2 tablespoons grated cheese if you'd like.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Onion Bisque

French onion soup is delicious.  And I've posted a great recipe before. This soup is just as fantastic and has an interesting texture because the bread is added in and the whole thing is pureed.  Add a bit of bacon and goat cheese when you serve it and you have nirvana in a bowl.

Onion Bisque
Makes 4-6 servings.
From Bon Appetit.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cups sliced yellow onions
8 garlic cloves, smashed
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
15 sprigs thyme, tied into a bundle
1 1/2 cups cubed crustless day-old bread (I was lazy and left crusts on...worked just fine.)
3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2"-wide pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in a large wide pot over medium-low heat; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 20 minutes.

Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Add broth and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add bread to pot. Let stand until bread is saturated, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth; strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pot.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and crispy.

Bring soup to a simmer, adding water to thin if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls; top with cheese and bacon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Water Wednesday

I have a new strategy I've adopted to stay on track with my weight loss program.  (Down 8 pounds already, thank you very much.)  It comes from a tip that came across my Facebook feed from 24 Hour Fitness.  Drink nothing but water for the day.   You still eat, but water is the only liquid you can have.  It eliminates sugar, caffeine and lots of calories from your daily intake. 

Don't believe me?

OK...a typical day for me would be a cup of tea with two sugar cubes and a splash of milk.  I might have some juice at the office first thing.  If I'm being bad, probably a soda for lunch and then switch to iced tea for the rest of the afternoon.  A vodka tonic when I get home and then a couple of glasses of wine for dinner.

By substituting water for all those beverages, I've saved myself almost 800 (!) calories.  Wow. (Not to mention the caffeine.)

So I'm making every Wednesday "Water Wednesday." After a month or so, if I can kick it up a notch, I'll have a couple days a week that I drink only water.  It seems to be quite a good strategy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Raspberry-Rose Collins

Like many of you out there, we'll be popping the bubbly open tonight.  But if you want to start with something a little higher-octane, here's something perfectly appropriate.  The raspberries don't add a lot of flavor, but they make the drink a lovely pink hue.

Raspberry-Rose Collins
Makes two cocktails.

3 ounces gin
1 ounce simple syrup (Ginger- or rosemary-infused would be nice.)
1 ounce lemon juice
6 raspberries, plus more for garnish
Soda water

Place raspberries in a cocktail shaker, and muddle gently. Add gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice.  Top with ice and shake.  Strain into two ice-filled Collins glasses and top with soda water.  Garnish with additional raspberries.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rules for Relaxing....

I don't know about you all, but the holidays...even with the time off from work...just aren't relaxing.  There's cooking, decorating, wrapping, know the drill. I love them, but I've decided that it's about time for a day off for no reason.  I'm going to schedule it with my boss soon.

And then follow these do's and don'ts I found in an issue of Real Simple.

  • Have a supply of your favorite snacks ready.  Nothing too decadent, but jellybeans or chocolate will do quite nicely.
  • Order in every meal.  No cooking today.
  • Rent at least three movies.
  • Read a good book.
  • Sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and listen to your favorite album...all the way through.
  • Turn the phone off. 
  • Do any chores or feel guilty that you're not completing a project.  No drawer rearranging or closet organizing today.
  • Read the newspaper.  Isolation for a day won't kill you.
  • Wash the dishes or do the laundry.
  • Go to the gym.  A walk around the neighborhood is allowed...for relaxation sake. It can't be a workout.
  • Look at e-mail...personal OR work.  While we're at it, no blogging, Facebook, Tweeting or anything online.  Turn your computer and your smart phone off.  Period.
I feel better already.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clean Out the Refrigerator Quiche

Sunday is the day I hit our local market for produce.  I stock up on what I think we need for the week--salad stuff, things to juice, smoothie ingredients, and sweet potatoes for snacks for our semi-diabetic dog.  Then, I come home and clean out the garage refrigerator, tossing out leftovers we didn't get to (usually not many of those) and any veggies that are starting to show their age.

But before they hit the compost pile, I set aside any that might not be perfect, but are still perfectly edible for what I like to call "Clean Out the Refrigerator Quiche."  With the refrigerated pie crusts and eggs we always have on hand, we have a simple Sunday supper...or breakfast to last the week.

If you've never done it, quiche is simple to make.  You blind bake your crust then add the egg filling and bake for 35-40 minutes until set.  If you need a primer on the basic technique, here's a recipe for the classic Quiche Lorraine.

Now take that idea and get creative with what you have on hand.  For example, last weekend, I made a delicious one with leftover bacon bits, a little Mexican-style cheese, an overripe tomato that I diced up and the tops of several green onions chopped.  I always think cheese and veggies and add some meat or seafood as a bonus if it's around.  Here are some other ingredients you might try in a combo that sounds good to you.
  • Seafood: Do you have a can of crab on hand?  A few shrimp leftover from a shrimp cocktail that you could dice up?
  • Cheese: About anything works here...grated Cheddar or Mozzarella or Swiss.  Goat cheese.  Parmesan.  I've even seen recipes with Brie or blue cheese.
  • Veggies: Here's where the sky's the limit. If you'd like, you can saute them up first.  More often than not, I just throw them in after I've sliced or diced them.  Mushrooms, red pepper, onion, scallions, tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes are good), asparagus (steam that first), canned artichoke hearts, spinach, you get the idea.
  • Herbs: Throw a couple tablespoonsful of chopped fresh herbs if you've got them: parsley, dill, even cilantro if you're a fan.  (A pinch of dried thyme or oregano works also.)
  • Spice it up: I commonly include a pinch of crushed red pepper, but you could also add a bit of fresh jalapeno or a chipotle in adobo sauce if you'd really like a morning pick-me-up.
Try it out yourself.  And if you create a combination that is can't miss, share it in the comments below or add a link.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Buttermilk-Lemon Chess Pie

If I am ever at a cafeteria (rarer these days, but a fond memory of growing up in Texas), there are only two choices in my mind for dessert.  Chocolate icebox pie.  Or chess pie. And since I found this recipe, I might never have to go back to a cafeteria for my chess pie fix ever again.

(Don't worry, Luby's.  I'll be back soon enough...for my fried fish and macaroni & cheese fix.)

Buttermilk-Lemon Chess Pie
From Bon Appetit.

1 refrigerated pie cust.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten to blend
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 3/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Place pie crust in pie plate and line with parchment paper or foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake crust until edges begin to brown, 30–35 minutes. Remove paper and weights; bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes longer. Let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Whisk eggs and remaining 6 ingredients in a large bowl (mixture may look curdled). Slowly whisk in dry ingredients. Pour filling into a cooled crust and bake until custard is set around edges but jiggles slightly in center, 1 hour–1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Chile Cheese Egg Casserole

Discovered this recipe in the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out its perfect for a Sunday breakfast.  I adapted the recipe slightly and halved it.  There was still plenty for the two of us for breakfast and leftovers to take to the office this week.  You can easily double it and bake in a 9 x 13 pan if you're having a big gathering for a brunch.

Chile Cheese Egg Casserole
Makes 6 servings.

1/4 cup butter, melted
5 eggs
1 egg white
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 (8 ounce) can diced green chiles
2 cups cottage cheese
8 ounces shredded Mexican blend cheese
pinch each of salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.

Pour half the melted butter into a 8 inch square baking dish.

Beat the eggs and egg white in a large bowl.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Pour egg mixture into baking pan.  Pour reserved butter over the top.

Bake for 25 minutes or until casserole is set and slightly browned on top.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Flu-Fighting Foods

To keep that winter cold or the flu at bay, here are a few foods to include in your diet....

(The list isn't really surprising; all are things we know we should eat.)
  • Carrots (or bell peppers, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes and squash) are high in beta-carotene.  It protects your nose lining...which can trap the germs before they get to you.
  • Green tea: No reasons given, but a study showed that people who drank two cups of green tea daily had 32% fewer colds than those who skipped the tea.
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt: The high levels of protein helps increase the number of immune cells in your body.  The live cultures also kick up your immune levels.
  • Salmon: Yeah, this cold-water fish has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, but a serving also contains up to 1,000 IU of vitamin D.  Studies show that upping your D intake can stave off colds.
  • Garlic: It not just for warding off vampires; a compound in the root fights against bacterial, viral and fungal infections.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Lemon-Rosemary Coffee Cake

I've always been intrigued by the lemon/rosemary/olive oil cakes that seemed to be all over the food magazines recently, but I'll admit I've never tried one.  Ran across this similar recipe the other day and, since I had several Meyer lemons still on the tree we're overwintering in the garage, decided now was the time to try it.  It was quite good.  I'll confess I didn't have lemon curd on hand, so skipped that step.  It was wonderful without it...frankly I wonder if it wouldn't have made the final product TOO sweet, but you be the judge if you make the recipe in its original, unedited form.

Lemon-Rosemary Coffee Cake
 From Southern Living.

3 large lemons
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold butter, cubed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk or Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 (10-oz.) jar lemon curd
Powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. I made mine in a well-sprayed cake pan and it worked fine.)

Grate zest from lemons to equal 1 tablespoon. Cut lemons in half; squeeze juice from lemons into a bowl to equal 5 tablespoons. Reserve zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of a food processor; pulse 3 to 4 times or until blended. Add butter; pulse 6 to 7 times or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 cup flour mixture.

Transfer remaining flour mixture to bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Add baking powder and baking soda; beat at low speed until well blended. Add buttermilk, egg, and 1/4 cup lemon juice; beat at medium speed 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until batter is thoroughly blended, stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Stir in rosemary. Spoon half of batter into prepared pan.

Whisk lemon curd in a small bowl about 1 minute or until loosened and smooth; carefully spread over batter in pan. Top with remaining half of batter.

Stir together reserved lemon zest, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 cup flour mixture; sprinkle lemon zest mixture over batter in pan.

Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Gently run a sharp knife around edge of cake to loosen; remove sides of pan. Cool cake completely on wire rack (about 1 hour). Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Tips from Food Network Chefs....

A while back, I shared some kitchen tips that I had found in an issue of Food Network Magazine. 

Here are a few more...
  • Keep flavored vinegars (or just good-quality "plain" ones) near the stove so you don't always just reach for the salt.  Acid enhances flavor.
  • There's a reason all the TV chefs have their mise en place ready. Cut your vegetables and meat and make your sauces first. You won't leave out an ingredient and it's much more efficient as you are preparing the recipe.
  • We all have heard the adage, but Rick Bayless swears by it.  Clean as you go.
  • This one's a rule in my kitchen.  Pull your steaks out of the fridge an hour or so ahead of time so they can come to room temperature.  They cook more evenly.
  • And I love this one from Claire Robinson...enjoy your time in the kitchen.  Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand...

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Thought for the Week....

Courtesy A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh...

"You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think."

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Baked Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese Dip

Still looking for something for tomorrow's Super Bowl gathering.  Look no further.  Thanks to Southern Living, here's a stick-to-your-ribs goo-fest that your guests will love. 

(Tip: Prepare it in two smaller 1 quart casseroles so that you can heat the second to replace the first one when it's empty.)

Baked Tex-Mex Pimiento Cheese Dip
Makes about 4 cups.
From Southern Living.

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 (12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 (8-ounce) block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (or 8 ounces pre-shredded)
1 (8-ounce) block pepper Jack cheese, shredded (or 8 ounces pre-shredded)
Garnish: fresh cilantro leaves
Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in cheeses. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 2-quart baking dish.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until dip is golden and bubbly. Garnish, if desired. Serve with French bread cubes. (I like it with toasted baguette slices.  Ritz crackers would be a nice Southern option.)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Bloody Mary Ideas

I know a lot of folks swear by the "hair of the dog" as a hangover cure.  Bloody Mary's are, of course, a favorite remedy.  Strangely enough, I like Bloody Mary mix by itself most of the time, but, being a good Boy Scout, I was prepared with a pitcher of mix on New Years Day...just in case it was called for.

Luckily, we didn't need it, but discovered that this mix is just as wonderful as it looked on paper.  The pickle juice is an intriguing addition, and a welcome use for the jars of juice leftover from my summer canning.  The stuff is just too good to waste.

How about mixing up a batch for your Super Bowl party this weekend?  And scroll down past the recipe for some interesting garnish ideas.

Bloody Mary Mix
Makes 8 servings.
From Bon Appetit.

4 cups tomato or vegetable juice (I use low-sodium V-8.)
1 cup dill pickle juice (the more flavorful and spicy, the better)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and chill overnight.

Add 2 cups vodka to pitcher and stir well.  Divide cocktail among 8 ice-filled glasses.

Garnish Ideas: Sure you can throw in the ubiquitous celery stalk and lemon wedge, but how about trying some of these?  Leave them in ramekins on the bar so your guests can mix and match to their liking.
  • Pepperoncini (for a sour-spicy hit)
  • Pickled green beans
  • Garlic-stuffed olives (They're not just for martinis.)
  • Freshly shucked oysters (Cabaret anyone?  Just no raw eggs please.)
  • Hard-boiled quail eggs (You can find these at Asian markets.  Hardboil them by simmering 4 minutes.  Peel and skewer a couple for your drink.  Even better...pickle them first.)
  • Radishes (The long breakfast variety are perfect.)
  • Beef jerky (Not sure about this one, but I'm intrigued.  Try it and let me know what you think.)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Soups don't have to take hours to make.  This one uses several convenience products without getting too "processed foods" about it.  And if you use low-fat ingredients you can keep it pretty healthy as well.  Perfect for one of these cold winter nights.

Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Makes 8-10 servings. (Perfect to share with neighbors.)
Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (one "box")
2 (12-ounce) package broccoli florets/pieces
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta Light)

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds or so. Add broth and broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Place one-third of the soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed soup mixture to pan. (I actually pureed all of mine and really liked it.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Herb-Crusted Salmon

Lots of local groceries in these parts have wild (that's important to sustainability, don't forget) sockeye salmon on sale these days.  So I hit up my salmon recipe file folder and found this one from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.  It's a goodie...

Herb-Crusted Salmon
Makes 4 servings.

3 slices white sandwich bread
1 cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. In a food processor, combine bread, parsley, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Pulse until coarse crumbs form.

Place salmon on prepared sheet; season with salt and pepper. Spread top of fillets with Dijon; top with crumb mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Roast until salmon is opaque throughout, 11 to 13 minutes.