Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Side: Chilled Pasta Salad with Basil Cucumber Ribbons

Difficulty: Easy

Prep/Cook Time: 20 min

Chill Time: 30 min

Serves (4)

This dish stays true to the simplicity of traditional pasta salad, yet offers a bolder appeal and elegance. With vibrant flavors and distinct textures, each ingredient can be tasted for its full potential. Don't let the chill time steer you away. Prepare the meal up to 24 hrs ahead of time, and when ready to serve, top with shaved cucumber ribbons for some added pizazz.

Ingredients: 8 oz spaghetti, 1 cucumber, 2 small onions, 1 1/3 cup sweet peas, 2 medium tomatoes, 1 cup sliced olives, basil, salt, pepper, romano cheese for topping, and your favorite Italian dressing

Bring water to boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Once cooked, drain spaghetti and spread out on plate for faster cooling. Place plate in refrigerator.

Slice onions. Place in lightly oiled pan with peas over medium heat. Heat onions and peas until onions begin to soften and peas are soft (about 10 min). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. We want the onions to keep most of their brightness and crunch--so be careful to not overcook them. Remove peas and onions from pan and spread out on plate. Place plate in the refrigerator.

Slice tomatoes into chunks. Slice olives. Place tomatoes and olives in refrigerator.

Peel cucumber. Slice cucumber in half. Using a potato peeler, peel cucumber into strips until you reach the seeds. Sprinkle cucumber peels with basil. Refrigerate.

After 30 min, remove all ingredients from refrigerator and combine in large bowl. Mix with your favorite Italian dressing. Plate spaghetti. Roll cucumber peels to make tubes (it's fine if some tubes unroll). Arrange on top of spaghetti. Top with grated romano cheese.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Entrée: Spaghetti with Romano Spinach Cream Sauce and Seasoned Asparagus

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 5-10 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Serves (4)

Pretend you're French for a moment and try not to be afraid of butter. You can go back to your olive or coconut oil tomorrow, but tonight we need butter in both the cream sauce and the asparagus--no exceptions. This dish is built on layers--beginning with a hint of bacon in the cream sauce, to the spinach and sauteed onions, on up to the seasoned asparagus. Each bite is as good as the last.

Ingredients: 8 oz spaghetti or linguine, 2 small onions, 2-3 cups spinach (fresh or frozen), 6 oz bacon, 1 small bunch of asparagus (about 1/2 lb), 1 1/2 cups milk, 1/2 cup grated romano cheese, 4-6 tbsp butter, 2 rounded tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, romano for topping

Slice onions. Sautee in large pan with oil over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set on paper towel to absorb the grease. Discard most of the bacon grease in the pan--leaving some behind for flavor.

While bacon is cooking, bring water to boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain.

Wash the asparagus. Slice the bottom inch off. Place 2-3 tbsp of butter in a separate pan over medium heat. Once butter begins to sizzle, place asparagus in pan and generously season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Gently roll asparagus in pan to evenly cook all sides. Cook until sides begin to shrivel and brown (about 10 min). Once cooked, the asparagus can stay in the pan (burner off) while you prepare the other ingredients.

Chop bacon into small bits. Return to original pan. Add spinach, onions, milk, and 2-3 tbsp of butter. Dissolve 2 heaping tbsp of flour in water and pour into pan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup grated romano cheese and 1/4 tsp garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add spaghetti to pan and toss until evenly mixed. Top with asparagus and freshly grated romano.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dessert: Apple Shortbread Crisp

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time 35-45 min

Serves (12)

My dad loves shortbread. He also loves apple pie. Combine the two? Amazingness. Switch your traditional pie crust for the buttery delicacy of shortbread, and top with a simple crumb topping. So the apples and topping don't compete for sweet attention, use whole wheat flour and oats for a muted topping that compliments, but doesn't overpower.

Ingredients: Shortbread 2 cups flour, 1 cup butter*, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp nutmeg Apple Filling 6 cups sliced apples (about 7 medium), 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg Crumb Topping 1 cup oats, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon

*chilled and sliced into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all ingredients for shortbread in large bowl and work with hands into small crumbs (no larger than pea sized). Pour and press mixture into 13x9 pan. Poke shortbread with a fork several times throughout. Place in over for 15 min. (We're pre-baking the shortbread so it doesn't absorb too much of the juice from the apples.)

While shortbread is cooking, peel, core, and slice apples. Combine with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. After 15 min, reduce heat to 350 and remove shortbread from oven.

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for topping. Pour apples over shortbread. Pour crumb topping over apples and spread evenly. Place pan back in over until sides of crumb topping begin to brown and apples are soft (about 35-45 min).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beverage: Holiday Eggnog

Difficulty: Easy

Prep/Cook Time: 10 min

Chill Time: 30 min

Serves (4)

I'm allergic to cow's milk, so this eggnog is made with fresh goat's milk instead of cream. A lighter and more frothy version than traditional fare, this nog is coats the palate without making you feel like you just drank an entire meal. Spiked with just a shot of rum for a bright warmness, feel free to spike yours as much as you'd like with your favorite liquor.

Ingredients: 4 large farm fresh eggs*, 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 1/4 cup rum, 2 heaping tbsp powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, nutmeg to taste

*Use caution when using raw eggs. I always use farm fresh eggs from my parents' farm when consuming raw egg products.

Combine all ingredients in beverage mixer or blender. Blend on high until frothy (about 2 min). Chill eggnog for at least 30 min and serve with nutmeg.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Side: Apple Cider Steamed Cabbage and Bacon

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 20 min

Serves (6)

Apple cider brings out the hidden sweetness of cabbage, and makes this dish the perfect side to your next bratwurst filled Oktoberfest. Use in place of sauerkraut as a base for meats, or let stand alone. Balance the sweetness with salty bacon, cracked black pepper, and just a little butter for some flavorful clarity.

Ingredients: 1 head of cabbage, 1 1/2 cups apple cider*, 4-6 oz bacon, 4 tbsp butter, salt, pepper, water

*Can substitute apple juice for cider.

Cut bottom off cabbage. Slice remaining cabbage into strips. Wash and set aside.

Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook in large pan over medium heat. We want to take all the flavor with us, so add a handful of cabbage slices and a little water to pan with bacon. Heat over medium-high heat, scraping bottom of pan to release any remaining bacon pieces and juice.

Pour bacon and cabbage mixture into a large pot. Add remaining cabbage, apple cider, butter, and enough water to cover 2/3 of cabbage. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper (and then more pepper). Mixing cabbage occasionally, partially cover pot with lid and steam over low-medium heat until cabbage is tender (about 15-20 min).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dessert: Pumpkin Cake with Nutmeg Icing

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 35-45 min

Serves (12)

Give apples a momentary break for the fall and bring out some pumpkin goodness. With no eggs, milk or beating required, this may be the simplest cake you'll ever prepare. Serve warm or cold, and drizzle with creamy nutmeg icing to enjoy the perfect pumpkin pleasure.

Ingredients: Cake 1 2/3 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter*, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup pumpkin, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Nutmeg icing 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 tbsp softened butter, 2-3 tbsp milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla, nutmeg to taste

*For a healthier alternative, substitute oil for the butter.

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl and mix with fork or wisk. Add water, pumpkin, butter and vinegar to flour mixture. Mix with wooden spoon. Pour batter into bundt pan and cook until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (about 35 min). Cake should slide easily out of the pan once slightly cooled.

For icing, combine all ingredients in small bowl. You'll want the icing to be a heavy drizzle--not a frosting--so thin the icing with more milk as needed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Entrée: Mexican Spaghetti

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 20 min

Serves (3-4)

Mexican night? Let's be unconventional--skip the tortillas and the beef. This vegetarian alternative to a beefy Mexican fiesta is still bringing flavor to the party. With spaghetti instead of tortillas and diced tomatoes instead of salsa, we're tipping our hat to Italian charm while saying, "Vamos!" to a great meal.

Ingredients: 8 oz spaghetti, 2 small yellow onions, 1 can diced (no salt) tomatoes, 2/3 cup low salt black beans, 1/3 cup corn, 2 tbsp freshly minced cilantro, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper

Bring water to boil in 2 qt pot for spaghetti. Cook until al dente.

Slice onions. Mince cilantro. Saute onions in oiled pan over medium heat. Once onions begin to brown, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and generously coat onions in chili powder (about 2 tsp). The sweetness of the yellow onions plays perfectly with the chili powder, so don't be afraid of over doing the chili powder. Add tomatoes, corn, black beans (drained) and cilantro to pan. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat until mixture starts to bubble. Simmer over low heat, 5 min. Plate on top of spaghetti.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lunch: Pita Roast Beef and Onions with Tahini Cocktail Spread

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time 15 min

Serves (1)

Cocktail sauce and tahini? Don't be alarmed. The best meals are born out of inventiveness. Tahini (a sesame seed paste) provides a beautiful richness to this sandwich. Combined with cocktail sauce, mayo, and mustard, the tahini transforms into a spicy spread similar to horseradish, yet with a depth and clarity all its own.

Ingredients: Sandwich 1 pita, 5 slices thin-sliced roast beef, 1/4 onion, oil, butter Tahini Spread 5 tsp tahini, 1 tbsp mayo, 1 tbsp cocktail sauce, 1 tsp mustard

Thin slice onion. Slice roast beef into strips. Slice pita in half. Set aside.

Sauté onion in oiled pan over medium heat. While onions are sautéing, combine tahini, mayo, cocktail sauce and mustard in small bowl. Generously spread tahini mixture on inside of pita pockets (reserving a little for the outside of the pita). When onions are brown, add roast beef strips to pan. Cook for 2 min.

Remove roast beef and onions from pan and place in pita pockets. Spread remaining tahini mixture on one side of outside of pitas. Place dollop of butter in pan, place pitas in pan, tahini side down. Cook 1-2 min. Flip pitas. Cook additional minute. Remove from pan.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Entrée: Chicken Soup with Hungarian Nokedli

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 45 min

Serves (4-6)

Please, please, please put away your bouillon cubes and over salted chicken stock. This recipe requires no fillers. By purchasing a good quality chicken, the main ingredient you'll need is time, not salt. I'm not convinced that chicken soup cures a cold, but it does make for a great meal.

Ingredients: Soup 4 chicken thighs (preferably organic or free range), 4 celery stalks, 4 medium carrot sticks, 2 small onions, 3 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 - 1 tsp black pepper (more salt and pepper can be added to taste) Nokedli 1 cup flour, 1 egg, 1/3 cup water, 1 tbsp parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt

Place thighs in large pot over medium heat with a little oil. Evenly sprinkle tops of thighs with 2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.

As chicken is beginning to cook, dice celery, peeled carrots, and onions. Add vegetables to pot. Drizzle chicken and vegetables with olive oil. Add water to pot until chicken is completely covered. Stir in 1 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cover pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer with lid cracked until chicken is cooked--about 45 min.

When chicken is almost done, fill 2 qt saucepan with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to boil. Combine flour, egg, water, parsley and salt in bowl. Mix together with a fork. (Batter will be sticky.) Transfer batter to flat surface--something that is easy to handle, like a plate or small cutting board. Using a teaspoon, quickly scrap batter into boiling water. Boil nokedli until they begin to float--about 2-3 min. Drain. Set aside.

Remove chicken from pot, peel off skin. Pull apart chicken (chicken will be hot!) and add back to pot. Serve with Hungarian nokedli.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Entrée: Tomato Pumpkin Soup with Goat Cheese and Basil

Difficulty: Easy

Cook Time: 20 min

Serves (2)

Great as an entrée or an appetizer--this dish caters to the strengths of each ingredient--the acidity of the tomatoes, the mellow sweetness from pumpkin, and the bright pop of basil. Stir in soft and tangy goat cheese, and bring tomato soup into the realm of fine dining.

Ingredients: 1 cup strained tomatoes*, 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup pumpkin, 1-2 oz goat cheese, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, goat cheese for topping

*If available, I recommend Pomi strained tomatoes. Packed and produced in Italy, the only tomatoes more fresh would be from your garden.

Who says amazing meals have to be complicated? Combine all ingredients in 1 qt saucepan. Heat over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally (15 min). Serve with crumbled goat cheese and a dash of dried basil. Voilà!

Side: Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Vanilla and Raisins

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 20 min

Serves (2)

I admit I'm not the biggest fan of plain sweet potatoes. I do, however, love sweet potatoes with sugar, butter, and marshmallows! But such concoctions tend to be over sweetened. With plump raisins and a little bit of powdered sugar, this recipe satisfies your "healthy" sweet tooth without making you feel like you've just robbed a candy store.

Ingredients: 2 medium-large sweet potatoes, 1 egg, 2/3 cup raisins, 3 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp powdered sugar, 3 tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Peel sweet potatoes. Dice. Place potatoes in 2 qt pot, cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over medium heat until potatoes are soft and a fork easily pierces them (about 15 min). The last 5 min of simmering, place raisins in the water with potatoes. Drain.

Immediately transfer potatoes and raisin to mixing bowl. Add the egg and beat with electric beater (15 seconds). Add in butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat with electric beater until potatoes are whipped, scraping bowl constantly. (Mixing the egg with the hot potatoes will effectively cook the egg, so you'll want to mix them rather quickly to ensure the potatoes are still hot.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sauce: Classic BBQ

Difficulty: Easy

Prep/Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (4)

Only five simple ingredients combine for this classic bbq sauce. Simple, however, does not mean un-amazing. With a backbone of molasses and a zingy tang from apple cider vinegar, your chicken, pork or beef will be begging for more.

Ingredients: 2/3 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup molasses, 2 tbsp spicy brown mustard, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients in 1 qt saucepan and allow to simmer for 10-15 min, stirring occasionally. You may wish to cover the pan, as splattering may occur.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lunch: Sautéed Bologna with Onions, Squash, Mushrooms and Spicy Mustard on a French Baguette

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time 15 min

Serves (2)

Sorry, Ms. Propriety, this sandwich is a mess. Elbows will probably be placed on the table, and multiple napkins will definitely be used. Sautéed vegetables work together providing a rich body to the sandwich, while fried bologna and brown mustard combine for the perfect salty spice. Add in a light layer of mayo on a toasted baguette, and say goodbye to 4th grade lunch-ables.

Ingredients: 1/3 lb thin sliced all-beef bologna, 3 cups fresh spinach, 1 French baguette, 1 small yellow squash, 4 white mushrooms, 1/2 medium onion, 1/2-1 tsp garlic powder, spicy brown mustard, mayo, salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice onion, squash, and mushrooms. Mince spinach.

Place onions and squash in oiled pan over medium-high heat. Sauté until onions begin to brown. Add mushrooms and spinach. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 3 min adding additional oil if necessary.

Slice bologna into strips and add to pan. Cook for additional 5-7 min.

While bologna is cooking, slice baguette into 2, 6" pieces. Cut open pieces and add a light layer of mayo to one side. Toast. Remove bologna mixture from heat and place on toasted bread. Top with spicy brown mustard

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Entrée: Shredded Chicken Burrito with Green Bell Pepper Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Peach Mango Pico de Gallo

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time:
2 hrs (chicken)
20 min (other ingredients)

Serves (4)

This dish is all about balance. The spiciness of the chicken is perfectly paired with amazing green bell pepper sweet potatoes, while fresh peach mango pico de gallo cools the pan seared burrito. Add in your choice of black beans, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, and your only regret will be that you can't stop eating.

Ingredients: 4 flour burritos, 1 lb chicken tenderloins, 2 medium sweet potatoes, 1 1/2 onions, 1 green bell pepper, 1 can low salt black beans, 2-3 tbsp chili powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp brown sugar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, salt, black pepper, sour cream, cheddar cheese, oil, butter Pico de Gallo: 3 medium tomatoes, 1 peach, 1/2 mango, 1/3 cup corn, 1/2 onion, salt, pepper, and cilantro to taste

**Chicken and Pico de Gallo can be made 24 hrs ahead of time.**

For pico de gallo, dice tomatoes, peach, mango, and onion. In medium mixing bowl, combine with corn, salt, pepper and minced cilantro to taste. Refrigerate at least 30 min.

Coat bottom of large pan with oil. Place chicken in pan with 2 tbsp of butter, 1/2 sliced onion, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, 2 hrs.

As chicken finishes cooking, peel sweet potatoes and cut into small pieces. Place potatoes in 2 qt. saucepan, cover with water, bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and cook until tender (about 15 min).

If desired, heat black beans in 1 qt saucepan over medium heat.

Remove chicken from pan. Shred chicken with forks by pulling pieces apart. Cover and set aside. Slice bell pepper and sauté in the pan that was used for the chicken over medium heat. Cook peppers until they begin to blacken. Remove peppers from pan and mince.

Drain potatoes and mash. Over medium-low heat, combine mashed sweet potatoes and minced bell peppers back in the pan. Add 2 tbsp butter, brown sugar, and salt to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.

Sauté remaining onions in pan over medium heat. Remove from pan and set aside.

Place shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, black beans, sautéed onions, sour cream and cheddar cheese in center of burrito. Fold burrito sides in and over themselves to seal. Place burrito in buttered pan, folded side down, over medium heat. Cook each side 2 min. Remove from pan and top with sour cream and pico de gallo.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dessert: Chocolate Spice Zucchini Cake

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 40-50 min

Serves (16-20)

This cake takes your tastebuds down a detour --away from the chocolate norm. If you're seeking a standard chocolate cake, this baby is not for you. Sophisticated and intricate, spicy cinnamon compliments sweet chocolate, while the introduction of brandy gives the cake a delicate earthiness. Shredded zucchini and oil provide rich moisture, ensuring that making a dry cake is nearly impossible. Top with melted chocolate, and let the eye rolling begin.

Ingredients: 3 eggs, 2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, 2/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/2 cup oil, 3 tbsp brandy, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease and flour 12 cup bundt pan or 13x9x2 baking pan.

Shred zucchini. Bring 1/2 cup water to boil and pour over zucchini in large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Beat on low speed, 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 2 min.

Pour into pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (about 40-50 min).

Serving Suggestion: Drizzle sliced pieces of cake with melted chocolate and chocolate shavings, or use chocolate brandy sauce.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dessert: Cinnamon Brandy Zucchini Cake

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 40-50 min

Serves: (15)

This dessert is the perfect transition into fall. Use up your leftover summer zucchini, and start thinking cinnamon, apples, and cool mornings. A slight variation on a popular dessert, this zucchini cake brings more cinnamon and just a touch of brandy for subdued sweetness.

Ingredients: 3 eggs, 2 1/2 cups finely chopped zucchini, 2 cups flour, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 1/3 cup water, 2-3 tbsp brandy, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla, powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease and flour 13x9x2 baking pan.

Boil water and pour over chopped zucchini in large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to zucchini and beat on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 1 min. Beat on medium speed for 2 min, scraping bowl occasionally.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 40-50 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Entrée: Marinated Italian Chicken over Orzo and Corn with Sautéed Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 10 min

Marinade Time: 30 min

Cook Time 15-20 min

Serves (2)

Many orzo chicken dishes have great flavors, but are over spiced and over salted. This dish builds off the delicacy of orzo, and gives each ingredient room to breathe. With nothing heavy, and nothing too light, there's a great balance between the crunch of corn, the sweet tomatoes and the salty feta.

Ingredients: 1 large skinless chicken breast, 2/3 cup orzo, 1 ear of corn, 1 medium tomato, 1/2 cup sliced olives, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1-2 tsp Italian seasonings, salt, pepper, Italian dressing, feta cheese

Place chicken breast in quart sized ziploc bag. Pour your favorite Italian dressing over chicken--about 3/4 cup (my family has always used Good Seasons). Remove air from bag, zip tightly, and marinate for 30 min.

Bring water to boil in 2 qt. pot for orzo and corn. Shuck ear of corn. Holding corn vertically, carefully slice downward to remove kernels. Place corn kernels and orzo in boiling water and cook until orzo is al dente (8-10 min). The corn will cook at the same rate as the pasta.

While orzo is cooking, remove chicken from bag and slice into even sized strips. Cook chicken strips in oiled pan over medium heat--about 3 min each side. Remove from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add a little more olive oil. Dice tomato into cubes and saute in the same pan with olive oil until tomatoes begin to break down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drain orzo and corn. Mix orzo and corn into pan with tomatoes. Mix in onion powder, Italian Seasonings, and sliced olives. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate orzo mixture with chicken strips and crumbled feta cheese.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dessert: Molten Chocolate Cake

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 5-10 min

Serves (3)

Whip these cakes up for the ultimate chocolate indulgence. Warm and flowing with velvety goodness, nothing satisfies a chocoholic quite like a molten cake. You're in charge of your chocolate cravings here. Want darker, richer chocolate? Substitute the semisweet chocolate chips for chocolate with 65% cocoa or more.

Ingredients: 2 eggs, 3/4 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup salted butter, 4 oz semisweet mini chocolate chips, 2 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 450. Butter and flour 3 ramekins. Set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate over over double boiler. Beat eggs with whisk in separate bowl. Beat powdered sugar into eggs. Once chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Add egg mixture to chocolate--stirring constantly. Add 2 tsp of flour to egg/chocolate mixture. Pour into ramekins. Bake until edges are set and cake puffs--about 6-8 min. Center will not be firm. Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Entrée: Spaghetti with Pancetta, Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Romano Cheese

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time 20 min

Serves (2)

Don't be afraid to go a little rustic every now and then. Diverting from the Mediterranean olive oil hoopla, this spaghetti embraces bacon and uses the flavor to infuse the dish. Add sautéed vegetables and fresh Romano, and tip your hat to old world charm.

Ingredients: 1/4 lb spaghetti, 5 pieces pancetta or thick sliced, high quality bacon, 3 cloves garlic, 2 plum tomatoes, 1 cup broccoli (or cauliflower), Romano cheese, Italian seasonings, black pepper

Bring water to boil for spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Drain. While spaghetti water is heating, cut broccoli into small trees. Using a different pot, place broccoli in water, bring to boil, and heat until half-way cooked (about 5 min). Drain broccoli once finished.

Chop pancetta into small pieces. Place pancetta in pan over medium heat. While pancetta is cooking, slice tomatoes in half lengthwise, then each half lengthwise again. Rough chop tomato slices. Mince garlic cloves. Once pancetta is cooked, drain grease, leaving about 1/4 cup of oil still in the pan. Maintain medium heat, and add minced garlic, chopped tomatoes, and drained broccoli to pancetta. Sprinkle vegetables very generously with Italian seasonings and black pepper to taste. Cook until broccoli is done.

Place spaghetti in pan with pancetta and vegetables and lightly toss. Drizzle with olive oil. Plate spaghetti mixture and top with fresh grated Romano cheese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Entrée: Mixed Greens and Blueberries with Peppered Italian Flank Steak

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Marinade Time: 20 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (3-4)

This classic summer salad pops with homemade croutons, garden fresh veggies, and fresh berries. Don't be shy on the veggies or the fruit. Measure in handfuls and use as little or as much as you'd like. Don't have blueberries? Try strawberries or raspberries instead. Mix and match and enjoy!

Ingredients: Croutons: 3 cups cubed French bread, 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tsp Italian seasonings, 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, salt, pepper Steak/Salad: 1 lb. flank steak, mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, carrots, black olives, blueberries, Italian dressing, cracked black pepper (Amount of salad ingredients will vary based on the size of the salad desired.)

Place flank steak in appropriate sized pan--large enough for steak to lay flat. Crack black pepper over steak. Generously drizzle both sides of steak with Italian Dressing and allow to marinate at room temperature for 20 min.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut French bread into cubes. Place in medium bowl. Toss with olive oil, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Arrange croutons on ungreased baking sheet and place in oven for 15 min. Croutons should be almost golden.

While croutons are baking, slice cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots for salad. Set aside. Feel free to use additional vegetables or substitutes. There are no set rules here.

Remove flank steak from pan and cut diagonally into thin strips against the grain. Place steak strips in pan over medium heat. Cook each side for 2 min (max). Steak will be medium rare. Place mixed greens on plate, top with vegetables, olives, blueberries, croutons, and place steak on top. Drizzle with a little Italian dressing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Entrée: Italian Baked Chicken

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 30-45 min

Serves (4)

I love baked chicken. Asian chicken is always a treat, and any Latin infusion is great. But some nights, you're just in the mood for classic Americana. A simple dry rub is all you need, and you'll be on your way to a meal worthy of Thanksgiving. Add mashed potatoes or herb stuffing, and you may as well call grandma and break out the fine china.

Ingredients: 4 chicken thighs*, 1 heaping tsp flour, 1/3 cup water
Rub: 2 tbsp Italian seasoning, 3 tsp onion powder, 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/3 tsp salt, paprika

*Cooking time and rub amount is based off coating and covering 4 thighs. A whole chicken will require more rub and cooking time up to 1.5 hrs depending on weight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter bottom of 8x8 pan. Combine seasonings (minus paprika) in small bowl. Coat chicken with seasoning and place in pan. Sprinkle with paprika and a little olive oil.

Bake until chicken is done (no pink) 170 degrees for thighs, 180 degrees for whole chicken.

Remove chicken from pan. Place pan on burner. Mix heaping tsp flour with water and add to chicken gravy in pan. Heat over high heat stirring frequently until gravy thickens.

Alternatives: This seasoning also makes an excellent rub for turkey or fish.

Side: Herb Stuffing

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (2)

I have a confession. I'm typically a fan of stuffing that comes from a bag. I know, combining gourmet meals with store bought stuffing is a borderline travesty. No more! With a delicate balance of herbs and oil, this stuffing is so easy to prepare you'll never go back to a bag again. I'm pretty sure I'm committed to preparing this recipe for every Thanksgiving to come.

Ingredients: 2 cups cubed french bread*, ½ cup chopped celery, ½ cup chopped onion, ¼ cup water, ¼ olive oil, 1-2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp Italian seasoning, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp salt

*You'll want a fresh french baguette for this recipe. Italian, sourdough, or multigrain loaves have a tendency to be too moist.

Place cubed bread in food processor and pulse just until cubes break apart. The smallest bread pieces should only be pea sized. If you don't have a food processor, rough chop breadcrumbs with a chef's knife. Set aside.

Mince onion and celery and place in saucepan with butter, oil, water and seasonings. Allow onion and celery to cook over medium heat for about 15 min. onions and celery should be soft.

Remove seasoned butter sauce from heat, add to breadcrumbs in medium bowl and lightly toss with fork. (If more moisture is needed, add extra water sparingly.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dessert: Tiramisu

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time 20 min

Serves (6)

A simple pleasure. An iconic treat. A decadent indulgence. Tiramisu is almost legendary. But don't be intimidated by all the fanfare. With just a little time and finesse, you can easily master this classic dessert.

Ingredients: 36 small savoiardi (lady fingers), 2 cups mascarpone cheese, 1/3 cup Italian brandy, 4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites, 3 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee (dissolved in 1/2 cup water), 3-4 oz dark chocolate (candy bar type chocolate will work fine)

Mix instant coffee mixture and brandy and set aside.

With chef's knife or food processor, finely chop all savoiardi. Rough chop chocolate. Set both aside. Beat egg yolks and sugar over a double-boiler until mixture is pale in color and forms ribbons in the saucepan when moving your whisk through the mixture. Cooking times will vary (usually 10 min). You don't want custard! Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 min.

While egg yolks are cooling, beat egg whites in medium bowl until stiff peaks form. Room temperature eggs work best here. If you have farm fresh eggs, even better.

Fold mascarpone into egg yolk mixture one third at a time. Fold mascarpone mixture into egg whites.

Take half of the savoiardi, place in bottom of 8x8 pan, and lightly pat down. Using a pastry brush, coat the savoiardi with the brandy coffee mixture. Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the savoiardi. Sprinkle half of chopped chocolate over the mascarpone. Repeating this process, add another layer with the remaining ingredients.

Refrigerate at least 30 min. before serving.

Serving note: Unless you are taking the tiramisu to a party, it is not necessary to use the 8x8 pan. For a more personalized approach, follow the same process above, but divide all ingredients between wine goblets or small bowls. Top each goblet/bowl with a sprig of mint.

Breakfast: Fluffy Banana Pancakes

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10-15 min

Serves (2)

As a kid, Saturday morning breakfasts were a tradition second only to going to church. These pancakes slow the clock, and help bring back a feeling of home. Put away the box mixes and flabby flapjacks, and take a few minutes to make a memorable breakfast. Your day will thank you--and so will your family.

Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 banana, 3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup milk, 4 tbsp oil or melted butter, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp salt

Heat buttered skillet or fry pan over low to medium heat. A lower temperature helps ensure even cooking and gives the pancakes a smooth golden color.

While pan is heating, mash peeled banana in medium mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to bowl and stir until all ingredients are mixed. Do not over beat the batter.

Pour batter onto preheated pan about 1/2 cup at a time--depending on how large you'd like your pancakes. Since this is a fluffy recipe with a fair amount of baking powder, as soon as the batter is in the pan, I give the pan a quick circular shake (almost as if swirling crepes) to evenly spread the batter. Otherwise, you run the risk of having mounded pancakes--the batter rising in the center but having thinner edges. Once edges begin to brown and bubbles form in the center of the pancake, turn over. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Remove from pan and top with your favorite syrup!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Entrée: Italian Sausage and Fried Potatoes with Basil Cream Sauce

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time 35 min*

Serves (2)

Think potatoes au gratin with an Italian twist. A creamy basil sauce adds a hint of sweetness to salty potatoes, while Italian sausage spices up your palate. Fresh basil is the key to this dish, helping to bring a punch of brightness. (Dried basil will work, but we're looking for a punch, not a slap.) Try to resist licking the plate when you're done.

Ingredients: 2 good sized Italian chicken (or pork) sausage links, 3 medium red potatoes, 1/2 onion, salt, pepper, oil for frying Sauce: 1/2 cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, 5-6 leaves fresh basil, 2 heaping tsp flour, 1/4 tsp garlic, 1/8 tsp salt

*Time given is for (2) servings. Cooking time will increase for more servings.

Quick note: Do not discard pans after use while cooking. The pan that is used to cook sausage will also be used for the sauce, and the pan that is used for the onions will be used to fry potatoes.

Wash potatoes (removing any eyes or large blemishes). Slice potatoes into 1/8 -1/4 inch rounds. Be careful not to slice potatoes too thinly. Though we are frying the potatoes, we do not want thin potato chips. Set aside. Rough chop basil leaves. Set aside.

Cut onion into slices. Sauté onions in large oiled pan over medium heat until almost caramelized. While onions are cooking, cut end of casing on sausages, remove sausage from casing and place in medium-sized fry pan. (If you have not removed sausage from the casing before, brace yourself for the awkwardness. This is sure to be an experience!) If using chicken sausage, a little butter or oil will be needed for the pan. Pork sausage will cook fine without this addition. Cook sausage until done. Place cooked sausage and onions in small bowl and set aside.

Add layer of oil to the large pan that was used to cook the onions. Place potato slices in pan and fry (about 5 min each side). Crack salt and black pepper over one side of potatoes. Fry all potatoes and place on paper towel as they finish.

While potatoes are frying, add 1/2 cup milk and 2 tbsp butter to the pan that was used to cook the sausage. Mix 2 heaping tsp flour in a little water to evenly dissolve. Add flour mixture to milk and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to boil over medium-high heat. Once mixture boils, reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp salt, and chopped basil. (Reserve some basil for garnish.) Continue to simmer for 3-5 min, stirring occasionally. (Stirring helps prevent the sauce from scalding on the bottom of the pan.) Add sausage and onions to basil cream sauce and mix thoroughly.

Divide potatoes into two batches (reserving a few for garnish) and plate however you'd like--rows of semi circles, an X pattern--get creative! Spoon sausage and basil cream sauce over potatoes. Garnish with a few of your crunchiest potatoes and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serving suggestion: This dish is full of spices. Choose an understated side like snap peas or spinach.

Side: Coleslaw for a Crowd

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time/
Cook Time: 5 min

Chill at least 30 min
before serving

Serves (12)

A staple at every picnic, coleslaw should only be made one way--delicious! All too often, slaws are neglected as a mundane side item--purchased from a grocery deli last minute on the way to a group outing. The perfect combination of sweet and tangy, this coleslaw is a snap to make and is always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients: 2 (16) oz packages coleslaw mix, 2 cups mayo, 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp onion powder, black pepper/salt to taste

Ready for easy? Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. That's it! Never buy coleslaw from the deli again!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Entrée: Black Bean Taco Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 15-20 min

Serves (3-4)

This taco salad ignores distractions and sticks to the basics. With onions, beef, fresh tomatoes, and Hungarian peppers, the flavors are simple and uncomplicated. Add in black beans, and this dish moves from "salad" to cowboy hearty--minus the campfire smell. Your fingers will get messy, so bring the napkins.

Ingredients: 1 bag tortilla chips, 1 lb ground chuck, 1 medium onion, 1 Hungarian pepper, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 can (15.25 oz.) black beans, 1/4 cup water, 1-2 tbsp chili powder, 1-2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 3/4 tsp salt, black pepper to taste

Open can of black beans, pour into small pan, and heat over low heat.

Peel onion, cut into quarters, then slice. Cut open Hungarian pepper, discard seeds, and dice. Add onion and pepper to oiled pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper. Allow onions to caramelize. Once onions are caramelized, move onions and peppers to sides of pan, and place ground chuck in middle of pan.

Continue to cook over medium heat, and work onions and peppers into the meat. Once meat begins to brown, add chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. (Add more or less chili powder to taste.) Reduce heat, and simmer until thoroughly cooked. Add 1/4 cup water.

While meat is simmering, quarter cherry tomatoes. Remove black beans from heat, drain, and and add beans and cherry tomatoes to pan. Mix well. Allow tomatoes to plump and warm (about 1-2 min).

Place handful of tortilla chips on plate and top with meat.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sandwich: Fried Bologna and Sweet Mustard Sauce on Peppered Whole Wheat Bread

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time 10 min

Serves (1)

Forget slimy bologna on white bread. This sandwich leaves the playground lunchbox behind, and kicks bologna into adulthood. With cracked pepper, crunchy onions, sweet mustard, and a cooling cucumber finish, bologna has made a bold comeback.

Ingredients: Sandwich—2 slices whole wheat bread, 6-8 thin slices BEEF bologna, cucumber, onion, mayo Mustard Sauce—2 tsp mustard, 1 tsp mayo, ½ tsp brown sugar, cracked black pepper to taste

Mix 2 tsp of mustard, 1 tsp mayo, ½ tsp brown sugar, and cracked pepper in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat pan with butter over medium heat. Spread light layer of mayo on outside of each slice of bread. Set bread aside. Cut ¼ inch slice of onion as if about to make onion rings. Cut slice of onion in half. Once pan is heated, place onions in pan until caramelized—adding extra butter and/or oil if needed. Resist the urge to add salt to the onions.

While onions are caramelizing, score each slice of bologna to the center to prevent bologna from curling while frying. Set aside. Peel cucumber. Thinly slice the cucumber lengthwise into strips, being careful not to cut into the seeds. A mandolin would work well here if available.

(Amount of cucumber will vary depending on the size of bread slices being used. Slice enough cucumber for two layers on sandwich.)

Once onions are caramelized, move to sides of pan and place bologna in pan. Do not overcrowd the bologna or slices will not fry evenly. Fry each side for about 30 seconds. Remove bologna from pan and place on bread slice (non-mayo side). Drizzle mustard sauce over bologna. Add caramelized onions and cucumber slices. Place other slice of bread on top (non-mayo side). Place sandwich in pan and crack pepper over mayo on outside of bread. Fry each side for 1 min. Slice sandwich in half while in pan to help warm the center. Remove from heat.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dessert: Cinnamon Bananas with Sugared Tortillas and Brandy Chocolate Sauce

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Serves (4)

This modern take on fried bananas introduces a hint of brandy and a little architecture with sugared tortilla triangles. Quick to prepare and hard to mess up, prepare this dessert after nearly any Latin entree.

Ingredients: 1 banana, 1 flour tortilla, ¼ cup of Italian brandy, 2 oz dark chocolate (65% cocoa or less), 3 tbsp butter, oil for pan frying (light olive or canola), sugar, cinnamon, honey

Rough cut the chocolate into small pieces. Using a one quart sauce pan, heat ¼ cup brandy with 2 tbsp of butter and add chocolate pieces to mixture. Stirring constantly, boil mixture over medium-high heat for 2 min. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place frying pan on stove over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan, then add just enough oil to coat the pan bottom. While pan is heating, peel the banana. Cut banana in half, then lengthwise. Set aside. Cut tortilla into quarters. Cut each quarter in half to form eight triangles.

Once pan is heated, place tortilla triangles in fry pan, being careful not to overlap the triangles. (Triangles cannot be overcrowded or they will not brown evenly. If you need more room, fry two batches—four and four.) Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on triangles in pan. Once bubbles form in the tortilla, turn over. Sprinkle other side with cinnamon and sugar. As soon as the edges are light brown, remove the triangles from heat. You do not want tortilla chips, but rather lightly warmed and slightly crisp triangles. Triangles should still be pliable.

Quickly place the quartered bananas—cut side down—in the excess oil/sugar in the pan and warm for 1 min. Remove from heat. Place one triangle on plate and place one quartered banana on top. Place another triangle on top of banana. Drizzle banana and triangles with honey and chocolate sauce. Dust with cinnamon. Repeat plating with remaining ingredients.