Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eat Your Greens: Vegetarian "Southern Style" Collard Greens

"Almost any southerner who is a respectable cook has a recipe for collard greens" 

There is history in this pot of leafy greens which is firmly rooted in the African-American communities of the deep south.  Family recipes are handed down from generation to generation.  Collard greens have been available for centuries but it was in the South that collard greens evolved and became part of present day southern cuisine.

Collard greens are slowly cooked producing a "low gravy" and often cornbread is dipped into the concentrated flavorful broth.  If you have never enjoyed collard greens, you are missing out on something really special.

My garden became my foundation for the inspiration to learn how to prepare real southern greens. Collard greens thrive in the mild southern winters and the first frost always adds a sweetness to the leafy greens.  Bending down in the soil to clip the large leafy green leaves from my plant it is understood "soul" is an essential element in the preparation of a pot of greens.  There have been countless pots of collard greens over the last two years in an honest effort to present a pot of greens worthy of respect.  Creating a savory broth with a slight kick is the goal.  I experimented using smoked turkey wings and necks, bacon, to the traditional ham hocks. There were a few hot sauces and pepper vinegars too.

A vegetarian version of collard greens cooked slowly in a rich vegetable broth flavored with onion and garlic, sautéed in olive oil with a pat of butter with a pinch of red pepper flakes would prove to be my pot of collard greens worthy of respect.

There is no meat but there is no sacrificing of flavor here. I think the southerners would agree.




Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. 
~Dorothy Day


Vegetarian "Southern Style" Collard Greens
Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from Sunny Anderson

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound collard greens, chopped 
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
 In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and butter.  Sauté the onions until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes and garlic, cook another minute.  Add collard greens and cook another minute.  Add vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer.  Add carrots. Cook until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Savoring the Season: Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

The pleasure of simple, warm comfort foods this time of year is irresistible. With cooler weather comes new cravings.  Cravings for heartier and more substantial dishes (think homemade mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes, creamy soups, chicken pot pie and meat loaf).  We might crave comforting classic dishes but we don't like piling on the pounds that can stick around long after the winter thaw.

This easy to prepare pork tenderloin is a one pot wonder.  The dish highlights the flavors of fall with warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander.  Add the sweetness of fresh apples, followed by a savory addition of shallots and thyme, and you have a feeling of satisfaction and comfort without guilt.

If you are thinking about cooking up some healthier options this holiday season consider adding this one to your recipe file.


Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples
Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Cooking Light



Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 pieces
Cooking Spray
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced unpeeled Braeburn or Gala apple
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider or unprocessed apple juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:
1.  Heat a large heavy skillet  over medium high heat.  Combine first 5 ingredients; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.  Remove pork from pan; keep warm.

2.  Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat.  Add apple slices, shallots, salt; saute 4 minutes or until apple starts to brown.  Add apple cider or juice to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until apple is crisp tender.  Stir in thyme leaves.  Serve apple mixture with the pork.

Enjoy!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Reflections on Turning Fifty

They tell me that 50 is the new fabulous…..Do I believe them?  Maybe.   I know that I am closer to death than I am to birth.  A reminder that life has a finite span.  This thought both sobers me and liberates me.  Makes me stop and think often of what's important, what's not.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted to eat, HELL NO, not anymore.  DITTO on eating after 9:00 p.m.   Love jalapeno poppers, ate six of them recently, had a burn for six days.

This new decade has given me the freedom to make new choices and the courage to do them.  I prefer the "complex" to the "complicated"  complex is so much more interesting.  I am a bit more daring, more adventorous and more loving.  I believe now I have experience and wisdom to share….Whoa, when did I arrive there (laugh).  I am hopeful that I will take my new decade to continue to explore and discover the world around me with a focus on making a difference.

So, my first fifty-year old blog post is going to start with ridding myself of the frozen overripe bananas in my freezer.  I am in a vicious cycle.   I buy them, they sit to long on my counter, and I throw them in a ziploc bag in my freezer, and before I know it, I am being over run with mystery date bananas.  A experienced fifty year old might simply unload her freezer full of bananas into the waste can and be done-but, I am a young fifty year old still exploring her options.

The recipe calls for using a 12-count muffin pan.  Hey, I am fifty and I used a 6-count mini-bundt pan.


Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12
Recipe from Epicurious



Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unslated butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line twelve 1/3 cup muffin cups with muffin liner.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in medium bowl.  Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not over mix).  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 25-30 minutes.  Transfer muffins to rack and cool.

Enjoy!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

I would have probably raised my eyebrow had it been mentioned that black beans would be a healthy alternative ingredient to flour in brownies. It would have been difficult to imagine.  Obviously I am behind in the baking times…Not anymore. I am a believer. With the rise in sensitivity to gluten it has become known that bean flour or in this case A Can of BEANS is a good alternative to white flour for cakes, muffins and BROWNIES!

The jackpot has been won with this one bowl, one pan delight.  I love to bake when I don't have to think too hard, and when dessert has an opportunity to be enjoyed as a guilt-free pleasure.


Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
Serves 10
Recipe from Rebecca Andexler

Ingredients
1 can (15-ounces) Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 piece of parchment paper
Butter, softened for greasing pan

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Line 8"X 8"X 2" baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter

3.  Combine Black Beans, chocolate chips, flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, butter and vanilla extract in bowl of food processor.

4.  Secure food processor lid and blend until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.

5.  Spread batter evenly into prepared baking pan, using rubber spatula to scrape batter from bowl.  If desire, sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts evenly over top.

6.  Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of brownie comes out clean.

7.  Remove pan from oven and allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Lemon Cookies

One bowl,  five ingredients,  a roll in confectioners sugar, what is not to love. 


Easy Lemon Cookies
Makes 15-18 
Recipe from allrecipes.com 


Ingredients:
1 box (16-18 ounces) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2.  Pour cake mix into a large bowl.  Add eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners sugar.  Roll them around until they are lightly covered.  Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3.  Bake for 6-9 minutes in the preheated oven.  The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.

Enjoy!



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder

Early autumn still means that peppers including poblanos are still abundant in overgrown summer gardens that are being prepared for the transition to the fall garden here in north Florida. This means as the fall bell rings there is time to still enjoy peppers in hearty soups and stews.

The mildly spicy Mexican poblano pepper is the highlight in this easy to prepare chowder.  The key to the flavor in this soup is roasting the poblano pepper which requires minimal skill and always delivers impressive results. This goodness is then simmered in a vegetable broth with milk creating a hearty base.  The addition of garlic, onion, celery, potatoes and corn with a pinch of cayenne make it all come to come together in a one pot wonder.

This roasted poblano corn chowder can also be made in large batches to serve up to a crowd or to freeze to enjoy throughout season.



Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder
Makes 12 (1 cup servings)
Recipe Adapted from Emily Bites


Ingredients:
3 poblano peppers
1 red bell pepper, halved
3  Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4+ 1 Tablespoon flour
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 lbs. potatoes, diced
1 (16-ounces) package of frozen corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Brush the outsides of the poblano and red peppers with the olive oil and set them on the baking sheet.  Place in oven to roast for approximately 30 minutes until the skin on the peppers is charred and peels off easily.   Peel the skins off peppers, and slice them open to discard the seeds.  Chop the peppers into small pieces and set aside.

2.  In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onion, celery and sauté for approximately 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in flour to coat the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Turn the heat to high and slowly whisk in the vegetable broth, stirring constantly.  Add the milk and stir to combine.  Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the poblanos, red pepper, potatoes, and corn.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add the cayenne, salt and pepper and stir.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best Ever Banana Nut Bread

I lured you in with my title  "Best Ever" Banana Nut Bread.  The truth is this banana bread is damn good.  All these years and what seems like a thousand recipes later, I finally stumbled on a recipe that is going to become part of my permanent file.

There is this vague recollection in the forest of my mind that banana cake was made for my birthday in my very early years. It must have stuck because I have a fondness for things banana, except for bananas foster.  There is something about setting bananas on fire, and having your bananas served up warm, wet and gooey. Sorry, I digress.

Let me end by saying if you have overripe bananas hanging around on your kitchen counter or bagged up by the dozen in the freezer, then this post serves as your inspiration to get making Banana Bread!



Banana Nut Bread
Makes on 9x5-inch Loaf
Recipe from Food and Wine


Ingredients:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (3-ounces)
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed (1-1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Spread the walnuts in a pie pan and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant; let cool.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and oil and beat at high speed until light-colored and creamy.  Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Stir in dry ingredients until throughly blended.  Fold in the nuts.

3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaf pan cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.  Wrap the bread in plastic and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


In case you are in the mood for chocolate chip cookies……And you don't have a personal recipe to call your own.



Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
Recipe from All Recipes


Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup insalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).  Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.  Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.  Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

4.  Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly toasted.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Supper: Adoración's Spanish Paella

Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is defined as a rice stew  A dish made of saffron flavored rice with chicken, shellfish, and a variety of other ingredients cooked together to create a communal style meal, meaning that everyone finds a place around the pan to enjoy. 

Americans tend to lean into the belief that paella is served on special ocassions or as a fancy dish in a Spanish restuarant.  The reality is Spanish families prepare paella often for their families, in a simple good old-fashioned way….. At home, and on their stove top.  Sometimes with a paella pan, or a large skillet.  

Two things struck me about this classic Spanish dish.  First, it is not a complicated dish and almost any ingredient can be used in paella.  Second, this is a dish that is accessible to all cooks. There are as many ways to prepare paella as there is a Sunday Sauce, the possibilities are endless. 

On a blistering hot afternoon in Madrid I sat in Adoración's kitchen to watch and learn how a Spanish family prepares Paella.  Like most recipes in Spanish families they are handed down from mother to daughter, and remain timeless.  In my elementary Spanish I wrote down feversihly the ingredients,  snapped photos and wrote her directions.  I give my best effort and my heart to provide you with her recipe.

To begin, a sofrito is prepared which commonly includes garlic, onion, paprika (peppers) and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.  This creates the flavor foundation in many Spanish dishes.  Interesting, onion is commonly used in Spain but in this dish is purposefully left out.



Meats are cooked individually and then removed. The chicken and fish has been removed and calamari has been added.


When all the meats have been cooked the ingredients are returned to the pan and water or broth is added.  The rice will be added and the paella will be brought to a hard boil for several minutes and it will then be returned to a simmer.



Adoración reminded me of the importance to taste start to finish and adjust your seasoning.




The result is a beautiful classic, family style paella


Adoración's Spanish Paella 
Serves 6-8

Equipment Needed:  A round 10-12" skillet or small paella pan

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bell peppers (chopped into large pieces)
1lb. white fish, cut into chunks (note: Monkfish was the fish of choice as it is an appreciated fish enjoyed often in Spain)
1-1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-ounces red pimento 
8-ounces small tender early green peas
8-ounces canned white albacore chunk tuna, drained
8-ounces artichokes, drained, chopped
Salt to Taste
Spanish Saffron a/k/a Spanish Red Gold
1 packet Sazón (Means "Seasoning" in Spanish. The seasoning adds flavor and also the subtle orange hue to the rice). This seasoning packet is easily found in the ethnic section of your grocery store.
1lb. fresh calamari
4 cups short grain rice
8 cups water or broth (seafood or chicken)
*Pinch of sugar to reduce the acid of the tomatoes

Directions:

1.  Heat olive oil and add bell peppers and cook until to translucent (about 3-4 minutes) Remove.  

2.  Add chicken breasts to hot oil, and season with salt.  Cook (about 3-4 minutes) browning the chicken breasts is not necessary.  Remove from heat.  

3.  Add tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, peppers, garlic, salt to taste and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  

4.  Add calamari, chicken, and fish to tomato and garlic mixture. Simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes.  

5.  Add water, tuna, and peas.  Simmer to a boil.  Add saffron and Sazón.  

6.  Add rice, bring to a hard boil (approximately 10 minutes)  turn down temperature to a simmer for 5 minutes, and rest for another 10 minutes. Add artichokes, dress wth the pimento peppers and serve.

Enjoy!

Note:  I have been asked many times how an opportunity like this journey to Spain came to be a reality.  Over the years, our family has hosted students from Europe (Germany, Netherlands and Spain). These children spend a high school year with our family and become very much part of our family.   This past year, we hosted a wonderful child from Spain. This summer we traveled to Spain to meet his family, it was truly an absolutely amazing experience.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Journey to Spain

It has taken me a couple of weeks to get my act together since returning from our journey to Spain.  There are few things greater in life than an amazing vacation spent with people that you feel that you have known all your life.  We spent a majority of our time in the city of Madrid with day trips to Toledo, Segovia, Chinchon, El Escorial. We enjoyed Madrid's National Art Museums which included Del Prado and Reine Sofia.  For soccer fans, we toured the Real Madrid stadium (Wow!). We enjoyed an evening of traditional Spanish flamenco dancing (Wow, again). We rode a subway in Madrid at 1:00 a.m..  The city was just getting cranked up for the evening. We drank coffee, enjoyed cold vermouth, the husband ventured out of his comfort zone and enjoyed baby eels, octopus, squid and barnacles (Yes, they are exactly what you think the shells that you scrape off the side of a sea wall or your boat containing a snail like creature), Spain was unbelievably hot and unbelievably beautiful.  The list goes on and on.  Since, I can only hold your attention to the post for a limited time-here are the highlights.

Let's start with Madrid.

Madrid is the capitol and the largest city in Spain. Located in the central part of the country Madrid is home to roughly 6.5 million people.  A cosmopolitan city that has preserved the look and feel of its history and architecture.




The Spaniards have never met a stranger.  Their strong sense of hospitality, warmth and friendliness is contagious. They welcome you into their families with hugs and besos (kisses) on both cheeks. And then, STOP THE PRESSES! They feed you.


Food and drink are to be enjoyed, never rushed.  Sharing a meal is about family and friends. 





It is about long and lingering conversations late into the night. Spain's economy and national politics are the important topics of the day.


The Opportunities to enjoy food, wine and friendship were endless. The family decided that it was important that we develop an appreciation for Spanish wines-that was easy. We tasted six different Spanish wines. We decided that the white grape Albariño grown in the Northwest part of Spain in Galacia was one of our favorites.

What would wine tasting be without cured iberico hams, chorizos, salamis and slices of manchego cheese?






After an evening of friendship, good wine and food

In Spain pork rules, the wine is local and olive oil is the only oil that should be used.



Fried potatoes, with fried eggs on top and then topped with iberico ham. Can you say heaven? I can. 


I had the pleasure of watching our host prepare a family style paella without fancy ingredients and a special pan.  I photographed the process and did my best to capture the recipe with pen and paper. This is a family recipe that is handed down from mother to daughter and I am going to give it my best shot in my next post to share it with you.

Until later.
Velva



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Supper: Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)


The heart and soul of a Spanish home is its kitchen.  

Our family traveled to Spain this summer. We spent two weeks with our host family who shared their hospitality, culture and food, with us.  Our lives are forever changed.  I will be working on a post about our experience which included the privilege of watching our host prepare a family style paella that I would like very much to share with you.  Stay tuned!

This recipe is reminiscent of the soulful spirit of the Spanish table and highlights the flavors of the culture which includes olive oil, onion and garlic.  

A delicious one pot meal that is easy to prepare and is destined to be shared with family and friends.   If you want to "Jazz up" this meal include a homemade Autumn Sangria and flan for dessert.


Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)
Serves 8-10


Ingredients
1-1/2 lb.. chicken 
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 packet of a Spanish seasoning product called Sazon (includes saffron and turmeric to provide the yellow color to the rice).
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup cooking wine
1-(16-ounces) green peas
1 (4-ounces) red pimento ( either diced, in strips or whole)
2 bay leaves
1- (8-ounces) tomato sauce
1-(12-ounces) beer 
4 cups Valencia rice (pearl rice) or regular rice if not available.
4 cups water

Directions:
Using a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil and brown chicken along with onions and garlic.  Add spices (Paprika through Spanish seasoning packet).  Add the liquids except the beer.  Add the uncooked rice and 1/2 of the green peas.  Stir well, cover and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes 
(the remaining peas and the pimentos are used to layer on the cooked chicken and yellow rice.)  Stir through and cover again.  If you notice the rice does not have enough liquid, add more water and reduce the heat and simmer longer until the rice is very moist.  When the rice is cooked, add the beer and stir.  The dish is ready to serve.

Enjoy!


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Winding Down with Arugula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas

It has been a crazy, busy, wonderful summer.  Time to wind down and relax.




Fire up the grill for easy to prepare flat bread pizzas



Sit, relax and enjoy.


Argula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas
Serves 4
Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients:
2 pieces lavash or other flatbread, halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)
4-ounces thinly sliced proscuitto, torn
4 cups baby arugula
1 bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions:
1.  Preheat a grill to medium.  Lightly brush the lavish with olive oil, then grill until marked on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Flip the bread and immediately top with fontina.  Continue grilling until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and top with the proscuitto.

2.  Combine the argula, fennel, parsley and red onion in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil: season with salt and pepper and toss.  Pile on top of the pizzas; sprinkle with the gorgonzola.  Serve.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scenes from my Pantry: Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima beans, and Onions

We have been trying to eat down the refrigerator and pantry this past week.  Made a delicious summer succotash with lima beans, corn, onion, garlic, and garden tomatoes.  I am reminded how much better my body would feel if I ate simple, healthy dishes like this one more often.


Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions
Makes 6 Servings
Recipe from Epicurious



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2-1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn ( preferabley 2 ears of white corn, 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans or 10-11 ounces of frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Saute until  soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover,  and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add basil.  Serve.  

Note: Can be done 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill. Rewarm and serve.

Enjoy!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Savoring the Season: Summer Berry Bread Puddings

This is a summer bread pudding that is dressed to impress.  There is nothing complicated here.  The season's berries are peaking and they steal the show here in this easy to prepare bread pudding.



You may want to skip the main entree and go right to dessert


Berry Bread Puddings
Serves 8
Recipe from Epicurious


Ingredients:
8 cups of bread, cubed or torn into 1-1/2-inch pieces
4 cups mixed berries, such as blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, or blueberry (in any combination)
8 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 cups half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare eight invidiual soufflé  ups ( 1-cup capacity) with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the berries to distribute evenly.  In another bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer on low speed until frothy.  Add the sugar and beat until well blended.  Add the half and half, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and continue beating on low speed until well blended.  Fill soufflé cups with bread and berry mixture, mounding it a bit on top.  Pour egg mixture over the bread and berries, filling evenly to the rim.

Place the soufflé cups in a large ovenproof baking dish and pour boiling water into the dish until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the soufflé cups.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick placed in the center of the puddings comes out clean.  remove from oven and allow to cool.  These can be made one day ahead; simply refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.  Just before serving, dust each top with powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sunday Supper: Good Old Fashioned Fried Chicken

There is no rhyme or reason, why southern comfort foods have recently taken up residence in my head, it started with peach cobbler and now….well, it has drifted off to fried chicken.  


Maybe it is the sizzling sound, the crispy skin or maybe it is the comfort of the flavorful fat.




I needed a good old fashioned basic recipe-nothing complicated.  My sister said, to check with dad, he has a good fried chicken recipe that he makes in his cast-iron skillet, and finishes it off in the oven.

The finished dish has taken aspects of what I have been told is my dad's recipe and added a twist and a turn of my own.  A twist, soaking the chicken in buttermilk really adds to the level of moisture.  The turn, skipped the finishing off in the oven, mostly, because I am lazy.

The result. Easy and uncomplicated. My dad if he tasted it,  I think he would say it was pretty good.



Old Fashioned Fried Chicken
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
8-10 pieces chicken
1 cup self rising flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
2 cups buttermilk
Oil for frying (peanut, vegetable or canola works fine)

Directions:
1.  Place chicken pieces in a plastic container and cover with buttermilk.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.  Drain chicken in a colander.

3.  Place first six ingredients in a ziploc or other plastic bag (flour through paprika).  Shake to blend.

4.  Dredge chicken in seasoned flour and shake off excess.  Place floured chicken pieces on a cookie sheet.

5.  Add enough oil to create about 1/2-inch in a large skillet (cast iron works best).  Heat oil to 325 degrees.

6.  Place chicken skin side down into pan.  Cook chicken untl golden brown about 10-12 minutes per side. 

7.  Drain chicken on a sheet pan with a rack.  Season with salt while hot.  

Serve and enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Savoring the Season: Roasting and Preserving Paste Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a funny thing.  If you enjoy tomatoes then you are easily lured into growing them.  It can be a rewarding experience, or not.  You will surely learn to share your bounty with Mother Nature and all her friends (BUGS and WORMS).  Last season I was on a kick to preserve my tomato bounty without any regard to the varieties being grown in my garden. What is a "duh" moment now alluded me last season.  Are you ready?  Paste tomato varieties are meaty and flavorful.  More importantly they really stand up to roasting.

Fast forward to this season.  I decide to select a variety of tomatoes that include a small paste tomato called Gilberte and the famous Italian variety San Marzano which is considered to be one of the world's best sauce tomatoes.  A glass of wine in hand, it is time to jump online and head over to my favorite seed company High-Mowing and order up my first ever tomato seeds. For the first time I have grown my own tomato seedlings and have close to 40 seedlings that need to be transplanted.  This where my husband rolls his eyes…..I am the only one in the family who enjoys tomatoes.  Go figure!

The first harvest is the small and hearty Gilberte paste tomatoes with a couple Tequila Sunrise peppers thrown in for show.


Halved, with fresh garden onions, garlic and a couple of garden peppers.  Seasoned with basil, oregano, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and then tossed with olive oil.  Roasted in a pan at 450 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.


Yields pure heaven 



Ready to be processed in a blender.  Served hot wth good pasta or put into freezer bags to be enjoyed long after the season is over.  Can you guess which one I did?



My San Marzano tomatoes are just ripening.  I will let you know how they work out.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Easy Southern Peach Cobbler

Cobblers hands down are one my favorite desserts.   On any given occasion that calls for baking or dessert making,  I leave the task to my husband who can without a doubt work his magic in the kitchen.  This time was different I needed a peach cobbler recipe to call my own.  The journey began with exchanging ideas with friends and co-workers, then there was the endless streams of You Tube Videos, recipe sites and blog posts.  Did I mention the numerous recipe attempts in my kitchen that were failures? Oh, those too.  What was clear, is there are a MILLION delicious ways to prepare a peach cobbler.  

After several attempts with no success, I came across a basic recipe for peach cobbler and with a little improvising (buttermilk for milk, the addition of cinnamon and vanilla) turned out to be a delicious version that I can proudly call my own with "Easy to prepare"  being the key phrase.



Southern Peach Cobbler
Serves 6-8
Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com



Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches in light syrup

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C).  Place butter in a deep 2 quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

In a medium bowl, mix sugar and flour.  Stir in buttermilk, a little at a tme, until mixed well.  Add vanilla and cinnamon. Stir again until just mixed.  Pour carefully over melted butter in dish. DO NOT STIR.  Spoon peaches and syrup over batter.

Bake in oven 40 to 45 minutes, or until crust is puffed and golden.

Enjoy!!



Monday, May 26, 2014

Chili Rubbed Shrimp Tacos with Pico De Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Crema

Let's Get This Party Started!

Friends open up the windows, invite your family and friends, turn the music up loud, fill the ice chest with cold beer, locate a good porch wine, or better yet shake up a cocktail, it is officially BBQ season (or inside grill pan season). 

This is an easy to put together three-part recipe which includes a fresh pico de gallo, fresh shrimp marinated in a spice rub (ancho chile, garlic salt, coriander, oregano, cumin, and fresh ground black pepper) and a cilantro-lime crema sauce.  You can use flour tortillas or more authenic corn tortillas for a top notch warm weather meal.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! 



Easily prepared on top of the stove in a grill pan




Chili Rubbed Shrimp Tacos with Pico De Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Crema
Serves 4
Recipe from Publix Aprons Cooking School

Ingredients:
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

16 jumbo shrimp (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 soft corn or flour tortillas

Directions:
Add first 6 ingredients to a medium bowl, and toss to combine.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Can be made 4 hours ahead.

Rinse shrimp under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels.

Place chile powder, garlic salt, coriander, oregano, cumin, and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Stir in olive oil.  Let shrimp marinate in refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat a grill pan to high on medium-high heat.  When ready to cook, lightly oil ridges of grill pan.  Place marinated shrimp on hot grill pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side.  When done, shrimp will turn pinkish white and will feel firm to the touch.

Preheat oven to 300F.  Wrap tortillas in foil, about 15 minutes before serving, place tortillas in oven to warm.

On each plate, place one warm tortilla and top with 4 shrimp and desired amount of Pico De Gallo and cilantro lime creme (recipe follows).

Cilantro-Lime Crema

Ingredients
1/4 cup green onions, rough chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, rough chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Blueberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar-Whipped Cream

 One of my very favorite things in the world to eat is fruit cobblers.

Did you know that cobblers are a distinctly American deep-dish dessert ?  Early American settlers did not consider fruit cobblers dessert? Cobblers were often served for breakfast, and it was not uncommon to serve them as a main course.  It was not until the late 19th century that they became primairly desserts.  What happened to the good old days?



A couple of pounds of blueberries, a little sugar, lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of flour and you got a rock n roll filling to lay under those fresh made biscuit tops.


Blueberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
Serves 8
Recipe from Bobby Flay



Ingredients:

For the Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
3/4 cup light cream, plus 2 tablespoons to brush on top of biscuits
1 large egg
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar or 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the Cobbler

3 pints fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

For the Biscuits

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheetw ith parchment paper or non-stick baking mats, or use a non-stick cookie sheet.

2.  Sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing them together with your fingers or pastry cutter, until the mixture is crumbly and sandy.  Whisk the 3/4 cup cream and egg together; add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together.

3.  Roll or pat dough out 1/2-inch thick on  alightly floured surface.  using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut into eight 2-inch circles.  Transfer to the prepared cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with cream, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, bake until barely colden brown and still undercooked, 10 to 12 minutes. ( The biscuits can be made up to this point a day in advance.  Let cool and store in airtight container.)

For the Cobbler

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 9-inch square baking dish.

2.  Mix together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and flour in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

3.  Pour the mixture into he prepared dish, arrange the biscuits on top, and place the baking dish in the oven (put a rimmed baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any overflow.)  Bake until the mixture begins to bubble and the biscuits are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

4.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

For the Whipped Cream

1.  Whip up all he ingredients together until soft peaks form.  Spoon the cobbler into bowls and top with whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Savoring the Seasons: Ribbon Summer Salad

This month's Clean Eating magazine had a section for summer side dishes with only three main ingredients, and a few pantry staples. The simplicity caught my attention.

The sweet melon, savory zucchini, thin sliced ham blended with a light viniagrette really make this salad come together in a special way.  It is a unique, easy to prepare salad that rocks the chart in delivering the fresh taste of summer.


Ribbon Summer Salad
Serves 6
Recipe from Clean Eating




Ingredients:
2 zucchini, trimmed
1/4 lb. all-natural, thin, deli-sliced ham (no added nitrates)
1/4 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried mint (note: fresh mint also works, but add it in at the end instead of mixing it into dressing)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
1.  Run a vegetable peeler lengthwise along the edge of each zucchini to make long ribbons.  Stack ham slices and cut into approximately 1x5-inch strips.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine zucchini, ham and cantaloupe.  In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mint, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over zucchini mixture and toss gently to combine.

Enjoy!




Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Dirt to Table Experience: Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad

Did you know that the Moroccans brought carrot salad to Israel in the 1940's?   This dish became so popular that it is now a common dish served in Israel to celebrate the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. This salad is served to symbolize a sweet and fruitful year to come.

A blend of oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley or cilantro, cumin, salt, sweet paprika, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne makes for an easy to prepare, unique and flavorful carrot salad that is absolutely delicious.



Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Epicurious


Ingredients:
1-lb. carrots coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, mashed or minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
About 1/2 teaspoon harissa (Northwestern African Chili Paste) 1 tablespoon minced green chiles or 1/4- 1/2  teaspoon of cayenne.

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator  for at least 2-hours or up to 2-days to allow the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Discovering Ancient Grains: Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus, and Feta

Several years ago while traveling in New York City we ate at a local contemporary Italian restaurant in the East Village (the name of the restaurant escapes me) but the farro salad that I enjoyed does not escape me.  The mild nutty taste of the grain, the flavors and textures of the salad stayed with me.  Naturally, I assumed that this was a "trendy" grain as it was not easily located when I returned home.  I had forgotten about this fantatsic grain until I saw a huge size bag ( 3-lbs.)  at Costco for a reasonable price.  My memory came rushing back and the farro was scooped up and thrown in my cart.

Move over quinoa!  You have nothing on farro! You have been tossed aside!   Farro is my new go to grain.

This farro salad is loaded with spring asparagus, sugar snap peas, onion, tomatoes, feta and dill.  It is lightly tossed in an olive oil and sherry vinaigrette. A perfect vegetarian option or for those days when you just want to eat and feel healthier.


Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus, and Feta
Makes 4 main-dish servings
Recipe from Epicurious


Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups semi-pearled farro
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
1 8-ounce package sugar snap peas
12 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped red onion
6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:
Cook farro in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain.  Transfer to large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook asparagus and sugar snap peas in another saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain.  Add to farro with tomatoes, onion, and dill.  Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl.  Season dressing with salt and pepper.  Add dressing and feta to salad; toss to coat and serve.

Enjoy!



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Discovering the Virtues of Squash: Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Sriracha Mayonnaise

"Simplify Velva!"  It is the story of my life.   It is my main challenge, it is what I strive for, and I remind myself everyday to slow down, I am moving too fast, take a breath.

I find that I am most successful at keeping things simple is in the kitchen.  This is the space that centers my world (Placing my hands in my garden soil that is a whole other experience) but my kitchen is where it all begins for me.

Lately I have developed an interest in spaghetti squash and I have tried my hand at using the squash as the focus of my meal.  This squash is versatile and buttery and when prepared properly can also be an excellent alternative to pasta.

I came across this spaghetti squash fritters recipe in Cooking Light magazine and it immediately caught my eye.  Served up with a Sriracha mayonnaise makes for a light meal that is delicious and healthy.







Spaghetti Squash Fritters with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Recipe from Cooking Light

Ingredients:
1 (2 pound) spaghetti squash
1 (8-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
5 teaspoons canola mayonnaise
2 teaspoons 2% reduced fat milk
1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Directions:
1.  Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds: discard.  Place squash halves, cut sides up, in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave at HIGH 20 minutes or until tender.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Scrape inside of squash with a fork to remove spaghetti like strands to measure 4 cups.

2.  Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add spinach to pan;cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Place squash and spinach on clean dish towel: squeeze until barely moist.  Coarsely chop squash mixture, and place in a large bowl.  Add panko and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder), and toss well to combine.  Place egg whites in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Gently fold egg whites into squash mixture.

3.  Fill a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup with squash mixture.  Invert onto work surface; gently pat into a 1/4-inch thick patty.  Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture, forming 10 patties total.  Heat a large non stick skillet over medium heat.  Add 1-1/2 teaspoons oil to pan, and swirl to coat.  Add 5 patties to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove patties from pan; keep warm.  Repeat the procedure with remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and squash patties.

4.  Combine mayonnaise and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Serve with fritters.