Category Archives: Uncategorized

Asparagus w/ Chorizo & Croutons

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I love asparagus for its mild, spring like flavor but in this dish, from the Smitten Kitchen, this wonderful vegetable takes on a whole new persona. The spices of Spanish chorizo sausage combines with crusty croutons, crunchy almonds and tender white beans and the asparagus in a surprisingly flavorful and definitely interesting dish. Trust me on this one, the combination of ingredients might seem a bit odd but the results are out of this world. Plus the dish is fast to make. So fast and easy that it just might be one of my favorite Fast Friday dishes yet. So try it for yourself before the asparagus is gone for the season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ASPARAGUS w/ CHORIZO & CROUTONS

1 pound thick asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces Spanish chorizo cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups French bread croutons cut into 3/4 inch peices
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus stalk and cut into 3 or 4 pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chorizo and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus, croutons, almonds and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides.
  • Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Toss and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Browned Butter Flounder w/ Lemon Snap Peas

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This is a fast and fresh tasting dinner option adapted from Cooking Light that literally cooks in minutes (so be sure to prep all of your ingredients before beginning to cook). There are just a handful of ingredients and best of all, everything is cooked in a single pan meaning cleanup is a snap as well. I’ve used flounder in this recipe but use whatever firm white fish you prefer.

BROWNED BUTTER FLOUNDER w/ LEMON SNAP PEAS

4- 6 ounce flounder fillets

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4teaspoon kosher salt

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

  • Combine the flour, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and salt in a shallow dish.
  • Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.
  • Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Swirl the oil to coat then add the fish to the pan, cooking for 3 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Remove the fish from the pan and keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan.
  • Cook for 1 minute or until the butter begins to brown.
  • Pour the butter into a small bowl, stir in half of the lemon juice and the parsley.
  • Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil.
  • Add the snap peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender crisp.
  • Stir in the remaining lemon juice and zest and serve alongside the fish topped with the brown butter.

Serves 4

Roasted Chicken, Corn & Saffron Soup

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Some days just call for soup. Here in Belgium, even though the calendar says it is spring, we still have days that are decidedly chilly. And when it is cool outside nothing warms the body more than a comforting bowl of soup. Chicken soup is a family favorite and this soup, from Saveur , proves that not all chicken soups are the same.

You start by roasting your own chicken, which is incredibly easy (and as a bonus the cooking of the chicken takes the chill off of the house on a cool day). If you aren’t up to roasting your own bird, or are pressed for time, you can substitute a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken but then you won’t have the rich pan drippings which add so much flavor and depth to the soup. The soup is studded with both corn and noodles and the surprising addition of saffron adds both a rich golden color and an earthiness that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

This definitely isn’t your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup but it is so delicious that it is sure to become a new family favorite. So the next time the weather turns chilly, fire up the oven, turn on the stove and make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.

ROASTED CHICKEN, CORN & SAFFRON SOUP

1 (3–4 pounds) whole chicken
2 tablespoonsolive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
34 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
12 ounces egg noodles
  • Heat the oven to 400°.
  • In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, rub the chicken with the olive oil and then liberally season the outside with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the chicken until golden brown and very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the dish to a rack, lift the chicken from the dish, and place the chicken on a cutting board.
  • Let the chicken stand until cool enough to handle and then pick the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Roughly chop the meat and transfer to a large saucepan.
  • Pour 2 cups chicken stock into the baking dish and scrape the dish with a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom.
  • Pour the stock from the dish into the saucepan with the chicken along with the remaining 10 cups stock.
  • Add the corn and saffron to the broth and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the stock is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the egg noodles and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serves 8

Green Eggs & Ham Deviled Eggs

 

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A few weeks ago I was asked to organize snacks at my school’s literacy night. Wanting to carry the theme of books and reading into the food portion of the event, I decided that each food we served would be derived from a favorite childhood book featuring food. It all started out as a vague idea and ended up being a lot of fun for children and adults alike.

Some books had easy pairings but when I came to the Doctor Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham, I found myself pausing. First, I was looking for bite-sized food that could be made ahead of time which ruled out the majority of the Seuss themed dishes I found on the Internet. Then I also wanted to be able to incorporate both title components into a single dish. And finally, there was the issue of making the dish green.

Deviled eggs have always been one of my favorite appetizers and whenever I make them they disappear in minutes. Plus unlike scrambled eggs and the like they are portable and can be made ahead of time. So I took to my old stand by recipe and tweaked it a bit to include bits of minced ham and green food coloring. The food coloring is definitely optional but this version of my classic dish is a keeper.

 

GREEN EGGS & HAM DEVILED EGGS

12 eggs, hardboiled, cooled, peeled & sliced in half

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2  tablespoon dried Coleman’s mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/4 cup minced cooked ham

Green food coloring (optional)

Parsley sprigs and paprika to garnish

  • Using a small spoon, carefully remove the egg yolks from the egg whites. Place the yolks in a small bowl and move the whites to a serving platter.
  • Using a fork, mash the yolks to form a thick paste.
  • Stir in the mayonnaise, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and curry powder, mixing until the mixture is smooth and lump free.
  • Stir in the ham, mixing until the meat is evenly distributed.
  • If you are using the food coloring, add one drop at a time, stirring well between each addition, until you have achieved your desired color.
  • Scoop the filling into the egg whites.
  • Sprinkle with paprika and top with a sprig of parsley.

Yields: 24 servings.

Hamburger Soup

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Soup is one of my favorite meals and since so many soups are quick to make, they are a  staple in my house. Filling, warming and satisfying soups make for the perfect dinner when paired with crusty bread and make even better leftovers for lunch the next day. And just about anything can be turned into a satisfying soup. This recipe, adapted from The Noble Pig has quickly become a favorite in my house where I liberally substitute the vegetables and even the ground meat depending upon what I have on hand. And thanks to the tangy and flavorful V-8, another favorite pantry staple, the broth is rich and flavorful without hours of cooking.

So if you are looking for a fast and tasty weeknight dinner idea, look no further than this soup. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

HAMBURGER SOUP

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

2 pounds ground beef

1-1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick coins

1-1/2 cups celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup frozen corn

4 cups beef broth

1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

15 ounces V-8 vegetable juice

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound small dry pasta

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • Place a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, using a spoon to crumble the meat.
  • Drain off the fat.
  • Add the carrots, celery, leek, corn, broth, V8, garlic and oregano to the meat mixture.
  • Increase the temperature to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Return the temperature to high, add the pasta to the pot and cook until the pasta is al dental,8-10 minutes depending upon the size of your pasta.
  • Stir in vinegar right before serving.

Serves 6-8

Blueberry Muffins

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Muffins are a favorite breakfast treat at my house. Fresh from the oven they make for a warm and delicious meal on a lazy weekend morning yet they can easily be reheated for a quick breakfast on the go during the week. The options of what you put in your muffins are endless but my go-to ingredient time after time is blueberries.

This recipe from Boston’s Flour Bakery has become my go-to recipe for blueberry muffins. The muffins always turn out big and fluffy, filled with flavor and berry goodness. I always prefer using fresh to frozen but frozen berries will do in a pinch. If you can find wild blueberries, choose them as they are smaller and sweeter than their cultivated cousins. Yum!

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

3 ¼ cups  all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 ½ cups sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup milk, at room temperature

1 cup crème fraîche, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.
  • Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche, and vanilla until well-combined.
  • Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until the ingredients are combined.
  • Gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed. The batter may seem lumpy, but don’t try to smooth it out.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups until they are almost overflowing.
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.
  • Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.

Yields 12 large muffins or 24 mini muffins

Coconut Milk Nutella Swirl Bread

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I love Nutella. There is just something about that creamy chocolate – hazelnut spread that is simply delicious. I’ve been known to slather it on toast or even eat it by the spoonful right from the jar. But it is also a wonderful ingredient to cook with, taking baked goods from ordinary to extraordinary. I’m also a huge fan of coconut and cooking with coconut milk. It is rich and flavorful, providing dishes with a subtle sweetness and baked goods with a moist and slightly tropical consistency that you simply can’t get from other types of milk.

So given my love of both Nutella and coconut, when I found this recipe from NoblePig.com there was no question about my not trying it out. And I’m so glad I did. This quick bread is everything its name promises to be and was such a hit the first time I made it that I immediately got requests for another loaf. I’ve even baked this in the form of muffins following the same method for filling the cups as for making the bread but reducing the baking time to 15-18 minutes. Essentially any way you bake this, it is delicious.
COCONUT MILK-NUTELLA SWIRL BREAD
For the bread:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup Nutella, slightly warmed until easily spreadable

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Up to 4 tablespoons coconut milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 2.75 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl beat egg with a fork and stir in melted butter and coconut milk.
  • Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine. Fold in flaked coconut.
  • Spoon one third of the batter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Add half the Nutella, covering the batter as best you can without mixing the two together.
  • Add another 1/3 of the batter and cover Nutella completely. Finish with the other half of the Nutella and then more batter to top it off.
  • Use a table knife and stick it down, all the way through the batter at one end of the loaf pan. Work your way from one side of the pan to the other in a zigzag motion. Make just one pass for the swirl effect.
  • Bake 55-65 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  •  Let cool 20 minutes in pan before flipping over and letting cool completely.
  • For the glaze, add confectioners’ sugar to a medium sized bowl and start with 2 tablespoons of milk poured into the sugar. Mix until it is a thick, pourable glaze, adding more milk as necessary in order to achieve the right consistency.
  • Pour over bread and allow to sit.
  • Slice when the glaze is completely dry.

Yields 12 slices

Lemon Milano Cookies

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I grew up in a home where pretty much everything was homemade. Cereal was granola and shredded wheat was a special store bought treat; cakes were baked from scratch and a cookie was fresh baked from the oven. With one exception. Every once in a while Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies would appear in the house and no matter how well the paper bag was hidden, the cookies disappeared in a matter of minutes. Perhaps it was the novelty of a store bought cookie that enticed me but to this day there is something about those soft and tender cookies sandwiched together with a bit of dark chocolate that simply excites me. So naturally it was just a matter of time before I decided to make my own Milano treats.
My cookies combine zesty lemon with rich dark chocolate. The cookie recipe comes from  Dessertnowdinnerlater.com. The cookies are tender and thanks to the use of lemon in three forms–zest, juice and extract–filled with tangy flavor in every bite. It pairs perfectly with the complexity rich dark chocolate. If you prefer you can substitute milk chocolate but the results will be creamy and slightly sweeter.
LEMON MILANO COOKIES

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1½ teaspoons pure lemon extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup powdered sugar

8 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest using an electric mixer set on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, egg yolk, lemon juice and lemon extract mixing thoroughly to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients mixing until just incorporated and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  • Place the powdered sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Scoop 1½ tablespoon sized cookie dough balls and roll them in the powdered sugar.
  • Place the cookies on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake  for 9 to 10 minutes until the cookies are just golden.
  • Move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Place the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted and liquid.
  • Using a narrow spatula or a knife, spread the melted chocolate over the bottom half of a cookie then top with another cookie. Set aside until the chocolate is firm.

Yields: 20 sandwich cookies

 

 

Guinness Stout Beef & Barley Soup

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The reemergence of a wintery blast of weather inspired to me make soup this past weekend. When it comes to beef I usually make a beef stew with red wine but decided to kick things up a notch by substituting Guinness Stout in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and turning the meal into a brothier soup since that is what is preferred by my fussy eaters.  In addition to my usual soup vegetables, I added some barley for body and peas and red peppers for added color and flavor.  The addition of the beer resulted in a hearty and comforting dish with a depth of flavor that is absent when using wine.

This recipe will make a reappearance in the fall since I am hoping that the weather will soon be turning too warm for hot soups.  In the meantime, for those of you in cooler climates, try this.  I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

GUINNESS STOUT BEEF  & BARLEY SOUP

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 pound stew beef, cubed into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup dry sherry

2 large onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

10 baby red potatoes, cubed

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into coins

2 bottles Guinness Stout

3 cups beef broth

3/4 cup pearl barley

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 red pepper, diced

1/2 cup baby peas

  • Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is seared and brown on all sides.
  • De-glaze the pan with the sherry.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes.  Stir to combine.
  • Add the stout, broth, barley, bay leaves, thyme and salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover.  Simmer, stirring occasionally,  for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the beef is tender and the vegetables can easily be pierced with a fork.
  • Adjust seasonings.  Add the red pepper and peas and cook until heated through.

The soup can be made ahead of time then reheated when ready to serve.  I like to make it the day before I want to serve it so the flavors have time to meld. If possible, add the peas and red pepper right before serving since you don’t want them to over cook and turn mushy.

Ravoli w/ Gorgonzola & Pears

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

There is nothing like a perfectly ripe pear. Sweet and juicy, for me, eating one is a special treat. The only thing that makes a pear better is coupling it with a bit of salty and pungent gorgonzola cheese. In fact, I love this combination so much that both pears and gorgonzola cheese are kitchen staples. So these ingredients were my inspiration for my latest quick and easy “experimental dinner”. (“Experimental dinners” are what I affectionately refer to when I’m pulling together a dish for the first time). And after eating this dinner my entire family agreed that this meal was a success. Not only was it delicious but it was truly fast–as in I was able to pull all of the ingredients together and have dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes.

RAVIOLI w/ GORGONZOLA & PEARS

12 ounces fresh 4-cheese ravioli, cooked according to package instructions

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

dash freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

  • While the ravioli is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat.
  • When the butter has melted add the shallot and saute, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes or until the  shallots are beginning to soften.
  • Add the pears and stir gently taking care not to break the slices. Saute for an additional 3 to 4 minutes or until the pears are soft.
  • Add the cooked ravioli to the skillet and cook until heated through, 1-2 minutes.
  • Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Divide the ravioli between four serving dishes then sprinkle with the gorgonzola cheese.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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