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Sunday, August 10, 2014

We're talkin' fancy-looking hors deurves here... Cheesy Scallop Toasts and Zucchini Tarts - delicious and easy

I don't know about you, but I am always looking for yummy, pretty hors deurves to make when people are coming over, and I truly believe I have two that fit the bill!  The cheesy scallop toasts are a bite of savory scallop deliciousness and the zucchini tarts?  well, the combination of goat cheese, zucchini, and Parmesan cheese, highlighted with some fresh thyme is a total rush for the taste buds!

Let's start with the scallop toasts.   You can make the scallop mixture in the morning and keep in the fridge until it is time to cook them.  Here are the ingredients:

½ pound of Cape scallops
3 Tbs of butter
1 Tbs chopped fresh garlic
a sprinkle of dill
½ cup of mayonnaise
2 bags of shredded Swiss cheese

Begin by getting out a fry pan and melting the butter.  When it is bubbling, add the fresh garlic and scallops and stir for about 5 minutes.  Add the dill and turn off the heat.  Let the scallops sit in the pan as they cool off.  

When they are cool, use a strainer so that you can save not only the scallops but the garlic too!  Discard the liquid and place the scallops in a bowl.  Add the mayonnaise, and the Swiss cheese and stir together.  It's best to refrigerate the mixture at this point, so the flavors have a chance to do their thing.

When it comes time to get the hors deurves ready, heat your oven to 375.  Using a spoon, mound some of the scallop mixture on each toast.  Bake until the tops are brown, approximately 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them....every one's oven is different!

 Now for the zucchini tarts.  Here are the ingredients you will need for these:

1 package refrigerated pie crust (you will use one roll)
zucchini (try to find small, narrow ones if at all possible) sliced thin
1 Tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil plus additional for drizzling
Fresh thyme
small package of goat cheese
fresh Parmesan cheese

Begin by unrolling one of the pie crusts on a floured surface.  Using a 1 ½ - 2 inch cutter (I used a glass I had), dip in flour and cut out as many rounds as you can.  Transfer them to a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Now, toss the slices of zucchini with 1 Tsp of salt in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes.  Using paper towels, drain and pat dry.  Now, back in the bowl so you can coat them with 2 Tbs of olive oil, pepper, and some thyme.

Remove the pie crust from the freezer and spread each one with some of the goat cheese.  Arrange the zucchini slices on top of the goat cheese in a pin wheel pattern.  If you need to cut the zucchini smaller so they will fit, by all means.  Sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese and a little more thyme.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the pie crusts are golden brown.  Place them on your serving dish and lightly drizzle with a little olive oil.

So there you have it.   So delicious, they will think you either bought them or slaved for hours!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pork Chops with a savory goat cheese stuffing

I decided it was high time I tried stuffing a pork chop.  It sounds yummy enough, but for some reason, I have never attempted it until now.  Pork is very tricky to cook because it can become dry so quickly.  Having the stuffing helps to keep them moist, as well as cooking them fast over high heat.

So, for the stuffing, here is what you will need:

Fresh basil, chopped (I probably used a good handful)
Fresh spinach, chopped (another handful)
Fresh parsley, chopped (yes, another handful as well)
1 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp onion powder
1 Tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
about ½ - ¾ cup of goat cheese

In a bowl, mix the goat cheese with all of the other ingredients.  Set the stuffing aside and get the chops ready to stuff...

What I did was make a slit, all the way through to the bone.  I basically divided my stuffing evenly, so that each one had a fair amount.

Once they are all stuffed, I sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat your skillet to medium high and add a touch of olive oil.  Brown each side for about 3-4 minutes.  You want the pan hot enough so that they will get nice and brown in a short amount of time.

Once they are browned, place them in a broiling pan, cover with foil and keep in a low oven until you are ready to serve them.

I wanted to make a pasta to go with them, and after raiding my fridge, I came up with fresh corn, panchetta, and asparagus.  I cooked the panchetta, then added the corn.

 I turned off the heat and cooked my egg noodles.  When they were almost done, I added the asparagus.  Drain and set aside.

To the panchetta and corn, I add a container of Fage plain yogurt (normally I would have added heavy cream or sour cream, but this yogurt does the same thing and is so much healthier!)  Add about a ½ cup of Parmesan cheese  and salt and pepper to taste.

Fold in the pasta and asparagus and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.

Dinner is served.....

Yummy Orzo Salad

I have always loved pasta salads, but there is only so much you do to make them different.  Enter orzo..... It's like eating pasta salad and not a lot of pasta!  I really am hooked on it!   Here is all you need:

1 box Orzo
Cherry tomatoes
corn (either fresh or frozen)
toasted pine nuts
cheese (Feta or diced fresh mozzarella)
fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
Dijon Vinaigrette

Begin by cooking one box of orzo.  I use chicken stock instead of water because I think it gives it more flavor.  While that is cooking, start cutting your tomatoes.  As for the corn, I had 5 ears that I had cooked a day ago and cut the kernels off.  If you don't have fresh corn, you can thaw a small bag of frozen corn and use that.  

Combine the corn with the orzo.

Fold in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

 The easiest way to toast pine nuts is to heat a fry pan to medium high.  Add the pine nuts and give them a stir every so often.  Keep an eye on them, though, because they tend to go from white to golden brown pretty quickly.

Only two ingredients left, your cheese and the fresh basil.  Add the basil just before you serve the salad so it won't get too wilted.

The ingredients for your vinaigrette are as follows:

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup olive oil
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
approximately 1 Tsp salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk everything together and taste.  Feel free to adjust the flavor to your liking.  Add the dressing and basil and you are good to go.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicken Thighs and Rice with Bacon. 'Nuf said...

There is nothing more delicious than a "comfort" meal, and this is surely one of them.  This dinner is very easy to make,  and although the cooking time is a bit lengthy... about 1 1/2 hours, it gives you a chance to get the rest of your dinner together while it cooks.

Begin by getting your ingredients together:

½ pound of bacon
1 cup of long grain, uncooked rice (I used Near East Rice Pilaf)
how ever many chicken thighs you need (I used 10)
salt and pepper to taste
1 can of Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup water
sprinkle of garlic powder and onion powder
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp basil
a generous sprinkle of parsley

Begin by covering the bottom of your baking dish with strips of bacon.

The next layer is the rice.  I used a box of Near East rice pilaf.  I kept the seasoning pack separate.

Now for the chicken.  I used boneless skinless thighs and placed them flat on top of the rice.

Season with the packet from the rice, some ground black pepper, and paprika.

The sauce is very simple to make.  In a bowl, combine the soup, 1 cup of water, a generous sprinkle of garlic powder, a small sprinkle of nutmeg, a teaspoon of basil and about a tablespoon of parsley.  Whisk everything together until well blended and pour over the chicken.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and place in a 300 degree oven for an hour and a half.  Add some brussel sprouts that were roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, and you have a perfectly delicious, easy dinner.  The leftovers were just as yummy and gone before dinner time the next night!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

grilled zucchini roll-ups

These rolled-up delights were so flavorful and delicious!  They were the perfect side dish for a summer dinner.  Here are the ingredients you will need:

2-3 zucchini (on the smaller side)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Goat Cheese (about ½ cup)
1 Tbs fresh parsley leaves, chopped
½ tsp lemon juice
1 cup of baby spinach leaves
fresh basil leaves

Begin by using a mandolin slicer to make long thin strips of zucchini.  Coat each side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat up your grill, about medium high.  When the grill is hot, cook the zucchini so that you get good grill marks on both sides.

Once the zucchini is cooked, set it aside and combine the ingredients for the stuffing.  For the goat cheese, blend together the parsley, lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper.

One by one, take a slice of zucchini, lay some spinach leaves and a few fresh basil leaves on top.  Take about a teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture and place it on the leaves.  Roll the zucchini up and place on a serving plate.  That is all there is to it. 
They are served cold so you can make them in advance and store in the fridge.  You could make them for an appetizer as well, and maybe even add either a shrimp or even a piece of sausage in the center.I have to say, not only do they taste delicious, but they look amazing!  Enjoy......

Friday, May 9, 2014

The best Caesar dressing without eggs and anchovies!

This has got to be the easiest dressing to make, preparation-wise.  And, I love the fact that it doesn't have eggs or anchovies in it!  If you like anchovies, add in 5 fillets.   Everything goes into your food processor.  The rule of thumb here is if you want the dressing creamier, add more artichoke hearts.

Here are the ingredients:

3-4 fresh garlic cloves
½ cup olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
1 tsp course black pepper
5 drops of Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs wine vinegar
3-5 artichoke hearts (canned in water, not marinated)
Juice of one lemon

Add all the ingredients into your food processor and blend on high until creamy.

Taste to make sure there is enough salt and pepper.  If you like the dressing thinner, simply add more olive oil and blend.

I have used this dressing on chicken as well as the sauce in some of my one-pan pasta dishes.  The lemony flavor is delicious when combined with spinach, chicken, seafood, or pork.

This is definitely a keeper!

Delicious Bolognese Sauce

A while ago, I went to a local pub and noticed they had Bolognese sauce on their special menu.  I called the waitress over and asked if it had lamb in it.  As soon as she said yes, I knew it was going to be delicious.    I swear lamb is what makes this sauce so delicious.  It was one of the best sauces I have had, so I asked the chef if he could give me the recipe, and he did!    I hope you will love it as much as I did....

Here are the ingredients:

2 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground beef
5 celery stalks, finely chopped
5 large carrots, finely chopped
1 large vidalia onion, finely chopped
2 cups of red wine
½ bunch of fresh thyme (the more, the better!)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp crushed red pepper 
(this amount makes the sauce mildly spicy.  If you like it hot, add more!)
1 large can of crushed tomatoes

2 cups heavy cream
chicken stock if the sauce is too thick
Parmesan cheese

Begin by cooking the lamb and beef.  Drain off all but a little bit the fat and set the meat aside in a bowl.

Using the same pan, cook the celery, carrots and onions until they are tender.  

Pour in the wine and continue down the list of ingredients, up until the cream.  Simmer on medium for about 15 minutes.

Just before it is time to serve, add in the cream and Parmesan cheese.  If the sauce is too thick, feel free to pour in a bit of chicken stock.  I used about a cup of Parmesan cheese.  Taste to make sure there is enough thyme, salt and pepper.  When you get it right, you are good to go!