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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ham with Vegetable Couscous

This was one of those dinners where I knew what my main course was, but I had no clue what to make for a side dish, and due to the inclement weather, I wasn't able to get to the store.  Therefore, I had to depend on whatever I had in my fridge.... which for tonight consisted of half a bag of broccoli, half a bag of carrots, and some Bella mushrooms.

I cut up the carrots and sauteed them with a little left over mixture of olive oil and butter with some shallots.  I sprinkled them with some thyme, salt and pepper and let them cook.                  
While they are cooking, I get the broccoli ready.  Tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, I cook it in a 400 degree oven.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn't get too brown.  About half way through cooking, I add the carrots that had a head start on the stove.   

I love couscous and thought it might be a good idea to make a batch and mix these veggies in.  

Last thing to do is cook the mushrooms with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes.  I just want to take the chill off them.   Combine the vegetables to the couscous.  Add about 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese and a handful of pine nuts.  Done!

So a very easy dinner tonight.  The couscous went well with the ham, and tasted really delicious.  I hope you will experiment and maybe make it your own....

More Snow = More soup.... Sausage Soup to be exact!

These weekend snow storms are getting old around here!  We go outside and shovel for an hour and when done, nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of soup!    This recipe is really easy to make.  I start by making a cup of long grain white rice (brown rice is too crunchy for soup!)  

While the rice is cooking, I take the casing off of 3-4 sweet Italian sausage, break them up and brown them.  Just before they are done, I throw in 3-4 chopped garlic cloves and 2 chopped shallots.   When they are cooked, I turn off the heat and defrost my package of chopped spinach right on top!
Now that the rice is done, I add a can of diced tomatoes, along with the sausage and spinach.

It probably seems weird to make all of the ingredients for a soup before adding the broth, but it is easier  to taste and see what is missing.  In this case, I needed to add some garlic powder and some dried chopped onion because I didn't taste enough of it!  I also sprinkled in a little crushed red pepper for some heat.  Because I used low sodium ingredients, I did need to add just a little salt and some pepper.  Now it's ready for the chicken broth.

I did add about 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese for the flavor,  but if you add too much, the cheese just sticks to the bottom of the pan.  I wait until I serve the soup to add the extra cheese.  The good thing about making a soup with a lot of ingredients is that you can always add more chicken broth if you like your soup not as dense.

This soup should put you in your happy place and warm your soul....

Friday, February 15, 2013

Shrimp Raviolis with a Lemon, Artichoke, and Tarragon Sauce

Someone asked me for a romantic dinner suggestion for Valentines Day.  Well, I am going to share with you what I decided to make for my special dinner, and I apologize I didn't get it together before the holiday was upon us!

I've been thinking about making either shrimp, lobster, or crab raviolis for a while, and was curious how they would be without a red sauce.  Well, I have to tell you they were delicious!  This dinner will require you to buy wonton dough.   I used the round ones, but if they have the square ones, it is fine.  I began by making the filling.  I used about half a bag of raw shrimp that I thawed and cut up.  

I added that to about a cup of ricotta cheese, a handful of shredded Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of garlic powder, salt and pepper, parsley, 1 egg, and some Tarragon (of course!). I also added a little lemon zest.  I wanted the filling to be nice and cheesy, so I also mixed in some mozzarella cheese.  Nothing was measured, so you can add as much or as little as you would like.  Add the egg last so you can taste the filling to see what it needs.

Grab a pot to get your sauce going.  Pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil with about a tablespoon of butter.  Cut up about 1/2 cup of sweet onion and about 3 cloves of garlic.  Cook them in the oil until tender.  To this you will add about 1/4 cup of white wine, 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream or half and half, and a whole bunch of Parmesan cheese. Keep stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to thicken.  

The last ingredients are some Tarragon, lemon zest, and probably about a cup of chopped artichoke hearts.   I had a jar of marinated hearts in the fridge, so I used a couple of large spoonfuls of them, but as I said, when you are making fillings and sauces, there is no need to measure most ingredients!

Now for the fun part.  Take a wonton skin, place a spoonful of filling on it, paint the edges with an egg white wash, and place another wonton skin on top.   Squeeze the two sides together, then take a fork and press the edges.

While you are stuffing the raviolis, get a large pot of water heating up.  Once the raviolis are ready to go, cook 5 or 6 at a time.  They take about 5 minutes to cook.  Spoon the sauce over them and top with a little more Parmesan cheese.

 This dinner got rave reviews!  Actually rated a "10"..... Hope you like them as well!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The best cheddar bisquits you will ever eat!

So this is a story about some unbelievable biscuit's that my daughter's boyfriend whipped up for a superbowl party, and now shared with me.  We are talking about college-aged kids who have 101 things on their mind....but my daughter's boyfriend is soooooo cool, and talented, and is an amazing chef in his own right, and made these for his friends.  I was lucky enough to get him to share them with me!  Thank you, Donald!   Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  

2 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
3/4 cup whole milk
4 tbs cold butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I cannot lie, I added more!)

Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter.  You don't want to mix too thoroughly.  There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas.  Add cheddar cheese, milk, and 1/2 tsp garlic.   Mix by hand until combined, but don't over mix!

Drop about 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  In the meantime, melt 2 tbs of butter, seasoned with 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp parsley will spread the garlic butter over the tops of all biscuits after you take them out of the oven.

We had these biscuits with our leftover sweet potato soup and I have to say, they were amazing.   I try to stay away from eating bread, but unfortunately I couldn't stay away from these!  They were so moist and delicious!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Easy Chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas

I really love cooking chicken thighs because they are quick and are always moist and tender.  The flavors in this dish sounded like they really went well together, and for the first time ever, I had an ingredient that I usually don't have..... saffron threads!  I purchased them through Colonel De's website, and I have to tell you, I think it is what made this dish taste delicious!  So, plan ahead on this one, and definitely find and purchase saffron threads!

First things first..... I decide to cook two pieces of Kielbasa, then slice it up.  Normally I grill these, but the weather forced me to cook them on the stove.  Once they are done, I put them aside.  Next, I cook up some red and green peppers.  You can probably use about 1/4 cup... set them aside.           At this point, you need to add the saffron threads to a 1/2 cup of either dry white wine or chicken broth.  They need to soak a bit before you can add them.

The next step is to prepare the chicken thighs (I used 8 thighs, but you can make as many as you need), and brown them.  I mix up 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 1/4 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground black pepper.  I rub this all over my chicken thighs.


In a hot pan, I brown the chicken, about 4-6 minutes on each side.  Once they are well browned, I take them out of the pan and hold them to the side.  Next in my pan go my chopped onions.  I cook them until they are tender, then add the 4 cloves of garlic that I have chopped.  

Pour in  the saffron mixture, 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth, along with a cup of regular, long grain rice, and mix well.  Simmer 

Also add a can of diced tomatoes, your cooked Kielbasa, and the peppers you cooked and chopped.


Pour this rice mixture into an oven-safe pan, and place the chicken thighs on top.  Cover the pan with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven.  You need to take the chicken off of the rice mixture long enough so you can mix the rice and add the sugar snap peas.  Put the chicken back on and cover.   Let it sit for about 5 minutes.  The heat from the rice will heat the peas perfectly.   

Look at this....

Really delicious!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I hope I am not "souping" you to death, but this stormy weather just puts me in the mood!

I should call this "clean out your refrigerator" chicken soup!  Honestly?  When you can't get out of your driveway to get to the store, you begin to take a long, hard look at what is in your refrigerator and get really creative!

I had the end of my roasted chicken from earlier this week (, along with a small  container of cooked rice.  My vegetable drawer needed cleaning out, so I used up some carrots, celery, and half an onion I had in there....  So far, I am happy with how it is turning out!

I saute the onions, celery, and carrots with a little butter.  When they have started to get a little tender, I add a box of chicken broth.  I slice up 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, and add them along with Tarragon and 3-4 bay leaves.

I cut off the left-over chicken and add that along with the juice that contained the spinach and capers!  I figured it should give this soup a really nice flavor.

At this point, I just let it simmer on low so that all the flavors come up.

The last thing I put in is the leftover rice.  All the soup needs at this point is a little salt and pepper to taste.  The flavor of the garlic, Tarragon, and the hint of lemon and capers from the chicken  really make this yummy!

I guess my lesson here is that you can make something that is easy and extremely flavorful out of a little of this and a little of that!  For me, it's all about the seasoning and tasting enough of it....

Friday, February 8, 2013

A perfect stormy night for Sweet Potato Soup


For all of you who are on the East Coast, this is our typical bizarre weather, at its best!  I, along with my kids and probably half of my town, had the day off today.  My laundry is caught up, my house is clean, and I am not allowed out on the roads after 4.... so, I figure this is such a perfect opportunity to spend the day in my favorite room of the house, my kitchen.

I have had a bag of sweet potatoes sitting in my container for a while.  I wanted to do something other than roast them, so I decide to make Sweet Potato Soup.  From everything I have read, it is pretty straight forward.  I cut up the potatoes and coat them with olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

While they are cooking, I cut up a small Vidalia onion, along with two parsnips, and some carrots and cook them down.  Once the sweet potatoes are done, I add them to the pan of onions, etc., and pour in one box of chicken broth.  Add 2 tsp. of cumin and 2 tbs of curry, along with salt and pepper.

I let the vegetables and broth simmer on low for about 1/2 hour.  Then I use my hand blender and puree everything.  The soup needs a second box of chicken broth to thin it down.  The last spice I add is my Raz al Hanout (which basically is a combination of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.)  You can use whatever you have on hand, but you want the flavors to be subtle.  Add a little, stir and taste.... whenever you aren't sure, pour a little soup in a bowl and experiment with the seasonings.

 This soup is sure to warm you up...