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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

rolled, stuffed Haddock with an artichoke lemon sauce

My favorite way to cook fish is to make a stuffing and roll it up.  My stuffing usually consists of bread crumbs, crushed Ritz crackers, garlic powder, onion powder, some melted butter, and then some fresh spinach, mushrooms, and parsley.  There is just something about that combination that tastes so delicious.  I found some nice small flat pieces of haddock which looked like they would be easy to stuff and roll.  

I started by chopping up half of a Vidalia onion.  I added 3 ribs of celery and sauteed until they were tender.  In the meantime, I made up 2 cups of Pepperidge Farm stuffing, according to the package.  Combine everything together and add in about 1/2 teaspoon of  garlic powder, some salt and pepper, and about a half teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning.  I crushed up 1/2 of a sleeve of Ritz crackers and threw them in.  Taste the stuffing to make sure you can taste every bit of the seasoning.  If you think the garlic is too strong, just tone it down by adding some extra breadcrumbs or more crackers.  It's all about getting the flavor just right.

The last two ingredients to go in were some fresh spinach and some of this delicious lump crab meat I found in my freezer....

Take a piece of fish, place the stuffing on top and gently roll up.

Dot with butter and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

The last touch I wanted to add was a little bit of sauce.   You honestly don't need this, but I happen to like fish with a little sauce on it, so.....  I combined about 3-4 artichoke hearts, about 1/2 cup of olive oil,   1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.         
 Another good sauce for fish is to mix some mayonnaise with your favorite mustard.  Spread it over the fish during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Sometimes throwing the broiler on will give it a nice finish.

I want to explain something that is hopefully useful here.  Any of these dishes that I make can be personalized..... what I mean is, you can change ingredients, depending on what you have on hand.  If, for example,  you don't have fresh spinach, you could use frozen, or none at all!  You could use arugula if that's what you have!  No crab meat?  Skip it or maybe add something else....maybe ham or pepperoni?  Be adventurous!   If you are not sure how it will taste, just take a small amount of the stuffing, try adding something and taste it.  If you don't like it, try something else.  There is no right or wrong way to cook. It's all about the flavors.

Sometimes I will read 10-15 recipes and take a few ingredients from each and put them all together.  Other times, I just know what I feel like eating and tasting, and make it happen.  What is always so useful is to make sure you keep certain key ingredients on hand.  In my case, that would be things like artichoke hearts, coconut milk, Parmesan cheese, fresh greens, and meats such as Italian sausage, ground turkey, or chicken breasts.  

I hope you will send me a message if you ever have any questions or comments.  I would love to know what you think!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Baked Stuffed Shrimp Wrapped in Bacon

I have always loved baked stuffed shrimp, and who doesn't like anything that is wrapped in bacon?  So.....I thought, what if I stuffed the shrimp and then wrap it in bacon.  Wait until you taste this!

You need to used shrimp that are big enough to stuff.  Take the shell off and butterfly the shrimp.  While they dry on a paper towel, mix the following in a bowl:

Parmesan cheese
Panko breadcrumbs
about 8 crushed Ritz crackers
Fresh grated ginger
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
salt and pepper
a couple of tablespoons of butter, melted

I think I started with about a cup of Parmesan cheese.  Everything else  was added free hand.  If you need more filling, simply add more breadcrumbs and crackers.  Keep tasting the mixture til it is to your liking.  Adding the melted butter will hold it all together and make it easier to handle.

In a small bowl, combine about a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce, adding some honey.  I had some mango salsa, so I added some of that as well.  The flavor of the mango salsa is what really makes this taste delicious, so if you don't have any on hand, I highly recommend you get some! 

 Partially cook a pound of bacon and drain on paper towels.  What you are going to do is place a small amount of the stuffing in the shrimp.  Press the shrimp closed and wrap with a piece of bacon.  I  split the pieces of bacon lengthwise and used narrower strips

 Once the shrimp are all stuffed and wrapped, paint the tops with the barbecue sauce.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked.

I absolutely love Jasmine rice, so I made a batch of that using chicken broth instead of water.  It cooks in about 10-12 minutes, which worked out perfectly!  I also quickly broiled some broccoli that I sprinkled with olive oil and some sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  After about 15 minutes in the oven, I take it out and toss with some shredded Parmesan cheese and a bit of lemon zest.  What's nice is if you don't over cook it, it is hot and still a little crunchy, and that beautiful bright green.

Needless to say, the four measly leftover shrimp were being fought over the next day!  I've been told I need to make this one again...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sorry for the silence...this is the first time cooking did not comfort me ~

This past week (Boston Marathon week) was like nothing I have ever gone through before, and I pray I never do again.   The experience of coming close to losing a child...not being able to protect a child from France who was put in my care... being locked in my home, not being free to come and go... such scary times.

A scheduled trip to upper state New York this past weekend couldn't have come at a better time.  And, after eating out 2 days and nights, I am so charged up to get back to cooking!

You all know what it is like coming home after being away and trying to see if you can find something in the fridge to whip up.   Well, I found some pork chops in the freezer, some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes in the fridge, as well as some brussell sprouts, so I am good to go.  I will whip up a serving of rice pilaf, and hopefully the two family members home tonight will be satisfied!

I start out by quickly brining my pork chops.  I used about 4 cups of water, about a 1/4 cup of kosher salt, some dried onion, a little garlic powder, some thyme, and a bay leaf.  I let the chops soak for a little over an hour.  Then remove them and let them get to room temperature.

While those are soaking, I slice up some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.  I bought this amazing olive oil at the Saratoga Olive Oil Co.  It is called Tuscan Herb olive oil and has basil, oregano, and a few other herbs infused into olive oil.  Where I didn't have fresh basil, I figured this would suffice, and I was right!  The oil and some splashes of balsamic vinegar  was all it needed...

As for the brussell sprouts, I cut them in half, coat with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, stirring a little about half way through.  

The only thing left to do is whip up a quick batch of rice pilaf.  You can't go wrong using Near East brand, but any kind of rice will work.  While it is cooking, I get ready to cook the chops.  

All they need is some pepper, a little garlic and onion powder.  Heat up your pan and melt 3-4 tbs of butter.  Add a little olive oil and cook the pork chops for about 10 minutes on each side.  If your chops are on the thinner side, you will need to cut way back on your cooking time.  After I cooked the chops, I checked them and actually had to cook them for a bit longer. They should be just a little bit pink inside.

So, there you have it.  I think each part of this dinner took about 20 minutes to cook!  The seasonings are pretty basic and light, which allows the flavors of the food come out.  Enjoy...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Delicious and Easy Beef and Broccoli

I love beef and broccoli and have a recipe that is really good.  If you know me, you know that I always love to change things up, so I discovered a new way to make it.  What gives this it's flavor is marinating the beef.  Mix together:

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp sesame oil

I like to use good, flavorful beef, so I had some sirloin steak tips that I slice up and mix into the marinade.  Leave that alone for about 30 minutes.  Time to cook the broccoli. 

Chop up about 2 tsp. of fresh ginger and add that along with a 1/2 tsp of salt to some vegetable oil in a fry pan.  When the oil is hot, add the broccoli and cook for just a few minutes.  Add about 4 tbs. of water and steam-fry until the water evaporates.  Put the broccoli in a bowl, and add a little more oil to the pan.  

Cook the sliced, marinated steak tips, a little at a time, just until they are browned.  Try not to over cook them as they will continue to cook once you add the sauce to this dish.  When done cooking the beef, it's time to add the broccoli back in.

Now for the sauce.

2 tbs vegetable oil
4 tsp rice wine or sherry
2 tbs oyster sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
4 tbs water
a little crushed red pepper
Salt and Pepper

Return the beef and broccoli to the original pan, and with the heat on low, add the sauce and stir.  If the pan is hot enough, the sauce should thicken right away.  Feel free to add a little chicken broth if you like your beef and broccoli "saucy..."

I made a batch of sticky rice, but you can serve whatever you like with this!

The peanut gallery approves....

Delicious Creamy Turkey Soup

The day after I cook a turkey, I always want to get rid of the bones and use up the turkey I make turkey salad? turkey casserole?  turkey pot pie?  or.....the all but popular turkey soup.  I opted for the soup, but wanted to do make a different kind of soup, not the usual soup that has chicken broth, celery, carrots, onion, and turkey.  Most of what was left over was the thigh meat, which has the most flavorful.v

I love cream soups and thought why not?  why not creamy turkey soup?  Wait til you taste this one!  I start by cutting up some carrots, celery and onion...the quantity depends on how much soup you want to make.  I used about a cup of each.  I saute them in a half stick of butter.  I am going to add egg noodles to this soup, so I cook those now, according to the directions.

While they are cooking, I cut up the left over turkey and put to the side.  Once the veggies are done, I add 1/4 cup of flour and mix in.  Stir in two cups of chicken broth and two cups of milk, along with the cut up turkey.   Cook until thickened.... about 5 minutes.

If the soup is too thick, simply add more chicken broth.  I don't want any heavy herb seasoning, so I only use salt and pepper.  The flavors of the carrots, celery and onion, along with the seasoning that was on the turkey is what makes this soup simply delicious, and the creamy texture is exactly what I was looking for!  Make sure you try this easy recipe....

Friday, April 12, 2013

French Apple Cobbler

I have a recipe for a French Apple Cobbler that is delicious and so easy to make.  It's one of those desserts that you can whip up last minute and not only tastes good but looks good as well.

As for the ingredients, you can adjust the amount depending on how big of a dessert you will need.  I made this in an 8x8 pan.  I peeled and cut up 4 apples. Toss the apples with 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour,  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 cup water.  I do all this in the pan.  Take 2 tablespoons of butter and cut into pieces to scatter over the apples

To make the cobbler, start with 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 beaten egg.

Add spoonfuls of the batter over the apples.  You don't need to spread it out at all.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until the apples are tender and the top is golden brown.

Feel free to serve this with either whipped cream or ice cream....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Pan-Roasted Potatoes

The weather here in Boston has been beautiful the last two days, warming up to a balmy 68 degrees!  All I want to do is be outside after spending the day in the office.  At 6:30 p.m. the sun is still out, and I can't think of anything else to do than grill some steak!  I thought that our French guest, Pauline, would like to taste some of my grilling...

The nice thing about rib eye steaks is that they are so flavorful on their own, they hardly need any seasoning, let alone marinating.  I have discovered the best way to tenderize them is to leave them out on the counter and sprinkle generously with kosher salt.  The salt will draw out some of the juice, but it also breaks down the fibers in the meat.  I let each side sit with salt for about an hour.  You want to cook the steak at room temperature.

Get the grill nice and hot.  Wash off the salt, and pat dry.  I sprinkled on a little ground pepper, garlic powder and onion powder on both sides.  Grilling each side for about 10-12 minutes will enable you to serve it medium rare.  If you like it more well-done, just leave it on maybe 5 more minutes.  You can tell how well done they are by pressing down on them gently.  If the steak feels very soft, then it is on the rare side, and if it is firm, then it is more well done.

For my pan-roasted potatoes, I wash and cut up as many potatoes as you need.  I add basil, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and mustard powder.  I cut up 2 shallots and tossed them in as well.  Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and mix, making sure the potatoes are coated.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes.  Every so often, you need to give them a stir so that they will cook evenly.

To round off the dinner, I made a really easy Caesar Salad by simply cutting up some romaine lettuce, sprinkling in a generous amount of shredded Parmesan cheese, and folding in some Caesar dressing.  Just before serving, I add a couple of handfuls of croutons.  The rest is history!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Turkey dinner for my French visitor...

So, this week I have a darling girl from France staying with us through an exchange program.  I have thought long and hard about what to cook for her.  When I heard one of their excursions was to Plymouth Plantation, I decided she needed to experience a true Thanksgiving dinner, so I cooked a turkey with all the fixins'... was she in for a treat!

First off, I brine my bird for about 24 hours.  After heating up the oven, I seasoned the outside with paprika, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  I added a touch of oil afterwards, just to keep the skin moist.

The trick to having a really moist turkey is to cook it breast-side down for the first 2-3 hours.  I take the bird out, flip it over, and return to the oven for the last hour or so.  Cooking it this way causes the breast meat to be so juicy, which is why it's worth the trouble it is to turn it over!
While the bird is cooking, it's time to get the butternut squash ready to roast.  Once you have it cut, skinned, and ready to go, season it with some salt, pepper, and some cinnamon.  Toss with some olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often so that everything gets browned evenly.

Every one in my family loves roasted brussel sprouts, and even though I have prepared them for you before, I will quickly tell you again.  Cut them in half and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Pop them in a 400 degree oven and roast for about 20-30 minutes.  Again, you need to stir them around every so often.  When they seem tender and slightly browned, they are done.  Just before serving, sprinkle with some shredded Parmesan cheese.

Now for the stuffing.  For a quick fix, I use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix.  Once it is made, add some sauteed onion, celery, and a handful of fresh chopped parsley. Taste and adjust any seasonings you think it needs.  Spoon into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.   

Last but not least, gravy.  You all know how to make this..... use the drippings from the roasting pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour and combine so that it looks like a paste.  Add chicken broth, probably 2-3 cups, and stir until it gets to the right consistency.  Turn the heat down and season with a little salt and pepper (and , if you have it, a few drops of GravyMaster for any of you who remember this little bottle that sees the light of day once a year!)

So there you have it.  A little cranberry sauce and you're good to go.   A very quick, matter-of-fact turkey dinner!  At least it gave our guest a taste of what we eat every November....