Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It's that time of the year when the weather starts changing. Here in Missouri the mold count is sky high and my allergies have definitely been getting the best of me.
When I was a little girl and not feeling well my mom always made me a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. Perfect comfort food in my mind. However not just any grilled cheese. It was a round grilled cheese made with an iron apparatus called a "Toastite" (as shown above).
So when my allergies were getting me down the other day somehow comfort food sounded really good to me. So I went and got a loaf of soft fresh bread, and came home and placed two slices of bread on my Toastite, with a couple squares of American Cheese and closed the apparatus. Then with pieces of bread hanging out the sides I pulled those off neatly so nothing was left to hang in the burner.
I'm sure for those of you that have never experienced a round grilled cheese like this may wonder what's so great about it. Well, I'll tell you!
When the Toastite gets put on the burner the sides of the bread get nice and brown after each flip, and the inside swells up, leaving a large fluffy pocket of hot melted cheese inside. Oh and for those who love crust! Well, don't worry because when you seal the end of the Toastite, and cook the grilled cheese over the stove, the edges get this wonderful crust on them. Far superior to the crust that had to be removed to fit the Toastite.
Even though my allergies were still bothering me after eating my round grilled cheese sandwich, I felt better. I then took a nap and woke up refreshed and satisfied.
If you'd like to get your hands on one of these great contraptions I know they have them on Ebay.
In fact, I took this one from my parents home and then found 4 on Ebay. Two to give to my sisters who weren't exactly happy that I confiscated the one from our family home and two for my kids who have also grown up on round grilled cheese sandwiches.
Believe me! I know it sounds strange, but once you've had a round grilled cheese sandwich made on a Toastite, nothing else compares.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Have you ever had a blintz? They're like a crepe rolled up with cottage cheese inside that you then top with sour cream and cinnamon or fresh fruit sauce. They're best in my opinion served warm but good as well the next day right from the refrigerator.
This week my mom was having friends and family over for a light dinner so I decided to make this blintz casserole instead of the usual blintz's.
The process to make the casserole although simple took quite a few steps. The end result was more of a cake-like casserole rather than a crepe filled with wet, gooey cottage cheese but, delicious in it's own form.
My large casserole was gone by the end of the evening as well as the blueberry sauce which was heavenly. I knew when most everyone went back for seconds that it was a big hit!
Whether having a brunch, picnic or casual get-together this was well worth the effort.
1-1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese
2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Beat together filling ingredients until well mixed. Set aside.
For the batter, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat together remaining batter ingredients. Blend in flour mixture.
In a 9'x13' pan, layer 1/2 the batter, all of the filling, remaining 1/2 of the batter.
Note: Be sure and divide the batter so that you really have 1/2 left to cover the top!
Bake at 300 degrees F for 1-1/2 hours.
Warm Blueberry Sauce
2 (10-ounce) bags frozen blueberries
½ cup blueberry fruit juice, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1. Combine berries with ¼ cup juice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in sugar.
2. Combine cornstarch and remaining juice; whisk until smooth.
3. Pour cornstarch mixture into boiling fruit mixture, stirring. The sauce will almost immediately thicken and grow clear.
Serve, hot or warm, over blintz casserole.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Do you have a house full of cookbooks? For whatever reason are you compelled to still buy more?
Wouldn't it be nice to have a database with all the recipes listed from those books, plus an ingredient list? That way when you were in the mood for a particular dish, item or recipe you could simply search that online and it would tell you which cookbook it's in that you have in your possession. That would be AMAZING!
Well guess what? Now you can! There's a company that just recently formed called, Eat Your Books. I'm so excited about this idea that I had to share it with my readers. I signed up today for a 30 day free trial to see if it meets my expectations. If so, then after the 30 days I will agree to pay an annual fee of $25 and I can cancel whenever I want.
I started going through their library of books this evening but with over 80,000 books and over 290,000 recipes, I didn't have the time to go through all of them. So I'll have to go back a little each day during my trial period, and determine if this incredible concept will benefit me.
In addition to the Library, you then create your own Bookshelf. Plus, they have a Community Forum and Blog where you can talk with other members to share ideas and recipes.
There's so much information regarding Eat Your Books that I think it would be best that you read about it first hand. Here's the link "about" Eat Your Books.
Just imagine how valuable and time saving this could be! It would take me hours to go through each and every cookbook that I own trying to find a particular recipe. Now it's as easy as searching for it online or at least that's what they claim. I guess I'll find out soon. I'm very hopeful!
Check it out and please let me know what you think.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Yesterday fall was in the air. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining bright and there was a nice cool fall-like breeze. It was heavenly.
It made me think about pumpkins and Halloween coming up and all the great fall foods, red and yellow colored leaves that will be changing soon and of course the bees that seem to start coming out in force.
So when I went to the grocery store yesterday to pick up something for dinner all I could think about were fall veggies and fruit. I immediately laid eyes on the Butternut Squash an all time favorite of mine. I love sweets and to me, when I eat Butternut Squash it's like eating candy. So I grabbed one of those along with a couple of pears.
Since my husband and I are empty nesters now, I don't need to purchase groceries in large quantity and of course in turn my bills are substantially less.
After picking up both Butternut Squash and Pears, I decided I needed to make something using those for our evening meal. What could I make? Hmmm!
I decided to make a Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Salad on a bed of Arugula topped with goat cheese and candied pecans and drizzled with a homemade Cider Vinaigrette. The end product was satisfying and delicious! Plus the dish as you can see from the photo above was beautiful and looked like fall on a plate.
Although this may sound like a lot of effort to go to just to make a salad I assure you it's well worth it. If you don't just want to make it for yourself then make it for guests. It makes a stunning presentation.
First I peeled and removed the seeds from the butternut squash then cut it into 1/2 inch squares and lightly tossed in extra-virgin olive oil. I also peeled two pears and cut them in 1/2 and removed the core. I brushed the cut sides with a very small amount of melted butter and sprinkled it with sugar.
With my oven set to 400 degrees I put both veggies and fruit on a heavy duty foil lined sheet tray and baked in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until both were soft. (I wouldn't suggest purchasing rock hard pears otherwise it will take too long for them to soften up in the oven).
I took both out of the oven when softened and cut the pears into small squares, as close to the size of the butternut squash.
Piled each plate with Baby Arugula, then topped with the Butternut Squash, Pears, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans. Then I drizzled with my homemade Apple Cider Vinaigrette over it all. It was outstanding! If you didn't want to use that vinaigrette then I think a balsamic would be just as good. For an even heartier entree you could add chicken.
Apple Cider Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons Apple Cider or Juice
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
teaspoon of lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together and lightly drizzle over the salad and serve.
You can purchase ready-made candied pecans but the ones I make are truly delightful. In fact I often give them for gifts during the holidays.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Today I went down to The Hill as everyone calls it here in St Louis. It's where all the best Italian Markets and Italian Restaurants are.
I have a culinary class I'm teaching in a couple weeks called Mediterranean Feast and I needed a particular product that I knew Viviano & Sons would have. They not only had the product I was looking for but so many incredible foods.
In addition to getting what I set out for, when my sister (who came along with me) and I arrived, they had just pulled hot out of the oven their heavenly bread. It was sprinkled with sesame seeds, but then sliced and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, pepper and covered with Caccavallo Cheese as they call it. Apparently when I looked it up online it goes by the name Caciocavalla Cheese. This combination is placed in a 400 degree oven and baked until the cheese melts. Oh my goodness, it was to die for!
I've never had this cheese before and although sharp, it's soft and smooth like Fontina and just melts in your mouth. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. If you've never experienced this and live in St Louis, then head down to Viviano & Sons. If you don't live in St Louis then pick up a fresh loaf of Italian Bread, slice it down the middle and follow the instructions above.
In addition, they had these enormous and beautiful bow tie pasta I'd ever seen. For those of you that watched my previous video on "How to Make Pesto & A Caprese Pasta Salad", this bow tie pasta will put that salad over the top. The bow ties are 2 1/2 inches long uncooked with beautiful, colorful rainbow stripes. I purchased 2 boxes and can't wait to cook with them.
Although the store isn't huge, but a nice size, my sister and I spent a good 1 1/2 hours shopping, browsing, sampling and purchasing. Then of course we had to stop at one of the great restaurants across the street on The Hill to grab some lunch outside. The weather was perfect along with the company and the food. It was a fun afternoon!
If you ever have the chance, stop by Viviano & Sons in addition to the other great shops and restaurants on The Hill. It's a great experience and a fun time.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
As many of you know, I teach in-home culinary classes. Of all the recipes out there my most requested one from my students, friends and strangers is "how to make pesto"? So I decided I would show & share this simple recipe on my blog for everyone else out there that would like to learn how to make it.
Below is the recipe along with a video that I put together. Bear in mind I'm still new at putting these videos together but hopefully I did a good enough job so that you'll be able to reproduce this on your own.
In addition I've also included a demonstration on making a Caprese Pasta Salad. This salad uses pesto to create a light, refreshing and luscious dish. Use as a side salad or entree. To make it a heartier dish add some chicken, or shrimp.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
3 tsp pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup plus 3 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, place pine nuts, basil, garlic, and sea salt and process to a paste. Add the cheese and drizzle in the olive oil. Store in a jar, topped with oil.
Pesto can be used in many dishes. From dips, to spreads, with fish, chicken, meats, on sandwiches and pasta just to name a few. Make up a batch of your own for a fraction of the price that it would cost to purchase the ready-made variety in the stores and you'll never buy it again.
I bought a few mangos earlier in the week to make a salsa and never did get around to it. So when I was making some Sea Bass the other night I thought I'd make some but, got side tracked and made a sauce instead.
I love mangoes so whenever I can, I like to put them in salads, on sandwiches, in wraps, salsas and sauces and whatever else I can think of. In fact, yesterday for lunch I took my cold salmon that I had cooked the day before and put it in a wrap with some fresh spinach, mango slices and balsamic vinaigrette dressing on top. I rolled it up and it was light and heavenly.
If you haven't eaten a mango before or cooked with one you might like to read the post I did a while back. It explains how to cut a Mango plus some tips you might find useful. You can also do a search on my blog for mangoes. I have several recipes posted as well.
At any rate, I set out to grill my Sea Bass the other night but it was so humid out and there were so many gnats that I decided to just roast it in the oven. Whether roasting (at 400F degrees) or grilling for about 20 minutes the Sea Bass turns out perfect. The only difference is that when grilling I find the fish caramelizes giving it a sweeter more succulent flavor.
The Mango Sauce was a great compliment to the Sea Bass and one that you could use on your favorite fish, meat, or even poultry. What you don't use store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
2 Roma Tomatoes
1 large ripe Mango, peeled, cut from the pit (see link above) and chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 jalepeno chile, seeded and diced
2 1/2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Gently rub olive oil over the tomatoes and roast in a 400F degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly charred.
In a medium saucepan , combine the tomatoes with all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, or until thickened. Use and immersion blender and puree sauce ingredients or transfer sauce to a blender and puree until smooth.
Be sure to put a towel over the top of the blender lid prior to blending. Oftentimes when liquid it hot it will shoot out.
Transfer back to saucepan and continue to cook on low heat until sauce mixture is nice and thick.
Of course as always feel free to play around with the ingredients. If there's something that you don't like then leave it out or replace with something else. Spice it up if you like by adding in some chipotle peppers or cayenne pepper.
Your the chef in your kitchen so have fun and experiment!
Note: If grilling add some mango sauce to your fish (or other meat) near the end to add that bbq flavor then add some additional sauce when plating.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Yesterday I opened my refrigerator and saw the 4 packages of Driscoll Raspberries that I had purchased. They looked so incredibly delicious at the store that I couldn't just purchase one pack. I knew I needed to use them up quickly otherwise they'd go bad. So I decided I'd make some Raspberry Sorbet. I knew it would be the perfect use for them considering the holiday is tomorrow and it would be a nice light dessert to go with my BBQ menu.
So I gathered up the ingredients along with my Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine, Mini-Prep Food Processor and Microplane . All the greatest tools for what I needed to do.
In fact, I love that Mini-Prep Processor. Rather than taking out my large Food Processor this is light, efficient and makes for a quick clean-up. So long as I'm not processing a huge amount, this size works great.
3/4 cup sugar (I used ultrafine sugar)
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 egg white
juice of 1/2 a lime
zest of a lime
1 tsp. Framboise (raspberry liquor)
Rinse berries in a colander.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. By using the ultrafine sugar it dissolves much quicker but the regular sugar is fine as well. Once dissolved set aside to cool.
In a blender or food processor, puree 3 1/2 cups raspberries until smooth. Strain in a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds. (This takes just a few minutes but the results left in the container below your strainer are a nice smooth, seedless pool of raspberry sauce.
Add the lime zest, lime juice and Framboise and stir to blend. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until chilled.
Transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions until partially frozen. Add the egg white and continue to freeze until firm.
At this point it will be like soft-serve (as shown below) and can be eaten. Or place in the freezer to get to ice cream consistency as shown in the photo at the top of the page.
Note: Adding the Framboise insures that the sorbet won't freeze to rock solid,
plus adding that extra bit of raspberry flavor.
Adding the egg whites helps to emulsify the mixture and gives it a smooth,
The results of this recipe are so delicious you owe yourself to try it. It couldn't be any simpler.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Who would have ever thought Coffee Filters would have so many uses. They're not just for coffee anymore.
When I read this I just had to share it. It's pretty incredible!
Better than paper towels and a lot less expensive...
Coffee filters .... Who knew! And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree for almost nothing even the large ones.
1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.
3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.
12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters.
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."
15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.
16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.
17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.
18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.
19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.
20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.
21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.
22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.
23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.
24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book.
25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.
OH YEAH THEY ARE GREAT TO USE IN YOUR COFFEE MAKERS TOO.
Can you come up with anymore uses for coffee filters? If so, I'd love to hear them.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Labor Day is in just 5 days. If you're like me you've already been thinking for weeks about what to serve, at what could possibly be the last big BBQ of the season. Of course you know the usual standard fare is hot dogs, hamburgers and grilled chicken. That's always a sure thing that most people will like. However, did you ever consider changing it up a bit?
If you get my monthly newsletter then today you received it with the recipe for my Southwestern Fish or Fish Tacos which would definitely be something different to serve.
But if you don't get my newsletter or don't like fish how about doing different types of burgers?
You could do:
veggie burgers and even
Chicken burgers are what I served for dinner this evening and they are so delcious and moist. They're simple to prepare and doctor up by adding some diced celery, onions, egg, bbq sauce to the mix and even some fresh bread crumbs. Throw those on the grill and they're fantastic and low cal.
Add some homemade baked beans and some fresh fruit along with a salad or veggie dip and your good to go.
I did a burger party last year and it was a HUGE hit. Everyone was so excited, they didn't know which one to try first.
As an added bonus, if you decide to make chicken burgers or any type of burger, try making this sauce to go on your burger instead of the usual ketchup. It's incredibly good!
Cranberry BBQ Sauce
1 can (16oz) Whole berry Cranberry Sauce
1 cup BBQ sauce
Blend together and add to the tops of your burgers. Simple and delicious! Your guests will be asking where they can purchase that wonderful sauce.
I hope you have a fun and safe holiday!