June 14, 2013

Easy Party Appetizers – What to Serve

Last weekend, my wife hosted a Bunko party for seven of her girlfriends. She knew that the focus was on fun and the dice. But, who can play on an empty stomach?

What should she serve? A few bottles of wine were a definite, but what appetizers go with Bunko? Anyone could display a cheese platter with some colorful fruit and call it a day. Or fill some bowls with assorted nuts. But not her. She wanted a spread that was easy and would impress. Because our kitchen is storage challenged, we have basic cutlery (carving, pairing, filleting, larding and boning knives, graters and mandolines), a few stainless steel pots, a copper sauté pan, and a couple of cookie sheets. So, she couldn’t be too elaborate.

Puff Pastry Squares with assorted toppings. Parmesan Crisps with Pesto. The ideas started flowing, and the shopping list began to grow. The three focuses were: pretty food, bite size portions, and repeating ingredients.

Appetizer 1: Bruschetta

brushetta

Slice French bread baguette into ½” slices. Place on stainless steel cookie sheet, brush with olive oil and bake at 350 until golden brown about 15 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Cream Cheese, basil leaf and sliced tomato, Cream Cheese and Caramelized onions, Sprinkled Parmesan cheese, Olive tapenade mixed with cream cheese, melted Chocolate Chips chips spread on toasted bread sprinkled with chopped walnuts, or Cream Cheese spread with walnuts and honey drizzle.

Appetizer 2: Parmesan Crisps with Basil Pesto

brushetta

1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme or ½ teas. Dried, 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients together. You can use Terracotta rectangular baker for this recipe, or place on a baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture with a couple inches between each, and spread them out into ovals about four inches long and two wide. (You should have about 12 crisps.) Bake in the oven until they turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool crisps flat on a metal rack.

Topping suggestion:
Store bought basil pesto

Tip: Stainless Steel tri-ply or Copper Skillets work best when you caramelize.

Appetizer 3: Puff Pastry Squares

brushetta

Thaw puff pastry and cut in to 2″x2″ squares. Brush with egg wash (1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water) and bake at 350* until golden ~20 minutes.

Topping suggestions:
Basil Pesto and Olive Tepanade from Trader Joe’s, Cream Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (see recipe), Grated Parmesan Cheese and Caramelized Onions (see recipe).

Caramelized Walnut Ingredients: 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water, 2 cups walnut halves, Cooking spray or silicone sheets

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to pan, and cook 22 minutes or until sugar mixture thickens and coats nuts, stirring occasionally, watch carefully. Immediately spread nut mixture in a single layer on a edged cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes. Separate nuts with 2 forks. Cool completely.

Caramelized Onions Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled, halved, and thinly slivered, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon olive oil, Salt and pepper

Tip: Here’s how to caramelize onions nice and perfect.

In a 3- to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, frequently stir onions and garlic in oil until onions start to become limp; reduce heat to medium-low and stir frequently until onions are very soft and browned, 40 to 45 minutes. If onions start to stick to the pan, reduce heat further and stir in 2 tablespoons water. Add salt and pepper to taste.

All of these dishes were delicious and beautifully plated. But most importantly, they left for her time to socialize with her girlfriends. Food always makes a party better. So she kept it good and simple and all were impressed with the edible easy treats.

June 6, 2013

Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

This is a recipe for Artichoke Freekeh Risotto. Risotto means that the dish is made with white rice. Freekeh is green wheat that has been roasted. Freekeh can be found in Middle Eastern stores, online, or natural food stores. The recipe instructions serves four and does not include an estimated prep time or cooking time.

Read the full article here:
Artichoke Freekeh Risotto

risotto

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May 11, 2013

Scrambled Eggs with Gruyère, Fried Pita with Olive Tapenade & Tomato Salad

If you are looking for a great breakfast idea, this plate that comes with scrambled eggs with Gruyere cheese, fried pita with olive tapenade and tomato salad is worth the time preparing. The whole idea is on bringing together different flavors for breakfast. If you are a salad lover, you will be able to prepare this delicious breakfast for you and your family members in no time.

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Scrambled Eggs with Gruyère, Fried Pita with Olive Tapenade & Tomato Salad

salad

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May 5, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala at Home

A chicken masala dish at home simply states that sometimes a home made meal is better then a take out/ restaurant meal. It’s more time consuming, but you can make a meal just as good as your favorite food place. It also gives you the chance to try new foods, instead of ordering the same every time you go out to eat. Masala-flavored chicken in a plate of rice equals one fulfilling meal.

Read the full article here:
Chicken Tikka Masala at Home

chicken masala

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May 3, 2013

42 Flowers You Can Eat

It’s not uncommon to see flower petals used in salads, teas, and as garnish for desserts, because at the back of our minds, flowers are ornamental plants and are not edible. But we’re wrong. Many of those little flowers offer creative uses. Spicy ones, like chive blossoms, can be rolled into handmade pasta dough, incorporate floral ones into homemade ice cream, pickle flower buds to make capers. In fact, many of these lovely little somes are used to make floral syrups for cocktails.

Thankfully, we can get to know which of those flowers we can eat and which ones make great in our kitchens. Here are they.

flowers

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April 25, 2013

Tips in Selecting Beef For Your Desired Recipe

On average, each American devours more than 60 pounds of beef each year. Red meat not only tastes great but is one way to ensure you get the vitamins and minerals your body needs. The following tips, should help in selecting and preparing your desired beef recipe.

beef


Choosing the Right Cut

Selecting the right type and cut of beef is the most critical step in cooking the perfect steak. When choosing, check the labels. “Enhanced” beef has been injected with additives to increase moisture and tenderness; “natural” beef has been minimally processed and contains no additives, coloring, or preservatives; “organic” refers to the way the animal was raised; it must have access to a pasture, be on an organic feed diet, and given no growth hormones or antibiotics.

The trick to cooking your beef perfectly is tailoring the technique to the cut of meat. Tender cuts, from the ribs or the loin, have more marbling and less lean muscle fiber, and will work better with quick, dry cooking techniques such as sautéing, grilling, and broiling. Tougher cuts, like flank and chuck steak, will become much more tender given enough time and a moist cooking technique, like braising or stewing.

How to Buy and Store

When picking steaks, choose cuts that are close in size and thickness–preferably over one inch thick–and marbled throughout. Not all meat has a grade or quality designation, but the higher grades (i.e., prime and choice) mean more marbling. Steaks should be bright red, with no gray or brown patches. If vacuum-packed, they may be darker, but once exposed to oxygen should become bright red again. Fresh beef should be refrigerated and used within three to five days of purchase. If properly wrapped and frozen, it will keep for at least six months. Here’s more on perfect cuts of beef.

Seasoning & Cooking

A marinade tenderizes and imbues steaks with extra flavor. Place the steaks in the marinade and then cover and refrigerate for at least an hour prior to cooking. Alternately, steaks can be seasoned with dry rub immediately before being placed on the grill.

When cooking in a pan, use a seasoned cast-iron skillet or grill pan: Heat olive oil, butter, or some combination of the two, and sear steaks over high heat for about two to three minutes before turning with tongs and cooking for two minutes or so more. For more well done steaks, cook a minute or more longer or finish in the over at 450 degrees.

If grilling, brush oil onto the grilling rack to prevent sticking. The fat will melt into the fire and create smoke that will season and add flavor to the meat. A grill pan is a a healthy approach as the built ridges let the grease drip to the bottom of the fry pan which lowers fat intake and makes for a healthier meal. Take a look on this pan.

Determining Doneness

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. While some of us prefer our meat a rosy medium-rare (145°F), others enjoy it medium (160°F), or even well-done (170°F). An instant-read thermometer will do away with all the guesswork and help ensure that your steak is perfectly cooked to your liking.

When steaks are done, take them off the heat and let rest on a plate for ten minutes before cutting. This will give the meat fibers a chance to absorb juices released during cooking before serving.

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April 17, 2013

Mastering Leftovers

Leftovers can make you masterful food creations. Don’t call them left-overs, they are the ingredients of new and exciting dishes. Roasted vegetables can be mixed with stock and a splash of coconut milk to make a delicious soup. Combine crispy potatoes and meat to create a hash. Eggs are a great ally. Use them with your left-over veggies and meat or poultry to whip up a frittata. With a little creativity the possibilities for your left-overs are endless.

Read the full article here:
Mastering Leftovers

leftovers

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April 11, 2013

Fennel Risotto with Lamb Sausage

How do you like fennel in your food? This is a versatile vegetable, it’s actually an herb and known useful for seasoning and as a main component of a meal. Here, fennel is used in both ways. The risotto is cooked with slices of the herb to make a creamy cheese sauce, then served with homemade lamb sausage flavored with fennel bulb and seeds.

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Fennel Risotto with Lamb Sausage

lamb risotto

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April 10, 2013

Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

The British are offering us another part of their culture as we try more international food recipes. It can be a reminder of the talent and sophistication that are apparent in their music and royalty. This simple dish can be put together in a tagine or heavy bottomed skillet and prepared in a short time. It has a few special considerations that can make a big difference in the taste.

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Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives

tagines

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April 8, 2013

Orange Roughy with Capers, Shallots and Wine Butter Sauce

Orange Roughly with Capers, Shallots and Wine Butter Sauce includes a new age mantra in home cooking – the use of wine. A half cup of white wine added unsalted butter will cook the shallots that’s flavored with lemon juice. Really nothing to it but a tangy orange colored shallots that ask for a piece of bread to enjoy with the sauce, and if you enjoy capers, those pea-size dark green things will add to the difference.

Read the full article here:
Orange Roughy with Capers, Shallots and Wine Butter Sauce

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