Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tasty Tip Tuesday - Pasta

Here's a quick little tip for Tasty Tip Tuesday - Pasta. You're probably thinking that there is nothing new about pasta, but I beg to differ. There's pasta and there's pasta, but I like to use pasta that other people don't tend to buy.
I love whimsy in all things, particularly when I'm serving a meal, and using a shape of pasta that isn't a particularly common one adds to the fun.  I recently used one of my favorite pastas, campanelli, in this dish. I love these little scrolls because they hold so much delicious sauce whether you are serving Alfredo, marinara, vodka sauce, or seafood.
I similarly like orecchiette, a wonderful shell-shaped pasta that is ribbed on the exterior side. Every forkful is going to be delicious because the shells act like little scoops to capture all of your wonderful sauce, meat, cheese, or minced vegetables.
When you next make macaroni and cheese, set aside a bit of sauce to stir into ditalini pasta. This is the perfect size pasta for small children who can then easily scoop it up with a spoon or fork.
Lately I’ve been savoring the heartiness of papardelle, as you saw in yesterday’s post.  Use it when you really want to make a statement!
While there is nothing particularly special about rotini, tri-color rotini is another story. It gives color to an otherwise bland dish and kicks things up a bit on the whimsy chart.
Farfalle, a.k.a bow tie pasta is, of course, for those more formal events. (wink)
So, the next time you're planning a pasta dish, don't buy the pasta at your local market, go to a specialty market, one that deals heavily in Italian goods, and pick up something different from what you would usually use. People will notice, and they will appreciate the effort.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Roasted Vegetable Bolognese

Lately I have been on a real roasted vegetable tear. I’m not just roasting them to enjoy on their own, but also to use in various soups I’ve been making (including my legendary Potato Leek that I serve annually at Thanksgiving). It is amazing the depth of flavor it can add to a dish when you roast them.

After such enormous success, I decided to do the same for Bolognese, i.e. roast the onions, carrots, and garlic that I would normally sauté.

I think this method is much easier than the traditional one.  It is certainly time saving because, once the vegetables are in the oven, I can let them roast while I work on other components of the sauce.

 There are a number of specialty ingredients here, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, every pantry needs tomato and Worcestershire powders, because they are going to add such richness and flavor to whatever you make, without it being watered down by liquid.

Here's my recipe, I hope you like it as much as I did. Seriously, I could have eaten this straight from the bowl with a spoon and forgotten all about the pasta.
Roasted Vegetable Bolognese

1 pound ground chuck
¼ teaspoon Montréal steak seasoning
1 large yellow onion
Handful baby carrots, I think I used 8 to 10
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 14.5-ounce cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup beef stock
½  tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon
tomato powder
1 teaspoon
Worcestershire powder
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place onions, garlic, and carrots onto a sheet pan; sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Mix together with hands making sure that all vegetables are well coated, and roast 35 to 40 minutes until carrots are tender. Remove pan from oven to top of the stove, pour in red wine, and use a metal spatula to stir up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, tossing the vegetables as you do. Pour vegetables into a medium stockpot; add tomatoes, beef stock, and seasonings. Using an immersion blender whisk it all together until desired chunkiness is reached. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this in a food processor and return it to the pan.)

While vegetables are roasting, brown ground chuck in a 9” sauté pan with steak seasoning. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add seasoned ground beef to your tomato mixture, toss in a bay leaf, and cook over low heat for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Just before serving, remove Bay leaf and stir in heavy cream. Use with your with your favorite cooked pasta.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cranberry Orange Muffins

After more than a decade of absence, I stumbled upon my old recipe for Cranberry Orange Muffins that used to be a staple of the bread bowl at Thanksgiving. I decided to whip up a batch to see if they were as good as I remembered.  As it turns out, they were! They are also forgiving as, midway through, I realized that I didn't have enough orange juice, so made up for its absence with Triple Sec. I think I just may have improved them!
If your holiday baking has begun, you may just want to give these a try. They freeze beautifully and are equally good at the breakfast table as they are Thanksgiving dinner.
Cranberry Orange Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
1 large egg
3 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about one and a half oranges)
1½ cups fresh whole cranberries

Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or use papers. Preheat oven 375° F.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir in salt, sugar, and orange peel. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together egg with oil and orange juice. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the liquid into the well. Mix together until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Using an ice cream scoop, dollop batter into muffin cups (you want them 1/2 to 3/4 full). Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cooling on a rack for five minutes before removing them from the pan.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love, Welcome, Serve: Recipes That Gather and Give, Reviewed

I don't know what it is about Southern women and church ladies, but they really seem to know what they're doing when it comes to serving up a good meal. Amy Nelson Hannon, author of the new book Love, Welcome, Serve: Recipes That Gather and Give is both of these things -- Southern, and the wife of a preacher for more than 20 years, so she knows good cooking. She is also the owner of Euna Mae's one-of-a-kind kitchen boutique in Northwest Arkansas. Hannon, who feels strongly about hospitality, believes that cooking for people makes them feel cared for, and with this book, you can care for people in deliciously fine fashion!
A beautiful volume full of stunning photos and taste tempting recipes, it is unique, in part, because of the interesting division of these recipes. Let me explain. Sections are divided up as follows:

Bites That Welcome
Pickled, Tossed, and Chilled
Meats, Mains, and Sturdy Soups
Comforts and Casseroles
Serve Alongsides
Sweet tea, Sauces, and Such
For the Love of Sweets

Aren’t these the most engaging chapter titles? When I'm looking for comfort food in a cookbook, I’m often forced to endlessly page through in search of comfort. Here, Hannon has made it simple by allowing comfort its own chapter. I like that. Similarly, if a side dish is what you’re seeking, just turn to that chapter. In addition you’ll find helpful sections on gratitude, and another on recipes for homemade items that you can make to give.
The beginning features helpful sections on things such as what ingredients will yield the best results in cooking (for example real lemon juice, not the bottled stuff), what constitutes a well-equipped kitchen, and what you will need to have the definitive well-stocked pantry.
(I am making this for Thanksgiving. I’ll report!)
Being a southern cookbook, there are recipes I come to expect, and I wasn't let down. You will find Fried Green Tomatoes (with Zesty Cream Sauce), Roasted Red Pepper Pimiento Cheese, as well as one of my favorites, Shrimp and Grits. The Smoked Pulled Pork had my mouth watering, as did the Pork Tenderloin with Parmesan Garlic Cream. The Salmon Croquettes with Cajun Alfredo Angel Hair Pasta is on my list to make next week.
The Comfort Food section offers up Cottage Pie with Puff Pastry (It looks phenomenal!), as well as Creamy Baked Spinach Ravioli, both of which are in my future.

My guess is that there is not a recipe in this book that you aren’t going to want to try; simply paging through had me ready to head to the kitchen.
This is a wonderfully engaging book with each recipe fronted by a comment from the author, easy-to-read lists of ingredients, concise instructions, and mouth-watering photographs. Equally appropriate for the novice cook or for the seasoned veteran like me, everything here is sure to please. Treat yourself or a friend, or treat yourself and a friend. This is a must-have.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Blazing Fall Tablescape

This is a very simple tablescape. There is no big, flashy centerpiece. There is no layering of plates. The star here is color -- bold, vibrant, color. Despite its simplicity, isn't this fabulous?
The centerpiece is nothing more than a pumpkin tureen. I’ve used it in various forms over the years as you can see here. 
Today as I was setting a table for a pizza party with my son and his family, I wanted to keep it simple. My grandchildren appreciate a nice table, but they don't quite get the point in stacked plates and a lot of cutlery. They will one day, but in the meantime, I try to keep things simple when they come for a visit.
While digging for the tureen in the “belly of the beast,” I happened to come across these darling little pilgrim hat treat holders that I bought years ago at Williams-Sonoma on clearance. The idea at the time I suppose, was to use them at the Thanksgiving children's table filled with goodies. In giving them a careful assessment I thought, Egad! It is going to take a lot of candy to fill these things, so I came up with another idea. Don’t they look great? I love the whimsy here. And it gives the table a nice flash of gold, and look of fun.
Having successfully retrieved the tureen, I placed it at center table along with the surround of bittersweet that was a part of a shop display.
The plates are a new addition this year. I know, I know, I do not need new plates. I know that. Honestly, it's a sickness, when I see something this gorgeous I just can't resist.
I don't think I've seen colors quite so bold. I also liked the fact that the edge of the plate is little wavy, so it's different from the average plate.
An additional justification to my purchase was assuring myself that, because this is a sunflower design, I will be able to use these from midsummer all the way until late fall.
Simple can be fabulous, as I've shown you here. A nice simple centerpiece (that can double as server for soup), gorgeous fall plates, a whimsical holder for napkins, some autumn flatware, and the table is set.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Jezebel Sauce

I have to make a confession. What initially attracted me to Jezebel Sauce was the name. I mean, come on, how can you resist a name like that? So, knowing that it had so many uses, and that I had all of the ingredients, I decided to make it. There are a variety of recipes for Jezebel Sauce available, but I find this one suits me the best. It is served, primarily I believe, atop a brick of cream cheese surrounded by crackers or crudites. But I find it does amazing things to a ham, chicken, cheese, or turkey sandwich. In fact, the first time I made this I only made half a batch, and I was sorry that I did. Now I keep it in my refrigerator at all times. I suspect is going to be the "go to" sauce for corned beef come St. Patrick's Day, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is a festive and fun sauce, with a clever name, lots of flavor, and a pleasant kick. You can adjust the amount of mustard and horseradish to suit your taste. You need to make this; it is going to turn your dishes into something extra special that will have all of your guests talking.
Jezebel Sauce

½ cup orange marmalade
½ cup apricot preserves
2/3 cup apple jelly
1 tablespoon Creole mustard
1 tablespoon Gulden’s spicy brown mustard
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
½ cup prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Put into a sealed container and store in the fridge. It keeps indefinitely. Excellent when used on top of a brick of cream cheese as an appetizer, or as a sandwich spread. It's particularly good on turkey, chicken, ham, or cheese. It also makes an amazing dipper for fried shrimp. You also might consider stirring it into egg or ham salad for an added punch.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Suppers, Simple, Delicious Menus for Family Gatherings by Cynthia Graubart, a Book Review

When I was a kid, Sunday dinner meant that I had to eat the evening meal that I wasn't particularly interested in, earlier in the day. The plus was that, at the normal dinner time, I got to have a sandwich, so things kind of evened out for me. Occasionally on Sundays we’d go to my grandmother’s house to join other members of the family for corn, mashed potatoes, and grandma's fried chicken. Nobody made fried chicken like my grandma. Probably nobody makes fried chicken like your grandma. Grandmas are known for their fried chicken. I know my mother was, my boys are still talking about hers. Unfortunately that apple fell very far from the tree. In fact it not only fell, but gained momentum as it rolled down a hill, and into the next county; I can't make decent fried chicken to save my life.

Thank goodness, then, for
Sunday Suppers, Simple, Delicious Menus for Family Gatherings by Cynthia Graubart. As comforting and delicious as grandma's fried chicken is this book full of simple, easy-to-prepare meals. A fun volume with a homey, scrapbook feel, it is divided into five chapters -- “Just Us,” “Great Grilling,” Company’s Calling,” “Lighter Suppers,” and “ Sunday Upside Down” -- designed to help you create a tasty dinner without a whole lot of trouble. I found the chapter on “Just Us” of particular interest; the menus were engaging, the food tempting, the recipes appearing so easy that having a small intimate crowd of people every Sunday afternoon is going to be my goal.
Every recipe in this book is easy to read and incredibly doable. No oddball ingredients are called for, just common everyday things that you are going to have on hand. And you're going to turn those common everyday things into the most delicious dishes you've ever seen. Instructions are clear and concise, there are words of wisdom with each recipe, and the photos are going to make you drool.
The charming section "Sundays Past and Present" profiles popular authors and chefs who wax nostalgic about the Sunday dinners of their past, what they meant to them, and what they would like to see for Sunday dinners in the future. This is a book that you really should purchase not just for yourself, but for the young people in your life. They need to be made aware of the conviviality and importance Sunday dinner is meant to be.
There is a wonderful section after each menu called "Set the Scene" where the author adds personal notes, and offers advice on how to set the scene for your special dinner.
I always consider myself lucky if I find a cookbook that has 4 or 5 recipes that I'd like to try, that's a cookbook I'm inclined to buy. This book didn't have one recipe that I didn't want to try. Every single one in the book made my mouth water.
This needs to be on everybody's bookshelf. It evokes a wonderful feeling of family, togetherness, and teaches the importance of revering dining, something that seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years. It is attractive, fun, and full of great recipes that anyone of any age can prepare. This one's a keeper.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.