3/31/10

Coeur `a la Creme

When it comes to a quick cheese and cracker appetizer it's easy to simply slice some cheese, surround a mound of crackers on a try and call it 'done'. However, if you have time, the extra work involved in making something like this 'cheese' spread for a cracker is well worth it.

With Easter coming up this Sunday, many people are looking for something 'special' to serve at their holiday gatherings. This is one of those. I put this particular recipe into my files last Spring - I hope you add it to yours as well!


Coeur a la Creme

1 (32-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup port or other sweet red wine
2 tablespoons grated fresh yellow onion
1 (8-ounce) tub nonfat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) tub reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (1-ounce) package dry ranch-flavored salad dressing mix
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
Fresh herbs, such as chives, oregano, basil

Place a colander in a 2-quart glass measure or bowl. Line colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, letting cheesecloth hang over the edge of colander. Spoon the yogurt into colander. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; refrigerate 12 hours. Spoon drained yogurt into a bowl, and set aside; discard cheesecloth and liquid.

Moisten another 3 layers of cheesecloth in wine; squeeze excess wine from cheesecloth until barely damp, reserving 2 tablespoons of wine. Line a 4-cup gelatin mold or heart-shaped cake pan with the dampened cheesecloth, letting cheesecloth hang over edge of mold, and set aside.

Combine reserved 2 tablespoons of wine, grated onion, cream cheeses, and salad dressing mix in a large bowl; beat at low speed of a mixer until smooth. Stir in drained yogurt; set aside.

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small saucepan; let stand 1 minute. Cook over low heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Stir 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture into gelatin mixture with a wire whisk. Add gelatin mixture to remaining yogurt mixture, stirring well.

Spoon yogurt mixture into prepared mold. Fold cheesecloth over top of yogurt mixture, and chill up to 24 hours (mixture will get a rubbery texture if chilled more than 24 hours).

To serve, unfold cheesecloth, and invert mold onto a serving plate; discard cheesecloth. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired. Serve with lahvosh or crackers.
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3/28/10

Can you call it a cake if there is no cake?

Both my teenage girls love frosting. When the day has been rough, boys are giving them headaches, school has been a pain or just the opposite - they are in an awesome, giggly and happy mood, they like to grab a spoon and dig into a container of vanilla or cherry vanilla frosting. Since I don't always keep canned frosting on hand they've been known to run to the dollar store or the grocery store to buy some themselves and keep it in their bedrooms for a 'snack'. Ahh to be 14 again and want to eat all that sugary stuff!?

As it happens, all of my daughter's friends love frosting as much as she does. One day last week while my 14 year old and a friend were scooping a finger of frosting from the can, they had an idea; ".... why don't we make a cake completely out of frosting? That's the part we like!"

A group of six girls decided they would get together on Saturday afternoon and make their 'anti-cake'. It was a creative project - almost like a craft. It was affordable and fun as each of the girls brought a can of frosting ($1 each) and my daughter grabbed various food color's from the cupboard and they each mixed their white frosting with a shade of the rainbow.

They placed tablespoons of colored frosting randomly into a cake pan and then topped it off with sprinkles and dry cake mix. They then placed it into the freezer while they all went downstairs and watched a movie while it froze into a more solid form.


It was uber rich and almost too sweet to eat, but eat it they did! Granted, it would serve about 40 people as you can only eat about two tablespoons before it gets to be too much - so much of the frosting was left on the plate after a couple bites, but the girls had a BLAST.

For about $5 they had a very creative and fun 'craft' to do and since we still have 3/4 of their 'cake' left I plan on using it to frost Easter Cupcakes for my nieces and nephews this weekend so none goes to waste!


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3/27/10

Scalloped Oysters

Such a craving! Alas, I bought large fresh shrimp today but no oysters and right now all I can think about is the delicious goodness that scalloped oysters is. This is a dish I grew up eating throughout my childhood. Now I'm wondering if perhaps my Mom will be making it next weekend for Easter. Hmmmm.

Scalloped Oysters

1/2 stick cold butter, cut in small pieces
1 quart oysters, shucked, liquor drained
2 cups cracker crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup whipping cream

Lightly butter a 1-1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish. Set aside 1/3 cup of cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoons of butter for topping. Cover the bottom of the dish with some of the cracker crumbs then top with a layer of oysters, a layer of crumbs, and some of the butter pieces. Repeat layers until all oysters are used. Season with the salt, pepper. Pour the cream over the dish then top with reserved crumbs and butter. Bake in a preheated 375o F oven for about 30 minutes, or until heated and browned. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
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3/26/10

Mmmm... Scallops


My regular readers already know I've been on a seafood kick since last week. My poor teenagers have threatened to lead a revolt if I don't stop making seafood... mussels, shrimp, stuffed salmon, scallops - I can't help it! My husband and I love it and now that Spring has begun to show signs of sun and life we respond to our body's message of lighter food. However, I admit, I put the leftover scallops and mussels in the freezer for use next week in a delicious seafood bisque and instead the kids finally got a taco casserole on Wednesday night and last night was sub sandwiches and an amazing chicken, avocado, egg and more chef salad that knocked our socks off.


I decided to quickly talk about scallops this morning as my brother (who loves them!) asked me last week on vacation how to make them. He attempted but said he obviously overcooked them as they were rubbery.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to cook scallops is to use fresh, large scallops. Heat a bit of olive oil and a little butter in a pan to medium hot and add the scallops. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Quickly saute and brown them, turning once. Although they take longer to cook than shrimp, use the same idea; don't overcook. Only a couple minutes on each side until they are seared and golden. Half way through cooking I add some fresh minced garlic to the pan so the flavor is imparted to the scallops without the garlic burning.

I like to add more butter and garlic to the pan and quickly heat and serve over the scallops as I find shrimp and scallops to be delicious this way. Scallops should be tender and naturally sweet. Cook all the way through, but don't overcook. Scrumptious!
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3/25/10

Taco Bar with Taco's and Roll Ups

Our house hosts 3 teenagers and usually an extra teen or two so this size recipe that feeds about 10-12 people is perfect for a teenage group.
Taco Bar with Taco's and Roll Ups

2 lbs. ground beef or shredded chicken
Two packages of Taco seasoning
14 taco shells, hard
1 pkg. soft flour tortillas for soft taco's
4 c shredded cheddar or mixed cheese
½ head of iceberg lettuce chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
15 ounces of chunky Picante sauce
1 large onion diced
16 oz. of sour cream
1 can chopped black olives
Sliced avocados

Cook ground beef in large skillet. Add Taco seasoning per package instructions. If using Chicken, cook tender, cool slightly and shred by hand using two forks to pull apart and then add taco mixes as per package directions (usually just 3/4 c water to each pound of meat). Place meat in crock pots to keep warm for serving. Arrange additional items on your buffet table for self-service.

Tortilla Roll Ups

Make at least 2-4 hours ahead.

8 Large Flour Tortillas
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. sour cream
8 green onions chopped
1 small can diced black olives or use 1/4 c green olives (your preference)
1/4 t garlic powder or 1 small clove fresh garlic, minced
16 ounces of salsa

Soften cream cheese. Mix cream cheese with sour cream, chopped green onions, olives and garlic. Spread on flour tortillas evenly avoiding three edges and rolling to the edge of one as your 'seam' to seal as you roll up. Roll up tightly in plastic wrap for at least two hours. Slice into coins. Arrange on platter.
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Still On Vacation... In Our Minds


Still craving seafood after our vacation last week, we tried to recreate one of the meals we made while down South. Mussels, scallops, shrimp and fococcia to mop up the wonderful juices. It wasn't quite the same as the fresh seafood we had bought at a small ocean market and the salty flavor of the ocean couldn't be found on the Canadian Farm Raised Mussels we bought at Costco, but we enjoyed it none-the-less.



Steamed Mussels.


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3/24/10

Breakfast for a Crowd

Are you preparing your recipes to feed a large group?

Cooking breakfast for a crowd? With the Easter holiday coming up you may be entertaining guests or helping out on a committee at your church or another group. If you need a breakfast that you can throw together for a crowd, this one is for you. Double... triple... quadruple the recipe if you need to! (And if you have enough pans!!)

Breakfast Bake for a Crowd


8 pieces of buttered bread (cubed)
3 cups cubed ham or turkey
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
6 eggs
3 cups milk
2 tsp. Dry mustard
Salt and pepper

Arrange bread, cheese and ham in buttered 9 x 13 pan. In separate bowl beat eggs, dry mustard, salt, pepper and milk. Pour slowly into pan. Bake at 350ยบ one hour. Eggs will start to pull away from edges of dish when ready. Let set 5 minutes or so, cut into squares.
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3/23/10

Pickled Shrimp

A question often asked to start random conversation's is, "What is your favorite food?" I have a hard time answering that one. I am not sure I have a favorite. Instead I always ask if I could name off my top three as that is more realistic. Another answer I give is to lump them together. I sometimes say, "Seafood". Although the little critters of the sea might not like being lumped together like that when they are so very different from each other, it works as a great answer when I'm pressed to give just one. Mussels, shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, salmon, oysters... I love them all.

Here is a recipe I have in my files but haven't made. It's one way that I haven't made shrimp yet; pickled. This is from my favorite magazine, Southern Living and they offered this age old classic in their summer edition back in 2008.

Pickled Shrimp

7 1/2 cups water
3 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
2 small purple onions, sliced
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Bring water to a boil; add shrimp, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain and rinse with cold water. Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Layer shrimp and onion slices in an airtight container. Whisk together oil and next 10 ingredients; pour over shrimp mixture. Cover and chill 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
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3/22/10

Back to Work!


Our turn at the grill; Seafood and Vegetables of course!

As I sip my freshly brewed coffee and glance out the window to the sun and snow beyond the glass, I am feeling the let down that only the first Monday after returning from vacation can bring.

We are home from a week spent in South Texas where we were surrounded by water, sun and palm trees. We enjoyed time with extended family, playing tourist, heading to the beach, day trips to Mexico and fresh fruit from local flea markets and fruit stands. It was a blessed week!  Although my fingers will be hard at work with recipes and more... I admit, my thoughts will continue to be filled with palm tree's and ocean scenes.
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3/21/10

Home!

We arrived home from vacation late last night. We are worn out but the time off was oh-so-awesome.

Will be back posting very soon!
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3/10/10

Celebrate Pie Day! Errr... I Mean Pi Day - This Sunday!


I'm the Mom of three teens. My 17 year old son can be a handful sometimes (my one and only complaint... he's terrible at getting his homework done on time!), yet tonight he was all over the assignment to celebrate "PI DAY" this week.

It actually falls on Sunday - (March 14th.... get it?) Pi = 3.14 so it's celebrated on 3/14. Tonight he painstakingly worked on a "pi-cake" for class. I figured it was a great idea for my readers who are a little geeky like me, and want to celebrate in a fun way!

He wanted to make the cake from scratch but considering he told me this at 6:pm and we would have to make it, bake it, cool it, cut it, frost it and then decorate it... I suggested we run to the store and buy a cake to cut our time by almost two-thirds.


Cutting the cake into the shape of Pi


Frost the edges and then use frosting to start placing the numbers of pi
to the farthest degree that fits on the cake.




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Raspberry Dessert

Throw it together using Nilla Wafers (or any vanilla wafer), some raspaberries and whipped cream and then put it in the refrigerator and forget about it. Tomorrow night you can bring it out and have a dessert ready to go. Like many of our Grandmother's recipes it does use raw eggs. Obviously if this freaks you out, don't make this recipe or try making it without them.


Raspberry Dessert

1 pound vanilla wafers
½ pound butter
1 pound powdered sugar
4 eggs
3 or 4 packages fresh raspberries
1 pint heavy cream, whipped

Crush wafers; put half the crumbs in bottom of 9x13 pan. Beat butter till creamy and add powdered sugar till blended. Add eggs one at a time. Spread on top of crumbs. Cover with drained berries. Top with whipped cream and cover with remaining crumbs. Refrigerate overnight.
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3/9/10

Broken Glass Dessert with Ladyfingers

Looking forward to Easter and Spring.  I am thinking of Easter dinner and pastel, pretty desserts. I remembered one that I don't think I've seen or ate since I was about four years old. It's one that our Grandmother's made but unless it's a family tradition in your household, it's one that fell out of favor to the general public. I think perhaps this is due in part to the time it takes to make it. In our busy, hectic world, no one wants to wait for gelatin to 'set up' which you have to do for this broken glass dessert. I'm not a fan of jello mixed with whipped cream (I know, I know... I'm weird). But this is a favorite of many people and one you might want to add to your Easter dinner this year.


Broken Glass Dessert

1 small package each, orange, strawberry, lime and lemon Jello (orange, red, yellow, green)
1 tub Cool Whip (large)
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 T sugar
2 packages ladyfingers cookies

In separate little bowls, dissolve the red, orange and green Jello in 1/2 cup boiling water each. Then add 1/2 cup cold water and pour in small pans to set in thin, shallow pans fridge.

Heat the pineapple juice to boiling, remove from heat and add the lemon Jello. Stir till dissolved, add the sugar and let cool till the consistency of syrup. Lightly butter (or use cooking spray) a mold or a bowl and line with ladyfingers.

Photo from a search engine
to show how to line a pan with Ladyfinger Cookies


With a sharp knife, cut the colored gelatin into small cubes and diamonds. Whisk the lemon gelatin mixture into the Cool Whip and fold in the cut gelatin. Pour into the mold and chill 4-6 hours.
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3/7/10

Garden Vegetable Soup



When I am having an especially busy week and late afternoon meetings or a heavy work load coupled with my commute have me walking in the front door around the same time I am usually trying to get dinner on the table, it's easy to moan and groan and resort to sub-sandwiches and a salad, or prepared or processed foods. Something quick and easy to get on the table and call it 'good enough'.

But really I know it's not.

Last week was one of those weeks and when I walked in the door on Thursday night at 6:00 pm, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner. However, my body was craving red peppers. No sandwiches, no frozen entree's, not even chicken or meats. I wanted fresh vegetables... and I wanted something hot and filling. I really, really wanted my homemade soup.

Although the thought of making a homemade soup seems daunting at first, once you make the decision however, it goes quickly and you can have a hot, healthy soup on the table within 15-20 minutes. Why does it seem like so much more work than it is!? It goes so quickly and we always feel so good after eating it!

Garden Vegetable Soup it was. 20 minutes later my husband and both our teenagers exclaimed how happy they were to see soup on the menu. My 14 year old said her body was craving vegetables and this soup was exactly what she wanted. When you make it, use what vegetables you have on hand. If you have other veggies like leeks or 1/2 c spinach, feel free to throw it in. Your family doesn't like jalapeno's? Leave them out. Play with it and make it yours!


Garden Vegetable Soup

4 T butter
1/2 c water
2 small jalapenos, chopped
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 lg. carrot, chopped or grated
1 lg. green pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 c chicken broth
3 T flour
2 c heavy cream or half and half (or use milk in a pinch, it just won't be as thick or rich)
1-2 c cheese (cheddar, smoked, even Velveeta... use what you have on hand for different flavors each time)

In a saucepan melt 2 T butter Add about 1/2 cup water. Cook onion, carrot and peppers over medium heat until tender. Remove all from saucepan. Melt 2 T butter, whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes while whisking. Gradually add the broth and cream. Whisk smooth, increase heat and just as it wants to boil, reduce heat immediately. Add the mixture of cheeses and the cooked veggies. Let simmer and heat about 10 minutes. Serve!








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3/5/10

Meltaway "Ocean" Cookies


When I decided to go back to work after being home full time as a wife and Mom,  I actually fell into my first job in our new city by word-of-mouth from the Welcome Wagon lady that I called to visit my home to tell me about the area.

That was just two weeks after we had moved to this city and state and although I was just working part time then, five years later I am at a different job and working full time hours. This really puts a damper on some of my baking and cooking, but once in a while (usually on a weekend) I get the urge to bake and I have to rearrange my schedule and give into that urge.

These cookies were one of those urges.

With vacation, ocean, sun, sand and surf on the mind, I used 3 recipes condensed into one and made up what I called "Ocean Cookies". The melt-away base reminds me of the sand castles we build on the beach. I tinted the frosting turquoise to represent the ocean water. Biting into one is like taking my own little vacation to the beach instead of being surrounded with deep drifts of snow and icy roads.

Ocean 'Meltaway' Cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 T almond flavoring (I used sugar free almond syrup flavoring)
2 1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 t salt
1 recipe for a basic icing or frosting

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix butter, sugar & vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls on ungreased sheet. Use your finger/thumb or the handle of a wooden spoon to make impressions into each cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes until they are just barely starting to turn golden on the edge. Let cool for about 3 minutes and fill with a simple icing recipe. It will melt from the cookie heat to 'pool' into the indentation and then cool smooth.


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3/3/10

Marinated Beef Tenderloin

In our household we love to grill. It would be easier to enjoy this form of cooking year round if we still lived in California or Tennessee, but alas - we live in the heartland of America where winter can last 7 months of the year and snow drifts of almost 20 feet line our country roads.

That doesn't mean we don't grill though!

Here is a photo I snapped a couple weeks ago of my husband grilling our steaks for that evenings meal. The grill knobs are even encased in snow and ice but our love of grilled seafood, steaks, pork and vegetables is stronger than the frigid winds of winter.


This morning I have a quick and simple marinade that goes great with a beef tenderloin, but can be used for almost any cut of beef. Hopefully you live in a part of the country where you can enjoy it this week without having to don a parka to do your grilling.

Marinated Beef Tenderloin

2 (16-ounce) bottles zesty Italian dressing
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c Burgundy or other dry red wine
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t lemon pepper
1 (5- to 6-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed

Stir together first 5 ingredients, and pour into a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; add tenderloin. Cover or seal, and chill 8 hours, turning meat occasionally. Remove tenderloin from marinade, discarding marinade.

Grill, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) turning occasionally for about 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to medium-low heat (less than 300°); grill, covered with grill lid, 10-15 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145° (medium-rare) to 160° (medium). Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. If grilling is not an option, you can place the beef in a shallow roasting pan and bake at 450° for 30 to 40 minutes.
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3/2/10

Potato Appetizers with Smoked Salmon



The recipe is one of many I saved 'online' for quick reference. Potato Appetizers with Smoked Salmon. I think these would be absolutely perfect for an Easter gathering!

Potato Appetizers with Smoked Salmon

1 1/2 pounds large russet potatoes
1/4 c thinly sliced smoked salmon (2 oz.), plus a small amount for garnish
1 T grated lemon peel
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 t salt
black pepper to taste
parsley leaves for garnish

In a large saucepan, bring unpeeled potatoes and enough cold water to cover to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer potatoes until just cooked, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, let cool and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until cold.

Pulse the smoked salmon and lemon peel in a food processor, scraping down bowl. Add sour cream and process until combined. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease 32 mini-muffin-tin cups. Peel and coarsely grate potatoes. Gently toss potatoes with salt and pepper in a bowl. Place about 1 heaping Tbsp. potato mixture into each muffin cup and press against bottom and up sides, allowing some mixture to extend above rim. (Do not spread mixture too thin or holes will form while baking.)

Bake potato bowls until edges are dark golden, about 25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the bite sized potato bowls from pans and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to set for up to 4 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place potato nests on a clean, large baking sheet and bake until heated through and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer potato nests to a platter. Using a small spoon, dollop about 1 tsp. sour cream mixture into each potato nest and top each with a tiny strip of smoked salmon and, if desired, a parsley leaf. Serve immediately.
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Apple Iced Tea


We made 10 moves in 15 years and the most interesting thing about them is that we ended up in many cities, town and states that were never in our 'plan'. We were able to live in the South for five (5) years before we were transferred 'up north' - just a hop, skip and jump from the Canadian border. Currently we live in the upper Midwest where the winters can last 7 months, the temperatures fall to negative double digits and our driveway is lined with six-foot snow drifts.

It's far from the plans we discussed in our living room in Southern California that included raising our 'beach baby' children near the sun, sand and surf and growing lemon trees in our backyard!

Our hearts however, are forever in the South and during the long winter months, I remember life in Tennessee and take joy in some of my recipes from 'The South', like this one from Southern Living for Apple Iced Tea.

Apple Iced Tea

3 cups boiling water
4 cinnamon-apple tea bags
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (6-ounce) can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
2 cups cold water

Pour 3 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover and steep 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Stir in sugar, juice, and 2 cups cold water. Serve over ice.
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