Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa Fe Appetizer Tart – New Year’s Eve fare- adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

Well, my house is actually kinda quiet this morning as I edit and send this post. I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong, but all the comings and goings, all the special events, all the pressure of being jolly…. It can be tiring. I thrive on the routine I guess. There’s just one more big event to go this year – New Year’s Eve. Are you hosting or attending a party? Take this Santa Fe Tart and truly impress your friends. I hope your Christmas or Hanukah was peaceful, relaxing, full of the comfort of family and friends.  

This is a good recipe for a big crowd. It’s easy and fancy. People will be impressed. I serve this with extra corn chips and crackers, but it’s substantial enough to stand on its own. Unfortunately, I think I over baked mine this time…like a regular cheese cake, you can leave the center just a bit soft. It will firm up nicely.

Here’s what you need:
1 C crushed tortilla chips
3 T butter, melted
2 x 8 oz packages lite cream cheese
2 eggs
2 C shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, cheddar, pepper jack, whatever seems a good go-with here)
1 4 oz can green chilis
Some pickled jalapenos, chopped, add them to taste. ( I used about 6 slices)
1 C sour cream
1 yellow pepper – chopped
Minced green onions
Chopped tomatoes

Here’s what you do:
Combine the tortilla chips and butter. Press into the bottom of a greased spring form pan. I used a tart pan today and had to adjust both the amount of chips and the baking time.

Bake for about 15 minutes at 325 degrees. You should always put your spring form and tart pans on baking sheets in case some buttery goodness wants to leak out in the oven.

Mix the cream cheese and the eggs well. Stir in the shredded cheese and chili peppers. Pour over crust and bake for another 30 minutes. I think mine was baked too long….. As long as the center is set, it’s done.

Spread sour cream over the top while still warm. Allow to cool completely before removing rim. Cool overnight in refrigerator.

Garnish with yellow pepper, minced green onion and lots of tomatoes. Serves an army with leftovers.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

What I have been doing since Thanksgiving

What have I been doing since Thanksgiving you might ask? Let me show you …..

Took a trip with my daughter to sunny Florida to visit my parents. We relaxed. We ate out. We slept in. We watched movies. We shopped.
Beautiful Ocala, Florida

My mom is an excellent cook - we were constantly eating. 
My parents' neighbor.

Celebrated my son’s 20th birthday…..let’s see, you’re thinking…. If she has a son who is 20 then she must be around _____ years old! (Yes! I am not a spring chicken anymore! I even have a kid who is older than that!)
Nice University of Michigan cake - Maize and Blue.

Helped organize a children’s Christmas pageant at our school. Those little lambies always get me in the Christmas spirit.

Hosted a Christmas party for my church choir…. Way too much rich and tasty food! 

I made this: Santa Fe Appetizer Tart - recipe to come soon. 

Went on a field trip with my students to the Frederick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan to see their outstanding display of Christmas trees and holiday traditions from around the world.
Don't know much about the Indian holiday Diwali, but I was totally impressed by this display. Beautifully made with all natural food items - lentils, beans, rice. 

There is an excellent train display - all the buildings in the surrounding village are actually modeled after real building in Grand Rapids. They are constructed with all natural materials. Twigs and acorns and such.

Last, but not least, I have used the crock pot. Again and again. But Christmas is on the horizon, so that means great food in the near future!

Merry Christmas to you! 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cream of Chicken and Saffron Soup

(I have shared this soup over on "My Little Home and Garden" Sunshine Sunday Link-Up)

Lovely. Simple. Comforting. Those are words I would use to describe this soup. Oh, and easy. The most difficult part of this recipe is dealing with the price of saffron! If you know anything about saffron, then you know how expensive it is. And if you know anything else about saffron, you are jealously drooling over my plentiful heap - can you see it in the lower corner of the photo below? My daughter brought it directly from Spain. LUCKY ME.

Here’s what you need:
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 C chicken stock (use the good stuff – it makes a difference)
¾ C dry white wine (mine comes from a box )
Pinch of saffron threads
¾ C heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s what you do:
Soften the onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil. Don’t let them brown, just let them get soft and tender. Cut the chicken in small bite-size pieces.

Add the broth, wine and chicken to the pot and allow to simmer until chicken is cooked through. The cookbook said about 5 minutes, but I let it go a bit longer.

Add the saffron and cream. Season to taste. Serve.

(printable recipe)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge: Cinnamon: Mushroom Moussaka

I may have gone off the proverbial eggplant deep-end with this recipe. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I love eggplant. I promise I will refrain from using eggplant on the blog for a few months. Just please allow me to tempt you with one last eggplant recipe here… and yes, there’s cinnamon in there – in fact, it is the signature flavor of moussaka…. besides eggplant.

(To check out the other Spice Rack Challenges I have participated in click: mace, basil, coriander,  cardamom, mint, dill, …. To check out the various Spice Rack Challenge Round Ups, click on Mother’s Kitchen here. )

Straight from Moosewood Cookbook (another favorite of mine, along with eggplant) – I present three of the loveliest layers of flavor you will ever eat: Mushroom Moussaka.

1.       Peel and slice 3 medium eggplants about ¼ inch thick. Salt the slices and layer them in a colander. Allow the salt to draw out the bitter juices of the eggplant. (about 20-30 minutes).

2.       While the eggplant and salt are doing their thing, start on the mushroom layer. Saute 2 cups of chopped onions. Add 2 pounds of sliced mushrooms and cook together till nice and golden and soft. Add about 5 cloves of chopped garlic also.

3.       Add a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes with all the liquid and 6 ounces of tomato paste. Spices include 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1 teaspoon basil and lots of black pepper. Stir and cook. Stir and cook. It will get nice and thick.

4.       Add 1 C fresh parsley, ½ C bread crumbs and ½ C parmesan cheese to the mushrooms. Mix well and set aside. That layer is done!

5.       Rescue the eggplants from their salt bath. Pat them dry with clean towels. Bake them in 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes till super soft. They can pile on top of each other on the baking sheet. Another layer done!

6.       While the eggplant is baking, work on the Béchamel layer. Melt 3 T butter. Add 4 T flour. Whisk and cook, whisk and cook. Slowly pour in 2 ½ C hot milk (I use skim). Whisk and cook for about 8 minutes. Add 2 T more of flour. Whisk and cook. Add 1 C Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Whisk and cook. The sauce should be thick and smooth.

7.       Ready for the famous moussaka layers? Oil a huge casserole dish and start the layering: ¾ of the eggplant, then all the mushroom sauce, then the remaining eggplant, then all the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and a bit more Parmesan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.

8.       Allow to cool for a while before cutting (unlike me) to get a great layered effect when you serve it.

Some thoughts: I made this on a Tuesday. I get crazy menu ideas sometimes and get in the mood for a ‘big’ meal on a work day. But you know what? Making this for my family is not really all that ‘big’ to me; I love getting creative in the kitchen and I find ‘big’ cooking to be very relaxing. I mean, look what I created!! It’s beautiful – you have to admit that, even if you don’t like eggplant!

This is a huge recipe, so be prepared for leftovers. My hubby thought it was a bit saucy and could have used some rice. I loved it as is and happily ate it that night and for lunch for the next few days!

So what about you and eggplant? Lover or hater?

PS – I was just looking around the internet at other Moosewood Mushroom Moussaka recipes to find a handy link for you and they are super easy to find. Click away. But what I notice is that most of them out there use eggs in the béchamel sauce, which means that those recipes come from an older version of the Moosewook Cookbook. I use and love the revised edition.

Hey- is anyone out there up for a Moosewood Cookbook Challenge in the coming year??? You know, maybe make something from one of the famous Moosewood cookbooks once a month and round them up here? Let me know!  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pan Roasted Chicken with Citrus Sauce

I don’t know what comes over me sometimes. I mean, chopping and cooking bones?  Well, I am a complete sucker for all things citrus, so I couldn’t say no when I read this recipe. Let the chopping and cooking begin! This recipe comes straight from Food and Wine Magazine, January 2010. Click here for the original recipe. 

 Taste: A++! Convenience: B-….. Luckily, it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I had all the time I needed. Start nice and early – the broth could be made a day or two ahead.

My personal touch to the magazine editor's note: simplified.... um. 

(Actually, chopping and cooking bones is a great way to create a rich, deeply flavored broth. So, be like me, don’t be afraid, chop and cook those bones. You won’t be sorry!)

Here’s what you need:
2 navel oranges
2 limes
4 chicken breasts, bones in and skin on
2 T vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
½ t dried thyme
1 C dry white wine
3 C chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 T olive oil
1 T butter

Here’s what you do: Take a deep breath, get a super sharp knife and make sure you have plenty of time before dinner! J

1.       Give the citrus fruit the full treatment. Zest them. Peel them with a super sharp knife. Remove the sections by cutting in between the membranes. Work over a bowl and save all the juice. Set all this aside.

2.       Give the chicken the full treatment. Remove the breast meat from the bones. (I actually learned how to de-bone a chicken by watching Youtube! I do it all the time and with confidence now!)  Set the meat aside and chop the bones into pieces.

3.       Chop the onion and garlic. Set aside.

4.       Heat 2 T vegetable oil in skillet. Cook bones until brown, about 5 minutes. A first for me. Very professional chef-like.

5.       Add the onions, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes or so. The onions should be getting soft and golden.

6.       Add the wine. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the wine is reduced to ½ cup.

7.       Add the chicken stock and the citrus zest. Continue to simmer for another 10-20 minutes. The bones should be doing their magic right about now.

8.       Add the reserved citrus juice and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

9.       Remove the bones and strain the broth. I chose to de-grease it in an ice bath.

10.   Return the broth to the heat and boil until desired thickness – another 5-10 minutes.  (you want about 1 ½ Cups total)

11.   Somewhere in there, generously pepper the chicken on the skin side. Brown, skin side down,  in an oven proof skillet in 1 T olive oil for about 5 minutes. Carefully turn over and place skillet in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is just done.

12.   Add 1 T butter and reserved citrus sections to broth. Heat gently.

13.   Serve with pride! I served mine with rice and shredded carrots and zucchini.

PS Happy Thanksgiving to all my blogger friends out there. My daughter and I are on a mini-vacation  for the long weekend - visiting my parents in Florida.  No cooking for me at all - and that's a change of pace for me. I left a turkey breast in the fridge for my hubby and sons (who are not traveling with us) and a casserole of cheesy potatoes in the fridge. Instructions: plop one in the crock pot and the other in the oven. Take time to say thanks for the many blessings you have! Health. Family. Friends. Faith. Good food. Freedom. Work. The list could go on all day, couldn't it? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry- Marmalade Pinwheels

Are you on the hunt for a very tricky recipe? One that will make you pull your hair out? Perhaps let a few choice words spew out? A recipe that takes all day and leaves you feeling frustrated and exhausted at the same time?

Look no further; I present the second cookie in my series of cookies for my annual Cookie Walk Fund Raiser.

Here’s what you need for the filling (which was actually pretty darn tasty)
1 T cornstarch
¾ C whole berry cranberry sauce
¼ C orange marmalade

Cook over low until boiling. Then cool for 1 hour.

Here’s what you need for the cookie (which also was pretty darn tasty)
¾ C brown sugar
½ C butter
1 ¾ C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t grated orange peel
¼ t salt
¼ t allspice (which I love – it made the dough very warm and cozy tasting)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well – I was reduced to using my hands. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

After everything has had a chance to chill in the fridge, roll the dough out into a 16x8 rectangle on a highly floured surface …use a measuring tape and trim away excess.  Spread the cranberry marmalade mixture over.  Then simply ('simply'.... yeah, right…) , cut the rectangle in half and roll each half up into a pretty roll. Be prepared for filling to squeeze out everywhere and for the dough to stick to everything. Wrap (again) and chill in the freezer for a few hours.

When the little logs are sufficiently firm, simply ( 'simply'.... yeah, right…) slice and bake….. 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Use a greased cookie sheet. Remove them immediately with a metal spatula to cool on a wire rack. 

I don’t know why I get these wild ideas to try new and involved recipes. Actually I was rather pleased at how these turned out… they just took some TLC to make. Stay tuned for more Cookie Walk recipes as soon as I recover from making these. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's for dinner?

10:00 pm – pull out a pork tenderloin from the freezer. allow to thaw overnight in the fridge. be thankful for another day. kiss hubby. fall into a deep sleep….. another long day ended!

6:00 am – grab a cup of coffee. jump in the shower. toss on something from the closet.  run a comb through the hair.  help teenage son wake up to a nice breakfast (well, cereal or a bagel…. juice on a good day…) . kiss the hubby.

6:30 am – mix 1/3 C real maple syrup, 1 t dry mustard, 1 t cloves, 1 t ginger, ½ t cinnamon , ½ t black pepper . pour over the pork tenderloin in a heavy duty plastic bag. throw in fridge.

6:45 am – walk the dog around the block.

7:00 am – kiss son, hubby and dog good-bye (do you mind that I kiss my dog???? he’s totally kissable)

7:30 am – 5:00 pm – teach classes, practice music, attend meetings, deal with the mountain of paperwork, pay bills, make phone calls, run errands and _____________ (you fill in the blank)

5:30 pm – start dreaming about your awesome dinner waiting for in the fridge. drive carefully home. create some type of side dishes.

6:00 pm – start up the grill. retrieve the pork from the fridge. grill to a golden perfection. slice thinly. serve with whatever seems yummy to you (baked cauliflower, baked potato, acorn squash. )

6:30 pm – greet son and hubby with more kisses and a warm, homemade meal. feel happy. feel satisfied.

7:00 pm – enjoy the evening. play around on the blog. beat the hubby at scrabble. 

10:00 pm – start over.