Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sloppy Tom's by Tom

Sloppy Tom's

A couple of friends were coming over for a holiday drink the other night.  Not knowing how long into the evening the festivities would go, we decided that we should have something available for dinner if they cared to join us.  That meant it had to be something both easy and able to be prepared ahead of time.  Hence the creation of Sloppy Tom's! 

From an earlier posting of a Dinosaur Bar B Que recipe of Shepherd's Mac and Cheese, I had mentioned that the base of that recipe I thought would make a good sloppy joe's-type dish.  With that in mind and a little creativity, Sloppy Tom's were created.  All of us really enjoyed the meal, so this one is a keeper.
                        ---Tom


The Ingredients
 serves 6 on open face rolls

  2# lean ground beef - I used 95% lean
  1 medium sweet onion diced
  1 red pepper diced
  1 yellow pepper diced
  1 large jalapeno pepper diced (optional)
  2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  2 cups barbeque sauce - sweet versus smoky works best
  1 tablespoon brown sugar
  1 tablespoon tomato paste
  1 teaspoon chili powder
  Salt and pepper to taste
  2 tablespoons canola oil

  Serve on hamburger rolls - I used potato flour rolls

After you have diced the onion and peppers, throw them into a large skillet with oil over medium heat.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the mixture.

Saute the vegetables until they are soft but not browned.  Next add the garlic and saute for one more minute.
Now add the lean ground beef to the vegetables and cook the meat until it is well crumbled and has lost its pink color.  If you find you have too much liquid in the vegetable and meat mixture at this point, just carefully pour most of it out.

Toss in all of the remaining ingredients.  Stir well, and check for how well the meat and vegetables are coated with the barbeque sauce.  If you need a little more sauce, add it now.  Simmer the mixture for at least 20 minutes.  After simmering, you can take it right to the plate, or refrigerate as I did and serve the next day.
Serve over a hamburger roll and enjoy.  This is a good cold weather meal.  And kid friendly.

                                  ---Tom


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookies by Christine

 Christine's Cookies
Hi Barb,
 
I did my baking today. I know you have done cookie recipes already but thought I would share the photos and my tip from Real Simple magazine.
 
I used parchment paper for all the cookies. That way I could be doing multiple recipes at once. Lined them up and waited for a cookie sheet to cool.
 
 
I easily slid them off onto the counter to cool. I utilize 5 cookie sheets and it keeps the flow going. I probably made 20 dozen cookies today in 4 hours!
 
I made the traditional gullets,thumbprint cookies and the kisses peanut butter blossoms. But I did try a few new ones...
 
flour-less chocolate cookies,
Mexican wedding cookies with a twist- pistachios and dried cherries
Coconut, dried cranberries and corn flake macaroons
lace cookies.
 
 All turned out pretty well.  Here they are shown on the parchment paper. 
 
Wrapped them up and delivered them to the neighbors and friends!
 
                  ---Christine

Monday, December 20, 2010

NYC Restaurant Recommendations by Emily

Hi Aunt Barbara,

I was in NYC this weekend for a friend's birthday and had some pretty amazing food that I thought might be blog worthy. On the way to my friend's apartment, my friend suggested I stop at this bagel shop:
Brooklyn Bagel and Coffee Company. Best bagel I've ever had. It's on 8th avenue between 24th and 25th street. Here's the link: http://www.brooklynbagelandcoffeecompany.com/ordereze/default.aspx?flash=true
 
Later we went out to this restaurant called La Esquina for her birthday. The food was amazing and
the only good margaritas I've found up north were at this place. Because we were such a large party, we had a special reservation not in the main part of the restaurant. You walk in and there's a bouncer in front of the door that reads employees only. We walk in through the kitchen and down these creepy stairs into the basement which opens up into this really nice restaurant/bar. It was great! Here's the link: http://www.esquinanyc.com/  
         ---Emily

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Baking by Jane

Hi Barb ---
I am doing some baking for an open house I am having tomorrow so I thought I would send you a few recipes while I have them out.
Sorry no pictures.  Too many things under way.  Still making cookies, etc.     ---Jane

Peppermint Patty Frappes  
from Southern Living

Very simple but tastes great!

Makes 3 cups

Process 2 cups vanilla ice cream; 1 cup milk; and nine miniature chocolate covered peppermint patties, chopped in a blender until smooth.

Grown up version:  Decrease milk to 2/3 cup.  Add 1/3 cup Creme de Cacao

Cranberry Dream Bars  
by Emily
1 cup butter softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
12 oz package of white chocolate chips
1-6 oz. package of sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup chopped nuts

Combine butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer until well-blended.

Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Combine flour and baking powder and gradually add to the mixture.

Stir im white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and nuts.

Spread dough evenly in 15x10x1 inch baking pan.

Bale in preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

Makes 4 dozen 1 1/4 x 2 1/2 inch bars.



Brownie Trifle
1 pkg. fudge brownie mix
1/4 cup praline or coffee flavored liqueur (opt)
1 3.5 oz. pkg. instant chocolate mousse mix
1 8 oz. pkg. Heath English Toffee bits
1 12 oz. container frozen whipped topping thawed
Garnish: chocolate curls

Prepare brownie mix and bake according to package directions in a 13x9x2 pan. 

Prick top of warm brownie at 1 inch intervals and brush with liqueur.

Let cool and crumble.

Prepare chocolate mousse according to package directions, omitting chilling.

Place half of crumbled brownie in the bottom of a 3 qt. trifle dish.

Top with half of mousse, toffee bits, and whipped topping.

Repeat layers with remaining ingredients ending with the whipped topping.

Garnish.

Chill 8 hours.

Yield 16-18 servings

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Soup

It feels good to be back to making soups again.  Lately we've been living off of store-bought soups, and there are some pretty good ones out there nowadays, but nothing tastes better to me than homemade soup.

The items I had on hand were butternut squash, shitake mushrooms, ginger and leeks.  Later, I remembered I had a Granny Smith apple, too, and it added a beautiful note to this soup.

First, I roasted the butternut squash, tossed with a little olive oil and salt, at 400 degrees until soft, about 30 minutes.  This was two containers of pre-cut, pre-washed squash.  Lay them in a single layer.

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, I started to saute the mushrooms in a knob of butter.  Then, added a splash of olive oil to the pan to keep the butter from burning.

Leeks have to be washed thoroughly, due to the grit they have in their layers.  I like to slice the green tops and roots off , then slice the stalks longways, then across to create crescents.  Then, I put them in the salad spinner basket, and rinse them twice, at least, under cold water. Be sure to spin them dry before adding them to the pot.

While the mushrooms and leek cook down, I peeled, cored and chopped the apple.  And grated about a tablespoon of fresh ginger, and threw them into the pot.  Be sure to salt the veggies, lightly, along the way.

Next it was time to choose the seasonings.  Curry and butternut squash go well together, but I did not want the soup to be hot, so I chose Sweet Curry which is spicy and rich.  About 2 Tablespoons.

I often add coriander to add some mystery.  1/2 teaspoon.

And a little cumin for some earthiness.  It is a back note for the soup, like the mushrooms are, too. 1 teaspoon.

Coat the veggies with the spices, then add a large can of chicken broth.  If you want a thinner soup, you could add more liquid here.  Bring to a simmer.

Add the roasted butternut squash.  Cover and cook on medium-low for half hour.  Turn off the heat and cool slightly.

Puree.

Add something to smooth it out into a creamy soup.  I like to use lowfat canned 2% milk, instead of cream or half' n'half, to keep it lighter in calories without sacrificing flavor.

For a garnish, I pulled out the cilantro from its refrigerator greenhouse -- it is still fresh in its second week I was pleasantly surprised to see-- you could use basil or parsley

and ladled it into a soup plate.  This is a thick and satisfying soup.  We had it for dinner with some crispy crackers.   Would have been good with a toasted Parmesan pita or brushetta, too.

Serves 6.  So, we had plenty leftover for lunch today.
B

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chicken with Lemon Caper Sauce

Chicken with Lemon and Capers, Basil Rice and Green Beans

We needed a lighter meal to offset the heaviness of the holiday season, so we made chicken with a lemon caper sauce last night, a new dish for us. 

There are pluses and minuses to this recipe.  It is relatively healthy, and has bright flavors, and it was very fast to make.  We were able to put the whole meal together in the time it takes to make rice.  But the method of cooking the chicken in the sauce made for a spongy crust.  Next time, I would just brown the chicken, then put in the oven to finish cooking, while making the sauce and reducing it down.

Chicken with Lemon and Capers
adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe
1/4 cup flour
1/4 t. pepper
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 8 thighs (breasts would be fine, too)
1 cup canned chicken broth
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T. capers
Green Beans, roasted
Basmati rice with Basil

Start the rice and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Wash and lay the green beans in a single layer in a roasting pan, lightly oil and salt.

Combine flour with pepper.  Sprinkle over chicken, turn and coat both sides well. 

Coat a non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Over medium heat, brown chicken in a single layer until golden brown, about 6 minutes; flip and brown on second side, about 4 minutes more. 
Remove chicken and set aside.  This is when, next time, I would put the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees, along with roasting the green beans.

Pour broth into skillet (we added too much --- thought the recipe said one can when it just said one cup) and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon.

Return the chicken to the skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low; simmer until heated through, about 3 minutes. 

Stir in lemon juice and capers; heat for 30 seconds.

Serve 2 chicken thighs per person, with some of the sauce, lots of green beans and basil basmati rice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cinnamon Orange Simmering Potpourri

Cinnamon Orange Simmering Potpourri

Tom brought home this deliciously smelling treat from a holiday party a few days ago.  What a great idea - I wish I had thought of it. 

It is a non-fattening gift idea - a nice alternative to cookies and baked-goods - and yet so festive.

It is so fragrant, even without simmering it, that I put the potpourri in a nice bowl, and placed in the entry way so we can be greeted with the smells of cinnamon and orange and bay leaf when we come in the door. 

B

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ginger Almond Iced Tea by Jane

Hi Barb,
I know you don't drink a lot of tea in the north but this is very refreshing as a holiday drink. 
   ---Jane

Sounds like a great non-alcoholic party drink!  Thanks for sending it in. The ginger ale and almond combination sounds good.  The fresh cranberries and orange slices floating on top sound pretty, too.   
     ---B 


Ginger Almond Iced Tea
Recipe from Kathy Girgenti

Boil 1 cup of water and steep 5 tea bags or 2 family sized bags for 30 minutes.
Remove the teabags and add:

1 1/2 cup sugar
4 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Put aside until party time.  Also can be frozen until ready to use.  When ready to serve, add 1 quart of ginger ale, fresh cranberries, small orange slice and ice.

Double to serve 24 people.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Refrigerator Greenhouse for Herbs

Refrigerator Greenhouse for Herbs

Now that winter is here, we have to rely on store-bought herbs more than ever.  And I am always looking for ways to keep them fresh. 

This tip ranks up there with learning to keep celery crisper longer by wrapping it in foil.   By the way, aluminum foil works for scallions, too, which are another vegetable that was going limp before I could remember to use it.

I have been experimenting with cilantro mostly, but I am sure that this method will work for parsley and other greens with stalks, like watercress.

Here's what I have learned. 
Put them them in cold water in a short, wide glass when you get home from the grocery store,

then slip a lightweight plastic bag (like the kind from the produce department) loosely over the top,

and put them in the back of the fridge.  They will last a week or more as long as you remember to change the water after 3 days or so.

They can be washed before or after you put them in the refrigerator greenhouse.

It does not work to put them in water in the fridge without the bag over the top.  Not sure why, but the micro climate in the bag in the refrigerator works much better than any other way I have tried, which includes putting them in plastic bags in the fridge in the veggie drawer, putting them on the counter in water, etc.

fyi - the photos were taken after the cilantro had been in its refrigerator greenhouse for couple of days.

I have posted this tip in the Other Stuff category in the Recipes Index on the main page of the blog.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tequila Flank Steak Fajitas with Baked Beans and Collard Greens by Tom

Tequila Flank Steak Fajitas with Baked Beans and Collard Greens

Barbara was downtown at her "temporary storefront shop and satellite studio" for the afternoon, and she asked me to make dinner for the evening.  We had a flank steak in the freezer, so I thought "maybe I can find a recipe that is different from the ones I had made in the past." 

I was in the mood for some Mexican flavors, so that became the subject of my recipe search.  Also, we had some leftover collard greens that were begging to be used or tossed.  I chose to use.  Finally, I needed a starch, so a spicy version of beans sounded good to me. 

The result was my fajita, collard greens and baked beans creation.  I used the basis for the fajitas from the "Best of Cooking Lite" cookbook, and the side dishes from my favorite cookbook "Dinosaur Bar B Que".   

You never know how three distinctly different dishes will mesh until you try it.  I am very glad I tried this combination because they turned out to be surprisingly good together.    
          ---Tom



Tequila-Marinated Beef and Pepper Fajitas
The Best of Cooking Lite Everyday Favorites

Ingredients
  1 1/2 - 2# flank steak
  1/2 cup tequila
  4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  2 teaspoons ground cumin
  1 teaspoon canola oil
  1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  4 garlic cloves minced
  1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  1/2 Mayan sweet onion slices
  salt to taste
  pepper to taste
 
Combine the tequila, cilantro, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, canola oil, red pepper, and garlic in a gallon size zip-lock bag.  Shake it up good to get all of the ingredients combined.  Slice the flank steak into strips of about 2" long by 1/2" wide.  Remember to slice against the grain.  Throw the sliced meat into the bag of marinade and seal the bag, shake it up again to make sure the meat is well coated, and put into the refrigerator for at least an hour.  I marinated this one about four hours.
Heat a large skillet with some oil or cooking spray, and saute the peppers and onions until they are soft.
Next throw the bag of flank steak into the skillet along with some of the marinade, and cook for about 12-14 minutes.  Let the marinade and other juices mostly boil away.  Turn the heat off and plate.

Now on to the sides.  For the next two recipes I adapted recipes from the "Dinosaur Bar B Que" cookbook.  But first, the story...

During the summer we had taken our niece to visit Syracuse University.  To round out what had been a good visit to the university on a very rainy Syracuse kind of day, we took her to Dinosaur Bar B Que, a Syracuse landmark.  I decided for my two sides, along with ribs and pulled brisket, to try the greens and beans.  Not my normal selection, but the waitress said they were truly delicious.  Being brave, I ordered them.  They were delicious!  So I thought I would take a stab at making something like them to complement my fajita recipe.
Dinosaur-Style BBQ Beans
Dinosaur Bar B Que Cookbook adaptation

Ingredients
  1 tablespoon olive oil
  1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
  1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  Salt & pepper to taste
  1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  4 ounces breakfast sausage
  1 28 ounce can Bush's vegetarian style baked beans
  2 tablespoons Dinosaur BBQ Slathering Sauce
  1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  1/2 teaspoon oregano
  1/2 teaspoon thyme
  1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1 tablespoon molasses

This works best when made a few hours ahead of time to let the flavors all marry.

Over medium-high heat, saute the pepper and onions sprinkled with a dash of pepper and salt in a little oil until they are soft.  I did this right in the final pan for cooking the dish.  Once soft add the chopped garlic and saute for one more minute.  Add the sausage to the vegetables and saute until it loses its pinkness.  Now add the can of beans, but first pouring off a little of the excess liquid from the can.  Mix this all up.   Turn the heat down to low, and add all of the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer this mixture for another five minutes or so, and then remove from the heat.  You can serve it immediately, or let it rest while you are preparing other items. 

For my Saturday dinner, I made this about two hours ahead of time.  This is a very decadent way to make baked beans!

Collard Greens the Dinosaur BBQ way
Dinosaur Bar B Que Cookbook adaptation
Ingredients
  ~1pound collard greens, stems removed
  1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1 red bell pepper cut into 2" strips by 1/2" wide
  1/2 Mayan sweet onion, chopped
  Pinch of salt and pepper
  4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  Couple sprinkles of Tabasco sauce
  2 tablespoons honey

Wash the collard greens in cold water.  Slice off the stems of the collard greens, and boil for 5 minutes in salted water.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Be sure to get all of the grit and dirt off the greens.  Next cut up the greens into strips.   The best way to do that is to grab all of the leaves and just roll them together.  Start slicing along the rolled leaves, and then slice again in the opposite direction.  The greens will shrink when sauting, so don't worry about some longer pieces.

Over medium-high heat, saute the onions and pepper until they are soft. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper.  Next add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.
Now throw in the collard greens and the remaining ingredients.  Stir it all up and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  This will bring the flavors together.  The Tabasco adds a little bite.   The vinegar a little sour, and the honey a little sweet.  This simple dish has some surprising taste complexity.
Put it all on the table with some gently heated flour tortillas, quacamole, and chopped cilantro, and the meal is ready!
I enjoyed making this dinner for Barbara and myself, and I think you will enjoy it too.
                 
           ---Tom