Monday, November 29, 2010

Spinach Mandarin Poppyseed Salad

This salad is so addictive.  Just make sure you follow the directions exactly when making the dressing. If you add the oil with all the other ingredients it doesn't blend in well. Just drizzle a small stream of oil as the blender is going.

Spinach Mandarin Poppy Seed Salad

8 oz. (1/2 bag) of baby spinach
1/2-1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 thinly sliced medium red onion
1 large avocado, cubed
8 oz. mozzarella or Swiss cheese, shredded
1 12-oz. package bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 large can Mandarin oranges, drained
Combine all ingredients except dressing in a large bowl. When ready to serve, toss with desired amount of salad dressing and serve immediately. If you anticipate leftovers, just let your eaters dress their own salads because the dressing will make the greens wilt.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1/3 c. white vinegar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. mustard
1 green onion, ends removed (both the "hairy" end and where the green part starts to get floppy)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. poppy seeds

In a blender, combine vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and mustard. While the blender is running, add the green onion. Continue running the blender and add the oil in a steady stream and is fully incorporated into the dressing.

Pour the dressing into a serving or storage container and whisk in poppy seeds. Serve over leafy greens.
Recipe source: Our Best Bites

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Classic Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

2 1/2 c. pecan halves, divided
4 large eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 c. dark corn syrup
1/2 c. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. On a lightly floured board, roll out pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place in a 9-inch pie plate that has been set on a parchment lined baking sheet, and press into the bottom edges and along sides. Trim and crimp. Put in freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Coarsely  chop 1 1/4 c. pecans, set aside. Combine eggs, sugar and brown sugar. Whisk to combine. Add dark and light corn syrups, butter, vanilla and salt. Whisk until well combined. Add chopped pecans, and stir. Pour into prepared crust. Arrange remaining pecan halves decoratively over top of pie. Bake on parchment lined baking sheet until crust is golden brown, filling is firm, and cake tester comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool completely.

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Pie

This was my first attempt at making a pie crust. I wouldn't say it was a complete failure but there is definitely  room for improvement.

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Pie

The crust
1 1/3 cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of fresh finely grated gingerroot
¼ teaspoon of allspice
½ cup of cold butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of ice water, or a little more

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and spices until blended. Next, cut in the butter until you have a coarse crumbly dough. In a small bowl, whip the egg yolk and the water together then slowly pour it into the butter mix, while tossing with a fork, until the mixture forms into moist clumps. Add a little more water here, if the dough seems too dry. Form into a ball with your hands and put in a plastic bag in the fridge for 20 minutes to overnight. Then use how ever your want! It is good to microwave it for a few seconds before you work with it or it is hard as a rock! (You can also do this dough in the food processor. Put flour and spices into the processor and pulse a few times. Cut the butter into small cubes and toss in the flour mix. Pulse till crumbly. Whisk the egg yolk and water together then pour slowly into the processor while it is on until a ball of dough forms.)

The filling
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
1  cup heavy cream or half and half
½ cup of sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ teaspoons of cloves
½ teaspoon of allspice
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of salt

Roll out the dough to the size of a 9 inch pie plate between two pieces of wax paper. Place the crust in a pie pan and trim and flute the crust to your pleasure. Stick in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pie crust in the oven, filled with dried beans or pie weights and edges covered, to cook for about 10 minutes. Pour out the beans and cook for another 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool while you make the filling.

In a large bowl, blend together all the ingredients for the filling until frothy. Pour into the pie crust and bake 50 minutes or until the middle of the pie is still wiggly and the edges have set.

While your pie is baking, mix the the streusel topping. Sprinkle the streusel topping on it and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes until the streusel is golden brown.

The streusel
½ cup of unbleached flour
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
¼ cup of butter
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped fine (optional)

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and spices. Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the flour until it is crumbly. (Or do it in the food processor!) Stir in the pecans and ginger, then sprinkle on the pie and bake as directed.

Recipe source: The Go Lightly Gourmet

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chicken and Vegetable Dumpling Soup

This was just the thing I needed on a cold day and feeling under the weather. It was a little more labor intensive but in the end it was worth it. Nothing like a hearty hot soup when you are sick. 

Chicken and Vegetable Dumpling Soup

*Serves 6

Chicken and Broth:
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
2-3 chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots (6-7 baby carrots), chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or sage
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

In a large pot, boil the chicken broth, water and chicken breasts until the chicken is cooked through and tender (about 15 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pot, reserving the broth in the pot, and shred the chicken with two forks. Set the chicken aside and keep the broth warm on the stove.

While the chicken is boiling, in a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery, carrots and onions. Saute for about 6-7 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the vegetables to the hot broth in the pot after the chicken has been removed. Add salt, thyme and pepper to the vegetable/broth mixture and stir to combine. Heat the soup to a simmer.

In a small bowl, blend ½ cup cold water and 1/4 cup flour with a wire whisk until smooth. Whisking vigorously, slowly add the flour mixture into the hot vegetables and broth and whisk until well combined. Add ½ cup frozen peas and the reserved chicken and cook, stirring gently for one minute.
For the dumplings, in a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, milk and oil. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined (don’t overmix, it is ok if there are a few dry spots of flour here and there).

Heat the soup to boiling and drop teaspoonful amounts (the dumplings should be fairly small, they’ll expand while cooking) of dumpling dough into the boiling soup, covering the entire surface of the soup (don’t make more than one layer of dumplings). Reduce the heat to simmering, cover and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes. Do not lift the lid of the pot while the dumplings cook.

When the dumplings have cooked fully, remove the lid and gently stir the dumplings to break them apart. Serve.

Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vanilla Popcorn

Another oldie but goody.

Vanilla Popcorn

1 cube (1/2 cup) butter
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla (yes this is 1 Tbsp and not a tsp.)
Air-popped popcorn

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add sugar and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over medium heat. While stirring constantly, boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over air-popped popcorn and stir well until all pieces are coated.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a fall favorite in my family. In my opinion these are the best tasting pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I have eaten. They have a nice crisp bottom and soft moist top.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cream shortening and sugar together (about 2 minutes). Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if using. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheet for 10 to 12 minutes. You will know they are done when they start to turn slightly brown around the edges.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Frosting

These are really good but the cookie part came out pretty thick as you can see in the picture. It was much more cake like than cookie like. I think next time I might try just halving the recipe and seeing if I get a thinner cookie layer.
Also, the original recipe for the frosting just included a small amount of cinnamon. It didn't have a strong enough taste for my liking so I altered it a little.

Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Frosting

For the bars:
1 cup butter; room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin
6 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter; room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp milk
food coloring (if desired)

For the bars:
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, and cloves. Stir the flour mixture with a whisk to combine. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet mixture and mix just until combined. Then add the pumpkin puree, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Spread on a greased 13x18 inch baking pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-20 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost. (I had to cook these for at least 20 minutes but each oven is different, so check at 10 minutes then every couple minutes after that until they are slightly brown around the edges.)

For the frosting:
Combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments alternately with milk until smooth and spreading consistency. Mix in cinnamon (and other spices if using) and mix until combined. Spread over cooled cookies.

*I added about 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 nutmeg, and 1/4 cloves to the frosting for a stronger spice flavor. 

Tip: To make your own Pumpkin Pie Spice, combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Makes 2 teaspoons.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Little Italy Meatballs and Marinara

This recipe makes a lot so plan on having left overs. You can also freeze what you have left. 

Little Italy Meatballs and Marinara


Onion Mixture
1/4 cup olive oil
3 onions , chopped fine
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Easy Marinara
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup water
4 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaf

1 - 2 teaspoons sugar , as needed
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread
3/4 cup milk
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage , casings removed
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck (80 percent lean)


  • 1. For the onion mixture: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl and set aside.

  • 2. For the marinara: Add tomato paste to remaining onion mixture in pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in water and tomatoes and simmer over low heat until sauce is no longer watery, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in cheese and basil and adjust seasonings with salt and sugar.

  • 3. For the meatballs: Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Mash bread and milk in bowl with reserved onion mixture until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, except ground beef, to bowl and mash to combine. Add beef and knead with hands until well combined. Form mixture into 2 1/2-inch meatballs (you should have about 16 meatballs), place on rimmed baking sheet, and bake until well browned, about 20 minutes.

  • 4. Transfer meatballs to pot with sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta. (Meatballs and marinara can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

  • Technique

    A super-hot oven was all we needed to get a golden brown crust on these meatballs. Finally, a short dunk in the sauce allows the sauce to season the meat, and vice versa.
    1. For a great crust without the hassle of frying, bake the meatballs in a very hot oven.
    2. For the best flavor, let the meatballs sit in the simmering sauce for at least 15 minutes before serving.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Tortilla Lime Chicken Soup

    I got this recipe from a friend many many years ago. This was my introduction to cilantro. At the time I had no idea what it was. So thanks for introducing me to one of my favorite spices. You know who you are.

    Tortilla Lime Chicken Soup

    4 c. chicken broth
    1 1/2 c. chicken, cooked and shredded
    1/4 c. lime juice
    1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
    1 large can hominy
    2 c. lime flavored tortilla chips, broken

    In a large saucepan, simmer broth, 1 can water, chicken and juice for 2 minutes. Add cilantro, pinch of black pepper and hominy. Serve with crushed tortilla chips on top.

    *You may need to add a little salt depending on how many tortilla chips you have in your bowl.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

    I hope everyone had a great Halloween! I was lucky enough to spend my favorite holiday at the happiest place on earth....Disneyland!

    I am not a huge fan of red meat but this beef stroganoff is to die for!  The only problem is finding porcini mushrooms. They are difficult to come by but you can find them at natural food stores such as Sunflower market if you have one nearby. It is definitely worth the trouble.

    Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff

    1 1/2 c. low sodium beef broth
    1/4 c. dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and patten dry
    2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    2 onions, chopped fine
    2 Tbsp. tomato paste
    1/2 c. white wine (the kind you buy at the grocery store near the vinegar works just fine)
    1/3 c. soy sauce
    4 lbs. boneless beef chuck stew meat cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (you can also buy a chuck roast and cut it yourself)
    1 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
    6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
    1 1/2 c. sour cream
    2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
    Salt and pepper

    Combine 1/2 cup broth and porcini in bowl and microwave until steamy and mushrooms have softened, about 1 minute. Line fine mesh strainer with one paper towel and strain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Chop porcini fine and set aside.

    Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook onions and tomato paste, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in wine, soy sauce, remaining broth, chopped porcini, and reserved porcini liquid, scraping up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Bring broth mixture to a boil, then transfer to slow cooker. Add beef and white mushrooms to slow cooker, cover and cook on high until meat is tender, 6 to 7 hours (or cook on low for 9 to 10 hours).

    Set slow cooker to high, if necessary. Skim fat from surface. Transfer 2 cups sauce from slow cooker to large bowl and whisk in flour. Stir flour mixture into slow cooker and cook, covered until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in sour cream and dill and season with salt and pepper. Serve over buttered egg noodles or rice.

    Recipe source: Cook's Country Magazine Oct/Nov 2008
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