Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Herbed Ranch Dressing

Herbed Ranch Dressing 3

First let me say thanks for all your well-wishes and prayers for the past weekend. Hurricane Irene wasn't as horrible here as we expected, but she did pack a wallop. We didn't get too much rain, but we got a lot of high winds. At one point I thought my river birch tree was going to come crashing through my front window.

We lost power for the whole day. It didn't come on until sometime early this morning. I panicked later on in the evening and had my hubby drive to my brothers house (he had power). I pulled all my blueberries, t-bones and bacon from the freezer in the garage and had him bring them to him. I got sick thinking about going through fall and winter without my berries. So they are safe and sound.

We didn't open the fridges but maybe twice during the whole storm, so I think I managed to save everything else.  Irene caused a lot of downed trees and power lines. We took a quick drive later in the day and saw lots of damage. One house down the road lost 2 cars to a fallen tree.

The clean-up is going to be intense, but we all made it safe and sound through the storm. That's enough hurricane fun for this season, now we'll just wait for a big snow storm! On to the recipe!
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I have two teenage boys.

Two teenage boys eat...a lot.

Then they bring other teenage boys over to the house and soon you have not two, but maybe five or six boys in the house, boys who are always looking for food.

I have discovered that there is one dressing that almost all these teenage boys love. It's ranch. They slather it on all sorts of things. My nephew is so addicted to the stuff that I literally have to stop him from putting it on his pasta. It's a sickness I tell ya.

Herbed Ranch Dressing 1

I try to get them to eat healthy snacks, and although I know ranch isn't the healthiest of dressing, knowing that it's homemade and filled with herby goodness makes me feel a little better about it.

It is a great way to get them to eat their veggies!

Herbed Ranch Dressing 2


Herbed Ranch Dressing
makes about 2 cups
From the kitchn.com
3 scallions white and green parts chopped, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon nice olive oil
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good mayonnaise
1 cup plain yogurt

If you're using a food processor, add the scallions, basil, lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to the work bowl and pulse a few times to incorporate. You don't want to puree this, just blend it up a little. Add the mayonnaise and yogurt and pulse once or twice again to blend. Scrape into a jar and refrigerate.

Alternatively, you can just stir all the ingredients together in a bowl. Just be sure you've chopped the onion, basil and garlic fine enough.

I find that the flavors are best after a day's rest so if you can, make this a day ahead of serving. It lasts about a week in the refrigerator.

Notes:
If you are using this as a dip, you may want to use a thicker yogurt, such as Greek-style. If you are using this as a salad dressing and you think it's too thick, thin it with a splash of milk or buttermilk. A very forgiving recipe!

If you want to use the traditional buttermilk, substitute the plain yogurt with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of buttermilk.

If you don't have green onions, you can substitute finely chopped shallots or sweet red onion to equal 1/4 cup.

Basil is my preferred herb here but you can replace it, all or in part, with parsley. A bit of fresh tarragon is nice, too, although I add about 1 tablespoon of finely chopped tarragon to the 1/2 cup of parsley instead of doing the full 1/2 cup substitute.

Variation: Sprinkle in a bit of powdered chipotle or smoked paprika for some smokey heat!

Herbed Ranch Dressing


Friday, August 26, 2011

Spaghetti a la Philly

Spaghetti a la Philly1

I have lived in New England my whole life. I have lived in the same town my whole life.

I have experienced blizzards, snow storms, nor'easters, flooding and hurricanes.

Out of all of the above mentioned, I really don't like hurricanes and we have one headed right towards us.

Ugh.

The good thing is we have been through this before. We are prepared.

We know our garage will flood. We know that we will spend hours picking up anything that can become a projectile in the yard. I know I can kiss the last of my tomatoes good-bye *sniff*. We know that the power will go out.

We will make sure we all have a good book to read and something delicious to put in our bellies. We bought some extra lamp oil, we are stocked up on batteries, and we hit the packie (that's liquor store in Yankee talk) to pick up some beer & wine. I'm going to whip up some brownies and some bread. Make something delicious for supper and then we'll just hunker down.

This recipe is one that I could whip up even with a hurricane on the way! So easy, but ummm, not so pretty.

So not every recipe wins the beauty contest. This one is pretty ugly.

They are are not all equally photographable, but I won't let that stand in the way of sharing deliciousness with you.

Spaghetti a la Philly3

This is an easy weeknight dinner. Just adding in a small amount of cream cheese transformed this from ordinary to ordinary but with a little "wow" added in.

The original recipe called for a 1/2 pound of pasta. That is called an appetizer for my teenage boys. I adjusted the ingredients to make a full pound.

Spaghetti a la Philly
Adapted from a recipe at Mommy's Kitchen
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 tablespoon of Mrs. Dash (or any other seasoning of your choice)
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1 jar (24 – 26 ounces) spaghetti sauce (or use your own)
5 oz cream cheese
1 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained
Parmesan cheese

Cook the beef in a skillet over medium high heat until well browned. I added in some Mrs Dash and crushed garlic at this point too. Drain and return to the pan. Add in the sauce. Cut the cream cheese into chunks so they will melt easier. Add to the sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 minutes or until the cream cheese is melted.

Place spaghetti in a large bowl and add beef mixture. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

I found this recipe on Mommy’s Kitchen. Tina has a lot of great recipes that are very family friendly. Thanks Tina!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blueberry Vanilla Cream Cheese Pies

Mini Blueberry Cream Hand Pies3

Every year for the past oh, about 16 years now, I have picked blueberries at Macombers Blueberry Farm. It’s sort of become a family tradition to go take a ride out to Western Coventry and travel down Mr. Macomber’s dirt rode to pick some of the finest blueberries in Rhode Island.

This year I was late. I usually pick at the end of July, but this and that got in the way. You know how this and that can be. Luckily Mr. Macomber is technically savvy and he made a Macombers Facebook page so it was easy to see when the patch was open.

We finally made it late last Friday afternoon. It was a little harder to pick than usual but the berries were still plentiful, we just had to dig a little farther into the bush to get them.

Mini Blueberry Cream Hand Pies

We picked 8 pounds, most of which were frozen for use over the winter. I did reserve some to make these scrumptious Blueberry Vanilla Cream Cheese Pies.

Heaven I tell you. Flaky puff pastry stuffed with a creamy blueberry filling.

Jesse was eating them straight outta the oven.

Look for my notes to see how I adapted the recipe to make these mini pies.

Mini Blueberry Cream Hand Pies2

Blueberry Vanilla Cream Cheese Pies
Adapted from Fine Cooking – Karen Baker
Two 17.3 oz packages puff pastry (I only used 1 box)
3 oz cream cheese, softened
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla bean (or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla)
2 large egg yolks
1 cup blueberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons crème de cassis (I used Chambord)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

Thaw 3 sheets of puff pastry overnight in the fridge. * see my notes

Position the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and pre-heat to 375. In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the vanilla bean seeds (or extract) and 1 of the egg yolks. Mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Combine the blueberries, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the cornstarch, crème de cassis (or Chambord in my case) and salt in another medium bowl and mix gently.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 10 inch square……..arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. . *See my notes - I did things a little differently.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the outer edge of each pastry in the egg wash. Dollop ½ tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture in the center of each pastry. Top with 1 tablespoon of the blueberry mixture. Fold in half to seal, pinch edges. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon remaining sugar. With the tip of a paring knife, cut a steam vent in the center of each pie.

Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes, swapping and rotating the baking sheets positions about halfway through. Cool slightly on sheets then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

I made mini pies. Here’s what I did:

I rolled one piece of puff pastry out into a 10 inch square. I then cut it into 9 equal squares. I dolloped the cream cheese mixture and the berries in the center and then picked each one up (just like you were sealing a dumpling) and pressed the edges together. I then took a fork and crimped the edges. The berries are still going to seep out a little. There really is no avoiding that. I think it just adds to the rustic charm! So this recipe made 18 mini pies for me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Winners!

Ok folks....here are the three winners!

Ladies please use the contact me button to the right to send me your full name and addresses!

Congrats! I hope you sprinkle this sugar on something sweet & delicious!

Winners

Winners

Winners

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta & a Giveaway

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta

I love Chicken Marsala.

There is just something about the taste of that Marsala wine and the tenderness of the mushrooms that makes my mouth tingle.

When I came across this recipe I beamed.

Chicken Marsala mixed with pasta? Be still my heart.

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta 1

I found this recipe on What's Cookin Chicago. Joelen has lots of great recipes, but this one grabbed me and made me make it. Recipes do that you know?

I served this to friends last week and they LOVED it. It's a keeper!

I did change things up a bit, like I always do. Not too terribly much though.

Creamy Chicken Marsala Pasta
adapted from a recipe at What’s Cookin Chicago
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces or strips
1- 10oz package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup Marsala wine
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup half & half (or heavy cream)
1 pound pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan + more for serving
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh basil, finely chopped

Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Cook the chicken in a large skillet with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Transfer to plate when done.

Boil the water and cook pasta until al dente.

While the water is boiling add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan then add the garlic, mushrooms and onions. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes. Put the cooked chicken back into the skillet. Add the Marsala, chicken broth and half & half. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cook until sauce has thickened. About 3 – 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the same skillet and add in ½ cup of Parmesan & the chopped basil. Cook until the pasta has absorbed some of the sauce (about 1 minute). Add in reserved cooking water if needed.

Season with salt, pepper and garnish with a sprinkling more of cheese.

THE GIVEAWAYS!
Last post I promised a giveaway of Trader Joe's Sugar Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder didn't I?

I know not everyone lives near a TJ's. We've only had ours about a year and I love it. So many different and interesting items there, two of my faves being the Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and the Fig Butter. LOVE! But today we are talkin' about sugar that you grind, just like a salt grinder except delicious flakes of sugar goodness crackle down on your goodies.

I sprinkled some on my Stuffed Strawberries, but I can imagine this on cakes, cupcakes, in your coffee, on your toast...endless possibilities that I want you to experience...so I'm giving away THREE grinders to three lucky people.

Choc sugars

To win leave a comment......WHAT WOULD YOU SPRINKLE THIS CHOCOLATE SUGAR ON?

I'll pick three winner on August 19th.

If you don't have a blog.....LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS so I can get in touch with you please.

If you blog or Facebook this giveaway let me know and I'll throw an extra chance in for ya.

GOOD LUCK!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

I don't know Jennifer.

I didn't know Mikey.

I read her story.

My heart broke.

I saw this video Todd & Diane made and I wept.

I feel blessed and honored to be part of a community that is so beautiful, so caring, so compassionate.



Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey from Evolution Multimedia on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm Back! Stuffed Strawberries and the Fairy Hobmother Strikes again. It's time for you to make a wish!

Stuffed strawberries 4

Hey I'm back. I told you I would be didn't I?

After a month of lots of cold suppers and lots of salads and some take out pizza and grinders, I am finally back in the kitchen. I can't say that I'm turning on the stove an awful lot, but I have been cooking and baking and even making some recipe that's don't involve heat at all. That's where the Stuffed Strawberries come in. Back to those in a minute.....

First I have to tell you all about my Fairy Hobmother and that she could be your Fairy Hobmother too.

My friend Amy from Very Culinary posted this awhile back. Go on and read it and you'll see that the Fairy Hobmother granted Amy her wish and she in turn got to help to grant a wish for one of her readers. Well I was one of those readers and I commented that I had recently burned my Lodge 6 quart Dutch Oven that I used for just about everything. I was really bummed about it and if I could have my wish I'd ask for a new Dutch oven. A few days later I get an email from the Fairy Hobmother telling me that she'd like to send me a new Dutch Oven. Are you kidding me? I really couldn't believe it but 2 days later this appeared at my door.

Lodge

This gorgeous Lodge Dutch oven that was even better than the one I had! I was so tickled! All she asked me to do was to post about the gift and offer a chance for one of my reader to get their wish too! Ummm, yeah I think I can do that.

So, this is for reals. Leave a comment and tell us your wish! You could be the next lucky winner.

The Strawberries

Stuffed strawberries 3

This could be the easiest no bake dessert on the planet. Ripe delicious berries stuffed with creamy/almondy filling and topped with chocolate coffee bean sugar. Simple but elegant enough for your foo-foo friends. (Foo-foo, that's what my friends and I call high flautin' folks. No worries, I don't have any of those kind of friends, lol).

The Sugar Topping (no it's not pepper!)

I bet when you first looked at those pics you thought "has the girl been away from the ktichen so long that she's gone and sprinkled her berries with pepper?

Nah.. I found the chocolate coffee bean sugar grinder at Trader Joe's. See?

TJ Grinder

You just grind the sugar onto whatever you fancy. In fact, I fancy this sugar so much that I think I'm going to have a sugar giveaway this week. That'll be coming up too!

Ahhh, it feels good to be back.

Stuffed strawberries 2


Stuffed Strawberries

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups large strawberries

Combine the cream cheese, sugar and almond extract and mix well. Place mixture in a piping bag.

Make criss-cross cuts in the narrow end of the berry, cutting about 3/4 of the way down, then pipe in the cheese. I used a Wilton 6B tip, a really big and wide one, and pushed the tip way down to the bottom of the berry and worked my way up.

I left the stem on the berries cause I think it looks better and because it gives you something to grab onto when you are eating them.

Chill until ready to serve. You could make these a day in advance too.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slump

Buddha
The green little corner of my yard.

I’m still slumpish.

Even when the heat and humidity let up for a few days I still found myself with no motivation.

As Steven says “my get up and go must have got up and went”.

Here’s what I’ve been spending lots of time doing.

• Reading magazines. Trying to get through a huge stack, clipping out what I love and passing the magazine on. I don't need the clutter.

• Bookmarking lots of recipes and saying “oh I need to make this”.

• Cutting mats out of Moose’s ears.

• Pulling my hair up.

• Trying to follow all the blogs I read. I can’t say that I’ve been keeping up with all of them, but I’m trying.

• Eating popsicles (the cotton candy flavored ones are my faves).

• Plotting out my Christmas craft for this year and buying supplies (don’t hate me cause I’m an early planner).

• Adjusting to the new meds, one perk to one of them…makes my skin super healthy and clear. One not so great perk, monthly blood work to make sure my potassium levels aren’t going up too much.

• Eating lots of cold suppers. I’m getting very creative with salad.

• Picking veggies from my garden. My basil has come back with a vengeance. It’s like 4 feet high and that’s with regular trimmings.

I had hoped to make a few recipes over the weekend but I had a wedding to attend in Connecticut on Saturday and a house to clean on Sunday. Oh yeah, I didn't feel like cleaning much during the heatwave either.

Shall I taunt you with all the delicious foods I will be posting shortly?? Ok then. Here's whats coming up....

Sicilian Steak
Lime in the Coconut Cheesecake bars
Crab Rangoon Eggrolls
Lasagna Cups
Mini Pizza Cups
My delicious herbed mayo
Pizza Black Bean Burgers from my friend Rebecca.
Blueberry Vanilla Cream Cheese Pies
Frozen Strawberry Squares
Pasta e Fagioli Soup


So that's what I have planned and of course that list is subject to change based on whatever other recipe I find that might entices me more, but most of the above mentioned should be appearing shortly. Honest...I will get back in the kitchen!