Thursday, March 31, 2011

A potato dish for spring:
Potatoes with Ranch Dressing

Potatoes – for some, they’re not the springtimey-est vegetable on the block.
   Mashed or baked potatoes seem to go best with fall and wintertime dishes such as beef with gravy.
   But I’ve got a recipe for potatoes that are meant for a springtime table, right alongside the salmon and asparagus.
   Potatoes with Ranch Dressing (click for the recipe) from Everyday Food magazine is comprised of new potatoes in a light cream-herb sauce. It has a bright, fresh look and taste.
   It’s family friendly, and weeknight-easy to whip up.
   The recipe says it serves four, but that’s if you’re eating mounds and mounds of other food with it.
   I would say it nicely yields enough for two people eating one main dish with the potatoes.
   I would double, triple and quadruple the recipe the more the crowd increases in size, something that would need to be done for occasions such as an Easter feast, for which I think this dish would be superb.
   The recipe calls for one pound of small potatoes. I used new red potatoes, also sometimes called baby potatoes.
   The potatoes are put in a pot with water and salt, and the water is brought to a boil. The potatoes are cooked at a high boil until fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
   The sauce is made by combining buttermilk, sour cream or Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, minced garlic, fresh thyme leaves and one to two tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives or basil (I used chives.)
   The potatoes are tossed in the sauce and served.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Pepper and Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze does a balancing act between winter and spring

I’ve got a dessert recipe for this tricky time of year – the bridge between winter and spring, when the cold temperatures and snow linger but there are signs of the warm days ahead.
  Black Pepper and Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze (click for the recipe) has winter components, with the cinnamon and ground cloves harkening to enjoying a dessert on a cozy evening indoors, but the ground cardamom and the lemon glaze add a freshness that looks towards glorious days of spring.
   The black pepper added to the batter, an unusual ingredient for a cake, to be sure, leaves a very, very slight peppery burn in the mouth. It’s nothing alarming at all – it’s just a pleasant reminder that we have different kinds of taste buds.
   In fact, this moist cake is quite family-friendly.
   This is yet another recipe I’ve reviewed from Lauren Chattman’s excellent cookbook, Cake Keeper Cakes. The recipe I linked to above is on a news website; scroll down to find the recipe. It is the same recipe I used.
   Black Pepper and Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze is very easy to make.
   Buttermilk, eggs and vanilla are whisked together in a glass measuring cup. In a bowl, flour, toasted and chopped walnuts (I toasted them in a pan on the stovetop), baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground cloves and black pepper are combined. (I ground fresh pepper from a pepper grinder).
   Butter and sugar are creamed together with an electric mixer, and the buttermilk and flour mixtures are added in alternate amounts and combined.
   The batter is scraped into a 12-cup Bundt pan and is baked for 40 to 45 minutes. The cake is taken out of the pan and left to cool completely.
   To make the glaze, confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) and lemon juice are whisked together. The glaze is drizzled over the cake.

Cake Keeper Cakes at

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Defending the honor of Spicy Peanut Noodles with Ground Pork and Shredded Vegetables

When I looked up the reviews for Spicy Peanut Noodles with Ground Pork and Shredded Vegetables (click for the recipe) on the Fine Cooking magazine website, I was absolutely mystified to find a couple of negative ones.
   I felt compelled to defend the dish’s honor with my own review on the website and another on this blog, because it is simply fabulous.
   It was wholesome and clean-tasting, with a lovely blend of fresh vegetables and noodles. The peanut butter provided the perfect note of peanut flavor.
   I would serve this dish to others in a heartbeat.
   My husband and I followed the recipe to the letter, using most of one jalapeno pepper where the option was given to use one or two depending on spice preference. We’re sissies when it comes to spicy foods, and found one jalapeno was just perfect -- it wasn't spicy at all.
   We used the zucchini instead of yellow squash when that option was offered.
   Working together, we made this in 45 minutes without rushing. It was a perfect weeknight meal.
   Rice noodles (in the Asian ingredients part of the supermarket) are boiled and drained. Ground pork is sauted in a skillet.
   Crunchy peanut butter, rice vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil and water are whisked together until smooth.
   The noodles, pork, chopped jalapenos, grated squash, grated carrots and chopped fresh mint are tossed with the sauce.
   The recipe says to serve the dish at room temperature. You won’t need to wait for long; it’s a room temperature mere moments after it’s put together.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Whip up an impressive main in just half an hour with Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme

It happens very rarely these days that my husband and I aren’t able to prepare dinner together.
   But it happened one night this week when my husband needed to work late, so I settled in to make Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary and Thyme (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine by myself.
   I make a habit of choosing weeknight recipes that I think will be quick and easy to make but yield great results.
   But even I was surprised with the absolute ease of the recipe and the elegant, impressive dish that it produced, which was nice enough to serve at a casual dinner party.
   Working by myself, I made a very nice supper in just half an hour, without rushing one bit. (Jasmine rice and a pre-packaged salad were the sides.)
   I suggest this recipe to any of you out there who want to be cooking better but feel you don’t have the time or culinary skills to do so.
   To make the recipe, six tablespoons of olive oil are poured into a 9x13 inch baking dish (I used a glass one). Fresh thyme springs, fresh rosemary springs and pepper are added to the oil, and it is baked until fragrant, about 12 minutes.
   Peeled, deveined extra-large shrimp are added to the dish, and tossed until covered with oil. The shrimp is baked until pink, about eight to 10 minutes.
   When the shrimp comes out of the oven, white wine vinegar and kosher salt are stirred in and the dish is left to cool slightly before serving, about five minutes.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Solving an ingredient mystery
for Cream of Coconut Cake

When I embarked on making Cream of Coconut Cake (click for the recipe) last weekend, the first thing I needed to do was tackle the issues posed by the title ingredient.
   Cream of coconut, according to Wikipedia, is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. It has a thicker, more paste-like consistency.
   I was sure that I have seen cream of coconut in the can, just as the cake's creator, Lauren Chattman, describes in her introduction to the recipe.
   My husband said that may be true, but in his travels in our fair city of Moose Jaw, the closest he had ever seen to cream of coconut was creamed coconut, the dehydrated meat of a coconut sold in waxy blocks.
   After checking a couple of specialty stores and Superstore, it appears my husband was right – creamed coconut was the only thing close to what I required that was available locally.
   I was able to chop the creamed coconut into pieces and reconstitute them with water, resulting in liquid cream of coconut.
   I’m glad I was able to do this, because Cream of Coconut Cake is an absolute delight.
   Coconut flavor-lovers, such as my husband, will be in heaven when they eat it. However, the coconut flavor is nowhere near overwhelming. While it is certainly the highlight of this moist cake, it is at a pleasant level.
   The full title of the recipe is Cream of Coconut Cake with Chocolate-Coconut Glaze. I left off the glaze part of the title for a reason. Although the cake itself is dynamite, the glaze is not.
   After the cake is baked, a glaze of cream of coconut and Dutch process cocoa powder is made and poured on top.
   However, the result is dubious. I found it tinny and chalky tasting, and was more like a frosting than a glaze.
   I’m officially suggesting this to prospective bakers of the cake: Don’t bother making the glaze. The cake doesn’t need it – I could eat around the glaze/frosting and the cake was terrific by itself.
   The cake is extraordinarily easy to make. The recipe I linked to above is the same version I used from the cookbook Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.
   Butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and optional coconut extract are combined with an electric mixer. A mixture of flour, baking powder and salt is added alternately with ¾ of a cup of cream of coconut.
   The batter is baked in a nine-inch round cake pan, then cooled.
   The cake keeps well for about three days at room temperature.

Cake Keeper Cakes on

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baked Ziti: A crowd-pleasing dish
for your next family get-together

Baked pasta can be absolutely horrible.
   Many people have had the experience of being at a brunch or potluck, digging into baked mac and cheese or another type of pasta, and finding their serving is rubbery or mushy.
   These two undesirable traits are what Cook’s Illustrated, a magazine from America’s Test Kitchen, aimed to eradicate with their recipe for Baked Ziti (click for the recipe).
   They did it, and brilliantly.
   The baked ziti that results from their recipe is, for lack of a better word, smooth. There is no mushiness, strings or clumps.
   I’ve never had baked pasta with such a pleasing texture.
   It’s the texture that causes me to recommend this dish the most. While the flavor is absolutely fine, you’re not going to impress your local neighborhood foodie with its mind-bending taste.
   Rather, this is a crowd-pleasing, family-friendly dish that’s ideal for entertaining large groups. Easter, here we come.
   Everyone from ages two to 92 will eat it, and heartily.
   The recipe called for ziti or any other short, tubular pasta. We couldn’t find ziti and so used chifferini rigati, which to us looked short and tubular. To me, though, it sounds as if macaroni would do just fine in this recipe.
   Although the recipe isn’t hard to make, it is a little labor intensive. It took my husband and I about 50 minutes, working together, to do the advance work before putting the pasta in the oven to bake.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a blog, and is identical to the one we used.
   The pasta is boiled until it is al dente, and then drained.
   Garlic is cooked in a skillet or frying pan, then canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes and dry oregano are stirred in and the mixture is simmered until thickened. Off heat, fresh basil and sugar are added.
   In the large soup pot or Dutch oven in which the pasta was cooked, cornstarch and heavy cream are brought to a simmer (this happens quickly. Stir constantly so it doesn’t burn.)
   The pot is removed from the heat, then a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs and Parmesan cheese, one cup of the tomato sauce and cubed mozzarella are stirred into the mixture. The pasta is added and stirred to coat with the sauce.
   The pasta mixture is poured into a 13x9 inch baking dish (we used a glass one), and spread with the remaining tomato sauce. More grated Parmesan and mozzarella is sprinkled on top
   The dish is covered with foil and baked for 30 minutes, then the foil is removed and the dish baked for another 30 minutes.
   After being cooled for 20 minutes, the pasta is sprinkled with fresh basil and served.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

My husband's leek-cutting skills
come in handy for terrific Tortellini Soup

My husband is an expert cleaner and cutter of leeks.
   “If you were a contestant on an Iron Chef episode that dealt only with cutting leeks, you’d win hands down,” I commented recently after watching him prepare one for a terrific soup (more on that below.)
   After cutting off the dark leafy portion of the leek, he cuts it open and swishes it around in cold water to get out all the dirt and crud.
   Then he chops it into perfect, small pieces. After cutting, he puts the leek pieces in melted butter in a saucepan, and their lovely oniony aroma fills the kitchen.
   Leeks have a lovely light oniony flavor too, which lent itself perfectly to Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas & Leeks (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine.
   The leek flavor is infused into the chicken broth, providing a perfect backdrop for the plump tortellini, peas and carrots.
   This family-friendly soup has a homestyle appeal that will have everyone spooning a second portion into their bowls.
   The recipe calls for frozen cheese tortellini. I was unable to find frozen, and so used fresh from the fresh pasta section of the supermarket. Because we used fresh, we used the lower cooking time of three minutes at the end of the recipe.
   The soup very easy to make.
   Leeks, garlic and carrot are cooked in melted butter in a large soup pot until tender, then prepared chicken broth is added and the soup brought to a boil.
   The tortellini is added and cooked in the soup for three minutes, then the heat is reduced to a simmer and frozen peas are stirred in, with a final three- to five-minute cooking time.
   The soup is served with freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Romesco - a delicious sauce with a crunch!

Romesco, according to Wikipedia, is a sauce originating Spain that is typically made from almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil and nyora peppers, a smaller, sweet, dried variety of red bell pepper. Other common ingredients include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onion.
   Sounds good, doesn’t it?
   I know for a fact that it is after making Chicken Cutlets with Romesco and Serrano Cracklins from Bon Appetit magazine.
   The romesco sauce in this recipe uses jarred red bell peppers and almonds, and the result is outstanding.
   I’ve never had a sauce that was a little crunchy, but this one is! The almonds, which are blended into small pieces, provide the crunch. The nuts also “hold” the sauce together so it is more like a spread rather than a sauce.
   The simple salad of lettuce and parsley that is served alongside the chicken is a perfect accompaniment. Both chicken and salad have a bright, light taste and texture that perfect for ushering in spring.
   The recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs made from a baguette. We used panko instead, a type of ready-made breadcrumb that can be found in the bakery or Asian foods section of many supermarkets.
   The recipe also calls for Sherry wine vinegar. We couldn’t find this, and substituted red wine vinegar for it.
   To make the romesco, the vinegar, breadcrumbs, jarred roasted red bell peppers, olive oil, garlic and paprika are blended together.
   Thinly-sliced Serrano ham or proscuitto is sauted until crisp and transferred to a bowl.
   In the same skillet, chicken cutlets that have been coated with a mixture of breadcrumbs and parsley are cooked.
   The chicken is served with romesco sauce and the ham on top, and a salad of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lettuce and parsley on the side.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Currant and Raisin Cake: A simple
appearance disguises a winning taste and texture

“Does that cake need any icing or anything?”
   My husband asked this question when he saw Irish Currant and Raisin Cake (click for the recipe) cooling on the counter when I made it for the first time recently.
   “No,” I said, but I told him I knew what he was getting at – it looked as if the cake would be dry.
   It was a concern that was blasted into outer space when we tried it.
   Its plain and simple, no frills appearance had disguised a surprisingly fluffy and light texture, likely due to a combination of baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk. The cake was nowhere near dry, and icing would have been an absolutely absurd addition.
   And the taste, oh, the taste. This cake was delicious. Since I love currants, I was in heaven.
   Although I’m posting this entry on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish Currant and Raisin Cake will work well beyond the day that celebrates all things Ireland.
   It would, for example, be a lovely addition or ending to an Easter brunch or dinner, especially since it is family-friendly.
   The cake’s texture is best on the day it’s made, but covered in plastic and kept at room temperature it will still hold up taste-wise for about three days.
   The recipe says to bake the cake in an eight-inch round cake pan that is two inches deep.
   Since I only have eight-inch round cake pans that are 1.5” inches deep, I used a nine-inch round cake pan that is 1.5” deep instead, and used the lower-end cooking time of 45 minutes.
   The cake is very easy to make.
   Butter, sugar, and eggs are beaten together (I used a hand mixer), then a combination of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt is added alternately with buttermilk.
   Currants and raisins are tossed with a bit of flour and folded into the batter.
   The batter is scraped into a pan that is buttered and lined with parchment paper, and the cake is baked. After cooling in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes, it is turned out and cooled completely.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Irish Coffee -- the cocktail in cupcake form

Irish Coffee is a warm cocktail comprised of hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar and topped with thick or whipped cream.
   And it’s also a cupcake from the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine.
   “In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve reimagined the traditional drink as a cupcake for grown-ups,” the introduction for Irish Coffee Cupcakes (click for the recipe) says on the Martha Stewart website.
   It’s a wonderful reimagining, with the light brown coffee-flavored cupcakes topped with generous pillows of whiskey-spiked whipped cream. There is only one tablespoon of whiskey in the topping, so there is no overwhelming taste, just a slight hint of caramel.
  I have to admit I didn’t use Irish whiskey in the whipped cream topping – I reached for Crown Royal instead, an iconic Canadian whiskey.
   The recipe refers to the topping as frosting, but I don’t think it qualifies as such. The topping is a lot more liquidy than your average frosting – putting it on the cupcakes is like putting whipped cream on pie.
   Whatever it is called, frosting or topping, be sure to slather a lot on each cupcake. It will moisten the cake below with each and every bite.
   Dust each cupcake with a bit of espresso powder as the recipe says, too. It makes the cupcakes look complete, and ties the tastes of the cake and topping together.
   The instant-espresso powder called for by the recipe is available in many supermarkets, but the only brand I’ve ever seen that has it is Nescafe.
   The recipe says the yield is 15 cupcakes, but I was only able to make 11 comfortably. Because the cupcakes are topped with fresh whipped cream, store them in the fridge.
   The cupcakes are easy to make.
   Boiling water is poured over instant-espresso powder and left to cool, then whole milk is added and the mixture stirred.
   Flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt are whisked together. Butter, sugar, light-brown sugar and eggs are beaten together with an electric mixer, then the flour mixture is added in three additions alternating with the espresso-milk mixture.
   The cupcakes are baked, cooled and turned out from muffin tins.
   For the topping, whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) are beaten with an electric mixture until medium peaks form, then whiskey is added and the mixture beaten some more until slightly stiff peaks form. (Check by turning off the mixer and pulling out the beaters to see what peaks they make in the cream.)
   The cupcakes are topped with the whipped cream and dusted with espresso powder.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gateau de Sirop is like gingerbread for spring

Gingerbread is a classic treat that’s often associated with Christmas.
   But I’ve found a recipe that brings the appeal of gingerbread to early spring.
   Gateau de Sirop (click for the recipe), from the March 2011 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, has a texture and presentation that reminds one of gingerbread.
   But it also has a caramel taste that gets a person thinking more of spring showers than winter snows.
   The caramel taste is likely due to the 100 per cent pure cane syrup that’s in the cake. According to Bon Appetit magazine, this “syrup cake” is a Cajun classic.
   In Canada, Roger’s Golden Syrup, available in many supermarkets, is 100 per cent pure cane syrup.
   Gateau de Sirop is versatile: It can be eaten out-of-hand for a quick snack or weeknight dessert, or dressed up with whipping cream, powdered sugar and more syrup for a casual dinner party.
   I found the cake got more pleasingly moist the longer it was stored in a sealed container at room temperature, but it is just as nice to serve on the very first day it’s made.
   And it’s easy to make.
   Flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt are sifted together. In another bowl, butter, sugar, eggs, cane syrup, evaporated milk and sour cream are mixed together with an electric mixer.
   The dry ingredients are added to the wet and the mixture is combined until blended.
   The cake is baked in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch metal baking pan for about 50 minutes.
   To serve, cut into squares and top with freshly-beaten whipping cream.

Another great dessert: Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Orange Glaze

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Friday, March 11, 2011

A salad to celebrate
the magnificence of mushrooms

The promise of spring makes me think about mushrooms.
   Shiitake, oyster and chanterelle mushrooms start to make their appearance in the supermarket alongside the year-round mainstays of portobello, button and cremini mushrooms.
   I’ve got a terrific recipe to share for a mushroom salad that is bright in flavor, making it perfect as a side for a springtime meal.
   Fine Cooking’s Mushroom Salad with Lemon, Thyme and Parmigiano (click for the recipe) is absolutely delicious. Writing about it now, my mouth is watering.
   It is so easy to make that it suits weeknight cooking, but it is also elegant enough to serve at a dinner party.
   The advice to make the salad just before serving is a good one, because mushrooms will indeed release more liquid the longer they marinate.
   However, the marinade/dressing for the mushrooms can be made in advance, and the mushrooms added to marinate 10 minutes prior to serving.
   The recipe said to use a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg. In the absence of this, I used ground nutmeg.
   Lemon zest (finely-grated lemon peel), lemon juice, shallots, fresh thyme, nutmeg, kosher salt and olive oil are mixed together, and sliced button mushrooms are added stirred to coat. The salad is left to marinate for 10 minutes.
   Just before serving, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is scattered on top. (Using a vegetable peeler as the recipe directs is good advice.)

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Potatoes Anna puts the taste of
spuds in a starring role

I love it when I the first recipe I try out from a new cookbook works like a charm.
   It makes me happy I invested the money in the book, and revs me up to try more recipes from it.
   I recently bought Laura Calder’s French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating.
   I settled on Potatoes Anna (click for the recipe) as the first to try, and my husband and I made it together. (It is called Pommes Anna in the book.)
   It was amazingly good.
   I’ve never had a potato dish before in which the star was the taste of the potato itself, rather than flourishes such as cheese or cream.
   The earthiness of the potatoes shone through brilliantly and made me appreciate the existence of spuds even more.
   Thanks to the thin slicing of the potatoes, the dish bakes to a lovely tenderness that doesn’t slide apart when you cut it while eating. In fact, Potatoes Anna can be sliced into neat squares when serving.
   The recipe I’ve linked to above on the Food Network Canada website says to use Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, but the cookbook only said Yukon Gold, so that is what we used.
   My husband used a V-slicer to thinly slice the potatoes. A mandoline would also work well.
   Potatoes Anna was very easy to make.
   An eight-inch square baking pan is lined with parchment paper, and the bottom and sides are brushed with butter.
   Peeled and sliced potatoes are tossed in a large bowl with heavy cream (I used whipping cream), and are left to soak (linked-to recipe doesn’t suggest a time, but the cookbook said 10 minutes.)
   The potatoes are overlapped and layered in the pan, with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme and rosemary scattered in between each layer.
   Another sheet of buttered parchment paper is placed butter side down on the potatoes, and a heavy dish is put on top to weigh it down.
   The potatoes are baked until tender, about 1 to 1 ½ hours (we cooked it for an hour and 15 minutes.)
   The potatoes can be scooped out of the pan to serve immediately after it is taken out of the oven, or cooled for about five minutes to cut into squares.
   The recipe I linked to above says to turn the potatoes out, but my husband cut them in the pan and it worked fine.
   Now I’ll go back to French Taste to try more winning recipes.

French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating at

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Arroz con Pollo: One-pot cooking at its best

This is the third outstanding recipe I’m writing about from Eating Well magazine in the last two weeks.
   First was Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup, then Crispy Baked Drumsticks with Honey-Mustard Sauce, and now Arroz con Pollo (click for the recipe) takes the stage.
   Arroz con Pollo is chicken cooked with rice. The recipe is one-pot cooking at its best, with the chicken and other ingredients being cooked in one cozy home together.
   The result is a family-friendly dish with juicy chicken and mild flavors.
   The only concern I had about the recipe, and it is minor, is the texture of the rice after cooking time. Instant brown rice is used to hasten the recipe’s cooking time to just 40 minutes.
   After other ingredients, including broth, are brought a boil, the rice is stirred in and the mixture is simmered for about eight minutes.
   The rice in the resulting dish was very slightly gummy, and so I would recommend a couple more minutes of cooking time after the rice is added.
   However, with Arroz con Pollo, the rice is dished into the mouth and swallowed without a lot of chewing, making the issue of slightly gummy rice much less critical than it would be in other recipes.
   Arroz con Pollo is easy to make.
   Bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks, skin removed, are sprinkled with salt, browned in oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot, and transferred to a plate.
   Onion, garlic, tomato sauce and broth are put in the pot and brought to a boil. The rice is stirred in, the chicken is returned to the pot and the dish is simmered. Frozen mixed vegetables that have been thawed are stirred in and cooked until heated through.
   Serve, nestling the lovely chicken among the rice on the plate.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peanuts, banana and chocolate
meet in a chunky, delicious cookie

Peanuts, banana and lots o’ chocolate -- sounds like a dreamy combination, doesn’t it?
   It’s realized in Peanut Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies (click for the recipe) from pastry chef Danielle Keene.
   The bananas are present courtesy of freeze-dried banana or banana chips, which can be found at bulk and health food stores.
   The chocolate finds its way in with a pound of bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped. To save time, I used bittersweet chocolate chips instead, which can also be found at bulk foods stores.
   The last bit of the heavenly trio is peanuts, which are of the unsalted roasted variety.
   Thanks to the banana chips, chocolate bits and peanuts, the cookies are studded with chunks of goodness in every scrumptious bite.
   I found the cookies kept well for about three days at room temperature.
   They are a cinch to make, a terrific project for an afternoon off.
   Butter and chopped bittersweet chocolate (or bittersweet chocolate chips) are melted together in a bowl set over simmering water, then left to cool.
   Eggs, light brown sugar and vanilla are whisked together with an electric mixer (I used a hand mixer.) The cooled melted chocolate mixture, flour and baking powder are added to the egg mixture and the ingredients are beaten until combined.
   More chopped chocolate or chips, peanuts and the banana chips are stirred in by hand.
   The dough is dropped by the spoonful or ice cream scoop on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. The cookies are baked 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are cracked and shiny.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sea Viper sippers and goat cheese appetizers

Saturday night is often the time my husband and I try out new cocktail and appetizer recipes.
   One recent Saturday we made a dynamite sipper and appetizer – goat cheese crackers with red pepper jelly washed down with a Sea Viper, a lovely libation combination of Sailor Jerry Rum and black tea.
   My husband and I tried Sailor Jerry Rum for the first time a while back in another cocktail, Ginger Rum Shandy, and liked it so much we wanted to use it again in something else.
   After Googling “Sailor Jerry Rum,” we found the recipe for the Sea Viper (click for the recipe).
   My husband took the lead on this one, making the black tea, adding sugar until it met his satisfaction, letting it cool to room temperature and then putting it in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
   The recipe says to use two parts of black tea for every one part Sailor Jerry Rum. That’s such anexceedingly huge ratio of rum to tea you would need to be a hard-drinking sailor to tolerate it.
   My husband used just an ounce of rum for about a cup of tea, and that was plenty. He served the cocktails on ice in highball glasses.
   The inspiration for the goat cheese on crackers topped with red pepper jelly came from Fine Cooking magazine.
   The magazine recipe (click for it here) says to use good quality hot pepper jelly, and that’s fine for those who can tolerate the heat.
   I used some mild red pepper jelly we bought recently, and this was perfect for my husband and I, as we both dislike overly-spicy foods.
   The goat cheese is used when it is room temperature, and that left it creamy enough to spread nicely on the crackers (we used water table crackers.)
   After the cheese is spread on the crackers, it is topped with red pepper jelly, popped in the mouth and enjoyed.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp: Unusual ingredient combination produces delicious dish

It looked like an unusual combination: Cinnamon, allspice, tomatoes, shrimp and dill.
   And that’s why I immediately wanted to try the recipe for Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp (click for the recipe) from Gourmet magazine when I saw it a couple of years ago.
   What would those ingredients in the recipe produce?
   Something delicious, as it turned out.
   The cinnamon and allspice give the tomatoes a sensation of earthy warmth, while the shrimp gives it a meaty texture. The crumbled feta cheese on top add a perfect bit of zest.
   Apparently allspice is a staple in Greek cooking, and is often added to dishes with tomatoes and fish. I can see why it’s done – the resulting taste is quite comforting.
   As the recipe introduction suggests, crusty bread is the perfect thing to serve with the dish, as you can use it to sop up the tomato juices.
   Greek-Spiced Baked Shrimp is easy to make.
   Chopped onion and garlic are cooked until softened, then red-pepper flakes, cinnamon, allspice, a can of tomatoes and sugar are added and the mixture is left to simmer for about 20 minutes.
   Large peeled and deveined shrimp is added to the tomato mixture, which is then poured into a baking dish and topped with crumbled feta cheese. After baking in the oven, the dish is sprinkled with fresh dill and served.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

'Make it again soon' Crispy Baked Drumsticks
with Honey-Mustard Sauce

Although all the recipes on Recipes That Worked are amazing, and that’s why I write about them, occasionally there is one will come along that is just a hair above all the others and earns an immediate badge of honor in my “definitely make it again soon, and make it for others” file.
   Crispy Baked Drumsticks with Honey-Mustard Sauce (click for the recipe) from Eating Well magazine is a recipe that recently earned this badge of honor.
   The drumsticks are absolutely, completely delicious.
   Juicy, crispy and perfectly seasoned, with a killer homemade honey-mustard sauce on the side, they are definite crowd-pleasers. They make a terrific casual Friday night meal with fries and salad.
   Thanks to Greek yogurt, the honey-mustard sauce has a pleasing creamy texture. However, it has a very tiny horseradishy taste to it, so smaller children may not take to the sauce, but nearly everyone will like the chicken itself.
   Because the recipe is from Eating Well magazine, the dish has less fat and calories than similar ones of this type.
   The recipe is so easy to make it’s stupefying.
   It calls for fine dry breadcrumbs. We used panko, a type of very fine Japanese breadcrumbs that can be found in the bakery or Asian foods section of many supermarkets.
   The breadcrumbs, paprika, onion powder, and salt are mixed together in a shallow dish and drizzled with canola oil. The mixture is mashed with a fork until the oil is incorporated. An egg is lightly beaten in another shallow dish.
   Skinless drumsticks are dipped in the egg, pressed in the bread mixture and placed on a wire rack in a baking sheet.
   While the chicken is baking, the sauce is prepared by mixing nonfat plain yogurt, Dijon mustard and honey.
   Serve the sauce alongside the drumsticks, and watch the crowd rave.

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