Friday, November 29, 2013

Molasses cookies, cranberry margaritas, and brandy milk punch - recipes for your holiday arsenal

Here are three recipes I tried recently that would be amazing additions to your holiday entertaining arsenal. Click on the links to get the recipes.

Molasses Spice Cookies: These were yummy, heartwarming and cozy. The whole family will go crazy for this simple and soft cookie. The recipe I linked to is nearly identical to the one I used, with one small exception: The molasses in the linked-to recipe says "light or dark" - my recipe said "robust or mild." The recipe I used warned against using blackstrap molasses.

Cranberry Margaritas: These festive cocktails are unique and fun. By unique, I don’t mean strange-tasting – these are delicious and most everyone will like them. Its uniqueness comes from the rim on the glass, which includes Chinese five-spice powder. It adds an extra hint of tingle to the drink.
            Be careful when making the cranberry jam. It boils down faster than the recipe indicates. I didn’t need the full 30 minutes, 25 was more like it, and for the last 15 minutes I was standing by the pot the entire time, constantly stirring. The mixture will reduce down into a small amount of a jam-like substance, so small, in fact, it barely made enough for three cocktails, not four as the recipe states. I recommend doubling the jam recipe if you make it.

Brennan’s Brandy Milk Punch: This recipe comes from May 2013 issue of Saveur magazine, but I find this drink much more suitable for the Christmas season, not spring! Egg nog fans will love this combo of brandy, half-and-half, a simple syrup and vanilla extract. It froths up beautifully. But I wouldn’t serve it with brunch, as this drink traditionally is in New Orleans. This cocktail, to me, has evening-in-front-of-a-roaring-fire written all over it.
            Simple syrup, by the way, is very easy to make. Sugar (or, I used Splenda) and an equivalent amount of water are brought to a lively simmer in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then left to cool. Simple syrup keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fast winter weeknight dinners, and an easy-to-make, popular cake

Here are some recipes I tried recently that will warm up your winter nights.

Panang Curry Beef with Basil: The word “curry” may scare those who don’t like spicy food, but don’t worry – this dish is mild, and could even be served to children. Make sure to make some rice to go with it – we made jasmine rice.

Shiitake and Roasted Red Pepper Pastry Tart: This sounds a little hoity-toity and time consuming, but it’s definitely not. It is simple, hearty fare that uses jarred roasted red peppers and puff pastry from the supermarket. With the red peppers and green tarragon, this supper-time tart has a festive look and feel to it.

Crispy Flounder with Pears, Endive and Meyer Lemon: This is a bit of a grown-up dish that probably won’t go over well with children, but that doesn’t mean it’s challenging or strange. Make sure to eat each bite as a parcel of fish, pears, endive and lemon – that is when it will taste its wonderful best. Be sure to serve it with rice. We used the sole substitute when we couldn’t find flounder.

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce: I’m all for trying what might be considered a slightly exotic dish to my North American taste buds, especially if it looks easy to do. That’s why I picked this recipe, and it came through with flying colours. I halved the recipe, so the simmering time in step 2 was cut back drastically  -  barely eight minutes instead of the 20 minutes listed in the recipe. My advice is to keep a very close eye on the dish during the simmering part – when it has thickened slightly, it is ready. I served this with warmed naan bread – delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting: This would more accurately named Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese frosting, as cream cheese is a vital component of the frosting and what makes it so delicious. This easy-to-make cake was a big hit at my workplace and my husband’s – people gobbled it up and some even admitted to thinking about it in the days following!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Soup, speedy potatoes and tomatillos

Here are some cozy fall recipes I tried recently. Click on the links to get the recipes.

Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Gruyere Croutons: A soup that’s easy to make and is incredibly delicious. The recipe title is a bit curious as there aren’t really croutons with this recipe; really, they are pieces of toast covered with melted cheese and fresh sage.

Kielbasa with Mashed Potatoes: A super-easy recipe that includes a simple, speedy and smart way to prepare mashed potatoes. The potatoes are cooked in the microwave for just 12 minutes, then whole-grain mustard and whole milk are added and the mixture mashed. Easy-peasy, and very good. I have to admit that to speed up this recipe even more I skipped the broccoli and sauerkraut mixture altogether.

Pork Ribs in Tomatillo Sauce: I’ve never cooked anything with tomatillos before, but I’ve always been curious about them. I took the plunge recently and bought some as they are in season, then picked this recipe to use.

I wasn’t sorry. It was very good, and quite easy to make. As the recipe is from Saveur magazine, known for its authentic international recipes, I’d like to think I was making traditional Mexican comfort food.

Maple Cake: This easy recipe yielded a simple, yummy cake that was comforting and fun to eat. It’s an ideal dessert for fall.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Three Pepper Pork Tenderloin and Grilled Bratwurst

Here are a couple of new recipes I tried during the week of Sept. 2-6. They’re awesome! Click on the links to get the recipes.

Three-Pepper Pork Tenderloin with Peach-Cucumber Salad: The peaches and cucumbers provide a refreshing foil to the peppery pork in this delicious recipe. We only used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead of the full ¼ teaspoon.
   Don’t forget the yogurt (we used plain Greek-style yogurt) and naan bread mentioned at the end of the recipe ingredients – they will pull all the recipe’s components together nicely. You can put the parts together and eat it on a dish, or eat it with your hands by putting sliced pork, salad and yogurt in the naan bread and folding it in half. 
   This recipe feeds four comfortably.

Grilled Bratwurst and Onion Open-Face Sandwiches: Our first time trying bratwurst sausages was a success thanks to this very easy recipe.
   We didn’t make this as an open-face sandwich; rather, we used sausage buns instead of bread, and ate them like hot dogs. The circles of sliced onions will break apart as they cook, making them perfect to pile on top of the sausages in the buns.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Late summer recipes:
Grilled Corn; Black Plum Ice Cream

Here the awesome new recipes I tried from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. Enjoy! Click on the links for the recipes.

Grilled Corn with Herb Butter: This simple recipe will have you munching down corn on the cob in no time. Husked corn is grilled then slathered with a delicious butter flavored with chives, parsley and salt.

Paloma: (alcoholic) This refreshing and elegant cocktail is an easy mix of grapefruit juice, tequila, and lime juice. I cheated and used store-bought grapefruit juice instead of freshly squeezed. Make sure to salt the rims of the glasses – it’s half the fun!

Honeydew, Cucumber and Mint Cooler: (non-alcoholic) This became an instant favorite of mine the minute I tasted it. The lime juice in the recipe amplifies the cucumber in a wonderfully salty way. The recipe says it serves eight, but I was only able to make just two nicely-sized servings with it.

Black Plum, Port, and Cinnamon Ice Cream: This ice cream tastes like ice cream and pie, without the pie! My husband closed his eyes to savor the wonderful taste. Cooking the plums, port and cinnamon will definitely get you in the mood for fall.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My latest round of delicious summer recipes, tried by me in the time period from Aug. 15 to 25, includes a kabob and some must-try cooling summer salads. Click on the links to get the recipes.

Grilled Lamb, Tomato, and Halloumi Skewers with Orzo Salad: These easy-to-make kabobs, with their simple and delicious side of orzo salad, are good for a weeknight or an outdoor party. They reminded my husband and I about the awesomeness of halloumi cheese, which gets perfectly-but-not-too-gooey when grilled. Its salty tang is to die for.

Broiled Plums with Mango Sorbet: So easy and so delicious. Plums sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and vanilla are broiled in the oven and go on top of store-bought mango sorbet. We couldn’t find mango sorbet but did find mango ice cream, which was just as delicious.

Chai Blossom: A simple combination of chilled chai tea, lime juice and club soda is absolutely delicious. The creator of this recipe is very smart to have thought of chilling chai tea.

Zucchini Carpaccio: This ingenious recipe is so easy and quick to make, but is an elegant crowd pleaser. It will work on weeknights with the family and at dinner parties. And with tons of zucchini around these days, this recipe is ideal for using it up.
            The recipe I linked to is a little fancier than the one I used from an Epicurious specialty publication. The recipe I used, for example, didn’t call for pine nuts or zucchini blossoms (the zucchini blossoms are strictly optional, in my opinion!) My recipe also said you could grate the cheese onto the zucchini rather than using a vegetable peeler.

Watermelon and Cucumber Mint Tzatsiki Salad:  This cooling salad was a snap to put together, but if you toss the watermelon and cucumber together too early before serving the salad you’ll get a lot of water in the bowl. If this happens, use a serving spoon with holes in it to get the yummy watermelon and cucumber and leave the water behind.
Leftovers of the accompanying tzatziki, made with Greek yogurt, is good enough to eat on its own with veggies or crackers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I tried four successful on the weekend of Aug. 10 and 11, 2013. Click on the links to get the recipes:

Vodka-Grape Sparkler: This recipe from Bobby Flay is a grown-up grape soda. I made half of the recipe, and it produced three very decent-sized cocktails.

Herb Green Beans with Feta: If you’ve been plagued by the problem of mushy, overcooked and unappetizing beans, take this recipe for a whirl. It produces crisp beans with delicious overtones of mint and dill.

Summer Twang: This non-alcoholic drink is a definite refresher. The base is a combination of pureed cantaloupe, honey and apple cider vinegar, and it’s finished off with club soda. The recipe makes two large or four small servings.

Raspberry Pops: I substituted an equal amount of Splenda for sugar in this simple recipe that produces refreshing, delicious ice pops. I used my handy-dandy Zoku instant ice-pop maker to freeze them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

More terrific summer recipes - pastas, salads, appetizers, cake!

My promised update of recipes I tried so far this summer that worked continues. In this blog entry are summer pastas, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, cake and more. All of them were awesome – try all of the recipes below without fear! Click on the links to get the recipes. (For the recipes for cold drinks and ice pops that I shared yesterday, please go to:

Summer pastas
Here are three pastas that are perfect for summertime: They use fresh tomatoes and basil.

One-Pan Pasta: This amazing recipe really does require just one pan. The pasta is cooked right along with tomatoes, garlic and basil. It’s ideal for weeknights: It took my husband just 25 minutes to make it, from prep to serving, without rushing.

Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella: This pasta has a no-cook sauce. Kids will love it!

Spaghetti with Sun Gold Tomato Sauce: The sauce has some unusual ingredients, a star anise pod and whole clove among them. But what results is an amazing, warming sauce that makes lovely use of tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes can be substituted.

Strawberry delight
Here are a couple of fantastic recipes using fresh strawberries:

Herb-Crusted Chicken with Fresh Strawberry Relish: This dish is so good, it’s a little breathtaking. Make sure to use a roasting pan as directed to get a slight crisp on the chicken.

Strawberry & Blue Cheese Bruschetta: Serve this with champagne and you’ve got a gorgeous start to a summertime dinner party.

Something’s fishy
Shrimp and fish fillets are featured in these lovely recipes:

Warm Shrimp Salad with Honeydew and Feta: The secret ingredient to this refreshing salad, for which the skillet is used to cook the shrimp, is coriander seeds. The recipe calls for cracked coriander seeds, as opposed to ground coriander. We used a spice grinder to crack up some whole coriander seeds, but not grind them completely.

Striped Bass Poached in Herb Butter: Caught some fish you’d like to cook and enjoy? Here’s a wonderful recipe in which fish fillets are poached, rather than fried, in butter, resulting in tender, flavourful fish.  Any type of white fish can be used. Since we couldn’t find striped bass, we used cod with great results. You don’t even need to use fish with skin on one side, as the recipe calls for. We used cod fillets without skin and they worked fine.

Summer baking
Lemon Bundt Cake: Although this recipe is from a December issue of Food & Wine magazine, I thought it looked much more suited to spring and summer. The recipe is a little involved but the end product is definitely worth it.

Polenta Pound Cake with Blueberries and Thyme: This is hands-down the best pound cake I’ve ever made. Even though it is a rather dense cake and the sauce best served warm, it is still surprisingly well suited to outdoor summer dinners due to the luscious blueberries and herby time.

Fine fennel
These two recipes use fennel: One with fresh fennel, the other with fennel seeds.

Chilled Fennel and Cucumber Soup: Creamy (from fresh steamed fennel as the base), satisfying, and COLD. Enough said.

Grilled Pork Sandwiches with Fennel, Dill, and Cucumber: Fennel seeds and allspice are rubbed into pork tenderloin before it is grilled for these delicious sandwiches.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A whack of great summer recipes

It’s been a looooonnnng time since I’ve posted on Recipes That Worked.
  That’s because things have been so hectic at my day job that I’ve had no time for any outside writing projects.
   I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to have to change the way I update Recipes That Worked.
   I will likely not have much time any more to write full blog entries about the recipes.
   I’m going to have to start making weekly updates, telling you about new recipes I tried in the week before (the ones that worked, anyway!) with a short note describing them and any changes or substitutions I made in the recipes (which is quite rare).
   Already this summer I’ve tried a whack of new recipes that I haven’t written about. I’m going to tell you about them this week in a series of large blog entries. Here’s the first, updating on you on some drinks and frosty treats I’ve made that worked terrifically. Click on the links to get the recipes.


Vodka Lavender Thyme Lemonade (alcoholic): Don’t let the lavender freak you out – it simply gives a slightly unusual, but incredibly delicious, edge to the drink. Have fun getting people to guess what the secret ingredient is. Dried lavender can be found at health-food stores.

Frozen Limeade Margarita (alcoholic): This killer recipe is officially my new go-to margarita recipe. You will be stunned, and so will your guests, at how good these are. The secret? Canned frozen limeade concentrate!

Blackberry Blast (alcoholic): This recipe uses rhum agricole, a type of rum made directly from sugarcane, rather than sugarcane by-product such as molasses as is the case with many other types of rums. It actually tastes more like whiskey than rum, which contributes a slightly unsual but very welcome taste to this cooling cocktail.

Berry Rose Sangria (alcoholic): This is the easiest and least time-consuming sangria recipe I’ve ever seen. Forget all the chopping of fruit and letting it sit for hours to blend the flavours – this delicious sangria is ready almost instantly by comparison to other recipes. And it’s delicious!

Salted Meyer Lemon and Sage Presse (non-alcoholic): Got a guest in a crowd who prefers a non-alcoholic drink? This is going to be a big treat for them. It’s got a the appeal of a well-made cocktail without any booze. I used regular lemons instead of Meyer lemons.

Ice pops and sorbet
Last fall, my mother-in-law bought me a Zoku instant ice pop maker for a birthday gift. It's an adorable little contraption that makes ice pops in seven to nine minutes. I cracked the thing open in the middle of July and have been making delicious ice pops since. Here are the successful recipes I’ve tried:
-          Honeydew-Lime Pops
-          Gingery Watermelon Paletas
-          Blueberry-Lime Ice Pops
-          Cherry Paletas

I wouldn’t feel that my summer was complete without making a sorbet or ice cream, and I finally got around to making one recently. It was Cucumber, Celery and Gin Sorbet, an absolute frosty winner.