Archive for the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Yummy Casserole!

March 6, 2018

It never hurts to have a few quick and easy casserole recipes at your disposal (or prepared and in your freezer) for those times when you just need a quick and easy meal. Here’s one with wild rice that you can make with chicken (regular or Cajun-spiced) or shrimp.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

1 package (2-1/4-ounce) of sliced almonds
2 boxes (6.2-ounce each) of fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice
1/4 cup of butter
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cups of cooked chicken, diced
2 cans (10-3/4-ounce each) of cream of mushroom soup
2 cans (8-ounce each) chopped water chestnuts (drained)
1 container (8-ounce) sour cream
1 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
4 cups (16-ounces) of shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups of breadcrumbs

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan for 4-6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant (stir occasionally).

2.  Prepare your rice according to the directions on the package.

3.  While rice is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the celery and onions and saute for 10 minutes (or until tender).  Stir in the chicken and the next six ingredients, the rice, and 3 cups of the cheese.  Spoon this mixture into a lightly greased 15×10 baking dish and top with the breadcrumbs.

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and top with the toasted almonds before returning to the oven for an additional five minutes.

To Make Ahead
Follow steps 2 and 3 above then cover with aluminum foil and freeze for up to one month.  Remove from freezer and allow to stand at room temperature for one hour.  Toast your almonds as directed in step 1, then bake your casserole (covered) at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover and continue baking for 55-75 minutes (or until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with 1 cup (4-ounces) of shredded cheddar cheese and toasted almonds and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Or you can try these tasty variation:

Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole
Substitute 2 pounds of peeled and deveined , medium-sized raw shrimp (41/50 count) for the chicken; 2 cups (8-ounces) of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and 2 cups (8-ounces) of grated Parmesan cheese for the cheddar cheese; and 1 cup of dry white wine for the milk.

Cajun Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Omit the salt and the pepper.  Reduce the chicken to 2-1/2 cups.  Prepare as directed, sauteing 1 pound of chopped andouille sausage, 1 diced green bell pepper, with the celery in step 3.   Stir in 1 can (15-ounce) of black-eyed peas (drained) and 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning into the rice mixture.



Cheesecake of the Month – February 2018!

February 15, 2018

One of my non-U.S. friends (thank you Martha) has forwarded me yet another intriguing cheesecake recipe to add to my files.  Add it does not require baking!  I will definitely be trying this one soon!  I’ll have to break out my metric conversion charts for this one.

Salted Caramel and Popcorn Cheesecake

250 grams of crushed ginger nut biscuits
90 grams of butter, melted

3 cartons (180 grams each) of cream cheese, softened
200 ml of whipping cream
5 Tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Salted Caramel
300 gram container of caramel spread
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt flakes

30 grams of salted caramel popcorn
30 grams of toasted pecans

1. Line the bottom and sides of a 2 cm springform pan with parchment paper.

2. Mix the biscuit crumbs and butter together and press on to the bottom and sides of your springform pan.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes or so to firm up.

3. To make the cheesecake mixture, put the cream cheese into a bowl with the cream, sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth with an electric hand-held mixer.

4. To make the salted caramel, beat the salt into the caramel until smooth.  Remove the springform pan from the fridge and spread 2/3 of the caramel onto the crust.

5. Add the cheesecake mixture and spread over the top of the caramel mixture.  Refrigerate for at least two hours to set.

6. Once set, remove from the refrigerator and scatter the popcorn and pecans on top before drizzling with the remaining salted caramel.

Cheese Makes Everything Tastier!

February 6, 2018

I don’t often find new recipes for preparing vegetables that strike my interest (perhaps this is because I am not looking too strenuously for them), but I ran across this recipe the other day that sounds positively delicious!

Roasted Parmesan Crusted Cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower (firm)
2-1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil
Black pepper
Oil spray (olive oil)
Finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano or thyme
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 390 degrees.

2. Mix crust ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Break the cauliflower into large florets.  Cut the very large florets into 1/2″ thick slices, and the medium florets in half.  You will want a large flat area on each piece of cauliflower for the crust mixture to adhere to.

4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

5. Drizzle the tray with olive oil.  Use one of the cauliflower pieces to spread the oil over the entire paper.

6. Sprinkle the crust mixture all over the tray, as evenly as possible.  Don’t touch it once it is scattered.

7. Place the cauliflower down on the crust mixture (pressing down lightly).  Don’t jam the cauliflower pieces right up against each other (this may cause them to steam and go soggy), keep a tiny bit of space between each piece.

8. Spray the cauliflower generously with oil and sprinkle with a bit of black pepper.

9. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown.

10. Use tongs to turn the cauliflower so the crust side is up and bake for an additional five minutes.

11. Serve immediately sprinkled with finely chopped parsley (or other herb) if desired.

Cordon Bleu, the Easy Way!

January 6, 2018

I recently found a recipe for preparing Chicken Cordon Bleu that seems to easy to believe.  There is no pounding of the chicken breasts (unless you cannot find the cutlets) to a certain thinness before adding the ham and cheese and rolling, breading, and cooking . . . rather, it is all done in a skillet!  How east is that?

Skillet Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 thin boneless, skinless cutlets (4 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of butter
1-1/2 teaspoons of olive oil
2/3 cup of chicken broth
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
4 slices (thin) of deli ham
4 slices Swiss cheese
Chopped parsley (for garnish)

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper (to taste).

2. Place the flour in a shallow dish.  Coat your chicken in the flour (on both sides) and shake off the excess.

3. In a snall bowl combine the chicken roth, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and 1 teaspoon of flour and whisk until smooth.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt the butter and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil plus half of the chicken.

5. Cook for 2 minutes on each side (until slightly golden) and transfer to another dish.

6. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and the remaining chicken and cook for two minutes on each side.

7. Set aside with the previously cooked chicken.

8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken broth mixture.  Whisk and scrape up any bit stuck to the pan and simmer for two minutes (to reduce slightly).

9. Return the chicken to the skillet, top each piece with a slice of ham and a slice of the Swiss cheese, cover the skillet, and simmer on medium-low for 3-4 minutes (until the cheese melts).

10. To serve, use a spatula to transfer the chicken to the plate and spoon the remaining sauce over each piece.

Serve with either roasted vegetables or a rice pilaf.

Cheesecake of the Month – December 2017!

December 16, 2017

Happy Saturday!  This month I will be sharing a traditional holiday cheesecake (pumpkin) with a slight variation . . . and if you like ginger, this one is sure to please!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Cream Topping

3/4 cup of sugar, divided
3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, divided
3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of finely ground pecans
1/4 cup of butter, melted
1 Tablespoon of flour
1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon  of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 can pumpkin (16-ounce)
3 packages (8-ounces each) cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
Ginger Cream Topping (recipe below)
Garnish (pecan halves)

1. Combine 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup of ground pecans, and butter.  Press this mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ lightly greased springform pan.  Cover and chill for an hour.

2. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 12 cup of brown sugar, flour, and the next six ingredients and set aside.

3. Beat the cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add the pumpkin mixture and beat well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Pour the mixture into your prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Spoon the ginger cream topping over the top, cover, and chill for at least eight (8) hours.  To serve, remove the sides of the pan and garnish (if desired).

Ginger Cream Topping

1 cup of whipping cream
1 container (8-ounce) of sour cream)
2 Tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of minced crystallized ginger
3 Tablespoons of dark rum
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Combine the first three ingredients in a bowl; beat on high speed with a mixer until soft peaks form.  fold in the ginger, rum, and vanilla.

Chicken . . . with a Hint of Lemon!

December 6, 2017

Here is a recipe for a Chicken Francaise with a twist . . . of lemon!  Positively delicious!

Creamy Lemon Chicken Francaise

2 large boneless chicken breasts (cut in half horizontally)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of flour
2 Tablespoons of butter
4 Tablespoons of olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3/4 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of half-and-half (or heavy cream)
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 teaspoons  of parsley, chopped (for the garnish)

1.  Pound each chicken fillet to 1/2-inch thick

2.  Beat egss, Parmesan cheese, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper in a shallow bowl.

3.  To another shallow bowl, add the flour, season with salt and pepper, and mix together.

4.  Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil/butter is hot enough for frying, dredge the fillets in the flour (coat completely), then coat them in the egg wash.  Allow any excess egg to drip off before frying the fillets in the oil for about four minutes on each side until they are a nice and golden brown.  Remove the fillets to a paper-towel-lined plate.

5.  To the same frying pan, add the crushed garlic, and cook for one minute (until they are fragrant).  Add in the white wine, the chicken broth, and the parsley.  Allow this to cook for about five minutes on high heat to “reduce down” the mixture (be sure to swirl the pan occasionally).  Reduce the heat and add the cream.  Simmer on low heat until the mixture is slightly thickened.

6.  Stir in the juice from half a lemon and return the chicken to the sauce to heat through on low heat for about two minutes.

7.  Serve the chicken and the sauce together over rice or pasta.  Garnish with extra parsley, if desired.

“Weeds” with Sausage!

September 6, 2017

Here’s a recipe that I will be trying within the next week or so.  I’d not heard of this type of pasta before, but the “weeds” refers to gramigne which apparently resembles a slightly unraveled phone cord.  I’m not sure how easy it will be to find gramigne, but if it proves to be difficult, you could always use fusilli or rotelle.

“Weeds” with Sausage

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of butter
1 large onion, diced
1 pound of Italian pork sausage (without the casing)
6 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1/2 cup of milk
Salt and pepper
1 pound of gramigne, short fusilli, or rotelle
Freshly grated Parmiagiano cheese

1.  In a 12- to 14-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over high heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and golden brown (6-8 minutes).  Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally (and draining any excess fat), until the sausage is very brown and somewhat crisp (about 10 minutes).

2.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it becomes a deep rust color (about 8 minutes).  Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is evaporated.  Stir in the milk, season with salt and pepper (to taste), and reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes more.

3.  Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 Tablespoons of salt.  Drop your pasta into the water and cook until just al dente.

4.  Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking water (set aside) and drain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the sauce and toss over high heat for 1 minute (to coat), add a bit of the reserved water if necessary to “loosen” the sauce.

5.  Divide the pasta among your pasta bowls, top with the Parmiagiano cheese and serve.

Molto bene!

Source: Molto Italiano by Mario Batali, p. 189

Storing Your Groceries!

August 13, 2017

For those of you who can never remember which foods need to be stored in the refrigerator (or what steps you can take to keep your foods fresh), here is a marvelous infographic with the low-down on all of the dos and don’ts (courtesy of Jessica Stevens in Kitchen Hacks).


Excellent Crab Cakes!

August 6, 2017

Last winter I had the pleasure of attending the Culinaria Cooking School for a one-evening team-building event for the Board of Directors of the Special Libraries Association.   I have never been a huge fan of crab meat, but these crab cakes were “to die for.”  And, we actually got to make them ourselves.  Bon appetit!

“Excellent” Crab Cakes

1 pound of fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
1 cup of fresh white bread crumbs
4-5 Tablespoons of mayonnaise
4 Tablespoons of Italian parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoons of black sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
2 Tablespooons of coarse-grained Dijon mustard (rounded Tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons of green onion (or shallots), chopped
4-5 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
2 jalapeño (or scotch bonnet or Serrano pepper), seeded and minced
2 extra large eggs, beaten to blend
2 Tablespoons of oil
2 Tablespoons of butter
Mixed greens, dressed with light vinaigrette (for serving)

1. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss or mix together (try to not over work the crab so it doesn’t break into tiny pieces). Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs with a fork to blend. Add in the egg and gently blend in with all the ingredients. Form the mixture into equal sized patties.

2. Heat a heavy skillet to medium-high heat. Add 2 TBSP. of oil and then melt 2 TBSP. butter in the center of the oil.   Sauté the crab cakes in batches until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Arrange 2 or 3 crab cakes (depending on the size) on each plate. Add some mixed greens dressed with light vinaigrette and top each crab cake
with avocado “butter,” chipotle crème fraîche or your favorite sauce and serve.

Chipotle Crème Fraîche (makes about ¾ cup): Optional
¼ cup of mayonnaise
¼ cup of crème fraîche
4 chilies (canned chipotle chilies in adobo)
1 medium clove of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons of capers

1. In a blender (or food processor), combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to chill.


How About Some Noodles?!

July 6, 2017

If you have been looking for a quick and easy way to add an Asian version to your carb-loading, then look no more.  Here is a tasty recipe that combines chicken, peanut butter, and noodles (with all of the assorted Asian spices) for an entree that will have them begging for more.

Chicken Peanut Noodles

1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each of ginger and salt
4 trimmed chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 head of broccoli, chopped
6 ounces of soba noodles (2 bundles)
1/3 cup of peanut butter
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar
2 teaspoons of honey
1/4 cup of chopped peanuts
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil six (6) cups of water in a covered saucepan over medium-high heat.  To prepare the chicken, sprinkle the garlic powder, ginger, and salt over both sides.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until almost cooked through (about six (6) minutes), flipping once.  Add the broccoli to the skillet.  Cook the contents, covered, until the broccoli is bright green (and crisp-tender) and the chicken is cooked through (about five (5) minutes more).

3. Add the noodles to your boiling water and cook until tender (about three (3) minutes).

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and honey. Drain the noodles (but reserve 1/2 cup of the noodle water) and immediately coat the noodles in the peanut sauce (add some of the cooking water to loosen the sauce if required).

5.  Chop the chicken  and toss with the noodles and broccoli.  Top with peanuts and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.