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I’m a TV Star!

I’m a TV Star!
two women cooking

Bridgett (left) and me (right) just cooking on TV, like we do…

Ok – maybe not a star, but I was asked to demonstrate my Mac & Cheese with Pears recipe on our local PBS station as a part of their KCTSCooks program. Twice a year our station asks for recipe submissions for a category of recipe – this show was about Pasta, Rice & Grains. They generally get 300+ submissions from all over and ask a small portion of folks to share their recipe on the air – I was one of 12. I had practiced at home a few weeks prior, showing my pal Jacquie how I prepared the dish and having her help me. I had to bring a finished dish, my demo pasta precooked, the rest of the ingredients,and a pre-made pot of the cheese sauce so it would all fit into the 10 minute segment. The day before heading to Seattle, I did all my prep and practiced in my head as I made two full recipes of the pasta and cheese sauce, packaged up my other ingredients and finished the full recipe so that, by the magic of television, a finished casserole could be removed from the oven for the unveiling. (Please note that the measurements aren’t exact on the video and that you are welcome to purchase the book from KCTS to get all the other recipes.) As I was preparing to go on – and it was shown LIVE, people! – I decided to pre-chop my onions to avoid crying and getting snotty on camera. (it was a good call). I was scheduled about halfway through, so I had plenty of time to be nervous and watch some of the people ahead of me. I was right after a low-fat, Vegan, gluten-free recipe – pretty much the opposite of my recipe which was fatty, gluten-filled and had meat, milk and cheese!Variety is the spice of life -am I right, people?

I’ve posted my Mac & Cheese recipe before, but I’ve jazzed it up some since – a recipe isn’t any good unless you can deviate from the printed text to make it your own! This version uses extra sharp cheddar (white) cheese as well as bleu cheese for the sauce.

It was a very fun day of being nervous, cooking, and eating! Recipe HERE. Watch video of segment HERE.

macaroni, cheese, sausage, pears

“Beauty shot” of my prepared dish.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2014 in Entertaining, Information, Recipe

 

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‘Tis the Season: Christmas Cookie Sweatshop

When my kids were young, we decided it would fun to make and decorate cookies to give to neighbors and friends for Christmas. We like to eat Christmas cookies, too, (who doesn’t???) so I made a huge batch so we would be sure to have plenty. I rolled, cut and baked for hours as the kids decorated until they were exhausted – and that’s when we coined the phrase, “Christmas Cookie Sweatshop!” It is also how we answer the phone on Sweatshop day – “Christmas Cookie Sweatshop – How may I help you?”

Another tray-full, heading to the oven!

Another tray-full, heading to the oven!

With just a few of us decorating, the creativity slumped as the sweatshop rolled on, leaving lots of cookies with just a glob of frosting and a sprinkle of colored sugar. We needed more help in the sweatshop – what to do?

Make it a party! Now everyone comes over to our house and decorates and takes home cookies – they make them as pretty as they want – or not! I add food dye – the gel type gives the most intense colors – to canned frosting (cream cheese flavor). I usually have 6-7 different colors -plus white. Handfuls of plastic knives are tucked into each frosting bowl – no waiting! And I have copious sprinkles and sugars for adding detail or just pizazz to the cookie. A plastic table cloth is laid on the table and wax paper for the still-warm cookies to cool upon.

Some vie to see who can decorate the most bizarre cookie. Frontrunners in the past have included a snowman cookie re-purposed as Jabba the Hut and penguins changed to Santa Clauses (below- Note that one is “Santa Noir”). We serve eggnog punch and other beverages along with “savory” treats to counteract all the sweets as Christmas music plays in the background.

Penguin cookie shapes "re-purposed" as Santa Cookies!

Penguin cookie shapes “re-purposed” as Santa Cookies!

Here is a link to a video of some of the creations from a previous year. I think one of the Jabba the Hut cookies is in that one…

Sugar Cookie Recipe

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 c flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream together in a large bowl the butter and sugar – add the eggs and mix well. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the dry to the creamed mixture – mixing well after each addition. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours. Roll out 1/4″ think on floured surface (have purchased a sil-pat yet? – ask Santa for one – so worth it!) and use cutters that have been dipped in flour to avoid sticking. Place evenly on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone liner (ask Santa for some of those, too!) – see photo. Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes (watch closely!) Cool slightly before frosting. For best results, keep the dough you aren’t using in the fridge.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Entertaining, Information, Recipe

 

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I Love Beta-Carotene Season: Stuffed Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash - the skin is edible, believe it or not!

While shopping at a farmers’ market in my daughter’s new hometown, we came across a couple of bushels of some beautiful, striped squashes and were about 6-8 inches long. I’d never seen this type before -or at least hadn’t really noticed them – so we asked about them and decided to get a few to try. (in retrospect, I wish I had bought a lot more!) Their size just screamed “stuffing!” so that is the way I decided to go.

[ In a bizarre coincidence, a local food blogger was on our NPR station talking about Delicata squash the other morning and she said that the skin is edible and the flesh is very sweet. She cuts them into rings and roasts them, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper on baking sheet. Simple! ]

Cooked pork sausage, sourdough bread, herbs & spices

This recipe used two Delicata Squash, making 4 servings. First I made the stuffing – about 4 c. cubed sourdough bread, 6-8 oz. ground pork sausage (cooked & crumbled), 1 tsp sage, 1/2 tsp thyme, 1/2 c vegetable broth, 1-2 tbl dried onion flakes. I cooked the sausage and threw everything else into the pot without draining – I had used a low fat version of Jimmy Dean sausage and it had surprisingly little fat. You could use Stove-Top stuffing, but this really did not take all that much time and definitely had less sodium!

I washed the squash and cut it in half length-wise and then scooped out the seeds and goop. There wasn’t a lot and it wasn’t really goopy like some squashes. In order for a couple of them to lie on the baking sheet without rolling, I shaved a few slices off the back to

Ready to pop in the oven!

give it a flatter surface. I didn’t oil my baking sheet because I use the silicone baking mats – I’ve mentioned these before! Have you bought some yet? What are you waiting for?!?! Go on – I’ll wait…

I brushed oil on the edges of the squash and divided my prepared stuffing between the 4 halves. After grinding some sea salt, fresh pepper and a little cinnamon over them, I dotted the stuffing with butter (about 2 tbl between the 4) and baked them for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees. At about the halfway mark, I covered them with foil to keep the stuffing from getting too crunchy. Poke them with a fork to make sure they have the right amount of tenderness – your fork should slide easily into the flesh.

[ Another bizarre coincidence: my daughter cooked her squashes the same night with a similar stuffing, only she added dried cranberries and goat cheese – yum! ]

Delicata? Delicious!

The squash was sweet, but not overly so and the sausage in the stuffing gave the whole dish a nice kick. We both ate the skin – which had no discernible taste and did not detract from the dish in any way – although I skipped eating the very end bits (blossom & stem). Both my husband and I found that one half squash was plenty to fill us up so now we have some “delicata” leftovers! I’ll definitely make this again and – if I could find some smaller ones – it would make a lovely side dish for a holiday meal or to a dress-up leftover turkey dinner.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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Pre-made Simmmer Sauce, Packaged Soup Mix: Is it cheating?

Lemon Artichoke Simmer Sauce

After a recent shopping trip that included World Market, I came away with a couple of packaged recipe starters – a simmer sauce and dried soup mixes. Although some purists may disagree, I don’t believe using such things for inspiration or a jumping off point is cheating. If I am adding 4 or more ingredients I have to prepare myself to make a complete dish, then it is merely one of the steps in the preparation. (Step 5. Dump in Simmer Sauce) Few of us have the time it would take to create a fresh sauce of this sort – at least in time for that evening’s dinner! The one I chose had lemon juice, artichokes and white wine as its main flavors – which sounded like a marvelous combination to me! I used boneless chicken thighs (1 1/2 lb) that I dredged in flour/ground pepper and then lightly browned in olive oil.

4 or more ingredients added? Not cheating!

I added chopped onion (1/2 c), sliced zucchini (2 small), canned artichoke quarters (14 oz., drained), and mushrooms (1 c sliced), as well as the sauce, and simmered for 35-40 minutes. I served it on Basmati rice to soak up the juices. Delicious!

My other recipe starter was World Market’s Bistro Style Lentil Soup Mix. Even though there were dehydrated vegetables in the mix, the instructions called for fresh ingredients like onion (1/2 onion, chopped), garlic (2 cloves – it called for 4!), and carrots (1 c chopped), as well as canned diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) and chicken broth (2 c). I took it a bit further and added mushrooms (1 c sliced), spinach (2 c)  and sliced cooked Aidell’s Sausage (1 pkg. chicken & apple).

Dried Soup Mix

The soup had to simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, so this is not something you can decide to make on the spur of the moment! In all fairness, you would have simmer it that long if you gathered and measured all the lentils yourself. Undercooked lentils are crunchy and not really what you are going for in a soup. The house smelled amazing while it was cooking, by the way. I’m surprised there wasn’t a line of neighbors – or raccoons – outside the door by the time it was ready to be served! I chose a chewy ciabatta roll as an accompaniment to this soup, so we could swipe out our bowls!

Something that could have been done before adding the sausage and spinach (they were added with about 1/2 hour to go), would be to run it through a blender to make it smooth and creamy, but I had to dash out the door after bolting down a quick, still-simmering bowl, so maybe next time!

A hearty soup for a chilly day!

PS When I returned home, I grabbed a second bowl and my ciabatta roll – tasty! Plenty of leftovers, too!

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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Need Inspiration? There’s an App for that!

There's an app for that!

The internet can provide many sources of inspiration for cooking just about anything, but what if you can’t drag your computer into the kitchen? What if your printer is on the fritz – again! – and you can’t print out the recipe? What if you have an Apple iPad, just sitting there, doing nothing…?

When it comes to cooking resources, there is definitely an app for that! I chose to load the allrecipes app, made especially for the iPad. Although there is an “upgrade” version you can pay for – the free version has enough bells & whistles to be a very satisfactory resource. How much do I love the “allrecipes.com” app? A LOT! It’s like having a portable version of the website (which I also LOVE)!

Features I Particularly Like:

  • Search: Just type in an ingredient or recipe title and a list of recipes from the website appears with a photo (if available), the star ratings, the cook’s name and a part of the description (if it’s long). Touch one of the versions that grabs your interest and a new screen appears with the ingredients list and directions, as well as reader/user reviews.
  • Inspire Me: At the top, left corner, is the Inspire Me button. Touch this and 6 food pictures floats to the center of the screen – from sauces to main dishes; breakfast to dessert! Touch one of the photos for a quick preview that will give you the recipe title, ratings, cook and short description. You then have the option to see more details, look for similar recipes or review later. Or just touch outside of the pop-up and it will go away. After a few moments, one of the pictures will slide away and be replaced with another. If you decide you want to see just chicken dishes, for example, swipe it to the bottom of the screen and all the current choices will go away, followed by 6 choices in that category. You can now go through them in the same manner as before. I could play with this feature for hours!
  • Start Cooking: When you have chosen a recipe and assembled your ingredients, ready to begin cooking, touch the orange circle, labeled “Start Cooking” and your screen will change to a “landscape” view (the above graphic shows a “portrait” view) with a timer on the right side, ingredient list below that. Most of the screen has the instructions listed, with the first step enlarged. The top of the screen has a number for each of the steps which, when touched, will enlarge that step in the cooking process. Or – I guess if you’re not good with numbers… – you can touch “next step” or “back step,” also at the top of the screen. You can change the font size by touching the little box with a big A and a little A – both in upper case. Select the size that is best for your visual acuity.
  • The Timer (in the above feature): The orange timer is set for the number of minutes needed for cooking each recipe. You can start the timer by touching the little arrow and you can also enlarge it by touching the button with the two arrows pointing in opposite directions. If your iPad is not on mute, it will beep at you when the cooking time is finished!
  • Expand: When you pull up the recipe page, you can use it in this incarnation to shop for and prepare your meal, but you have to remember to scroll through the ingredients if they don’t all fit into the default sized window. By choosing “expand” – the two little arrows pointing in opposite directions in the upper right-hand corner of the “recipe book” – all the ingredients are on the left page and all the instructions on the left. If the recipe is complicated, you may need to scroll through the instructions or use the Start Cooking feature instead.
  • Featured: By choosing this option at the top of the home screen, you can see the featured recipes for the month, similar to the home page for allrecipes.com.

Inspired yet? I know for a fact I haven’t used all the features on the free version of this app and know I will discover more as I continue to play with it. The “upgrade” features include “Recipe Box” and “List.” I assume that recipe box is similar to the website and is a place for bookmarking recipes you want to save and I’m guessing that “list” will set up a shopping list for a particular recipe. Do I need them? Eh! Not so much! Am I saying you should rush out and get an iPad? Not really, but if you’re looking for an excuse, there are worse reason to get one! If you already have an iPad, you’ll find this app to be a very effective tool.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Information, Product Review

 

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Peach-N-Ginger Pie: Tastes Like Summer!

Eating Pie in front, Auction Pie in back - fresh from the oven!

Yesterday, I submitted pies to a local fundraiser in our community called, “Pie in the Park.” This event raises money for a new community center by throwing a pie tasting party and auctioning off donated pies. The pie tasting is free. Free pie? What’s not to like?!?! Those who donated pies were asked to bring one for tasting and one for auction. I hadn’t participated before, but I modestly (?) believe I make a pretty darn good pie, so off I went to get some peaches for pie! Purchasing peaches can be an unpredictable endeavor. If the grocer keeps them too cold, they are mealy and unappetizing, but you don’t know that until you cut them open – or worse, bite them. Most of the time, they are too green, so last minute shopping can prove to be disappointing. Luckily, I was able to get some good peaches a few days ahead and only one was bad when I cut it open. >whew!< I decided to kick it up a notch by adding crystallized ginger to the pie mixture  – which turned out to be a good choice! There were quite a few pies at the auction – tons of apple, pumpkin, berry – but only 2 peach/ginger concoctions. One was mine and the other from a professional baker. I don’t recall what the other one went for, but I was pleased to see that mine was sold for $80 – the winner out-bid my husband for the honor!

Ready for the oven!

The Pie Crust  Last winter, I found a new pie crust recipe in Better Homes & Gardens magazine that I fell in love with. It makes a goodly amount of dough – enough for 3 deep dish single crust pies, or, for my needs, 2 smaller sized (9 inch) pies. The recipe calls for sour cream, real butter and vinegar – among other things! – and is refrigerated before rolling out. It has a small amount of sugar in the recipe and I used extra-fine baker’s sugar in which I have stored a vanilla bean. This gives the sugar a mild vanilla flavor and is actually how “vanilla powder” is made. As a finishing touch on my pies, I brush them with milk and sprinkle sugar on them to give them a shiny, crisp crust. I also like to use tiny cookie cutters to decorate my pies instead of the usual slashes. This crust recipe bakes up really flaky so the cut-outs look almost like puff pastry after baking.

See the ginger bits? Next step: Top crust!

The Filling  I sliced the peaches fairly thin, tossed them with lemon juice and added some nutmeg and the vanilla sugar mentioned before. This takes a while because peaches are so slippery to peel! I know there is a way to quickly blanch them so that their skins slip right off, but I just didn’t want to go there on a warm summer day! I have found that when peaches are “just right” the skins will peel off nicely when I start at the stem end with hardly any “peach gouging.” To fill two 9 inch pie plates, I used 8 medium sized peaches. The ginger bits were not added in with the rest of the filling, but instead were sprinkled on top of the filling before putting the top crust in place. I used crystallized ginger bits for bakers by

Crystallized Ginger Chips by The Ginger People

The Ginger People. They are about the same size as chocolate chips. I think I got these at either Central Market  or World Market – I’ve seen them both places.

You may click here to view/print a pdf of the recipe – including the lovely crust recipe! Here is a an up close shot of my $80 pie!

Fresh from the oven -Peach-N-Ginger Pie!

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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Fun Stuff: Flavor Grinders

Two Flavor Grinders from Trader Joe's

I’ve noticed a trend in the spice aisles of the local grocery stores: flavor grinders. These are disposable grinders filled with herbs and spices in various combinations. I recently came across some grinders at Trader Joe’s which are my new favorite flavor enhancers while cooking. One is a “sweet” – Chocolate, Coffee Bean & Sugar – for topping coffee drinks, cupcakes, cookies, toast – whatever your little heart desires! The other is a “savory” called Flower Pepper which has Pepper Corns, Lavender and Other Flowers for fish, fowl, salads, etc. Besides the wonderful combinations each of these devices holds, they are notable for one other thing – they are refillable! I haven’t checked yet to see if T J’s carries refills in bulk – that would be awesome!

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Information, Product Review

 

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