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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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Moroccan Chicken Stew – Exotic and Delish!

Moroccan Chicken Stew – Exotic and Delish!
cinnamon, cumin, black and red pepper, and turmeric.

This little jar holds cinnamon, cumin, black and red pepper, and turmeric.

When I find a ready-made food that I really enjoy, I like to try and re-create it in my own kitchen. Campbell’s Soup is trying to reach out to the younger set with new and interesting soups in pouches under the name “Campbell’s Go.”  I’m from the tail-end of the Baby Boomers – not a Millennial, but my taste buds aren’t dead yet! I tried and loved their Moroccan Style Chicken soup, so I made a note of the ingredients and gave it a try. What really helped was finding a jar of a Moroccan spice blend – saved me from trying to figure out how much turmeric –vs- cinnamon or cumin! The first time, I used diced tomatoes for the base, and added some water; I also used leftover rotisserie chicken instead of starting from scratch. It was flavorful, but too soupy – not the consistency I was looking for. This time, I used crushed tomatoes and a tub of concentrated chicken stock (look for it near the broths in the soup aisle) as the base which gave me the consistency I was looking for – more like a spaghetti sauce than a soup. I also used boneless, skinless chicken thighs (3 for this recipe), that I cut up into chunks before cooking, so the prep was longer, but ultimately worth it. Overall, I’d say it took about ½ hour of prep and I simmered it for under an hour. I served it with couscous and flat bread in a soup plate.

  • 2 c. cubed raw chicken
  • ½ c coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 c coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1 tbl olive oil

    Chicken,carrots and onions, sauteed in olive oil.

    Chicken,carrots and onions, sauteed in olive oil.

  • 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1-2 tbl Moroccan spice mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 serving concentrated chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions and cook for a couple of minutes; add chicken and pepper to taste. Stir and cook chicken/onion mixture for 5 minutes and then add the carrots and continue to cook and stir until carrots begin to soften. Dump in the tomatoes and garbanzo beans; add stock and spices, stir. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve in a shallow bowl with couscous and naan bread.

Moroccan Chicken Stew, couscous, flat bread

Dinner is served!

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Recipe

 

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Cooking for Two: Caprese Sauce on Basil Gnocchi

Cooking for Two: Caprese Sauce on Basil Gnocchi

Don’t you just love those caprese appetizers? Those little fresh mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes skewered on picks and drizzled with balsamic vinegar? So yummy! I decided to make a sauce based on those delightful, summery, picks-o-goodness! Only no toothpicks. Because that would be dangerous.

I picked up a package of basil gnocchi at our local World Market for this dish, but regular gnocchi should work also. I used “pearl” tomatoes – which are more golf-ball sized, so I’m not sure where the name came from! A couple of diced, seeded Roma tomatoes would work just dandy. Speaking of pearls, I wish I could have found those cute little pearl-sized fresh mozzarella balls, but oh well!

1 – 16 oz. pkg. Basil Gnocchi

3-4 cloves Roasted Garlic

mozzarella balls, tomatoes, basil, caprese sauce

The sauce just needs to simmer a little longer to warm through!

¾ c white wine

1 tbl. Balsamic vinegar

1 tbl olive oil

3 small Tomatoes, cut in wedges and seeded

Salt & Pepper to taste

1/3 c chopped fresh basil (I use scissors)

12 fresh mozzarella balls (1 inch size –although I would have loved to have found the pearl-sized mozzarella)

SAUCE: Measure the wine and Balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan – add the roasted garlic and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt & pepper and simmer 2 minutes longer. Put in the mozzarella balls and basil and warm through.

gnocchi, caprese sauce, basil, tomatoes, mozzarella balls

We ate every single bite!

GNOCCHI: Using only mountain spring water, hauled by hand in a copper bucket…kidding! Cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and stir gently. Serve immediately.

Note: I should have added a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar…next time!!

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in 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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Searching for Inspiration…

Two things you should not do at a grocery store: 1) Go when you’re hungry and, 2) Go with the intent to become inspired. Actually, there are many more things you shouldn’t do – pilfering and nudity both spring to mind – but perhaps we can cover those things in another post… Mind you, I have gone to the grocery store hungry and in search of inspiration and it usually does not end well. Junk food leaps into my cart and I finger the chocolate bars near the check-out with obvious yearning. Inspirational choices usually end up being something frozen or deli purchased and – while not all bad – that’s not really cooking, is it? In the best of all possible worlds, I like to head to the store with a good list, including meal planning notes – and a fist full of coupons.

A good start is to check the weekly ads of your local grocery stores. You can figure out what types of ingredients are available for the best price that week. Next, find a good recipe website. I really like All Recipes.com. It has a good search engine for helping you find recipes and reviews. If you put in “chicken” and “rice,” for example, you get 399 recipes to choose from! The reviews are invaluable as these are written by real people with varying degrees of cooking skills who tell what substitutions they may have made, how it turns out and whether they will use it again. You are certain to find something that will work for you and your family. They also have an iPad app that is fabulous (and, even better, FREE!) so that I can use my iPad as a recipe book – very cool!

Brown Rice & Broccoli - Parmesan cheese on top - yum!

If you are fortunate enough to live near a Central Market in Kitsap, Snohomish or King counties in Washington, it is actually feasible to stop in and find inspiration at their Culinary Resource Center (the store in Kitsap county has the center located in the produce). They have chef’s preparing samples of some of their wonderful tested recipes with ingredients found in the store. If you don’t live near any, don’t despair! They have a website with all their recipes available for printing on the Culinary Resource Center page. The recipes cater to all levels of cooking and include a variety of ingredients. My husband and I were in the store recently and taste-tested their Brown Rice and Broccoli recipe – very tasty! I grabbed a copy and gathered the easily located ingredients to make for an upcoming event and it went over quite well! The recipe is here.

The great thing about both of these sites is that you can print out the recipes for future use – no need to try and find it again on the web. All Recipes.com also allows you to keep a “recipe box” to store favorites when you set up a free account. I usually print them out and put them in plastic sleeves in my large recipe binder – it works better for me. Central Market’s site will help you set up a shopping list, but I don’t think you can actually save the recipe on the site. If you live in the area, you can buy one of their special binders to keep the recipe cards organized with the included category dividers.

There are many other options for cooking inspiration – cooking blogs, foodie tv shows, etc., but these two sites should help you get started – who knows what else you might find! If you have a favorite recipe site/source, please let me know what it is in a comment below!

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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