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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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Four Ingredients? I’m in! Crock-pot Cranberry Pork

Sometimes you come across a recipe so simple and it turns out so well that you immediately add it to your list of family favorites; Crock-pot Cranberry Pork is one of them.

First of all, it is cooked in a crock-pot, that wonderful invention from the 70’s which millions of busy people embraced. For whatever reason, the crock-pot is often looked upon with disdain. Bah, sez I! The crock-pot is an efficient tool that can produce a meal with little effort on the cook’s part, freeing up time for things like blogging, walking the dog and perhaps even working…

Here are the ingredients for Crock-Pot Cranberry Pork:

  • 1 (16 oz) can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 c. French dressing
  • 1 onion sliced (I used 1/2 onion which was plenty)
  • 1 (3 lb.) boneless pork loin roast

Combine the cranberries, French dressing and onion in a medium bowl. Place the meat in the crock-pot and pour the sauce over the roast. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Pork is done when internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

One additional thing I did was to thicken the sauce after the meat was done cooking. I removed the pork and

Crock-Pot Cranberry Pork

kept it warm, cranking up the crock-pot to its highest setting. I mixed 1 tbl. corn starch with 2 tbl. cold water and stirred it into the hot liquid to make gravy. I let it cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

THAT’S IT!! Seriously – could it be any easier? I served it with mashed potatoes, steamed zucchini and a chewy loaf of bread. Delish!

PS I forgot to take a picture before we ate – this one is the leftovers from the fridge. Still gorgeous!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Recipe

 

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A Work in Progress: Raspberry-Balsamic Reduction Sauce

I’ve had two fabulous meals at restaurants lately that inspired me to give reduction sauces a shot. I had the Chicken Marsala at The Main Street Ale House in Kingston that was so wonderful that I came >this< close to licking the plate. The other was Apricot Chicken at – of all places – The Olive Garden in Silverdale. Again, there was very nearly a plate-licking incident.

Both of these dishes had chicken breasts that were pounded nearly flat. OK – I have a breast-pounding mallet

Surely this device will pound a chicken breast nice & flat!

that looks like it could stop a moose in its tracks which I keep in the car for protection. Or in case I’m suddenly underwater and need to break a window. With the chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, I commenced pounding (with the smooth side of the mallet) until they were flat and the size of a salad plate. And, hey, it was fun! I sprinkled them with thyme and fresh ground pepper on both sides and put a little sea salt on one side only before cutting them into manageable sizes for grilling.

As I said, I never made a reduction sauce before and I didn’t want to muck up my experiment by actually researching the concept. Pshaw! So this is what I did:

  • In a large, deep sided skillet (large because I needed to add the grilled chicken later and I hate
    Raspberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce

    See - reduced by half!

    washing dishes) I melted 1/2 c. of seedless raspberry jam over low heat.

  • I added 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar, 3/4 c. apple juice (I used a small juice box of 100% juice), fresh ground pepper and 1 tbl. dried onion (handy for sauces when you only need a small amount of onion). I bumped the heat up to medium-high so it would come to a boil.
  • Once it was boiling, I reduced the heat to a simmer until it reduced by half and the chicken was ready to go in. I tossed in some fresh raspberries for color.
  • I coated the chicken in the sauce and let it simmer for 5 or 10 minutes so the flavors would meld.

It smelled like heaven and was very pretty to look at. Not to mention, quite tasty!

See how pretty?!?

Remember that this is a work in progress and that I had never made a reduction sauce before. My husband begged me to put the recipe on my blog so here it is! If you have made a reduction sauce before and what I am doing is horribly, horribly wrong, please let me know.

But if something this delicious is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Information, Recipe

 

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What is your Favorite Comfort Food?

I started a survey on Facebook asking my friends what their favorite comfort foods were. I’m looking for more input before I do any kind of article, but so far many of the favorites involve cheese. If you would like to add your favorites to the survey, please post them as a comment on this blog post or – if we are FB Friends – look for that post on my profile page and post there. Sometimes the weather just has to be ugly to send me on a comfort food kick, but lately illness and bereavement have had me on that path. Anything can set off the need for real comfort food!

One of my favorites is Macaroni & Cheese – and I’m not talking about that orange processed “cheese food” stuff! I mean real, homemade, macaroni and cheese! This is a recipe I recently developed to rave reviews: Macaroni & Cheese with Pears (click for printable pdf) So I don’t bore you with repetition, I’m just going to discuss specific ingredient choices instead of how to make the recipe.

Macaroni & Cheese with Pears - also sausages!

Cheese: In researching the iconic dish, I found an article – could have been by Martha Stewart – that recommended using the sharpest cheddar you could find because the sauce dilutes the cheesiness and sharper cheese will preserve the cheesy flavor you are craving. I’m pretty sure those aren’t the exact words, but you get the idea! The first time I made this recipe, I used Cougar Gold Sharp Cheddar from Washington State University and, I have to say, it was really very good for this dish. I have since used Tillimook Extra Sharp Cheddar, but still find that Cougar Gold is the best! This recipe also calls for Parmesan cheese – and by that I don’t mean the powdered stuff in the green can. Select shaved or grated Parmesan from your grocer’s deli or dairy department or I will find you. You know I will.

Pears: I chose a lovely, large red pear and went all fancy by taking several slices out of the center of the fruit to de-core and arrange on top in a pretty pattern. The rest was peeled and diced into the mac & cheese. As you can see from the photo, there are no pear slices on top of this particular dish. Fancy is a state of mind and sometimes I just don’t go there! The important part is having the pear in the dish for the sweet-sharp flavor contrast in the dish.

Sausages: Our family loves Aidell’s Sausages and the one I chose for this casserole is their Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Cheese Chicken Sausage. It has a peppery flavor that goes well with all the ingredients. There are many varieties of these sausages and you may find your family prefers another. I have also made this dish “sausage-less” as a side dish for a ham dinner. That’s what I like in my recipes – flexibility!

Noodles: For your macaroni & cheese, you want a sturdy noodle that will hold onto the cheese sauce. I fell in love with the galletti noodle because it looks like a prehistoric elbow macaroni. It has the same shape as elbow, but has a ruffle along the curve – like a dinosaur! Here is an article describing the noodle (they use less colorful words…) with a photo of what they look like. And you can probably see the noodle in my photo, above. Believe it or not, I get mine under the Albertson’s Supermarket brand-name, Culinary Circle.

Bread Crumbs: Often, a casserole recipe will call for bread crumbs mixed with melted butter spread across the top. I rarely have bread crumbs (or bread that can be made into crumbs) in the house, but have taken to keeping low-fat croutons for salads in my pantry. I can take a handful of these, put them into a freezer zip-shut bag (sturdier bag = less crumb leakage) and use my rolling pin to crush them to crumbs for the recipe. To tell you the truth, the bread crumb step is probably not all that necessary except for presentation. Do not tell the pre-packaged crouton industry that I told you this!

I will be posting other comfort food selections along the way, so be sure to participate in my informal survey to have your favorites included!

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Recipe

 

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