Thursday, February 26, 2009

BB: Meringues Chantilly

Oh boy was this a doozy of an effort! I must preface my comments on this recipe with some background. I hate meringue. Since I committed to trying new recipes I made this with the hope that somehow I would grow to love meringues, I mean Ina never real steers one array....

The recipe was easy to follow and the approach straightforward, I couldn't help thinking so much effort so lackluster meringues? Even my husband didn't care for them and he generally likes meringue. Regardless I found the berry stew very tasty and will for sure use that in future desserts and you really can't fault a dessert with homemade whipped cream.

Thanks to BMK of Reservations Not Required (recipe may be found here) for the selection as sometimes you have to try to make something to reinforce the notion that you actually dislike it!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stuffed Potatoes

I can attest that every mediocre banquet hall has a twice baked potato that typically rivals their decor... two words, Not Good. Over processed potatoes with imitation bacon bits along with crap cheese give this dish a bad rap. Now I have on occasion made this dish for a crowd, I like the portion size, ease of preparation and it can be made ahead of time. The use of fresh ingredients, really makes this dish shine. Enjoy!

10-12 russet or Idaho potatoes
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk or half and half
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of cooked pancetta or thick cut bacon
Few tablespoons chives
Salt and pepper

Wrap potatoes in aluminum foil and place in 400 degree oven, bake for an hour. Let the potatoes cool slightly, slice slivers on each pole of the potatoes so that each portion stands upright. Carefully cut potatoes width-wise and remove a good portion of the "meat" with a small spoon. Place in a small bowl. Mash the extracted potato until smooth but leave a few chunks. Place remaining ingredients in bowl and combine. Using a piping bag or plastic freezer bag, pipe potato mixture back in the shells. Top with additional cheese (optional) and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until slightly browned.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Joys of Marriage

On October 20, 2007, I was married to the most amazing, generous, handsome man. We have together over the last four or so years shared many adventures but no one prepared either of us for the concept of sharing or co-existing in the kitchen. Sure we together oohed and awwed over new wedding present, kitchen toys. But the "honeymoon" ended quicker than a prom dress can hit the floor. To this day, I am scarred when he attempts to cook, not because he isn't talented rather, the mess he makes prevents me for enjoying the meal and I am not OCD. Every prep bowl, every knife, ever stirring tool is utilized and left randomly on the counters. Not to mention he overlooks and gives no credence to the idea of cross contamination. Now in his defense, he does not often attempt to prepare a meal but none the less when he does, I end up cleaning up behind him. He claims I have slowly but surely displaced him and he no longer feels comfortable as I hover cleaning while he "creates". I pray for peace in our kitchen and we can find a way to coexist :)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seared Scallop Salad

A great first course or a meal in itself, these seared scallops served over a simple salad are so satisfying. It is difficult to find good, fresh seafood in the winter months in Michigan. There are wonderful area markets such as Papa Joes that have a great selection of seafood but at $24.99 a pound it's not exactly a wallet friendly experience. Now I am sure scallops are pricey in any part of the country, so I only serve for special occasions or when we really crave this sweet treat. Enjoy!

2-4 servings

1 lb fresh sea scallops about 6-8
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt and black pepper

1 bag mixed greens
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat butter in large pan, meanwhile wash and thoroughly dry scallops, season each side with generous amounts of salt and pepper. When pan in very hot add about 4 scallops but do not crowd the pan. Sear about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium. While scallops are searing, whisk the shallots, lemon and oil and lightly dress the salad greens. Remove scallops from the pan and place on salad, serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lemonade Pie

It's winter in Michigan which means snow, ice and overall gloom. I have no business even thinking about lemonade because there is no heat to quench. Regardless I was randomly on the Betty Crocker website and ran across this simple recipe. Baking is not really my thing and this is great, refreshing and easy recipe. Now if the weather would just cooperate...

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers (20 squares)
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted (USED BUTTER)
3 tablespoons sugar

Lemonade Filling
1 quart (4 cups) vanilla ice cream, softened (USED HAGEN DAZ)
1 can (6 ounces) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
Few drops yellow food color, if desired (OMITTED)
Grated lemon or lime peel, if desired (USED MEYER LEMON ZEST)
1. Heat oven to 375ºF. In medium bowl, mix all Graham Cracker Crust ingredients. Press mixture firmly against bottom and side of pie plate, 9x1 1/4 inches. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool 30 minutes.
2. In large bowl, mix ice cream, lemonade concentrate and food color. Mound ice-cream mixture in crust.
3. Freeze about 4 hours or until firm. Let stand at room temperature a few minutes before cutting. Garnish with grated lemon peel. Store covered in freezer.

Food Confession: Meyer Lemon

The term foodie frustrates me, I consider most human beings foodies, whether they find peace and satisfaction in the preparation or the consumption of the final product. There is a connotation associated with the term that assumes foodies are somehow superior to others that may lake in preparation skills but still love a well prepared meal. I think no other fruit excites foodies more than Meyer Lemons. Go ahead an google it and I assure you won't be disappointed. I look forward to this time of year when these gems are in season. The color is unreal and gives dishes a more orange citrus flavor. At $2.99 a pound at my local Wholepaycheck (Wholefoods), I use sparingly and find dishes where this fragrant star can shine. I used these "lemons" in every course of my Valentines Day feast but my most favorite use of this ingredient is creating Risotto cakes. So there I said it foodie is a four letter word in my book but Meyer Lemons are delightful.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Tale of Two Dips

Olives with anchovies and tart feta cheese dip are hardly a romantic start to St. Valentines Day but I couldn't resist integrating two of our favorite things in to what has become an annual dinner in. Trying to be conscious of extras in the pantry and fridge I figured we could munch on this while the other courses were prepared and I must say this was one of the highlights of the evening. Served with a nice loaf of bread of pita chips, this is a great start to any dinner. I made a more traditional tapenade for New Years Eve a few years ago and most guests seemd to enjoy. The feta portion of this tale, I make quit often. Enoy!
Whipped Feta Dip
2 Servings
1/2 lb. feta cheese roughly cut in to pieces
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped chives
In a small food processor combine, feta, lemon zest and black, pulse until combine. Add olive oil and pulse 2-3 times. Place mixture in small bowl, mix in the chives and chill for about a half hour.
Black Olive Tapenade
2-3 Servings
1 cup pitted, coarsely chopped kalamata black olives
1 anchovy fillet chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
This take the classic French tapenade uses just black olives because that's what I had, the traditional approach calls for a mixture of green and black olives and capers. Frankly add what you like.
In small food processor add olives, anchovy, garlic and pepper, process for a minutes, slowly add lemon juice and add olive oil if mixture is too thick. Chill and enjoy

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chicken Feta Pockets

Weeknight meals are tough for me. I along with most of the free world leave the house in the early morning only to return in the late evening. Most of the time I have no energy for a assembling a big meal. Most of our weeknight meals are simple and fresh as I am not a big fan of processed foods, planning ahead helps keep our daily meals simple and fresh. I know many prescribe to the 30Mminute Meal but that's not really my thing. This dish was borne out of necessity to clean out my fridge. I enjoyed all these ingredients on their own well all except the raw chicken so the combination created a great meal that came together pretty quick. Now this could be served with whole chicken breast either in a pocket or served open-faced. Enjoy!

2 Servings


2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, rinsed and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
2 pita bread
1/4 cup pitted, chopped Kalamata olives or any black olive
1/4 cup feta cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pam spray
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and Pepper

Heat grated cast iron grill or large skillet on medium heat until smoking spray a bit of Pam. Add season chicken and grill for about 8 minutes per side or until internal temp. is 180 degrees. While chicken is cooking heat olive oil in small sautee pan and add cherry tomatoes along with a little salt and pepper and sugar. Cook until tomatoes are golden and break down a bit. Combine feta, olives and tomatoes. Slice chicken and stuff in to cut pita break, top or bottom with feta, olive, tomato mixture.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seared Pork Tenderloin Medallions

Pork tenderloin has less fat then boneless skinless chicken breast or at least that is what I am told and choose to believe. This cut of pork is very tender and often does not have such a porky flavor. There really is no need to marinade other than I really like giving an extra layer of flavor. This dish is good with out doing anything more than seasoning, searing and serving but I had extra herbs and figured might as well but them to good use. Enjoy.

1 tenderloin of pork about 1lb, rinsed and cut into 1/2 medallions
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1 spring thyme
1 spring rosemary
2 cloves of garlic smashed

White Wine Shallot Sauce:
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons minced shallots or sweet onion
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
1.) Combine marinade ingredients, mix well and add medallions, store in fridge for a few hours or overnight.
2.) Remove pork about 12-20 minutes prior to cooking.
3.) Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed pan and sear medallions in batches about 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside.
4.) Remove pan from the heat and add shallots.
5.) Return pan to medium heat and add wine scrapping up the brown stuff.
6.) Add chicken broth and cook for 10 minutes.
7.) Remove from heat add butter and mix until melted. Check seasoning add salt and pepper if needed. Add medallions and serve over rice or veggies.

Barefoot Blogger: Real Spaghetti and Meatballs

Pasta is one of my favorite things and I am always looking for new tricks. One of the best new tricks is trying a different approach to a classic. This recipe is very similiar to my usually spaghetti and meatballs and I found the flavors really fresh and simple and sometimes that's all you really need. I found the meatballs a little on the bready side but that allowed to soak up a really mild sauce. My guests and I really enjoyed and I followed the recipe to the tee.

Recipe: Ina Garten from Food Network Website


For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For serving:nocoupons
1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
Freshly grated Parmesan

Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.
Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Big Fat Baileys Bundt Cake

My friend Danielle bought me a spring form bundt cake pan for Christmas. I am super excited considering I really can't bake and such equipment will motivate me to try baking. I found this Emeril recipe on the Food Network site and followed it pretty much to the tee except I used bailey's instead of the suggested liquor.

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon nut-flavored liqueur (recommended: Nocello)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons milk or water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Chopped lightly toasted walnuts, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 10-inch bundt bake pan, then flour, shaking to knock out any excess flour. In a large bowl fitted with an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat until pale and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of liqueur and beat to incorporate. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and milk, mixing well after the last addition. Pour 1/3 of the batter into a separate bowl and add the sifted cocoa powder, mixing well.
Pour half of the white batter into the prepared pan, spreading around the entire bottom of the pan, and top with the chocolate batter, smoothing slightly to make an even layer. Drop and spread the remaining white batter over the top. With a thin knife or skewer, swirl the 2 batters together to create a marbleized effect. Bake until the cake is set and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour and 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack with a sheet pan positioned underneath.
To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup liqueur with the confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon milk or water and whisk until smooth, adding up to another tablespoon of liquid, as needed. While the cake is still warm on the rack with the sheet pan underneath, drizzle the glaze evenly over the top. Sprinkle the top immediately with chopped nuts and let the glaze set and the cake cool before serving.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lemon Chicken Souvlaki

Boneless skinless chicken breast is my nemesis. I know it is relatively healthy and easy to work up and can be used in a ton of things but it's pros in convenience often does not out way the fact that it has little to no flavor. Summer time grilling is perfect for ensuring chicken breast stays moist since there are no signs of Summer in Detroit, marinating the hell of chicken cubes will have to do. To be honest I don't recall consuming a chicken souvlaki in Greece. This recipe hold true to basic Greek principals but like many "ethnic" food in the US this is more a Greek-American invention.

The title of this recipe is lemon chicken souvlaki which means the star of the show is lemon and lot so it. Marinating for 24 hours in such a large quantity of acid seems a bit odd but the lemon breaks down the chicken flesh and really shines. Enjoy

2-3 servings
1 lb or 2 large boneless chicken breasts, washed, dried and cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons greek oregano
2 cloves garlic crushed
skewers and veggies for garnish

In a large bowl with fitted top, combine oil, lemon, wine and mix well. Add salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and chicken cubes. Marinate for at least 3 hours or even better overnight in the fridge. Remove marinade from the fridge at least a half hour prior to expected cooking time. Cut veggies of choice and skewer chicken and veggies. Place to the side. Heat a cast iron grill or outdoor grill until very hot and smoking. Place skewers and sear on each side, lower heat and cook through 10-15 minutes.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I wasn't born with a spoon of tzatziki in my mouth. I have early memories of Christmas Eve at my Theia Sotiria's and the everyone waited on pins and needles for my mom to bring the homemade yogurt so they could make the Tzatziki. The smell of fresh garlic permeated the kitchen and I couldn't bring myself to try. Fast forward a good number of years and I basically plugged my nose, dived in and couldn't turn back. More cheese like in texture than a conventional yogurt, Greek yogurt is thick, rich and a meal on it's own and perfect for meze (family style small plate or starters) and dips. I have my mom's (Helen) yogurt recipe and will make sooner rather then later but at this point I let the capable folks a Fage do the work.

I think that's my main problem with most tzatziki which relies too much on garlic. There is nothing worse the smell of garlic on someones breath or even worse when they sweat the stuff. I'm convinced that is why Greeks (other then the face that they have nothing better to do) drink ouzo with meze. They need something to counteract 2-3 cloves of raw garlic. Balance is key, there is nothing more miserable than biting in to a piece of raw garlic when you least expect it. Mince the garlic, add the lemon, don't forget salt and pepper a little dill oh yeah and some strained cucumber. It's easy enough. If a thick yogurt isn't available and lets face it I may need to mortgage the house to afford Fage, strained Dannon will work just fine.

Serving 2 cups

1 8 oz portion of Fage whole fat yogurt or 1 16 oz portion of Dannon strained.
1/2 seedless cucumber grated
1/2 glove of garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill

1) . Place grated cucumber between 2 paper towels and squeeze out as much water as possible.
2.) In a small bowl place yogurt and add all ingredients expect olive oil in a small bowl with tight lid.
3.) Slowly pour olive oil and combine all ingredients.
4.) Refrigerate and serve with pita chips or fresh bread.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is literally in my blood. I have since I was a baby consumed this amazing item. My love of olive oil is a bit obsessive, I am big surprise very particular and have come to the conclusion that there is not always a correlation between price and quality. Now I typically only use extra virgin olive oil and in simply refer to it as olive oil. That's not to say I use only one brand of oil rather I have oils for marinating, frying and using in it's uncooked form. All of it extra virgin. Not all Extra virgin olive oil is the same, obviously olives from California differ from those in Spain, Italy, Greece, France, Morocco etc. Now I prefer Greek olive oil simply because it keep my close to my heritage and hands down there are amazing Greek artisan oils. One of the greatest experience in life was visiting the olive groves in my mom's hometown in Messinia, Greece. Kalamata is know for it's olives but nothing can prepare you for the experience and artistry involved with creating such an unique liquid. I was lucky enough to receive a unique Christmas gift. A case of extra virgin olive oil from Messinia and i must say I covet it with my life. :) The aroma is complex and the olive flavor distinct with a bit of a bite. The color is the unbelievably green and I am truly trying to ration it.

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