Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Day queso compuesto


A year or so ago, I was visiting Texas in August and stopped by my grandma’s farm to say howdy. She asked if I was hungry, as she’d just cooked up a pot of black-eyed peas. How could I refuse? We sat down at the table and ate big bowls of the freshly picked peas along with Swiss chard cooked with bacon and warm cornbread slathered in butter. It was a fine late-summer feast using up the bounty of her garden.

Now, this time of year people start thinking more about black-eyed peas, greens and pork as they’re required eating for good fortune in the New Year. A meal such as the one I shared with my grandma would not be out of place on New Year’s Day. But these foods for us are an essential part of life and we eat them all year long, not just on January 1.

This isn’t to say, however, that I won’t be having black-eyed peas, greens and pork on Sunday. But I like to take a little license with these ingredients and take them on a journey to a new place.

new-year-queso_compuesto black-eyed peas, jalapeno

And that’s how I arrived at my New Year’s Day queso compuesto.

The last time I was dipping into a queso compuesto, I asked myself, “What would this taste like with Mexican chorizo, black-eyed peas and collard greens?” Was it kind of crazy or kind of good? I decided to find out.

For those of you wondering what the heck is queso compuesto, let me explain. Queso the dish is melted cheese mixed with chiles—hence it’s official name, chile con queso. (The word "queso in Spanish means cheese.) In Texas, this melted cheese is usually of the yellow processed variety, though sometimes we make queso with non-processed cheese instead. Queso compuesto then takes this bowl of queso and makes it better by adding stuff such as taco meat, refried beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. It’s one outrageous dip.

Now, melted cheese goes with just about anything savory. And earthy black-eyed peas, smoky collard greens and spicy Mexican chorizo are good friends, too. But for some reason I worried that combining these three with melted cheese would be a bit much. I shouldn’t have—this dip lasted about a minute and even people who think they don’t like black-eyed peas couldn’t get enough.

Of course, if you’re not a fan of black-eyed peas, chorizo or collards, you can make endless substitutions—though I have to say that it is fun combining Southern comfort with Tex-Mex, plus I guarantee that your guests will be very impressed with this twist on a classic.


This queso compuesto might just be my new favorite way to begin a new year, especially if you’re gathering with friends and family and want something to keep them occupied while you work on the main meal. And sure, it may be a little decadent and go against those resolutions, but don’t worry—salads and soups will still be around on January 2.

Happy New Year! May your 2012 be filled with lots of love and joy.

New Year’s Day queso compuesto
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from any casing
1/4 medium onion, diced
6 roasted jalapeños, seeds and stems removed, diced
2 cups cooked collard greens, drained and finely chopped
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained or one 15-ounce can of black-eyed peas, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
4 cups shredded Muenster (16 ounces)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon lime juice (optional)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
Tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large oven-proof skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, heat the oil on medium low and add the Mexican chorizo and onion. While stirring occasionally to break up any large chunks of chorizo, cook until the chorizo and onions are cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and if you like, drain off any excess grease.

Stir into the skillet the diced jalapeños, black-eyed peas and collard greens. Evenly distribute on top the cubed cream cheese and shredded Muenster then pour in the half-and-half. Bake uncovered until the cheese is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir to combine everything. If you’d like a little tang, you can squeeze in some lime juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and add salt to taste. Serve with tortilla chips

Yield: 8 servings

Note: To roast the jalapeños, place under the broiler for 10 minutes until blackened, turning once. To keep the dip warm, you can place on a chafing dish, in a slow cooker or in a fondue pot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Complexion candy, a date, fig and pecan confection

complexion candy, date and fig candy

The other day I found myself in a cookie coma. After eating nothing but cookies and homemade candy for several hours straight, my belly hurt and I could barely keep my eyes open. It was a sugar, butter and white flour overload.

Now, I’m not one to pass up a sweet treat, especially this time of year. But sometimes it might be wise for me to cut back just a little so I won’t find myself shopping for a whole new wardrobe in the new year.

Enter complexion candy. “What kind of candy?” you may be asking. I said the same thing when I came across this old Texan recipe. Though upon closer inspection I realized that complexion candy is simply an old-fashioned dried fruit and nut confection under a more colorful name.

dates and figs

I love dates. They’re sticky, crunchy and sweet with such a rich caramelized flavor that it’s hard to believe that they’re a fruit. Yep, dates are nature’s candy. And that’s what’s at the heart of complexion candy, along with figs, raisins, orange zest and pecans.

It's a snap to make this, as you simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whirl away until a smooth paste forms. Then you can either roll it into balls and dip it in coconut or chopped pecans, or you can press it into a pan and cut it into squares after chilling.

The original recipe called for sprinkling the complexion candy with powdered sugar, but I didn't think it added much, so I skipped that step. You, however, may disagree. But one thing that we can agree on is that complexion candy is a guilt-free sweet. It’s also extremely versatile. For instance, you can sub in other dried fruits if you like, add a bit of ginger and cinnamon for a little spice, use walnuts if you prefer, or if you’re feeling really decadent throw in some chocolate chips or chopped bacon.

complexion candy, date and fig candy

If you’re a fan of fig bars or Lara Bars, then this is for you. Now, I would never advocate getting rid of the pralines, the brittlesfestive cookie tray and other holiday treats that always makes the season bright, but you might consider giving complexion candy a try. And you know what? You might just be surprised.

Complexion candy
2 cups dates
2 cups dried figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup roasted pecans
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped nuts, such as pecans, walnuts or pistachios

Place the dates, dried figs, raisins, pecans and orange zest in a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Form into 1-tablespoon-sized balls and dip in shredded coconut and/or chopped nuts. Alternatively, you can press the paste into a pan, chill for an hour and then cut into squares.

Variations: You can replace the pecans with walnuts or almonds. You can also dip the balls into chopped nuts. For more flavor, try adding a pinch of ginger, cinnamon and clove. To make them even more decadent, you can add chocolate chips or chopped bacon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sweet potato salad with cranberries and pecans

sweet potato salad cranberries pecans

“What are you cooking this week?” asked my grandma. I told her I was making sweet potatoes. “They’re good for your eyes!” she said.

My grandma loves her sweet potatoes, as does most of my family. I, however, only eat them when they’re mashed or pureed as in soups or pies. Other preparations—such as sweet potatoes with marshmallows or sweet potato fries—are just a bit too much for me. I can’t explain it.

But at my cousin’s wedding in August I had a revelation. My cousin Lisa, like everyone in my family, loves to cook. And when her daughter Sarah announced her wedding, Lisa said, “I’m catering it.” It was a huge party and preparing a dinner for so many folks was a herculean task, but Lisa gathered up her friends and with their help she pulled it off with grace and elegance.

sweet potatoes

It was a fine feast made all the better because it was prepared with love. Everything was delicious, but there was one salad that stood out on a table overflowing with goodness. The salad was nutty, creamy, earthy yet sweet and was the sort of dish that made you pause because you weren’t quite sure what you’d eaten, but you quickly took another bite because you knew you wanted more. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, but I loved it anyway.

Then it hit me.

“Wait. Are these sweet potatoes?” I asked the people sitting at my table. My mom said that they were. “But it tastes so good and I don’t like sweet potatoes!” I said. She agreed that it was one incredible dish. In fact the whole table was chatting about this simple salad comprised of sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans and tart dried cranberries tossed in a curry-laced dressing. It was quite the surprise.

The next day, I insisted that Lisa give me the recipe. It turned out to be one of her friend’s recipes and she promised to send it to me. “This would be perfect for Thanksgiving!” I said.

Now, while this is a cold salad, sweet potatoes, pecans and cranberries are in season and this dish still says autumn to me. Even if you’re the kind of person that often finds sweet potatoes a bit cloying I know you’ll enjoy this.

sweet potato salad cranberries pecans

Plus, as my grandma says, sweet potatoes are good for your eyes!

Sweet potato salad with cranberries and pecans

4 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 or 3 large), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coarse-ground mustard
2 green onions, sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup roughly chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Place the cubed sweet potatoes on the sheet and bake until cooked but firm, about 35-40 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, curry powder and mustard. Stir in the green onions, cranberries, pecans and cooked sweet potatoes. Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least three hours before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: My cousin adds 1 tablespoon of brown sugar when she makes this, but I find it’s plenty sweet with the sweet potatoes and cranberries. If you want it to be sweeter, you might try it that way.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stuffed pumpkin with cheese, bacon and chipotle chiles

The day before I left for my Texas tour, I made an incredible dish. It was a baked pumpkin stuffed with bread, Gruyere, sharp white cheddar, bacon, chipotle chiles, cream and garlic. After spending some time in the oven, it emerged filled with a rich, savory and spicy filling that was perfect for spooning onto a plate as an autumnal side dish. I was smitten.

After taking photos and writing down my changes to the two recipes I adapted (one from Dorie Greenspan and another from Ian Knauer), I packed my suitcases and focused on signing books instead of blogging. My goal had been to share this with you from the road, but between events I was simply too busy to write. Any mention of it would have to wait.

In my mind, pumpkins are most associated with Halloween and when October ended, I thought I’d missed my opportunity. But when I told my mom about the stuffed pumpkin she said, “We should serve that at Thanksgiving!” And she’s right—it’s not too late and indeed we do!

Before we continue talking about this pumpkin, however, please allow me to say a few words about my time in Texas. I can’t tell you how incredible it was meeting so many of you! When you write for a living, you spend much of your time alone in front of a computer, so being able to go out and hear your stories and match faces to familiar names was extremely edifying. What a friendly, smart and generous bunch y’all are!

A big thank you to all who made it out to the events—seeing you definitely made my day! (If you weren’t able to attend and you’d like a signed copy of my book, head on over to my book page for information on how to order one.)

Now back to that pumpkin. They are still in season and if you’re looking for something dramatic to share at the table, then this cheese-stuffed pumpkin with bacon and chipotle chiles will definitely bring both smiles and sighs. Mom had suggested we serve it at Thanksgiving as an appetizer, which will work. But I think it could make for an unusual take on dressing, too.

If you’re a fan of nutty melted cheese, crisp bacon and smoky chipotle chiles, then there’s no need to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy this pumpkin. Sure, it takes some time to bake, but the preparation is a snap. And with just a little planning you can have a festive dish that will bring light and warmth to the table as the days grow shorter and darker.

Stuffed pumpkin with cheese, bacon and chipotle chiles (adapted from recipes by Dorie Greenspan and Ian Knauer)

One 3-to-4 pound pumpkin
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 ounces French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound Gruyere, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 pound white cheddar, shredded (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 chipotle chiles en adobo, diced (depending on how fiery you want it)
1/4 pound cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Small pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 casserole pan or baking pan with foil or parchment paper.

With a sharp knife, cut a circle around the pumpkin stem about 1 inch away from the stem. Remove the top and clean out the seeds and stringy bits from inside the pumpkin. (You can save the seeds for roasting, if you like.) Lightly salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.

Toss together the bread cubes, shredded Gruyere, shredded cheddar, garlic, diced chipotle chiles and cooked bacon, and stuff into the pumpkin. Stir the cumin and nutmeg into the cream, adding a bit of salt and black pepper to taste. Pour cream mixture into pumpkin over bread and cheese.

Place the top back on the pumpkin, and place the pumpkin into the baking pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hour to 2 hours or until filling is brown and bubbling. To serve, remove the top and spoon out portions of the filling along with bits of the cooked pumpkin. You can either leave it in the pan, or by using the foil or parchment paper, you can carefully lift it out of the pan and place it on a platter. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chopped beef sandwich with a spicy barbecue sauce

chopped beef sandwich and spicy barbecue sauce

Last month, when I driving down 290 on my way to my cousin’s wedding weekend in Bryan, I passed my alma mater—Cy-Fair High School. School wasn’t set to begin until the following week, but I saw lights shining on the football field and the stands filled with people decked out in our school’s colors—maroon and white. It took me a second and then I remembered it was Friday night. I quickly exited the highway, turned around my car and headed back to campus to see what was happening.

When I pulled up to the field, I saw a sign announcing a pre-season scrimmage between Cy-Fair and Tomball. There were no cheerleaders, and the marching band was practicing its songs and routines in the parking lot, not in the stands. But it was Friday night and the lights were lit. And even if this game didn’t count—the level of energy and excitement was electric. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced since the last time I was at a Bobcat game my senior year in high school.

“Welcome home!” I said to myself.

chopped beef sandwich spicy barbecue sauce

Now, as passionate as my friends and I were about our 5A team back in the day, the true highlight of any game—besides the socializing—was the eating. Frito pies, chili dogs, roasted peanuts, dill pickles and popcorn were standard fare sold by the boosters at every game, a common menu found at high school stadium concession stands across the state. But some nights, the boosters would also offer their famous chopped beef sandwiches. And you know what? That night was one of those nights.

Chopped beef sandwiches are not only found at football games, but they're also found at most Texan barbecue joints, rodeos and local fairs, too. It’s a simple sandwich, as it’s just finely chopped brisket tossed in sauce and then stacked tall on a soft bun with pickles, onions and jalapeños. But when done well, a chopped beef sandwich is just as satisfying as a stack of sliced brisket and ribs on a sheet of butcher paper. Plus a sandwich is more portable, which makes it perfect for eating while watching a game.

Smoked brisket is the traditional meat of choice for a chopped beef sandwich. The sandwich I had at the scrimmage was no different, as before I even entered the stands I could smell the post oak smoke wafting from the portable smoker manned by the boosters. But I have a confession to make. Because this is a sauced sandwich, I can make them at home without a smoker and feel equally satisfied. This may get me in trouble with some purists, but when you have moist brisket, a spicy barbecue sauce, plenty of onions, pickled jalapeños and a tender bun, I believe you won’t miss the smoke.

For the brisket, I just slow roast it in the oven until it’s tender. While there’s plenty of flavor in the meat, I think the sauce is also important; I serve mine with a fiery, tomato-based sauce that was inspired from a recipe purported to be from Rudy’s. While I was intrigued that the recipe used both ketchup and tomato sauce, I ended up changing the rest of the ingredients to make it less sweet and more fiery. A spoonful of molasses, dashes of cayenne and cumin do their part. A generous helping of black pepper also gives this sauce plenty of power and life.

chopped beef sandwich and spicy barbecue sauce

Of course, you certainly don’t need a football game as an excuse to serve these chopped beef sandwiches, they are excellent at any time. But if you have a hankering for some rousing songs, a roaring crowd and the drama that can only be found on the field on a Friday night—eating these sandwiches might just take you back to that place, even if you haven’t visited in a long time.

Chopped beef sandwiches with spicy barbecue sauce

For the brisket:
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 3- or 4 -pound brisket, the flat cut, with some fat still on it
1 large yellow onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, cut in half

For the spicy barbecue sauce:
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Salt to taste

For serving:
8 warm buns
Sliced onions
Pickled jalapeño slices
Dill pickle slices

To prepare the brisket, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix together the salt, black pepper and cayenne, and sprinkle on both sides of the brisket. In a roasting pan, place quartered onions at the four corners and lay the brisket, fat side up, on top of the onions, so it’s slightly elevated. Place the garlic on top of the brisket, and add 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and cook in the oven for five hours or until fork tender.

While the brisket is cooking, make the sauce. Mix together in a saucepan the tomato sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, molasses, black pepper, cumin, cayenne and pinch of cloves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings and add salt to taste.

Once you take the brisket out of the oven (you might first check that it’s tender enough), let it sit covered for 30 minutes. Lift the brisket out of the pan and finely chop, adding some of the pan juices. Toss the brisket with some of the sauce until desired sauciness is achieved, and serve on warm buns with onions, pickled jalapeños and dill pickle slices, with additional sauce on the side.

Yield: 6-8 sandwiches

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Store Food in Aluminum Foil?

Is it harmful to cook or store food in aluminum foil?
We do not recommend cooking or storing food in aluminum foil-even though there is no strong scientific evidence showing these practices to be harmful to your health. We have three reasons for making this recommendation. First, even though research studies don't show the food use of aluminum foil to be harmful, they clearly show migration of small amounts of aluminum from the foil into the food. For example, in one study conducted in Italy about 2-6 milligrams of aluminum was found to move over into food from aluminum foils, cookware, and utensils. Even if this amount has not been show to pose health harm, we don't like our food containing a potentially problematic metal that wasn't naturally supposed to be there.

Second, we believe that the jury is still out on aluminum with respect to chronic long-term health problems. (We're talking here about exposure to aluminum from all sources, including the environment, certain workplace settings, personal care products, etc.) Potential connections have been found between certain cancers and aluminum exposure, and also between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's disease. Infertility connections have also been found. We don't see any reason to add potential exposure through the use of aluminum foil with food.

Finally, we don't like the consequences of aluminum foil manufacturing for our planet. Aluminum remains on the federal government's list of priority toxins for the United States, and its mining, manufacture, and post-use disposal pose significant problems for our environment. From our perspective, while aluminum foil is definitely lightweight, flexible, and convenient, these upsides don't come close to outweighing the downsides here.

  •     Gramiccioni L, Ingrao G, Milana MR, et al. Aluminium levels in Italian diets and in selected foods from aluminium utensils. Food Additives and Contaminants. 1996; 13(7):767-774. 1996.
  •     Lopez FE, Cabrera C, Lorenzo ML, et al. Aluminum levels in convenience and fast foods: in vitro study of the absorbable fraction. Sci Total Environ 2002;300(1-3):69-79. 2002.
  •     Nayak P. Aluminum: impacts and disease. Environ Res 2002;89(2):101-15. 2002.
  •     Pratico D, Uryu K, Sung S, et al. Aluminum modulates brain amyloidosis through oxidative stress in APP transgenic mice. FASEB J 2002;16(9):1138-40. 2002.
  •     Rondeau V. A review of epidemiologic studies on aluminum and silica in relation to Alzheimer's disease and associated disorders. Rev Environ Health 2002;17(2):107-21. 2002.
  •     Soni MG, White SM, Flamm WG, et al. Safety evaluation of dietary aluminum. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 2001;33(1):66-79. 2001.
  •     Sugita T, Ishiwata H, Yoshihira K. [Migration of heavy metals into food-simulating solvents from aluminum pans]. Eisei Shikenjo Hokoku 1988;(106):124-6. 1988.

Florists Muffins

This muffin has a little bit of everything - carrots, raisins, apple butter, wheat germ, nuts. A perfect start for your day!

  •  1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  •  1 1/4 cups white sugar
  •  1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  •  2 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  2 cups grated carrots
  •  1 apple - peeled, cored, and chopped
  •  1 cup raisins
  •  1 egg
  •  2 egg whites
  •  1/2 cup apple butter
  •  1/4 cup vegetable oil
  •  1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  •  2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  •  2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly oil 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, apple butter, oil and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in carrots, apples and raisins. Stir in apple butter mixture until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.
  4. In a small bowl, combine walnuts and wheat germ; sprinkle over the muffin tops.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Apple Banana Cupcakes

 Apple Banana Cupcakes
"This is a cupcake that smells as good as it tastes. It's an old Polish recipe from some of the best bakers in Milwaukee!"

  •  2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  •  2/3 cup shortening
  •  1 1/4 cups white sugar
  •  2 eggs
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  1/4 cup buttermilk
  •  1 cup ripe bananas, mashed
  •  2 apples - peeled, cored and shredded

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 24 muffin cups, or use paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and buttermilk. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Fold in the mashed bananas and shredded apples. Fill each muffin cup half full.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Park Coffee Ice Cream

This recipe is an attempt to emulate 'ParkCoffee Ice Cream' made by an ice cream maker in Santa Barbara, California. It comes very close. If you like coffee-flavored ice cream, you'll like this.

  •  1 1/2 cups water
  •  2 cups white sugar
  •  1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  •  1 1/2 cups milk
  •  6 egg yolks
  •  3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  •  2 tablespoons finely ground coffee (optional)


  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns clear. Pour into a double boiler along with the cream and milk. Whisk until the syrup has dissolved into the milk, then whisk in the egg yolks and instant coffee until completely incorporated.
  2. Set the double boiler insert over (but not touching) a pan of gently simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly until the custard has thickened and will stick to the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl and stir in the coffee grounds. Refrigerate several hours until cold.
  3. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

San Antonio Pasta

A pasta salad is only as good as the noodles that hold it all together. Have fun with different pasta shapes-short or long, narrow or wide, solid or hollow, big or small, flat or stuffed ... you can put a brand new face on the same salad simply by varying the pasta. Pasta is made from many different types of flour, and colored beautifully with many different vegetables, so be adventurous and try something out of the ordinary-from rainbow radiatore, spinach ravioli, and whole wheat fettuccine, to corn macaroni, buckwheat soba noodles, and rice vermicelli. There's no way to get bored with pasta when the choices are so deliciously endless.

It's even more important with pasta salad than with hot pasta dishes that you avoid overcooking the pasta. Overcooked pasta will fall apart when you try to toss it with dressing. Not only that, but if you allow your salad to "marinate" for several hours to let the flavors mingle, the pasta will soak up the moisture from the dressing and the other ingredients, turning slightly overcooked pasta to absolute mush. Cook the pasta just until it becomes tender, pour it into a colander in the sink, then run cold water over it to stop the cooking and cool it down quickly. As soon as the pasta feels cool to the touch, shake the colander to drain off as much water as possible. Now dump the pasta into a bowl and toss it with some oil to keep it from sticking together.
A Little of This, a Little of That
Because pasta itself is so versatile and mild in flavor, just about everything tastes good with it. Use ingredients that will give your pasta salad lots of varied taste and texture: cook vegetables just until tender, then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking before they get mushy (this is called "refreshing" or "shocking" your vegetables), or just leave the vegetables crisp and raw. Other things to add gusto are toasted nuts, dried fruit, fresh herbs, crumbled cheese, and tidbits of your favorite meat.

Dress for the Occasion
To save a little time, you can always use bottled salad dressing to toss with your pasta salad, but if you're in a "from scratch" kind of mood, the possibilities are positively tantalizing. A mixture of oil and vinegar is arguably the most popular way to dress a pasta salad, but you can also make creamy dressing with mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt.

For sautéing, it's fine to use vegetable oil, but for salad dressing, use high-quality, flavorful oils. Extra-virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, hazelnut oil, and walnut oil are all power-players in the world of taste, and you can get by with using much less oil while still adding superior flavor if you choose a bold one. To add that all-important zing to the dressing, try cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, raspberry vinegar, or even lime or lemon juice. Whatever you use as the basis of your dressing, be sure to round it out with salt and pepper, and perhaps a dash of red pepper flakes, a little bit of crushed garlic, a dab of mustard, or anything else you think will make your pasta salad distinctly divine.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flag Day Cake Recipe

Flag Day Cake

  • 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the icing:
  •  1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  •  1 1/2 pounds cream cheese at room temperature
  •  1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
    * 2 half-pints blueberries
    * 3 half-pints raspberries


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter and flour an 18 by 13 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.
  4. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
  5. For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth.
  6. Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.
  7. Serve this cake right in the pan. If you want to turn it out onto a board before frosting, use parchment paper when you grease and flour the pan.

Coffee Cookies

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar and coffee. Beat in the egg, flour, vanilla and chopped nuts. Mix until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are golden. Let cool on wire racks.

Panama Chicken With Sesame Noodles

Sesame Noodles
  • 1 lb spaghettini (get the thinnest spaghetti you can find)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil (some reviewers have said that 1/2 cup of oil is too much and have halved the amount, so use your own)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  •  3 scallions, thinly sliced
  •  1/4 cup sesame seed (or more)

Panama Chicken
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  •  2 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1/4 cup brown sugar
  •  1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  •   4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  •   sesame oil, for sauteing
Prep Time: 3 hrs
Total Time: 3 1/2 hrs

  1. First make the sesame noodles: Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. Drain (I also rinse).
  3. In a jar, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and the sugar.
  4. Shake until well blended and the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Pour this over the pasta.
  6. Toss with scallions and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  7. Set aside while you marinate and then cook the chicken.
  8. Funkying the chicken: In a bowl mix the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic, brown sugar and the ginger.
  9. Make sure the sugar has pretty much dissolved.
  10. Add the chicken, making sure it's all coated with the sauce.
  11. Cover and stick in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
  12. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and toss out the marinade left at the bottom of the bowl.
  13. Heat the sesame oil in a large non-stick pan.
  14. Add the chicken in batches and saute for about 10 minutes, or until done, adding more sesame oil as needed.
  15. Remove the chicken from the pan and let cool slightly.
  16. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.
  17. Serve the chicken over the sesame noodles.
  18. Stand back and watch your guests/children/loved ones inhale this dish.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chicken Paprika

"My grandmother made this hearty chicken dish whenever we visited her. It was the only thing I'd eat until I was ready to bust! It's wonderful."
Prep Time:
30 Min
Cook Time:
30 Min
Ready In:
1 Hr

  •  3 eggs, beaten
  •  1/2 cup water
  •  2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  2 teaspoons salt
  •  1/4 cup butter
  •  1 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken pieces, with skin
  •  1 medium onion, chopped
  •  1 1/2 cups water
  •  1 tablespoon paprika
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  •  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •  1 cup sour cream

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 cup of water. Gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups of flour to make a stiff batter. Using two spoons, scoop out some batter with one spoon and use the second to scrap off the spoonful of batter into the boiling water. Repeat until several dumplings are cooking. Cook dumplings for 10 minutes or until they float to the top; then lift from the water and drain in a colander or sieve. Rinse with warm water.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and add chicken; cook until lightly browned, turning once. Add onion to skillet and cook 5 to 8 minutes more. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of water, and season with paprika, salt, and pepper; cook 10 minutes more, or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.
  3. Stir 2 tablespoons of flour into sour cream; then slowly stir into the onion mixture remaining in the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened.
  4. To serve, add dumplings to the sour cream/onion mixture, then spoon onto dinner plates adding a piece of chicken.

Earth Day Bars

Celebrate the planet's natural delights by baking a batch of these sweet snacks filled with a harvest of ingredients from all around the world. Here's some background info on the tasty add-ins:
Raisins: California, the only place in the United States that harvests the grapes used to make raisins, is the world's No. 1 supplier.
Pineapple: Thailand produces approximately 20 percent of the world's pineapple crop, surpassing the Hawaiian Islands.
Brazil nuts: The complex growing environment this tree crop requires prevents it from being grown on farms. Instead, it's harvested directly from the rain forests of Brazil, Peru, and other South American countries.
Chocolate: Africa's Ivory Coast is the largest producer of cocoa beans, the ingredient that gives chocolate its unique, irresistible flavor.
Coconut: The Philippines and Indonesia are the world's leading producers of copra, or coconut meat.


  • 1 1/2 cups baking mix (we used Bisquick)
  • 1 1/2 cups instant oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

        * Coconut flakes
        * Chocolate chips
        * Chopped dried pineapple
        * Raisins
        * Chopped Brazil nuts


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the baking mix, oats, brown sugar, butter, egg, and cinnamon.
  2. Stir the mix with a wooden spoon until you have a crumbly dough. Next, customize your international treats by folding in 1 cup total of the add-ins of your choice.
  3. Press the dough into an ungreased 9- by 13-inch pan and bake for 17 minutes or until the center is set and the bars are slightly brown. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 1-1/2 dozen 2- by 3-inch bars.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Baked Garlic Puerto Rico Chicken

    A wonderful baked chicken recipe that's quick and easy! Using just a few handy ingredients, create a delicious main dish, that also makes great leftovers - if there are any! Serve with a salad and pasta or rice for a quick, scrumptious dinner.

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
    • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.
    2. In a bowl, blend the olive oil and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, basil, and pepper. Dip each chicken breast in the oil mixture, then in the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in the prepared baking dish, and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.
    3. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Taco Casserole Diet Recipe

    A Delicious Heart Healthy Taco Casserole Recipe That Family And Friends Will Love.
    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cook time: 30 minutes
    Servings: 8 Servings

    • 1 lb ground chicken breast skinless
    • 8 ozs taco sauce
    • 1/2 c onions, chopped
    • 8 ozs light sour cream
    • 1/2 c bell peppers, chopped
    • 1 c fat-free cottage cheese
    • 1 tsp garlic, minced
    • 1 c low-fat tortilla chips, crushed
    • 1 1/4 oz low-sodium taco seasoning mix
    • 1 c cheddar cheese, shredded

    1. Preheat oven at 400. Prepare a 8" square dish with cooking spray; set aside.
    2. In a large saucepan, cook chicken, onions, bell peppers, and garlic until chicken is no longer pink.
    3. Stir in taco seasoning mix and taco sauce; set aside.
    4. In a medium sized bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese; set aside.
    5. Place half the crushed chips onto the bottom of the prepared dish. Add chicken mixture to cover the chips, then cover the chicken mixture with sour cream mixture.
    6. Sprinkle with cheese and remaining crushed chips.
    7. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted.

    Tila Tequila Cocktail Recipe

    Tila Tequila is a Singapore-born singer, model, and television personality. She’s modeled for Maxim, Stuff, and Penthouse and was the star of her own MTV reality show A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
    The Tila Tequila cocktail is inspired by a famous drink from her home country of Singapore (the Singapore Sling) with some slight modifications to make it a bit more tequila-friendly. It’s a deliciously potent drink that her fans can admire - sweet on the palette and easy on the eyes.

    Tila Tequila cocktail recipe
    • 2 oz Gold tequila
    • 1/2 oz cherry brandy
    • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier
    • 1/4 oz Benedictine
    • 1/4 oz Grenadine
    • 4 oz Pineapple juice
    • 1/2 oz Lime juice (fresh)
    • 1 dash Angostura bitters
    • Fill to top, or to taste Club soda
    • Pineapple slice (garnish)
    • Cherry (garnish)
    1. Combine tequila, cherry brandy, Grand Marnier, Benedictine, grenadine, pineapple juice, lime juice, and bitters into a cocktail shaker half full of ice.
    2. Shake vigorously.
    3. Strain into a tall glass (Collins or highball).
    4. Fill to top, or to taste, with ice and/or Club soda and garnish with a pineapple slice and a cherry.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Wiener Schnitzel

    •  4 veal cutlets (about 4 ounces each), pounded very thin, scallopini style
    •  Salt
    •  Freshly ground black pepper
    •  1 cup all-purpose flour
    •  2 eggs, beaten
    •  2 tablespoons water
    •  2 cups plain, dry bread crumbs
    •  Vegetable oil, for frying
    •   Lemon wedges, for service

    Pat the veal cutlets dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper. Set up a standard breading procedure in 3 shallow bowls or pie plates. Put flour in 1, eggs and water in another, and bread crumbs in the last. Beat the eggs and water together. Dredge each of the veal cutlets first in flour, then egg wash and then the bread crumbs. Transfer the coated cutlets to a platter.

    Heat a large straight sided skillet, filled half way up with vegetable oil, over medium-high heat. Carefully, transfer the coated cutlets into the hot oil to fry. Since they are so thin, the veal will cook very quickly, about 2 minutes per side. Drain the cutlets on a paper towel lined plate. Serve with lemon wedges.

    Cowboy Caviar Recipe

    This is fresh, healthy and delicious. People love it, even kids. You can make it ahead, so it's great for a summer party. Serve it with scoop-shaped tortilla chips, or have it on the side as a relish. I add extra cilantro, because there can never be too much cilantro!
    Prep time: 15 minutes
    Servings: 1
    • 2 - 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed
    • 1 - 17 oz can whole kernel corn, drained
    • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 large avocado, diced
    • 1/2 red onion, chopped
    • 1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
    • Dressing:
    • 1 T red wine vinegar
    • 4 T lime juice
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1 t salt
    • 1/2 t ground pepper

       1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
       2. Chill if making ahead.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    Amazing Potato Topped Chicken Pie

    Tuck into a hearty potato topped chicken pie and keep the winter blues away.
    Preparation Time
    30 minutes
    Cooking Time
    120 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 4)
    •  1 tablespoon olive oil
    •  8 (about 1kg) chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3cm pieces
    •  200g speck, cut into batons (see Notes)
    •  12 pickling onions, peeled, trimmed
    •  1 carrot, peeled, thickly sliced diagonally
    •  2 celery sticks, trimmed, thickly sliced diagonally
    •  200g button mushrooms
    •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
    •  1/4 cup (60ml) brandy
    •  40g butter
    •  1/4 cup (40g) plain flour
    •  1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
    •  1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
    •  3 sprigs thyme sprigs
    •  2 dried bay leaves
    •  4 (about 800g) pontiac potatoes, very thinly sliced
    •  50g butter, melted, extra

    1.  Preheat oven to 160C. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add one-quarter of the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until brown all over. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat in 3 more batches with remaining chicken.
    2. Add the speck to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, or 2 minutes or until crisp. Transfer to the bowl. Add the onions, carrot, celery and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until lightly brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the brandy and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until brandy reduces by half. Return the chicken and speck to the pan with the butter and flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until well combined. Add the wine, chicken stock, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Remove from heat. Bake in preheated oven, covered, for 1 hour or until chicken is tender and sauce thickens slightly.
    3. Increase oven to 200C. Combine the potato and extra butter in a large bowl. Season well with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Arrange potato slices evenly over the chicken mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until potato is tender and golden brown.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta

    • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
    • 4 ounces linguine, cooked al dente
    • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 thinly sliced green onion
    • 1 -2 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

    1. Place chicken and Cajun seasoning in a bowl and toss to coat.
    2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken in butter or margarine until chicken is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
    3. Reduce heat add green onion, heavy cream, tomatoes, basil, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and heat through.
    4. Pour over hot linguine and toss with Parmesan cheese

    Prep Time: 10 mins
    Total Time: 25 mins

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Chocolate Crepe Cake

    Ingredients (serves 8)
    • 1 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour
    • 1 tbs caster sugar
    • 3 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
    • 600ml milk
    • 40g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra melted butter to brush
    • Pure (thin) cream, to serve
          Chocolate & espresso filling
    • 250g good-quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
    • 50g unsalted butter, chopped
    • 150ml milk
    • 100ml thickened cream
    • 100ml strong black coffee (espresso)
    • 1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
    1. Mix flour, sugar, eggs, yolks and milk in a blender or food processor until smooth, then pour into a jug and stand for 30 minutes. Just before cooking, stir 40g melted butter (2 tbs) through the batter.
    2. Heat an 18cm crepe pan or non-stick frypan over medium-high heat. Brush with extra melted butter, add enough batter to coat base, swirl to cover, then tip out any excess. Cook for 45 seconds, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more or until golden. Repeat with butter and remaining batter (you should have about 20 crepes), stacking with baking paper in between. The crepes can be made 2 days ahead, then wrapped in foil and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, defrost at room temperature for 1 hour.
    3. For the filling, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensure bowl doesn't touch water). Stir in butter, milk, cream, coffee and sugar, then whisk until mixture is smooth and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes until mixture cools and thickens.
    4. Lightly grease an 18cm springform pan. Place a crepe in pan and spread with a little filling. Continue layering, finishing with a crepe. You should have about 1/3 cup (80ml) filling left. Cover cake with foil and chill for 1 hour.
    5. Preheat oven to 180°C.
    6. Place cake pan on a baking tray and heat gently for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat remaining filling in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water for 2-3 minutes until warm. Serve cake drizzled with filling and pure cream.

    Torino Ham, Fried Green Tomatoes

    •  4 -6 tablespoons butter or 4 -6 tablespoons oil, for frying
    •  4 slices country ham, about 1/2 inch thick
    •  2 -3 green tomatoes, cored, sliced 1 1/2 inch thick, and soaked in milk
    •  all-purpose flour, seasoned with
    •  salt & freshly ground black pepper
    •  1 pinch sugar

    Cream Gravy
    •   reserved cooking fat
    •   1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    •   2 cups milk
    •   salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the ham slices about 3 minutes on each side. Remove the ham to a heated platter and keep warm.
    2. Drain the tomatoes and dust them with the seasoned flour. Add more butter to the pan if necessary and fry the tomatoes 3 minutes on each side or until tender, sprinkling each side with a little sugar. Remove and drain on paper towels, then arrange on the platter with the ham.
    3. While the tomatoes are cooking, make the gravy:Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the cooking fat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Stir constantly until thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
    4. Pour the gravy over the ham and tomatoes and serve immediately.

    Magic Chicken Noodle Soup

    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1 1/4 cups sliced carrots (into round coins)
    • 1 1/4 cups diced celery
    • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 pinch ground pepper
    • 3/4 cup corn (fresh or frozen ( not canned)
    • 2 (32 ounce) boxes chicken broth
    • 1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
    • 1 teaspoon thyme
    • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
    • 6 -8 ounces egg noodles
    • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken (not canned)

    Prep Time: 10 mins
    Total Time: 45 mins


    1. In a large soup put melt butter over high heat add onions, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper.
    2. Saute over high heat until slightly softened (constantly checkto make sure veggies aren't burning), about five to eight minutes.
    3. Add corn, broth and all seasonings. Stir and bring to a boil.
    4. Add egg noodles and cook until noodles are almost done.
    5. Add in chicken and continue to cook until egg noodles are done and chicken is heated through.
    6. Serve alone or as we like it with grilled cheese sandwiches!

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Hungarian e3 Goulash

    Ingredients (serves 4)
    •  1/2 cup plain flour
    •  1kg beef chuck casserole steak, trimmed, cut into 3cm pieces
    •  2 tablespoons olive oil
    •  1 large brown onion, halved, thinly sliced
    •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
    •  1 tablespoon paprika
    •  425g can condensed tomato soup
    •  200g button mushrooms, sliced
    •  cooked pasta, sour cream and chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, to serve

    1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Place flour and salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Lightly coat steak in seasoned flour.
    2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook steak in small batches, adding more oil as required, for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a 2-litre (8-cup) capacity, ovenproof casserole dish.
    3. Add 2 teaspoons oil, onion and garlic to pan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft. Add paprika, soup and 1/2 cup water. Bring to the boil. Pour over steak. Cover dish and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
    4. Remove casserole from oven. Stir in mushrooms. Cover. Bake for a further 30 minutes or until steak is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
    5. Place pasta in shallow serving bowls. Spoon over casserole. Top with sour cream and parsley. Serve.

    Celebrate Shavuot! Make a Cheesecake!

    har sinai cake

    Sundown on Wednesday, June 7, marks the beginning of the two-day Jewish holiday of Shavuot. If you’re asking yourself ”What’s Shavuot?” don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.
    Shavuot (also called Shavuos) commemorates the day God gave the Torah to the Jewish people.  This great event happened at Mount Sinai, and today you’ll find lots of Jewish preschool kids coming home with their own little Mount Sinai’s, covered in the many flowers that are believed to have bloomed there immediately preceding the giving of the Torah.  There is also a beautiful story about why Mount Sinai was chosen as the place for the Torah to be given – because even though it was not the biggest mountain, it was the most humble.
    On Shavuot it is customary to eat dairy desserts, as the arrival of the Torah was the first time the Kosher dietary laws of not mixing milk and meat were introduced. Ice cream, cheesecake and cheese blintzes are all traditional favorites.
    One of my favorite holiday recipes is No Bake Cheese Pie – this easy recipe is perfect to make with kids, and it is a holiday treat I look forward to every year.  The recipe is for a crust that is baked, so if you don’t want to use the oven just purchase a pre-made crust.

    chabad cheese pie

    I also love cheese blintzes, and while I usually buy these pre-made year round, I make a special effort to make my own on Shavuot. This recipe for Cheese Blintzes is pretty easy and fail-proof.

    shavous cheese blintz

    In addition to dairy desserts and a festive meal, Shavout is also often celebrated with greenery and flowers in homes and synagogues. This custom is in remembrance of the blossoming on Mount Sinai before the presentation of the Torah. I love the idea of a Mount Sinai cake to symbolize this. A quick Google search showed many beautiful ones, but a lot are so elaborate it seems like making the cake could turn into an all night project – and it shouldn’t. If you’re up all night, it should be studying Torah – a tradition many Jewish people partake in on erev Shavuot.

    Mystique Crock Pot Roast

    • 1 (4 -5 lb) beef roast, any kind
    • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package brown gravy mix, dry
    • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package dried Italian salad dressing mix
    • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package ranch dressing mix, dry
    • 1/2 cup water

    Prep Time: 5 mins
    Total Time: 1/2 day

       1.Place beef roast in crock pot.
       2.Mix the dried mixes together in a bowl and sprinkle over the roast.
       3.Pour the water around the roast.
       4.Cook on low for 7-9 hours.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Jesse James

    Jesse James was one of the most famous outlaws of the American West. Young Jesse learned a lot about guerrilla activities during the U.S. Civil War, fighting and sabotaging the Union army in the cause of the Confederacy. After the war, Jesse formed a gang of outlaws, which included his brother Frank James and the brothers Cole and James Younger. In 1866 they began an on-again, off-again crime spree that lasted for 15 years. The James-Younger gang robbed banks and trains throughout the Midwest and the South, eluding law enforcement and gaining a popular following and mythic stature, although their fame soured a bit as they turned increasingly violent in later robberies. James was finally betrayed by one of his own gang, Robert Ford, who shot him to death in Missouri 1882.

    James's story has been retold in many films with long names, including The True Story of Jesse James (1957, with Robert Wagner as James), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972, with Robert Duvall as James), and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007, with Brad Pitt as James)... The 21st-century mechanic and TV star Jesse James has claimed to be a distant relative; his Discovery Channel biography reported that "his great-great-grandfather was the famous outlaw's cousin"... Another famous outlaw, Billy the Kid, was killed in 1881, the year before James.

    " Whatever Floats Your Boat" Brownies

    • 1/2 cup butter, melted
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    Whatever Floats Your Boat Additions
    • 1 -2 cup chocolate chips (semisweet, white, butterscotch, peanut butter)
    • 1 -2 cup raisins
    • 1 -2 cup chopped maraschino cherry
    • 1 -2 cup chopped nuts
    • 1 -2 cup M&M'
    • 1 -2 cup Reese's pieces
    • 1 -2 cup miniature marshmallow
    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Grease an 8 inch square pan or line with foil.
    3. In a medium bowl combine melted butter and cocoa and stir until cocoa is dissolved.
    4. Add sugar and mix well.
    5. Add eggs one at a time and stir until well combined.
    6. Stir in vanilla, flour and salt until you no longer see any flour (do not overmix).
    8. Spread in pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes.
    9. DO NOT OVER-BAKE -- your brownies will come out dry. Adjust time/temp accordingly for your oven. If you do the knife/toothpick test, it should come out with moist crumbs, not clean.
    10. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
    11. For vegetarian omit the marshmallows.
    12. For double recipe, bake in 9x12 pan and add 5 minutes to baking time.

    Prep Time: 10 mins
    Total Time: 35 mins

    Scarlett Creamy Burrito Casserole

    • 1 lb ground beef or 1 lb ground turkey
    • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) package taco seasoning
    • 6 large flour tortillas
    • 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
    • 2 -3 cups shreddedtaco cheese or 2 -3 cups cheddar cheese
    • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
    • 4 ounces sour cream
    • jarred hot sauce, if desired to spice it up

       1.  Brown ground meat/turkey and onion; drain.
       2.  Add taco seasoning and stir in refried beans.
       3.  Mix soup and sour cream in a separate bowl.
       4.  Spread 1/2 sour cream mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish.
       5.  Tear up 3 tortillas and spread over sour cream mixture.
       6.  Put 1/2 the meat bean mixture over that.
       7.  Add a layer of cheese.
       8.  You could put some hot sauce on this now.
       9.  Repeat the layers.
      10. Sprinkle cheese over the top and bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 20-30 minutes.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Cannellini bean and chorizo minestrone

    The chorizo gives this soup a lovely paprika taste.

    Preparation Time
    10 minutes
    Cooking Time
    15 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 4)
    •  2 chorizo sausages, finely chopped
    •  1 brown onion, finely chopped
    •  2 celery sticks, finely chopped
    •  1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
    •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
    •  2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
    •  2 tbs tomato paste
    •  400g can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
    •  4 cups (1L) chicken stock
    •  1 cup finely shredded savoy cabbage
    •  Store-bought basil pesto, to serve
    •  Crusty bread, to serve

    1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the chorizo, beans and chicken stock and stir to combine. Bring to the boil.
    2. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soup thickens slightly. Add the cabbage to the saucepan and stir until cabbage just wilts. Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    3. Ladle the soup among serving bowls and top with a dollop of pesto. Serve immediately with crusty bread, if desired.

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Bourbon Chicken Recipe

    • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
    • 1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
    • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup apple juice
    • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons ketchup
    • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
       1. Heat oil in a large skillet.
       2. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
       3. Remove chicken.
       4. Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
       5. Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
       6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
       7. Serve over hot rice and ENJOY.

    Prep Time: 15 mins
    Total Time: 35 mins

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    George Stephanopoulos' Biography

    George Stephanopoulos is anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America." He is also the network's chief political correspondent, reporting on political and policy stories for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms. Before being named co-anchor of "Good Morning America" in December 2009, Stephanopoulos held the dual role of ABC News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "This Week." 

    During the 2008 election cycle, Stephanopoulos interviewed every major Republican and Democratic presidential candidate as part of "This Week's "award winning "On the Trail" series, which has been honored with the Annenberg School of Journalism's Walter Cronkite Award for Political Journalism two times in a row in 2007 and 2009. During the 2008 presidential race, Stephanopoulos conducted multiple interviews with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. in studio and on the trail. In August 2007, he moderated separate debates for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in Des Moines, Ia., the only two Sunday morning debates of the primary cycle. He also moderated a Democratic debate with ABC News' Charles Gibson in Philadelphia in April 2008.

    In his role as anchor of "This Week," Stephanopoulos interviewed several key members of the Obama administration, including President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. During the Bush administration, he interviewed every key member of the President's Cabinet, as well as President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney. In July 2003, he conducted a rare joint interview with Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer, the first ever Sunday morning interview with two sitting Supreme Court Justices. He conducted a second interview with Justice Breyer in fall 2005. 

    The depth and variety of Stephanopoulos' interviews on "This Week" have generated significant accolades for the show, including from the Chicago Tribune, which said he has created the "most challenging, fluid and entertaining Sunday-morning show, far outdoing his rivals in both concept and content." In May 2008 the New York Times lauded him and "This Week" for the broadcast's "high-profile interviews and aggressive bookings."
    Over more than a decade at ABC News, Stephanopoulos has played a pivotal role in the network's coverage of breaking news stories. In spring 2005, he reported from Rome and contributed to ABC News' duPont Award-winning coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II. Following the explosion of the Columbia shuttle, he anchored a two-hour special edition of "This Week" on Feb. 2, 2003. And on Sept. 11, 2001, he was one of the first reporters on the scene at Ground Zero. 

    Stephanopoulos was named chief Washington correspondent in December 2005 and began anchoring "This Week" in September 2002. Previously he was an ABC News correspondent, reporting on a wide variety of political, domestic and international stories for "This Week," "World News Tonight," ""Good Morning America" and other ABC News programs and special event broadcasts. He joined ABC News in 1997 as a news analyst for "This Week." 

    Prior to joining ABC News, Stephanopoulos served in the Clinton administration as the senior adviser to the president for policy and strategy. He is the author of "All Too Human," a No. 1 New York Times bestseller on President Clinton's first term and the 1992 and 1996 Clinton/Gore campaigns.
    Stephanopoulos received his Master's degree in theology from Balliol College, Oxford University, England, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University and graduated summa cum laude in political science.Stephanopoulos and his wife, Alexandra Wentworth, have two daughters, Elliott and Harper.

    Calories in Honey vs Sugar

    A sugar free diet is the latest mantra in the market. Avoid those extra calories and reduce your weight. What's more, it helps you maintain your blood sugar level as well. In the same rhythm, people are also going ga-ga about honey. It is natural, it is healthy, and it has antioxidant properties that keeps you fit and fine. So, is eating honey better than sugar? Should I switch over to honey, or is it another marketing gimmick to make us buy their products? In order to lay all my doubts to rest, I went on to search for answers that helped me determine which is better: honey or sugar. Thus, the following write up, calories in honey vs sugar, will help you understand the difference between these two sweeteners. So continue reading further and find out more about calories in honey compared to sugar.

    Calories in Honey Compared to Sugar

    I shall begin with information related to calories in honey vs sugar. So, basically these are both sweeteners that help sweeten foods and drinks. Sugar is manufactured from sugarcane after denaturization of proteins, nitrogen, organic acids, vitamins and enzymes. Honey on the other hand is made from the hard work of honey bees. Coming back to calories in honey vs sugar. One tablespoon of sugar contains 46 calories. When you compare honey, it contains about 64 calories. Thus, there are more calories in honey than sugar. Do not hit the panic button, if you had honey with cereals in breakfast today. Honey is more sweeter than sugar. Thus, one adds slightly less honey than sugar. Also, honey is a lot more expensive than sugar. Thus, we are more liberal when using sugar instead of honey. So, in the end, we consume less calories with honey than sugar.

    Which is Better Honey or Sugar?
    As we found from the above paragraph on calories in honey vs sugar, there are more calories in honey than sugar. This made me wonder, which is better honey or sugar? People go raving about the heath benefits of natural honey. Is this true? So, I decided to dig in deeper and clear out all the doubts.

    Have you heard about Glycemic Index (GI)? It is a method of measuring the effect of carbohydrate rich foods on the blood sugar levels. The scale of measuring GI is 0 to 100. Foods that rank high on the scale cause greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Thus, lower the ranks, healthier the food. Honey ranks 55 on the Glycemic Index, whereas sugar stands at 61. Thus, honey is better than sugar and it proves to be a better source of energy.

    Speaking of energy, sugar contains 100% sucrose and honey is made up of just 1.5% sucrose. The rest is all fructose and glucose, that are a type of monosaccharides. Those who are health conscious, or athletes, will know what I am talking about. Monosaccharides or simple sugars can enter the bloodstream directly. They do not need to be metabolized into simple sugars like sucrose. Thus, they prove to be a source of instant energy and nutrients for the body.

    As we move on to nutrients, you will find sugar contains no minerals, vitamins or proteins. Just plain carbohydrates (read between the lines: just plain calories). I have already explained in the beginning, sugar is made by destroying the nutrients in sugar cane. Thus, no nutrients in sugar. On the other hand, honey is a natural product made by honey bees. It contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, pathothenic acid, tryptophan, threonine, lysine, tyrosine, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine and many more vitamins, minerals and amino acids. No, this does not mean you can eat honey and get rid of those boring vegetables in your refrigerator! One tablespoon of honey does not contain enough nutrients that meet the recommended daily dose for your body. The nutrients are present, but you will have to eat a hell lot of more honey to achieve your recommended daily nutrient dose. This will lead to weight gain and yeah, diabetes!

    Weight gain occurs due to excessive calorie intake in the diet. Thus, the first thing knocked off by the dietitian is sugar from your diet. You can substitute a tablespoon of honey for the sugar you are not supposed to eat. This will give you instant energy and get easily absorbed in the body. However, too much honey will cause you to gain weight. So, if you feel you can gain all the precious vitamins and minerals by eating more honey, think again. You are going to put on more weight than normal.

    Honey vs Sugar: Conclusion
    So, in conclusion to the calories in honey vs sugar debate, honey proves to be a better bet than sugar. Honey contains more calories than sugar. But, it is not just full of empty calories, it is packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids in minute levels. So, the end word here, is eating honey in moderation. You should include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet along with a tablespoon or two of honey. Sugar in moderation will also cause no more harm than honey. Watch what you eat as this will help you remain in the 'pink of health'.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    John Wayne's Favorite Casserole Rides Again

    John Wayne rides again. Last week's request for a green chile and cheese casserole, which Edith Witherspoon recalled as "Duke's Favorite," turns out to be a reputed culinary indulgence of the macho movie idol.

    Dozens of readers dug into their files and sent us the recipe, which, as Doreen Malin of Ross writes, "is really delicious, but you have to think twice about whether you want to eat all that cheese!" She reports that in the '70s, she got a photocopy of the recipe, which was apparently widely circulated and appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

    Carole Levenson of Oakland also attributes the recipe to John Wayne trivia, adding "the recipe was supposed to be from a chef on a location catering truck."

    Margaret Elliott of Alamo lived in Southern California at the time and says the dish "was described as a favorite of the Duke, John Wayne, who lived in Corona del Mar at the time. Was it his favorite? Who knows? It is a favorite in our family."

    So off we ride into the cholesterol sunset.
    A brown sugar cookie with a chocolate center was the treat from the past Mary Jane Swenson wanted to recreate for her children. A Peninsula reader left a phone message saying that Gerry Stagi, the son of the people who baked this at the Pink Pastry Shoppe in Menlo Park, now operates Gerry's Cakes on Chestnut Street in Menlo Park. Maybe he could lead our reader to the not-forgotten lost cookie.

    New Requests: Gail Reilly of Berkeley says that for more than 30 years, she has been buying a blueberry dessert on the main drag in Carmel. The bakery was still there when she visited recently; the blueberry goodie -- she describes it as similar to lemon bars, except made with blueberries -- was not. She asks if anyone might have a similar recipe.

    Cheryl Zelaya wonders if anybody has a recipe similar to Yank Sing restaurant's dressing for its Chinese chicken salad, which she describes as tangy and lemony.
    We usually abbreviate reader requests, but this one, from Dave Enas in Richmond, is so eloquently evocative of treats past, we felt moved to print most of it. He writes: "Many years ago there was an eating place in Berkeley on Shattuck and Kittredge called Edy's. Diners would sit in dark wooden booths and eat salads and sandwiches and enjoy a fine milkshake, float, soft drink or coffee. But the ultimate, the main attraction, the headliner, was their hot fudge sundae.