Jul 12, 2018

Pasta Pleasers

If your family is strictly “meat and potatoes”, finding dairy recipes that will satisfy may present a challenge.  Many people find dairy meals to be a lot less filling than fleishig, even if you serve fish.  You may find yourself with your head in the refrigerator shortly after leaving the table—not great for dieters and those watching their weight.  To round out the meals always include low calorie soups and salads.  Unless you are on a carb-free diet, pasta dishes are a good option. Pasta with vegetables is nourishing and need not be loaded with fat.  You can even try the recipes with brown rice pasta or whole wheat pasta for added fiber. Here are some ideas for you to try during the 9 days.

For the crumbs:

3 cups panko crumbs

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup parsley, checked and chopped or 6 frozen cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

For the mushrooms:

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/4 pounds fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, checked and chopped

1 teaspoon porcini powder

1 teaspoon kosher teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup milk

1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch or other 3-quart glass or oven-to-tableware dish.

Spread out crumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, then toss with garlic, parsley, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring, until onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms along with oregano, parsley and porcini powder.  Season with salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in milk and simmer 1 minute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a 6 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander, then transfer to baking dish and stir in mushroom mixture and remaining cheese.

Sprinkle bread topping evenly over pasta and bake, uncovered, until crumbs are golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

32 jumbo pasta shells

32 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed

15 ounces ricotta or farmer cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese, divided 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried, crumbled

½ teaspoon nutmeg

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

4 cups marinara or spaghetti sauce, homemade or store-bought

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook pasta shells in 6 quarts boiling water for 10 minutes or just al dente. Drain and rinse.

Squeeze spinach dry and place spinach in a large bowl. Add ricotta or farmer cheese, mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, nutmeg, basil and garlic to bowl. Stir in salt and pepper and mix well to blend all filling ingredients.

 Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce evenly over the bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons spinach mixture. Place shells, filling side up, in dish. Pour remaining marinara sauce over shells. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Cover loosely with foil and bake until heated through, about 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Jul 5, 2018

Pop Tops

Artisan ice cream pops are all the rage—they are attractive, easy and tasty.  For years we’ve been simply freezing juices in cups or basic ice pop molds. Nowadays, like everything else, pops have gone gourmet and are not strictly for kids. There are a variety of fantastic shapes and styles to choose from if you’re ready to make your own homemade icy delicacies.  Of course, you can always freeze your ices in plastic cups with a pop stick resting on the edge, but we like to think that ice pops should be attractive as well as tasty. If you are using popsicle sticks, they tend to float up in the pop mixture rather than stand straight. Soaking the sticks in water to saturate them will help solve that problem. You can also cover the pops with foil and make a slit for the sticks so they will stay in place.

Try freezing your ices in layers with fruit slices floating inside. You can use sliced kiwis, strawberries, cherries or small chunks of watermelon or pineapple. Combine flavors like coconut and pineapple for pina colada pops or cold coffee, vanilla yogurt and chocolate syrup for a frozen mocha pops. Be imaginative and let your families choose their favorite flavors.

All the recipes given are for pop six 1/3 cup capacity ice pops. This is the most common size pop mold. Before beginning, rearrange your freezer so you have space to stand the ice pops.

The first recipe is for coconut lovers everywhere. The coconut milk gives the pop a silky, creamy texture.

1 14 ounce can coconut milk

¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

½ cup sweetened flaked coconut

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, sugar vanilla and salt. Whisk in the coconut flakes.

Pour mixture into ice pop molds and insert sticks. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

To unmold, run hot water over the outsides of the molds for a few seconds, then gently pull the sticks.

Yield 6 pops

If you love cheesecake this frozen version is for you!

8 ounces strawberries, hulled; if using frozen, thaw first

6 slices strawberries, optional

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 graham crackers, crushed

Place the strawberries in a blender and puree until smooth. Pout through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing the pulp with a flexible spatula to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.

Whisk in the sour cream, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla.

Spoon the mixture into ice pop molds. Slide in optional strawberry slices, and insert sticks. Sprinkle crumbs around the base of each pop for garnish.

Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

To unmold, run hot water over the outsides of the molds for a few seconds, then gently pull the sticks.

Yield 6 pops

1 ¼ cups low fat vanilla yogurt; do not use fat free

3 tablespoons chocolate syrup

8 ounces strawberries, hulled; if using frozen, thaw first

6 slices strawberries, optional

4 tablespoon sugar, divided

In a small bowl, mix ½ cup yogurt, and the chocolate syrup. Spoon the mixture into ice pop molds, dividing evenly to fill each mold 1/3 full. Freeze 30 to 45 minutes until set.

Remove 2/3 cup yogurt and add 2 tablespoons sugar; mix to combine.  Divide yogurt evenly among molds on top of chocolate layer. Insert sticks.

Freeze 30 to 45 minutes until set.

Puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pout through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing the pulp with a flexible spatula to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.

Whisk in the remaining sugar and two tablespoons yogurt until well combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into molds on top of yogurt layer. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

To unmold, run hot water over the outsides of the molds for a few seconds, then gently pull the sticks.

Yield 6 pops

Jun 28, 2018

Layers of Flavor

Peel away a layer and you get…more layers! Which makes onions are perfect for grilling. The heat turns them sweet and brings out delicious flavor, layer after layer. Add them to salads, burgers and sandwiches for amazing mouth-feel and sweetness.

3 red onions, sliced crosswise into ½ inch rounds
1 ½ cups bottled hickory-flavored barbecue sauce

Preheat barbecue to medium heat. Use a skewer or long toothpick to hold the rings together.  Brush onion slices generously with barbecue sauce. Lightly oil the grill grate with an oil-dampened paper towel.  Grill until onions are tender, brown and glazed, basting with barbecue sauce and turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Onions can also be grilled whole as a side dish to accompany your meal. Hollowed out, they make a tasty container for salsa, relish or vegetables.  Adding wood chips to the grilled process adds dimension to the taste.

2 cups wood chips
8 medium Vidalia or red onions
2 red peppers, cored and diced

1 kielbasa, diced

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet red barbecue sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Soak wood chips in a container of water for 15 to 30 minutes. Drain and set chips aside. Preheat grill to high then turn off one burner to allow for indirect grilling.

Cut off onion tops and peel. Hollow out onions leaving base intact. Finely chop pieces removed from onions.

In mixing bowl, combine chopped onions, diced peppers and kielbasa, brown sugar and barbecue sauce. Spoon onion/pepper mixture into the center of each whole onion. Top each onion with 1/2 tablespoon oil.

Arrange onions on grill grate away from fire. If using a charcoal grill, toss wood chips on coals. If using a gas grill, place wood chips in a foil pan or smoker box under the grate. Grill the onions 50 to 60 minutes or until they are golden brown and tender.

4 large onions (sweet, such as Vidalia)

Dash salt

Dash pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Slice the stem from the onions and peel them, leaving the root intact. Slice a bit of the root off, just enough to provide a flat end so they won't wobble.

Working from the top and using a sharp knife, a small melon baller, or apple corer, cut the cores from the onions. You should have a cavity about 1 inch across and almost through to the bottom of the onion without piercing it. Use the cored-out onion pieces for another purpose.

Salt and pepper the onion cavities and then fill each onion with 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle the onions lightly with a bit more salt and pepper. Wrap the onions in foil, gathering at the top and twisting to seal.

Cook in a closed grill for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours over medium indirect coals. Untwist top of foil and spread open about 10 minutes before serving.

Leave them on the grill for more smoked flavor, if you like.

2 Spanish onions, sliced in rings, about 1/4” thick

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons canola or light olive oil

The onions take time to soften and cook so begin your barbecue prep with this.

Toss onions slices with salt, pepper, honey and oil. Place in a medium-sized foil pan. Preheat grill to high and turn off one burner. Place the pan where the burner is off.  Allow to cook 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and sweet. Top your burgers or grilled chicken with a few rings.

Jun 21, 2018

Let’s Pack

With many people heading up to the mountains or sending children to summer camp, this is a good time to discuss packing.  Of course, we’re not offering advice on the best way to pack socks! We’re talking about packing tasty bits of food into parchment paper and steaming it. This cooking method is perfect for summer. It’s quick and easy and results in light meals with no mess.

Cooking en papillote—steaming small portions of food in a wrapper―is a classic technique. Some cultures use grape leaves, banana leaves, cornhusks, or other natural materials to wrap delicate foods before cooking. They add vegetables, herbs and spices for seasoning.

Steaming requires little or no added fat; steam builds up in the packet to cook food quickly yet gently. The nicely wrapped package allows you to add juices, spices, or herbs.

Steaming en papillote (pah-pee-YOHT) requires no special equipment, other than a roll of parchment paper that you toss when you're done.

Follow these simple steps to making parchment packages:

·         Cut a 15- x 24-inch piece of parchment.

·         Fold parchment in half crosswise, making a crease down the center.

·         Draw half of a heart shape on paper. Cut out heart, and open the parchment.

·         Layer ingredients in one half of the sheet, making sure to leave at least a 1-inch border around the cut edges.

·         Starting at the round portion of the heart, fold paper, tightly sealing edges with narrow folds.

·         Twist the tip portion of the heart to seal.

·         Place packets onto an ungreased baking sheet, and bake.

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 zucchini, julienned

1 large carrot, julienned

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 (4-ounce) flounder fillets

1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

1/4 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix together the onion, zucchini, carrot and garlic. Add half the oil and toss to combine  seasoning  with salt and pepper to taste. Put each fish fillet in a piece of parchment paper as directed above. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the vegetables on top, dividing evenly. Top the vegetables with 2 lemon slices, remaining oil and 1 tablespoon white wine, layering in order. Fold the parchment paper as directed. Arrange the packets on a baking sheet. Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. To serve, cut open the packets and serve directly in the parchment on a plate so you don’t lose the juices.

1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

5 oz. green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise

1 shallot, sliced thin

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons parsley, checked and chopped

2  cloves garlic, crushed

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a bowl, toss together the corn, tomatoes, green beans, shallot, olive oil, half the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare 2 sheets of parchment as directed above. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of each sheet and top each with a chicken breast. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the garlic and remaining parsley and drizzle with oil.
Fold and seal parchment as directed and place each packet on a baking tray.
 Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the packets to individual plates and carefully open them. Serve the chicken and vegetables immediately.

Jun 14, 2018

Short and Sweet

Today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day—a very good day to celebrate!

What most of us refer to as Strawberry Shortcake is actually Strawberry Sponge cake; a soft cake layered with macerated strawberries and whipped cream.

The original Strawberry Shortcake is made with biscuits or a type of crumbly bread that has been leavened with baking powder.  Shortcake is made with flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, salt, butter, milk or cream. The dry ingredients are blended, and then the butter is cut in until the mixture resembles large crumbs. The liquid ingredients are then mixed in just until moistened, resulting in “short dough.”  The dough is then dropped in spoonfuls onto a baking sheet or rolled slightly and cut with a round cookie cutter, being careful not to overwork the dough.

 Sliced strawberries are mixed with sugar and allowed to sit an hour or so, until they have released a great deal of their juices.

Once the biscuits are baked they are split open, sort of like a sandwich roll.  The bottoms are covered with a layer of strawberries, juice, and whipped cream, sometimes flavored with sugar and vanilla. The top is replaced, and more strawberries and whipped cream are added onto the top.

The first strawberry shortcake recipe appeared in an English cookbook as early as 1588, according to Driscoll's berry growers—the largest berry growing company. By 1850, strawberry shortcake was a well-known biscuit and fruit dessert served throughout the United States. Strawberry shortcake parties were held as celebrations of the summer fruit harvest. This tradition is upheld in some parts of the United States on June 14, which is National Strawberry Shortcake Day.

Today the term Strawberry Shortcake has come to mean any layered strawberry dessert including the delicious parfaits below.

As many in our community refrain from eating fresh strawberries due to concerns of infestation, greenhouse-grown strawberries are available frozen and can be a good stand-in when preparing popular strawberry recipes.

 1 pound strawberries, fresh or frozen

 1/4 cup granulated sugar

 1 teaspoon lemon zest

 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

 1 sleeve graham crackers (or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs)

 1/4 cup butter, melted

1¼ cups heavy cream

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar

2 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare strawberries for use according to your halachic authority. Slice them into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine, then let this sit for 15 minutes.  If you are using frozen strawberries, defrost completely and add the sugar and lemon; mix until combined.

In the meantime, place the graham crackers into a food processor, and pulse until ground into fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the graham crackers with a rolling pin instead.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl, and stir until the crumbs are moistened. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk or using electric beaters, beat heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl until cream is stiff. 

In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Add remaining sugar and continue to beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy.  Beat in milk and vanilla; scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula and blend until smooth.  Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture with a spatula. 

To assemble the cheesecake parfaits, place a few spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture into the bottom of 6 dessert glasses. Next add a layer of the graham cracker crumbs. Top that with a layer of the macerated strawberries, then repeat with one more of each layer. Chill the parfaits for about an hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Jun 7, 2018

Inspired Blondies

Blondies are a brown- sugar-based cake bar resembling the chocolate brownie. They are baked in the same fashion as traditional brownies then cut into squares or rectangles for serving. They are sometimes referred to as blonde brownies. Blondies are usually made from flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, and vanilla. They may also contain a variety of chips and nuts, but the dominant flavor of a blondie is brown sugar, not chocolate.  Blondies are very adaptable; you can add lots of different chips, nuts or fruit. We even turned blondies into a cheesecake!

Most blondie recipes call for a 9” square “brownie pan” which is very different from an 8” foil square pan. The heavy weight of a real pan will yield the best texture in your blondies.  Do a side by side comparison and you will be amazed at the difference a great pan makes.

Feel free to switch the coconut and pecans to any flavored chips and whichever nuts are your favorites.

1 cup canola oil

2 cups packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups pecans (6 ounces), toasted and cooled

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Grease and flour a 13- by 9-inch baking pan or line it with parchment paper or foil.

Beat oil, brown sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Stir in flour and baking soda. Stir in pecans and 1 1/2 cups coconut.

Spread in prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until a pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Yes, this recipe has it all: cheesecake, salted caramel and buttery blondie. Could it get any more delicious?

1 cup whole pecans

2 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake batter:

 2  8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 extra large eggs

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Blondie batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

 1 teaspoon baking powder

 1/2 teaspoon table salt

 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

2 extra large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 3 tablespoons caramel sauce, melted, plus more for topping

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then lightly chop.

Coat a 9-inch square pan with butter. Line with parchment paper, coat the parchment with butter.

Make the cheesecake batter:

Beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in 2 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined; set aside.

Make the blondie batter:

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the melted butter and brown sugar in a large bowl; whisk in the remaining 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup pecans. 

Spread the blondie batter in the prepared pan. Pour the cheesecake mixture on the batter. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of caramel sauce over the cheesecake batter. Using the tip of a knife, gently swirl together to create a marbled effect. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let cool.

To decorate, drizzle with more caramel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup pecans and the fleur de sel. Refrigerate until completely cooled, about 2 hours.

May 31, 2018

Pressure’s Rising!

With the growing popularity of the “instant pot” recipes, people have been pulling out little-used pressure cookers from the back of their kitchen cabinets.  After all, an instant pot is basically and electronic pressure cooker. So if you’re still “low tech” like us, these delicious recipes can be prepared in your pressure cooker and enjoyed any night of the week. 

Today’s pressure cookers have multiple safety features.   Instead of the little jiggly thing at the top of the pot, precise pressure indicators allow you to choose the right amount of pressure for the food you are cooking.  Pressure is easily adjusted by raising or lowering the flame. 

Advanced safety mechanisms allow built up steam to escape gradually if it has gone above safe levels.  Some brands will incorporate up to three pressure releasing safety systems.     And, the gaskets found inside the lids are now silicone and stay soft and supple for many years unlike their rubber predecessors that quickly turned hard and brittle.  Many models allow for removal of handles for ease of clean-up. Others offer “quick pressure release” for those of us who are in a rush.   

The best reason for using a pressure cooker is to reduce cooking time.  For some recipes the cooking time may be cut down by as much as 70%. That’s a huge difference for a busy cook!

These melt-in-your-mouth ribs taste like they slow baked in the oven all day!

½ cup water

2 large onions, thickly sliced

1 each red and green peppers, seeded and cut into 1” strips

2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce

5 pounds beef spare ribs or flanken

2 tablespoons corn starch

Place water, onions and peppers in your pressure cooker.  Place a single layer of ribs on the vegetables.  Brush generously with sauce.  Place another layer of ribs on top and once again brush with sauce.  Continue layering until all the ribs are in the pot.  Pour in any remaining sauce.  Cover the pressure cooker by lining up indicator symbols on the lid and handle.  Turn and lock lid in place, closing any required locking mechanisms.   Turn up flame to high until just before the second or higher pressure indicator appears.  Lower the heat slightly to maintain pressure at the second level but no higher.  Cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat.

When the pressure indicators are completely lowered, either by waiting or quick release methods, open the cover.  Remove the ribs to a platter and keep warm.  Skim off any visible fat and place 2 tablespoons of the liquid in the cooker into a small bowl.  Stir in the cornstarch and pour it back into the pot.  Bring to a gentle boil and heat until sauce thickens, about 2-3 minutes.  Pour sauce over ribs and serve. 

Need soup for dinner in an instant? Here goes!

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large white onion, chopped

3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock

1 lb peeled baby carrots

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup coconut milk

kosher salt and white pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh micro greens or chives, for garnish

Heat oil over medium heat in the pressure cooker. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and cook high pressure 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Release steam. Add coconut milk, using an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender), carefully blend until smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into 4 bowls and garnish with a little more coconut milk and fresh chives if desired. Makes 5 cups.