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Jul 30, 2015

Grilled Goodness

There is no reason that grilling should get a bad rap! Grilling can be a healthy method of cooking and one does not need to indulge in hot dogs every time you turn on the heat. Make sure you serve plenty of vegetables along with meat and chicken prepared on the grill and you will never feel like you are copping out on your family’s well-being.
Grilled vegetables can be simple sliced vegetables brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Choose vegetables that cook quickly like zucchini, mushrooms and peppers so you don’t have to watch over them for long.  You can also incorporate grilled vegetables into delicious salads and side dishes for your next barbeque.

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup parsley leaves, checked and chopped

For the salad:
4 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and discarded
4 ripe plum tomatoes, halved
1 Vidalia onion, sliced in rounds
1 bag checked romaine hearts

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium hot.
Whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream to make a smooth, slightly thick vinaigrette. Whisk in the parsley and set aside.
Lay the mushrooms, tomatoes and onions out on a pan and lightly brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on the grill smooth side down. Grill until juices collect in the cap and mushrooms soften, about 3 minutes. Turn them over and cook until slightly charred around the edges and the center is very tender, about 3 minutes more. Put the tomatoes on the grill skin side down and grill until juicy and charred, about 6 minutes. Grill the onions, turning once or twice, until they are tender, about 20 minutes.
Divide the romaine, mushroom caps, tomatoes and onions among 4 plates. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salads and serve.

12 medium portabella mushroom, stems removed
2 large beef tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt

for the pesto:
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves, washed, dried and checked
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
½ cup pine nuts (pignolia)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine basil, garlic and pine nuts.  While the motor is running, pour in the oil.  Turn off the food processor.  If the mixture seems too stiff to spread, add 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil and process once more.  Season with salt and set aside.
Preheat the grill for 10 minutes.  Using a small spoon, scrape away the black gills on the underside of the mushrooms.  Clean the mushrooms by wiping with a damp paper towel—no need to peel.  Slice the tomatoes into three rounds and remove as many seeds as you can without damaging the flesh.  Brush both the mushrooms and the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place the mushrooms on the grill, cap side down and grill for 6-7 minutes.  Turn them over and use a spatula to press out as much liquid as possible.  Grill another 4 minutes and remove.  Place the tomatoes on the grill and cook for 7-8 minutes then carefully turn with a spatula.  Once again, use the spatula to press out as much liquid as you can.  Grill 5-6 minutes longer and remove.
Set 6 portabella caps stem side up on a platter.  Place a tomato slice on each cap.  Spread a heaping tablespoon of pesto on each tomato.  Top with another mushroom cap to form a little sandwich.  Serve at room temperature.
Hearty appetite!

Jul 23, 2015

Breaking the Fast

We have all been told that 3 glasses of water is the way to go when breaking a fast; it hydrates and keeps you from over-eating heavy foods that will make you feel sick. But once you’ve watered your system you will want to enjoy a light filling meal that doesn’t require lots of preparation. One of the first things that come to mind is omelets. Adding some vegetables makes it an even better option.

2 large or extra large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
Paper towel dampened with a bit of canola oil

Crack and check the eggs and pour into a mixing bowl and beat them until they turn a pale yellow color.
Heat a heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium-low heat. Wipe the pan with the oil-dampened paper towel.
Add the milk to the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Try to beat as much air as possible into the eggs. When the pan is hot enough, pour in the eggs. Don't stir! Let the eggs cook for up to a minute or until the bottom starts to set.
With a heat-resistant silicone spatula, gently push one edge of the egg into the center of the pan, while tilting the pan to allow the still liquid egg to flow in underneath. Repeat with the other edges, until there's no liquid left.
Your eggs should now resemble a bright yellow pancake, which should easily slide around on the nonstick surface. If it sticks at all, loosen it with your spatula.
Now gently flip the omelet over, using your spatula to ease it over if necessary. Cook for another few seconds, or until there is no uncooked egg left.
If you're adding any other ingredients, now's the time to do it. You can add shredded cheese, diced vegetables or chopped herbs. Spoon your filling across the center of the egg in straight line.
With your spatula, lift one edge of the egg and fold it across and over, so that the edges line up. Cook for another minute or so, but don't overcook or allow the egg to turn brown. If necessary, you can flip the entire omelet over to cook the top for 30 seconds or so. Just don't let it get brown.
Gently transfer the finished omelet to a plate. Serve immediately.

A frittata is somewhere between a kugel and an omelet. 

4 tablespoons butter
1 large potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
8 ounces frozen peas, thawed
8 ounces frozen corn niblets, thawed
5 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning or oregano and basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a 9-10 inch frying pan melt the butter over medium heat. When it begins bubbling add the potatoes and fry the potatoes very gently until soft, being careful not to brown. Add the peas and corn and heat through.
Beat the eggs with the milk, season with salt and black pepper to taste; add Italian seasoning. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook until nearly set, gently pushing aside the eggs to allow any raw batter to run underneath.  Continue cooking without stirring, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent the frittata from sticking, until the bottom is golden and cooked and the mixture set. Using a large dinner plate, flip the whole thing over so that it is transferred to the plate cooked side up.  Add 1 spoon of oil to the frying pan and slide the frittata back in. Cook for another four to five minutes until it is brown on the second side. Cut into wedges and serve warm with salad.

Wishing all an easy fast!

Jul 20, 2015

Dairy Delights

If your family is strictly “meat and potatoes”, finding dairy recipes that will satisfy may present a challenge.  Unless you prepare fish for dinner most people find dairy meals to be a lot less filling than fleishigs.  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.  Pasta dishes with added vegetables are nourishing and need not be loaded with fat.  You can even try them with whole wheat pasta for added fiber. Here are some ideas for you to try this week.

For the crumbs:
3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from leftover challah
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup parsley, checked and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided

For the mushrooms:
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
1 cup hot water
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
1/2 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.
Soak porcini in boiling-hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes.
Drain porcini in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve soaking liquid, then rinse porcini. Pat dry and finely chop.
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, oregano, parsley salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.
Stir in chopped porcini, reserved soaking liquid, and 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 9, 2015

More S’mores

A few years back we told you about the incredible popularity of s’mores.  The word “s'more” appears to be a contraction of the phrase, "some more". This informal name reflects the fact that s'mores are traditionally served when you’re just hanging around.  Its meaning indicates that folks enjoying them around a campfire are not satisfied by just one. Some have theorized that the name originated from people who were so busy eating the tasty treat that they did not have time to speak in complete sentences, or possibly, that their pronunciation was compromised by the fact that their mouth was still full of the previously eaten s'more.
S'mores were originally associated with camping and bonfires. Part of the enjoyment of this simple dessert is the way in which it is made on such camping trips. A marshmallow is skewered on the end of a skewer and held just above a campfire until its outer surface starts to brown. Once heated, the inside of the marshmallow becomes soft or molten. The marshmallow is quickly pinched off its stick with the waiting graham crackers, one of which has a piece of chocolate on it. Ideally, the heat from the roasted marshmallow partially melts the chocolate. However, you don’t need a campfire to make delicious versions of s’mores at home. Try one of our tasty recipes below for kid-friendly dessert.
A whole s’more culture has sprung up with s’mores appearing in cupcakes, pies and even rolled up desserts.

Deep Dish S’mores
One 12-ounce bag mini chocolate chips
3 cups mini marshmallows
Graham crackers, broken into squares, for dipping
Preheat the broiler on high.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly into a heat-proof skillet or oven-to-table dish. Spread the marshmallows over the chocolate chips. Place the skillet under the broiler until browned on top.
Serve with graham cracker squares for dipping.

S’mores Pie
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 full graham crackers
1 12 ounce bag mini chocolate chips
3 cups miniature marshmallows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, and margarine. Beat until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir.
Grind the graham crackers in a food processor or blender until crumbs. Stir in with the dry ingredients.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and press into the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch oven-safe skillet or deep pie dish.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.
Remove and immediately top with the bag of chocolate chips. Spread the chocolate chips around to coat the entire surface.
Then add the marshmallows. Press them on to cover the chocolate chips. You can add more or subtract some depending on preference.
Broil at 550 degrees for about 30-45 seconds or until the tops of the marshmallows are lightly browned.
Allow to cool and set up before serving.

S’more Ice Cream Pie
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
3 cups miniature marshmallows
12 ounces mini chocolate chips

Grease a 9-inch pie plate.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar until well blended. Press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of prepared pie plate. Freeze 5 minutes before filling.
Stir together ice cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips; spoon into crust. Cover; freeze until firm.
Soften slightly to serve. Garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips, if desired.

Jul 2, 2015


The word “pretzel” refers to bread of German origin, with a looped knot or twisted braid. Pretzels can be either soft or hard and come in a myriad shapes and sizes. Traditional soft pretzels are about the size of a hand. Most hard pretzels are much smaller. Historians believe the pretzel was invented by monks in the year 610 to symbolize marriage and represent intertwined lives. Pretzels were thought to bring prosperity and good luck.
In the 1700’s German immigrants gave rise to Pennsylvania Dutch culture. They brought with them the recipe for soft pretzels and, in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries dotted the Pennsylvania Dutch landscape.   Between 1850 and 1889 many pretzel factories opened in the Lancaster area.  Some are still in operation today.  The Anderson Pretzel Factory, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, calls itself the world's largest—they manufacture 65 tons daily. They began making pretzels by hand in 1889 and in 1955 machines were added.  Soft pretzels have become a staple for Pennsylvanians and the average Philadelphian consumes about twelve times more pretzels than the national average.
Interestingly, the crunchy hard pretzel evolved when a baker put them in the oven without rising and forgot about them. Baked too long, the pretzels grew dark, hard and crunchy—and turned out to be a wild success.

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 packet active dry yeast
4 ½ cups flour
4 tablespoons canola oil plus more for the pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt or coarse salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and oil and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with a silpat or parchment paper. If you are using parchment, lightly brush paper with the oil. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart stockpot.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the top of the “U” in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the lined pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large slotted spatula. Return each to the lined pan and brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Jun 21, 2015

Slush Fund

With summer fast approaching you are probably thinking of ways to keep cool. Many folks turn to frozen drinks in order to fight summer heat.

A slushy, sometimes known as slush, is a flavored frozen drink. It is usually made by freezing a non-carbonated juice or other liquid. The sugar in the liquid often keeps it from freezing completely.  Because they do not require a pressure chamber to carbonate them, slushies are sold in eateries throughout the country.  They are even more popular than other frozen beverages, all of which sell millions every year. Smoothies usually contain fruit or vegetables along with juice or simple syrup. Razzles and shakes usually feature ice cream or heavy cream, making them thicker and creamier.  Smoothies, Razzles and even slush can be pretty pricey if you indulge often enough. Making these frozen drinks at home is a lot less expensive. If you are thinking you will need a high-powered blender to crush ice, think again! Our new Zoku slush and shake maker will freeze any liquid combination to the perfect slushy consistency in just minutes. It requires nothing more than gentle stirring in the special container.

You simply freeze inner core for 8 or more hours. Pour in cold juice, pureed fruit or cream up to the fill line.  Scrape the wall of the cup with the included spoon to remove ice from wall. Stir and watch it freeze.  Pick one up today and try one of these delicious and refreshing summer thirst quenchers.

This frozen drink is full or texture as well as flavor!

1 ½ cups quality vanilla ice cream
1cup fresh checked strawberries or frozen strawberries, thawed
¼ cup milk
2/3 cup cubed pound or sponge cake

For garnish:

whipped cream
sliced strawberries
pound cake crumbs

Place ice cream, strawberries and milk into a blender and purée on medium speed. Pour into the frozen slush container; stir until thick. Stir in pound cake cubes.  Pour into a tall glass and top shake with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and pound cake crumbs

Make this as sweet or as tart as you prefer

 16 ounces fresh squeezed or quality orange juice
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons honey or more to taste

 Place all ingredients into a blender and puree on medium speed. Pour into the frozen Slush Maker container; stir until thick, scraping thickened liquid off the walls of the container.

If you miss this classic cold-weather flavor try it in a frosty summer drink.

16 ounces good quality apple cider
6 tablespoons caramel sauce, dairy or pareve
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients into a blender and combine on medium speed. Pour into the frozen slush maker container and stir until thick. Pour into a tall glass, if desired, garnish with apple slices or an additional drizzle of caramel.

This drink  will be enjoyed by the adults in the family

 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted or canned sweet cherries, drained well
zest of 1 small lime
1 cup (8 ounces) lemonade
6-8 fresh mint leaves

2 ounces vodka or fruit liquor

 Place all ingredients except liquor into a blender and purée on medium speed. Pour into the frozen slush maker container and stir until thick. Divide between 2 tall glasses and add 1 ounce liquor to each just before serving.

This one will quickly become the hands-down favorite!

1 cup chocolate ice cream
6 ounces heavy cream
3 tablespoons caramel sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

 For garnishing:

whipped cream
chocolate covered pretzels
caramel sauce
sea salt

Place all ingredients into a blender and purée on medium speed. Pour into the frozen slush maker container and stir until thick, scraping frozen particles off the walls. If desired, top shakes with whipped cream, chopped chocolate covered pretzels, caramel sauce and a pinch of sea salt.

Keep cool!

Jun 14, 2015

La La La…Lasagna!

The origin of lasagna is in dispute among food historians. Three countries with distinct cuisines all claim to have invented it. One theory is that lasagna comes from Greek word for a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips.  This word still used in Greek to mean a flat thin type of unleavened bread. Did they invent this layered dish of pasta, sauce and cheese?
It is believed the Romans came up with the Latin word "lasanum" in meaning "cooking pot". Later, the Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagna is made. Following that, the name of the food took on the name of the serving dish.
Contrarily, some British food historians claim the original recipe was printed in the first cookbook ever published—in England—therefore it must be British in origin. They have mostly given up that claim since we all know Britain cannot hold a candle to Italy when it comes to cooking!  Besides, pasta with sauce is a truly Italian concept.  Nowadays, most folks don’t really care where it comes from as the recipes have changed over the years to include vegetables and both red and white sauces.
In Italy, lasagna noodles are totally flat, while American lasagna tends to be ruffled along the edges to help trap sauces. The best noodles are made from Durum wheat; a particularly hard wheat which stands up to extended cooking, remaining chewy and firm even after boiling and baking. Some cooks prefer to use special no-boil lasagna noodles, which are layered into a lasagna pan without being precooked. The moisture in the lasagna and the heat of the oven cook these noodles so that they are finished along with the rest of the lasagna.
We’re sure you’ve got plenty of recipes for traditional lasagna; we thought you’d like something a little different. This one contains no tomato sauce at all!

9 lasagna noodles
1 cup boiling water
1 ounce dried porcini, shiitake or oyster mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 shallots chopped
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (a variety adds flavor)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, checked and chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1/2 cup white wine
3 ounces low fat cream cheese
3 cups low-fat milk, divided
¼ cup flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 2-3 quart baking dish.
Cook noodles according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Combine 1 cup boiling water and dried mushrooms. Cover and let stand 30 minutes; strain mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl, reserving liquid and mushrooms separately.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; add shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms are browned. Add parsley and half the garlic; sauté another minute. Stir in wine; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Remove from heat; stir in cream cheese and 1 tablespoon chives. Add reconstituted mushrooms.
Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add remaining garlic cloves to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Add the reserved mushroom liquid, 2 3/4 cups milk, remaining salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Combine remaining milk and flour in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to milk mixture, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Spoon 1/2 cup sauce into the prepared baking dish and top with 3 noodles. Spread half of mushroom mixture over noodles. Repeat layers, ending with remaining sauce. Sprinkle cheese over top. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden.