Friday, March 30, 2012

Mashed Potato Patties

I think we have a surplus of potatoes in my household.  But the ideas for how to switch up the different ways to eat them keep flowing!  This time my mother dug deep into her subconscious to a vague memory of her mother Jo making leftover Mashed Potato Patties.  Around the 50's when money was scarce, women found ways to save their leftovers from waste and sometimes stale taste.  This old fashion Italian twist revitalizes the mashed potatoes and creates an entirely new dish for your next meal.  So the next time you find yourself having leftover mashed potatoes, don't eat them twice... turn them into breaded patties instead!

What you'll need:

Leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 cup - 1 cup (depending on how many leftovers you have) of Italian bread crumbs (GF friends, I use Gillian's GF Italian Dried Bread Crumbs)
Grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
To taste, salt and pepper
olive oil

In a dish, combine the bread crumbs, salt, pepper and some parmesan cheese together.  I usually use about a handful of cheese.  In a separate bowl, mix 1 egg into your leftover mashed potatoes (this creates a bind so they stick together). Form 2 in. mashed potato balls and place into the bread crumb mixture.  Press the ball down to form a flatter patty shape.  Carefully flip over the patty and coat the other side with the bread crumbs.  Over medium heat, in a pan filled with a thin layer of olive oil (these are not deep fried, you just want to brown the bread crumbs), place in the patties.  After about 5 mins. or until their brown, flip them over and cook for another 5 mins. or so.  Serve them hot with ketchup or salsa!  Eat them for breakfast or as a dinner side.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avocado Pistachio Ice Cream

Being an ice cream lover, I'm game to try any flavor. And avocado is one that I've been dying to taste for a long time!  So last weekend I gave it a shot in the ole ice cream maker.  Despite it's similar green appearance to plain pistachio, this particular recipe consists of a creamy and refreshing puree of fresh avocados, lemon juice, superfine sugar and half and half.  And right before it's tossed into the ice cream maker, a handful of chopped pistachio nuts and lemon zest are added.  So simple for such bold results. 

What you'll need: 1 quart

3 avocados (peeled and pitted)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup superfine sugar (dissolves faster, less grainy)
2 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts
zest from 1/2 a lemon

In a blender, puree the avocados, lemon juice, sugar and half and half.  Add in the nuts and lemon zest.  Mix with a spatula until evenly incorporated.  Spoon the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow instructions accordingly.  Eat immediately or store in the freezer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twice Baked Potatoes

Can you tell I'm on a potato kick lately?  I'm just a sucker for them and enjoy eating them in any way - baked and loaded, fried, sauteed, mashed...  But my absolute favorite way to eat a potato is in twice baked form.  It's the perfect combo of mashed, baked and loaded.  And the secret twist for these Twice Baked Potatoes is an ingredient called Clearman's Cheese Spread - made of margarine, cheddar cheese, romano cheese, salt, garlic and spices.  Most Southern California folks will recognize this name immediately, because it's the spread they see slathered and broiled all over a sour dough bread in the restaurants of North Woods Inn and The Boat.  Good news for us, we can find it at most local grocery stores.  I haven't quite figured out how my fellow out-of-state friends can purchase this.  But when I do, I'll let you know... because this is one experience you don't ever want to miss.

What you'll need:

Russet Potatoes
Clearman's Cheese Spread
Green Onions for garnish

After you prep/wash the potatoes, bake them in a 400 degrees oven for about 45 mins. or until they are done/soft.  Let them cool slightly so you can handle them.  Or just use a glove.  Lengthwise, cut the potatoes in half.  Scoop out the filling but leave about 1/4 - 1/8 in. left around the sides to give the skin some stability.  Put all the filling in a bowl and make mashed potatoes.  I like to use a couple of tbsp of butter, 1/4 cup of milk and a dash of salt and crushed black pepper.  But you can do this any way you want!!  Once the filling is mashed, put it back into the potato skins.  With a knife, spread the cheese spread (as much as you want) over the top of each potato half and put under the broiler for 5 mins.  Watch them!  They can burn quickly.  Soon this spread will turn nice and crispy brown.  Sprinkle some chopped up green onions on top and serve hot.  I like to just pick up the potato and eat it with my hands.  Too good!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Walk in the Japanese Gardens

When I traveled to Washington DC last fall, it was a tough decision to know whether to visit in the Fall for colorful autumn leaves or during the Spring for the blooming cherry blossom trees.  In the end my sister and I chose to experience a back east Fall.  So when we heard that The Descanso Gardens was having a Cherry Blossom Festival, we knew we just had to go.  In the Japanese Gardens, there is a soothing path alongside a peaceful stream that is filled of whitish pink cherry blossom trees. You will forget you're still in the buzz of Southern California as you soak in the serenity of these enchanting surroundings.  

At the Tea House they were serving sushi and teriyaki dishes.  We ordered the Rainbow Sushi Rolls that were topped with tuna, shrimp, cucumbers and salmon and stuffed with crab and avocados...  a fun way to get into the spirit of the festival.

As we ventured away from the Japanese Gardens we found several other types of cherry blossom species.

Descanso is a perfect place for picnics, especially under their ginormous oak trees.

No need for perfume in the lilac garden!  We weren't the only ones enjoying the sweet scent.  This wounded but still beautiful butterfly kept busy while we watched.

During this time of year, Descanso is famous for displaying huge planters filled with friendly tulips.. a showstopping entrance or exit for the gardens.

If you live in Southern California, the next few weeks is the perfect time to visit when most flowers and trees are in bloom.  We saw lots of poppy buds, and their salads looked incredible at the cafe.  Can't wait to go back in a few weeks!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bread Crumb Stuffed Artichokes

Madalene popped in last Monday to help celebrate the often forgotten Christian holiday of St. Joseph's Day.  It's an Italian tradition to honor Jesus' father with a Feast, because Sicilians believed it to be Joseph who saved them all from famine during the Middle Ages.  And to thank him for answering their prayers for rain, they celebrated with food galore, decorated alters and the color red.  A typical ingredient used during this holiday is bread crumbs (to represent Joseph's carpentry).  And a hearty dish my Great Grandmother used to make is Bread Crumb Stuffed Artichokes.  These are feasts all on their own!  With all the filling, I was stuffed by the end of it.  This salty and herby classic Italian dish transports you to sunny villa in the land of Tuscany.  Add a class of red wine and this meal is complete.

What you'll need: per 2 large artichokes

2 artichokes, rinsed, stems cut and leaves trimmed
Juice from 1 lemon
1 cup Gillian's GF Italian Dried Bread Crumbs (the best I've found so far)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Big pinch of dried oregano and basil (I like extra herbs than what is already in the bread crumbs)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste

Once the artichokes are prepped, spread open the leaves as much as you can to fit the bread crumbs.  In a small bowl mix together the crumbs, cheese, herbs, tomato paste and olive oil.  Stuff this filling into the spread open leaves of the artichokes.  Place the artichokes face up into a boiling pot of water and lemon juice that is only filled up about 2 inches.  You don't want the filling to be exposed to the water.  You can use an actual steamer if you want.  Cook for about 45 mins or until the artichoke is tender.  Serve hot, pluck the leaves and enjoy the moist yet crispy bread crumbs you get with every bite. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

I love the sweet and rustic smells of homemade bread baking in the oven.  It's just one of those things that puts you right in your happy place.  And for breakfast this week, I've been happily eating my leftover Irish Soda Bread that I made on the rainy and cozy day of St. Patty's.  Despite its name, this classic gluten free version bread is great to make any time of year and it takes little effort.  No kneading, no resting, no rising... And I loaded mine with giant raisins, a ton of caraway seeds and can you guess what else?... lemon zest, of course!  This adapted recipe from the Gluten Free Goddess creates a Soda Bread that tastes comforting and delicious warm from the oven, but I've been nuking it in the microwave for a few seconds in the past mornings and then spreading butter over the warm and moist slice.  Happy place.  :)

What you'll need: serves 6-8

1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp xanthan gum
5 tbsp butter (cut into small cubes)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 cup giant raisins
zest from whole lemon

Spray an 8-9 in. round cake pan with Pam and dust with GF flour.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter.  Whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.  Pour in the wet mixture into the dry mixture.  Mix with a spatula until dough is moist and sticky.  Add the caraway seeds, raisins and lemon zest.  With wet hands, scoop out the dough and form into a round loaf.  Place it into the cake pan.  Press down the top to slightly flatten.. this dough rises!  Put in a 375 degree oven and bake for about 30-40 mins, until the bread is golden brown and done in the center (use a cake tester).  Let cool for 10 mins. on a wire rack.  Serve warm or once completely cooled, store in a zip lock bag. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Minty Green Russian

I know this isn't exactly Irish but, heck, neither am I.  But I still celebrated this green holiday with a green drink by turning a classic White Russian into a Minty Green Russian for my St. Patrick's Day drinking pleasure.  This beverage not only got me into the festive spirit but also acted as an excellent breath mint!  It only takes ONE drop of mint extract to get this drink tasting mighty minty and that one drop is all you need.  I hope you all had a fun and safe St. Patty's Day. Cheers!

What you'll need: per drink

1 jigger of Vodka
2 jiggers of Kahlua
1 drop of mint extract
1/2 cup milk
4 drops green food coloring
Fill your glass with ice, pour in the Vodka, Kahlua and mint extract.  Mix with a spoon.  In a separate glass filled with milk, poor in the drops of green food coloring and mix.  For a pretty presentation, slowly pour the milk mixture over the back of a spoon into the Vodka and Kahlua mixture.  This trick prevents the milk from mixing into the dark bottom layer.  Serve and then let your guests give it a stir before drinking. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Seafood Paella

Every time I think of the word "Paella", it brings me back to a particular Seinfeld episode where George's mother, Estelle, gets hysterical over a pot of paella she made, "What am I supposed to do with all this Paella?!"  Aside from this, I'd never really be exposed to this popular Spanish rice dish.  So last night's cooking class was really a treat as we all whipped up a huge pan of Seafood Paella.  This dish always looks so beautiful and artistic when I see it in restaurants, so I was surprised to find out how easy it is to make.  Typically, paella is made with seafood but if you're not a fan, you can always do chicken or sausage, which I would love to try soon.   But this time our Chef Jan Tang-Sayvongsa wanted to keep the dish tradition and loaded it with tons of fresh shrimp, calamari and clams that were mixed with fun colors and flavors like saffron, garlic and paprika.  Delicious!

What you'll need: Serves 6-8

1 large onion finely chopped
5 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tomato chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tsp paprika
big pinch saffron threads (mostly for color)
2 small tenderized steaks of calamari cut in small strips
2 cups medium-grain Spanish paella rice or risotto rice, such as Arborio
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 pkg of shrimp deshelled and deveined
1 lb clams thoroughly rinsed
Fry the onion in the oil in a classic 16 in. paella pan until soft, stirring often.  Stir in the garlic and before it begins to color, add the tomatoes.  Add the salt and pepper (to taste), paprika and saffron.  Stir well and cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a jammy sauce and the oil is sizzling.  Add the calamari and cook, stirring for a minute or so.  Stir in the rice until all are coated.  

Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a saucepan.  Pour over the rice and bring to a boil.  Stir well and spread the rice out evenly in the pan (then don't stir again).  Cover with foil and cook the rice over low heat for about 18-20 mins.  Rotate the pan around ever 5 mins or so to help the rice cook evenly.  Lay the shrimp on top after 10 minutes and turn them when they have become pink on the first side.  If the rice is a bit dry or if you hear crackling noises, add more hot stock toward the end.  When the rice is done, turn off the heat while you cook the clams.

Steam the clams with a finger of chicken stock in a pan over medium heat.  As soon as they open, they are cooked.  Throw away any that have not opened.  Place on top of the cooked paella and serve!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Strawberry Sorbet

Dessert in last week's cooking class was Strawberry Sorbet!  A sweet and refreshing treat for the warmer days that have been popping in and out during the last month.  This recipe (courtesy of Jan Tang-Sayvongsa) not only has fresh strawberries chunks in it but freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice which really brighten up the flavors and add a punch of citrus. I can't wait to make more for summer!

What you'll need: 1 quart

2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup diced strawberries
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Add the strawberries, lower the heat and simmer for 5 mins.  Remove from heat, stir in the orange and lemon juice.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until completely chilled.  Churn in your ice cream machince according to the machine's instructions.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, place in a baking dish, freeze and stir every 20-30 mins until set.  And voila, Strawberry Sorbet!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Orange Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you ever offer me a cookie, expect a response like, "Actually, do you have any cookie dough left, instead?"  There is just something about that chewy, soft, doughy taste that I typically prefer over a cooked cookie.  But I have found an alternative to my love for cookie dough... Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!  It's nearly the next best thing - still chewy, soft and if slightly undercooked... doughy! And I have found a fabulous GF recipe for these that makes you stop and think - is this a GF cookie or not?  But I did, however, add one tiny ingredient that enhances the vanilla and cinnamon flavors... zest from a whole orange.  Strange how such a small thing can make such a large difference - a big pop of tang and freshness.  A must try for all cookie or cookie dough lovers!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Orange Roughy Fish Tacos

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love tacos!  Mexican food has definitely been a helpful crutch throughout this new diet of mine, because I hardly run across gluten unless it's a flour tortilla.  So last night, I came home from work to yummy smells of citrusy Fish Tacos.  Orange Roughy was used for this particular recipe because it's a mild white fish.  But you could also use halibut, cod, or any other mild white fish.  And to give it some extra flavor, lemon pepper seasoning was sprinkled on top to add a punch of freshness and tang.  We loaded the corn tortillas with all the traditional fixings and chowed down.  

What you'll need: serves about 3-4

2 large filets of Orange Roughy Fish
Corn Tortillas (warmed over a low flame on the stove to soften)
Canola Oil
Lemon Pepper (salt free)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup White Wine
Shredded Cabbage
Habanero and Lime Salsa (from Trader Joe's - sweet, tangy and spicy!)

Season both sides of the fish with a thin layer of lemon pepper and paprika.  To taste, add the black pepper and salt.  Saute in a pan (with a couple of tbsp of canola oil) on medium-high heat.  Cook each side for about 7 mins.  Remove the fish from the pan.  Add the white wine to the bits that are left in the pan.  With a wooden spoon, scrape up those bit and allow the wine to slightly evaporate (a few minutes).  Spoon these juices over the warm fish and finish it off with fresh lime juice.  Break the fish into small chunks and start loading your taco with the toppings - cabbage, avocados, tomatoes, salsa and more fresh lime juice!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Italian Pasta Salad

I'm really relieved to finally getting back into the swing of cooking the Italian cuisine I grew up eating but with GF ingredients.  I've never been one to adjust too smoothly to change due to lack of patience and skepticism, and sometimes this new gluten free diet of mine has been quite challenging.  But it's been a great learning experience and I'm starting to feel better.. seems to have been worth all the effort in the end.  I guess when I introduced this blog as being "a new twist to family old recipes", I didn't expect for the twist to be this extreme.  But this new discovery has helped me notice that GF is not as accessible and convenient as it should be.  Do I feel a new project coming on?  Perhaps this is a sign to start my own GF business!  Or maybe just a hobby for now, but you never know what the future holds.  Until I find it, I'll keep treading on, exploring and learning.  

This pasta salad is such a great reminder of my youth.  Being a picky child, this side dish saved my mother from a lot of headaches.  It's simple but filled with lots of goodies and flavor (spices, fresh veggies, peppery and lemony herbs).  It's such an easy side you can throw quickly together for Easter or a summer picnic, and you can't even tell it's made with GF pasta!

What you'll need:  serves about 6

1 full pkg gluten free pasta (small shells)
1 cup Girard's Italian Dressing
1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
1/2 cucumber chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 big sprigs of lemon thyme (removed from stems and coarsely chopped)
a few fresh basil leaves (coarsely chopped)
a few sprinkles of 21 Salute Seasoning (found at Trader Joe's, see ingredients here)
to taste salt and ground black pepper

As directed on the pasta package, cook the pasta on the stove.  I like mine al dente (with a bite), so I cooked it a couple minutes less.  Strain the pasta, but don't rinse.. you want the pasta to stay hot!  While still hot, put the pasta in a glass bowl and pour in the Italian dressing.  Mix.  The heat from the pasta brings out more of the flavor from the dressing.  Let cool.  Then add the feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, carrots, thyme, basil and seasonings.  Stir and cover.  Let chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or until cold. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

A St. Patty's Slaw

How perfect is this green Fennel and Apple Slaw for St. Patty's Day?  Another great dish that I picked up in cooking class last night (courtesy of Jan Tang-Sayvongsa).  This class has been so much fun... having the chance to sharpen up my knife skills and experience new flavor combos like no other!  And this slaw completely put my cutting skills to the test but also woke up my sometimes simpler pallet.  Packed with sweet, tangy, peppery and sour flavor combos, this slaw is going to be fun and tasty for the upcoming green holiday and even better for a hot summery day.

What you'll need:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sugar
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, julienned (very thin strips)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, tarragon, lemon juice and sugar.  Add the celery, fennel and apple.  Toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  It's that easy!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Old Fashioned Beef Stew

My father cooked a meal!  This maybe doesn't sound like much but he makes dinner about once a year if that, since he's never been as comfortable in this department as let's say... the yard.  So, when my dad gets in the kitchen, it's a big deal.  Living in a small town of Pennsylvania, life moved a bit slower and old fashioned traditions of one-pot-wonders were easy and helpful in a house full of rambunctious boys.  My father saw a lot of meatloaf, beef stroganoff, and stew in his day, so when it's time for him to cook, these are the dishes he gravitates to and I am more than happy to enjoy a tasty rustic slow cooker meal.  This time around he made Beef Stew which is packed with veggies, beef and spices (and no flour!) and it tenderized in the crock-pot for 8 whole hours.. just enough time for all the flavors to meld together for a delicious old fashioned pot of goodness.

What you'll need:  Serves about 4-6

2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes
2 tbsp canola oil
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup beef stock
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (same size as beef)
1 small pkg fresh green beans, halved
3 cups water
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp cornstarch

Over a medium flame, heat the oil and brown the meat in a skillet.  Once the meat is brown, remove it and put in the crock-pot (set on low heat) leaving the beef juices in the skillet.  Add the onions and wine to the beef juices and let cook for a few mins.  Pour all of this into the crock-pot.  Then add to the crock-pot the bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, red pepper, raw veggies (no green beans yet), beef stock and water.  Stir and cover.  Let cook on high for about 8 hours.  Add the green beans during the last half hour.  Because this recipe calls for no flour, it's thickened by cornstarch instead, which works best over high heat on the stove.  So before serving, ladle most of the juices from the crock-pot and put into a smaller sauce pan on the stove.  Dilute the cornstarch with a little bit of water so when you put it into the juices, it doesn't clump up.  With a whisk, stir the juices and cornstarch until completely incorporated and thick.  Pour the juices back into the crock-pot, stir and serve!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I've Been Featured!

Many thanks to one of my favorite and most talented bloggers/writers I know, Melissa Blake, for featuring my up and coming blog!  Check it out.

Behind The Blog: Because of Madalene

Christina of Because of Madalene is a woman after my own heart. As she says, her family and friends have always called her an "old soul" for her love of scrapbooking, crocheting and playing Bunco. Check out her story, and as always, I'd love to feature you and your blog, so feel free to email me (mellow1422 [at] aol)...

Quick facts
Birthday...January 3
Where are you from...Southern California
Three words that describe me...Passionate, methodical and artsy
Occupation...Retail manager
Blog...Because of Madalene
When did you start your blog...October 2011

What inspired you to start a blog?
It was a good excuse to get back into the artsy side of life that I lost touch with simply due to life getting in the way. And it turned into something so much more! Dedicating this open-book diary to my Great Grandmother Madalene inspired me to not lose sight of the things that really good food, family and fun hobbies!

What do you love the most about blogging? Does anything about it stress you out?
Due to all the family recipes and stories I've shared on the blog, I adore the deeper connection it has allowed me to have with my loved ones. It often triggers old memories from my mom that I am so excited to learn and share through the blog. Blogging is a full time job! Wanting to stay dedicated, it sometimes can be stressful to find time to blog every day, especially since I already have a full-time job and a busy life.

If you had to describe your blog in one sentence, what would you say
Because of Madalene is a blog about family history, delicious food, fun crafts and life lessons.

What has blogging taught you?
It has taught me how much potential I have to explore other creative avenues in life, like writing and cooking.
(Christina with her my mom, sister and nephew)

What advice do you have for new bloggers?
Keep it up! Stay dedicated and loyal to your blog. If you are committed, only good things can follow.

Where do you see yourself and your blog in 5 years?
I plan to continue to share my family stories and recipes, but also hope the love I've found in blogging can lead me into a creative career I adore doing.

What has surprised you the most about blogging?
I never realized how ginormous the blogging community is. I've learned so much from others about their thoughts on life and experiences. It really has opened my eyes to a different networking world that I've unexpectedly come to love.

Go Greener

The month of green is inspiring me to Go even Greener in the kitchen than I already think I am.  Everyday kitchen items can sometimes be toxic and/or wasteful, so I am super excited to have found these environmentally friendly essentials.

1. Greenpan Nonstick but PTFE-free Pots and Pans
2. Kyocera Noncorroding Ceramic Peeler
3. Lunchskins Reusable Sandwich Baggies
4. DIY Recycled Grocery Totes

Monday, March 5, 2012

Loadin' Up

After a long, busy day in the hot sun on Saturday, I wanted to take it easy in the kitchen but still relax and enjoy a scrumptious meal.  And a Loaded Baked Potato is just what I needed.  A fluffy and creamy wonder stuffed with lots of flavor and color.  I personally like my potatoes simple, but they are such a great base for any toppings you can creatively conjure up!  But this time around, I loaded it with butter, ground black pepper, broccoli, cheese and crispy bacon - reminiscent of broccoli potato soup.  Ya know, I sometimes think if I was a poor Irish woman living in the early 1800s, I would have been completely satisfied living off of potatoes.  Okay, maybe not.  But I definitely know I cannot live without them.  

What you'll need: Per potato

Russet Potato
Kosher Salt
Canola Oil
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Steamed Broccoli
Ground Black Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wash, scrub and pat dry the potato.  KEY:  To ensure a crispy skin, brush a thin layer the canola oil all over the skin of the potato and drizzle on kosher salt for extra flavor.  To avoid a potato explosion, with a fork poke a few holes throughout the potato.  Uncovered and on a foil lined baking sheet, place in the oven for about 45 mins or until tender.  While they are cooking, place a few strips of bacon on a foil lined baking sheet and put into the oven.  I love mine extra crispy so I let them bake for about 30 mins.  Let them cool and then crumble them for a bacon bits topping.  Once the potatoes are done, cut open and start loading!  I like to start with the butter and pepper, then the cheese, steamed broccoli, more cheese and bacon.  So simple, yet so satisfying.  I eat the whole thing every time. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lunch Date

I've recently discovered that I love Dates, because they're sweet and chewy and taste even better when they're stuffed with... Cheese!  I thought these little treats would be an appetizing start to a lunch my mother attended last weekend and sure enough, the plate was empty in no time.  In one small bite, you'll get a mouthful of Spring flavors... Dill and Lemon Zest that I used to liven up the mild Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese.  Top if off with a Pecan Nut and you've got yourself a chewy, creamy and crunchy delight!

What you'll need: for about 3 doz.

About 2 pkgs of Pitted Dates (depending on how many come in each pkg)
2 pkgs of Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese (8 individual triangles in each pkg)
Zest 2 Lemons
Ground Black Pepper
Pecan Nuts

With a small knife, cut a lengthwise slit for each date.  Set aside the open dates while you make the filling.  In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, lemon zest, dill and black pepper (according to taste) with a fork.  Scoop a spoonful of the filling and stuff each date.  Place a pecan nut on top and serve immediately. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Black and White Dessert

I had a hunch that The Artist was going to win.  Although, I didn't find it to be the best movie of the year (slow in parts, over-dramatic music...), I can understand why it won based on its uniqueness for its time.  But, boy am I glad we have eventually graduated to the more exciting world of color and sound.  So, continuing on with our movie themed food, I ended the night with a Black and White Dessert with a pop of color - Meringues!  Crunchy on the outside by pillow soft like a marshmallow on the inside.   I found a great recipe for meringues from Joy of Baking, but patience is required for this, because it takes time for the egg mixture to create stiff peaks!  But it was all worth it in the end, especially due to the Macerated Blackberry Topping (berries soaked in Grand Marnier and orange juice).  Once the meringues finished drying out (over several hours), I cut their sweetness with this tangy topping that made all the difference in the world.  

What you'll need: Berry Topping

1 pkg of blackberries (about 8 oz)
2 tsp of sugar
2 tbsp of orange juice
1 tbsp of Grand Marnier

With a fork, crush a few blackberries and combine the rest of the whole blackberries, sugar, orange juice and Grand Marnier in a bowl.  Gently mix all together.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, occasionally stirring.  Pour it onto of the meringues just before serving.

Piping out the meringues
Marshmallow Center