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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Homemade Pasta

Yesterday I decided to make homemade pasta. I've had my pasta machine for several years but I haven't used it in a while. I also had things in the refrigerator that needed to be used so I set out to make one of my "clean out the refrigerator" meals.

I had some leftover bell peppers, mushrooms and a bunch of green chard from my CSA box last week. I also had some chicken Italian sausage from the DeKalb Farmers Market. I browned the chicken sausage then added a chopped shallot and two cloves of garlic. I washed and cut the vegetables and added it to the browned meat along with some chicken broth.
The pasta is made with 1/2 cup flour and one egg. You just mix in the food processor until it forms a ball.

Sorry, I got busy and distracted rolling out the pasta and forgot to make pictures of that part. Basically, you run the pasta through the rollers several times, then start making the roller opening smaller by turning a dial. You roll until the pasta dough is about translucent, then cut into strips. I cut mine by hand but the pasta machine has an attachment that will cut different sizes for you as well.

Once everything was cooked, I added in the cooked pasta along with about 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese (also leftover and needing to be used.)

It turned out great! I forgot how much better the homemada pasta tastes compared to boxed, dried pasta.

I have some chicken sausage leftover and plan to next make ravioli with the sausage, apples and some sort of cheese...I'll see what's in the fridge. Maybe a sauce using apple juice to finish. Yum!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Strawberry Jam

I had some strawberries leftover from a party and I didn't want them to go bad before we could eat them. So, yesterday I made strawberry jam.

I have a bottle of Agave nectar that I wanted to experiment with, instead of using sugar. The nectar from the Agave plant has been used for years to make tequila and is also used to make a great sweetener. The nectar is considered to be one of the healthiest, all-natural sweeteners available and can be used to replace sugar in any recipe.

I used 3/4 cup Agave, 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, lemon zest and lemon juice to make three jars of jam, using the food processor to mix all the ingredients and get the strawberries to a good consistency. After everything was combined, I brought to a boil and simmered for about 45 minutes.

I ended up with three jars of strawberry jam. This will be great to use with Angel Food cake to make strawberry shortcake. And to spread on English muffins or toasted bread. I plan to use the Agave nectar throughout the summer, instead of sugar, to make jams as different fruits come into season.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Love Fresh Fish

Last night's dinner was fresh filet of sole, pan sauteed in vegetable oil and a tablespoon of butter. Then I made a quick sauce of butter, lemon and fresh parsley. Yes, butter, butter, butter. But not much, and certainly much better for you than using processed, full of chemicals fake stuff.

On Peachtree Blvd. (formerly Peachtree Industrial Blvd.) there's a new Asian mega-grocery called H-Mart. The fish there is so very fresh and I am so pleased with it. I bought two sole and had them filleted. Each fish costs around $3.75

I lightly salted and peppered each piece, then dredged lightly in flour. Each piece got cooked 2-3 minutes, then flipped for another one minute.
I had some frozen green baby peas and made fresh mashed potatoes. The meal was delicious, but the star was the fish.

I plan to stop by the H-Mart on Fridays to see what fish looks good (they get deliveries on Thursdays). Can't wait till the weather gets warmer and out will come the Big Green Egg so fresh fish can get cooked there. As a personal chef, I love to try different recipes and flavor combinations for fish, using fresh herbs and spice variations. This sole was especially good, hence my husband's clean plate!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Not Just Cookin!

Lest you think I am only one-dimensional, be aware that I am a woman of many talents. Case in point, this is me operating heavy equipment. Well it is me, but this is a log splitter we rented last weekend. We've had this huge pile of wood that's been collecting over the last 8 years.

Taking care of getting all these logs split has been on our list of things to do for quite some time so we finally decided to get it off the list. Here's what the wood pile looked like as we were getting started.

Of course, we had a really tough supervisor who kept us on our toes the entire time so we wouldn't slack off. Notice that "you better get back to work" look.

Here's the wood splitter in action (me and the machine!)

We worked almost all day on Sunday and got it all done. Now the woodpile is re-stocked and we have enough firewood to last us for several years. And another thing is off the to-do list!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black Bean Cakes

I have what seems about a million recipes. I pull them from everywhere: magazines, newspapers, the Internet. And somehow I remember what kind of paper the recipe is printed on, so when I'm looking for a recipe, I know what I'm looking for. Like, "oh, that one is on a scrap of paper written in my mom's handwriting". Weird.

Anyway, this one I pulled from the Atlanta paper several years ago. Black Bean Cakes from Vickery's restaurant. I made them to go with pulled pork tacos. You'll need fresh peppers, red onion, seasonings, and of course, black beans. They're good as a side or can also be made bigger as a black bean burger. Yum!

Look at the beautiful color of this red onion....only from nature.

For the recipe, you'll chop the vegetables and combine all the ingredients, then make into cakes.

Here's the final product, served with fresh salsa and sour cream along with the pulled pork tacos. Enjoy!

Vickery's Black Bean Cakes
Makes 8 Servings

4 cups cooked black beans, well-drained
2 tablespoons liquid mojo seasoning
1 egg
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2-3 cups bread crumbs

Combine beans, mojo, egg, bell peppers, onion and chili powder. Add 2 cups bread crumbs. Mix until almost dry to the touch, adding more bread crumbs if needed. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Form into cakes, saute in small amount of vegetable oil about 4 minutes per side.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thankful For A Full Life

Today is organizational day for Dinner At Home and my life in general. I've been making my grocery list for Monday's cook date, making sure I have all my recipes and equipment in order.

Lots of little bits and pieces to catch up on. Thanks to my art director friends who pulled together marketing materials for an upcoming auction I'm donating to. I'm not cooking today, my husband and I are going out to dinner, probably sushi. Hopefully the rain will be over by then.

I'm planning a trip to France in the Fall and signed up for a French language class at Oglethorpe University that is to start next week. I have a girl's weekend coming up too...a group of us are going to New York City in May to celebrate a friend's upcoming decade change, so looking for good fares for that. That will be so much fun!

I also start a new session next week with Operation Frontline, a program I volunteer for as a chef. This will be a great class of women who are getting back on their feet and want to learn how to cook. Our cooking class subjects will evolve each week as I learn what they really want to know how to cook. Looking forward to that.

Also, Happy Birthday to my son Alex on Sunday. I love you very much!

Keeping thoughts and prayers in mind for a childhood friend who was in a serious car accident this week.

But the view from my desk is great. Very thankful for the full life I have and all those who make it great.

Have a great weekend everyone!
Chef Sharon Mateer

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs? Kinda

Here's a new twist on spaghetti and meatballs. I found the recipe in a magazine I subscribe to called Cuisine At Home. I seem to find a lot of good recipes in this magazine. There are no ads in this publication, just recipes and great photos of food. I really like it. This is the April 2010 issue.

The meatball recipe is really easy and quick to make and has a lot of room for modification. You could totally add different spices, fresh vegetables like spinach, bell pepper or mushrooms to have a different taste. You could also make them with ground turkey or chicken. Although, they were really good as is.

Here's how the meatballs look with just plain spaghetti.

But, there's a separate recipe in this issue for Meatball Strogonoff. The recipe calls for egg noodles but I used spaghetti instead (because that's what I had in the pantry). The strogonoff recipe was really good, not heavy at all and has fresh, bright flavor thanks to the lemon and dill. Here are the meatballs simmering in the yummy sauce.

And when it was all done, the final dish, ready to eat.
It was really good and I will definitely make this again and recommend it to clients. This one is a keeper!

Mini Meatballs
2 strips bacon, diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground beef sirloin
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a broiler pan with nonstick spray.

Saute bacon in skillet over medium-high heat until starting to crisp. Remove to paper-towel lined plate. Remove all but 1 tbsp of fat.

Saute onion in same skillet in reserved drippings over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.

Combine beef, bacon, onion mixture, bread crumbs, parsley, paprika, salt and pepper in large bowl. Stir in beaten egg. Form into 1-inch meatballs and place on broiler pan. Bake about 10 minutes, until fully cooked.

Makes 28 meatballs. 168 calories for 7 meatballs.

Sauce for Meatball Strogonoff (or Spaghetti and Meatball Strogonoff)

1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit if you don't like spicy)
4 cups egg noodles (or whatever pasta you'd like)
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp coarse-grain mustard
1/4 sour cream (I used low-fat)
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped

Saute mushrooms in 1 tbsp oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and save for later.

Saute onion, paprika and cayenne in remaining oil in same skillet until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Deglaze skillet with wine, simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir.

Whisk in broth. Add lemon juice and mustard. Simmer until thick, 8-10 minutes. Stir in cooked mushrooms, sour cream, dill and meatballs. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Spoon sauce and meatballs over noodles.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Really Good Dog Cookies

I've made these dog cookies a couple of times and Haven (our dog) and all her friends really like them. I think your dog will like them too.

Posted at the end is the original recipe (I've made those too and they're great also). This time I played with the recipe and added fresh carrots and carob chips, to simulate a chocolate chip cookie for a dog. They store really well in an airtight container.

You make up the dough, then roll them out like most cookies. I found this cookie cutter that's shaped like a bone and is a good size for a treat. I made a couple of batches around the holidays and they made great gifts for our friends and family who also have dogs.

The recipe makes a lot, so plenty to share with all your dog's friends. Haven is very social and loves to play, so neighbors walking their dogs often stop by to chat and let their dog play for a while in our yard with Haven. They get dog treats and plenty of water before continuing on their walk. With the nice weather this weekend, I'm sure there will be a lot of that going on! Enjoy!

Here's the recipe:

Dog Cookies

1/2 cup molasses
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine molasses, honey, oil and water.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry mixture into the molasses mixture until well-blended.

On a lightly floured surface, knead and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness, using more flour if necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Use a cookie cutter to cut into shapes. Transfer to the cookie sheets and bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely on racks; store in airtight container.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Brownie Tart and Book Club

I made this Brownie Tart for our monthly book club meeting and it was a big hit. The large wedge I left for my husband was also a big hit. It's from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook. I have all of Ina Garten's cookbooks and have never made any of her recipes that didn't come out fantastic.

The ingredients are pretty simple, including lots of chocolate.

Here's what the cookbook looks like. Notice my 30 year old Kitchen Aid mixer. Seriously, I have had this for 30 years and have never had any problem whatsoever. What a great investment.

The book we read this month was "American Eve, The Birth of the It Girl". It was the story of a woman named Evelyn Nesbit, set around 1902-ish, and was the story of her and an eventual trial that was the first that used insanity as the defense. Quite a good story about the era and how women were perceived and treated.

There's always good food and conversation at book club with a great, diverse group of women from our neighborhood.

Enjoy the recipe!

Ina Garten's Brownie Tart

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 extra large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 11-inch tart pan with removable sides.

Melt butter in a bowl set over simmering water. Add 2 cups of the chocolate chips, remove from heat, stir until chocolate melts. Set aside to cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooled chocolate. In a medium bowl, combine the four, baking powder, salt, 2 cup of the chocolate chips and the walnuts. Fold the flour mixture into the batter until just combined.

Pour into the tart pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the center is puffed. Cool to room temperature before removing sides of the tart pan.

Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips with the heavy cream and drizzle onto the tart.