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Friday, December 9, 2011

Play With Your Food!

Here's a fun idea for your holiday appetizer table. I basically made a cheese ball and shaped it to look like a Christmas tree.

Then I rolled in chopped parsley, and decorated it with toasted pine nuts and chopped dried cranberries. The "star" is grated lemon zest.

Here's my "recipe":

1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened
1 4 oz roll goat cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt/pepper to season
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, chopped dried cranberries, lemon zest

Mix till blended well. Place in refrigerator about 3 hours, till cold enough to shape like Christmas tree.

Chop parsley. Roll tree in parsley till covered. Decorate!

You could also roll into various size balls and shape like snowmen. Have fun!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup On A Cold Morning

Yesterday, after my routine 6:30AM walk, I needed to finish the Christmas decorations by getting the outside lights done. It was really cold and by the time I finished most of the lights, I was in the mood to create something warm.

I had this really beautiful head of broccoli from my CSA box, and all the ingredients to make broccoli cheese soup so I got busy.

I poked around the Internet for a recipe and decided to combine ideas I had seen and then just made up my own soup.

Here's how I did it:

The ingredients: 1 head broccoli, 1 1/4 cups shredded cheese, one small onion chopped, about 1/3 stick butter:

You'll also need 3 tbsp flour, about 1 1/2 cups milk, one can chicken broth (plus more in case you need to thin out the soup later), a pinch of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to season.

Start by melting the butter, and cooking the chopped onion in the butter for about 4 minutes, till soft. Then, add the flour and stir till well blended, then cook for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and stir constantly. You'll now have the base of your soup, nice and thick. Add the milk and the chopped broccoli and cook till the broccoli is soft, about 15 minutes.

Add freshly grated nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Now, using your immersion blender that you love so much (yep), blend soup till creamy. Add shredded cheese and let melt while stirring. Done!

So good....and warm.

And most of the lights are done!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy, Healthy Dinner

This was dinner last night: salmon along with fresh vegetables I had on hand. My husband's response: "That was very, very, very good." Hmmmm....I'll have to remember that.

This is an easy and healthy meal that you can complete in about 30 minutes. We're all getting busy with the approaching holidays, so it helps to have quick meal ideas on hand.

To begin, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Roast whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand by drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. I had potatoes and asparagus and a zucchini.
Start cooking the vegetables in order of how long they'll need to cook; the potatoes needed about 25 minutes, the zucchini and asparagus about 8 minutes. Roasting is my absolute favorite way of cooking and eating fresh vegetables. It just brings out the sweetness of the vegetables and the roasting adds another layer of flavor.
The salmon recipe is super easy and delicious. Here's how I did it:

In a small saucepan, over med heat, combine 1/3 cup brown sugar and juice of one lemon. Bring just to boil, then keep warm.

Season two salmon filets (or however many you need) with salt and pepper. In a medium pan, heat olive oil till hot. Place salmon non-skin side down and sear till slightly browned. To pan, add sauce and about 1/4 cup soy sauce.

Finish cooking salmon in oven for 5-6 minutes, being careful not to over-cook. And voila! Delicious, healthy meal in less than 30 minutes.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Sharing Great Food

I got this great sticker this week....I think it says it all! Why didn't I think of that? It pretty much sums up why I love my job.

This week I also attended a cooking class at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. If you haven't tried these classes, they're really informative and so affordable....the class cost $20 and you get a $10 gift card for the market. It's such a great value.

The class I took this week was with Chef Eric Cutillo from the Buckhead Life Group Restaurant Kyma. All the food was really terrific and the recipes are ones that I'm sure I'll use. One of my favorites was the Herb Seared Tuna with Quinoa Salad.

I'm sharing below the Quinoa recipe because it was so great. It was served with seared tuna (fabulous!) but it would make a tasty and healthy side dish to include in almost any meal.

2 cups quinoa, cooked
1 tsp preserved lemon, diced fine
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup tomato petal, diced fine
1/4 cup scallion, sliced thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
salt/white pepper

Combine all ingredients, adjusting salt, pepper and lemon seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer Parties, Beach Time

I've been quite busy this summer cooking for regular clients and I've also had several parties and bridal showers. Recently, I was hired to prepare food for a 50th birthday party. The client wanted an old-fashioned cookout, so the menu included potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, and some extras.

I made this platter of fruit skewers....this is always a hit, especially with kids. It was great for the hot summer day.

I also grilled two kinds of chicken, tequila lime chicken and barbecued wings. They were both good. And, hot dogs and hamburgers and trays that included all the toppings necessary for both.

Tomorrow we're driving to North Carolina for a friend's wedding and Sunday I'm headed to the beach for a much-needed week of doing nothing.....nothing but reading, knitting, eating fresh seafood, and walking on the beach!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Penzey's Spices - I Like It!

Last week I had some errands to do that took me to Sandy Springs. A few of my chef colleagues had been saying how much they loved Penzey's Spices and had mentioned there would be a store opening soon in Atlanta....and, in the shopping center where I had an errand, was the new store!

So I had to go in. Now, I was prepared to not be swayed from buying my spices at either the DeKalb Farmers Market or the Buford Highway Farmers market. But I am very impressed by two things with Penzey's Spices:
(1) The fresh taste and smell of the spices and (2) The small size containers available. Most of the spices and rubs are available in sizes 1 oz or less.

Make that three things: the prices.

The small size jars are around $1.00 and some change each. And, the small sizes are perfect to me because ideally you should replace your spices every year since after that time, they start losing their flavor.

The selection was really good. And, I don't know if it was because the store has just opened, but they were giving a box of (4) free small jars with every purchase. And inside was a coupon worth $5.00....I'll definitely go back and use that! I spent about $8.00 and came home with seven different spices and some salt. Not bad!

Last night's dinner was an assortment of roasted vegetables (cleaning out what we had in the refrigerator) and roasted turkey. I used the French blend on the turkey and it was really delicious.

Think about it: You can buy a jar in the spice section of the grocery store and spend anywhere from $4 to $6. Or, make the trip to Penzey's Spices on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs. It's in the shopping center with Trader Joe's.

I think you'll like it! I do.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Week's Vegetable Challenge

We have a new Saturday farmer's market in Brookhaven and I checked it out this past weekend. Loved it! It was small, about 15 vendors, but there was an abundance of fresh vegetables, a couple of bakers, an ice cream vendor, and more. And I love
having the market in our neighborhood....another reason I love living in Brookhaven. The market is on Dresden Drive in the parking lot behind Haven.

I came home with quite a load and we've been enjoying lots of tomatoes all week.

Yesterday, I got my weekly CSA box from Moore Farms and I'm presented with a couple of challenges. One item included was "ground cherries". They're the ones that look like a small, yellow tomatillo, on the right in the picture below. The taste is sweet but also nutty so I'm thinking of coming up with a sauce for pasta, maybe along the consistency of pesto. Should be interesting....can't wait to try it!

I also have a squash challenge on my hands. I have all these lovely squashes that are crying out to me to be prepared in some yummy way but my husband doesn't like squash! Maybe I'll find a neighbor to share with. A friend also gave us some fresh corn from a garden in North Georgia. I wish you could smell this corn! It is so fresh, and the best we've had this summer...so delicious, can't say enough about how good it is.

We have so many vegetables in the house! Tonight's dinner is definitely going to be a vegetable plate with fresh made cornbread...can't wait!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fresh Eggs and Julia Child

I love having a neighbor who has chickens....it means fresh eggs for me! And they are so beautiful! And I know right where they came from and I know they're fresh. And I know the chickens. Even if one does tend to peck at me.

This week I got a dozen fresh eggs and decided to make
Eggs Benedict for dinner. I turned to my c1967 edition of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking for the recipe for Hollandaise Sauce. I had a hungry husband so there was a version using the blender (I actually used my mini-Cuisinart). Leave it to Julia Child to make things clear: this version, using the blender vs creating by hand, "is well within the capabilities of an 8-year old child" so hopefully I could pull this off!

And, viola!.... it was delicious. The entire meal was very easy to make and packed with flavor. I added oven-roasted herbed potatoes and slices of fresh tomato to the meal. In the end, there were two clean plates and we both enjoyed this very much. Try it sometime, breakfast for dinner is a great way to change things up. And don't forget to turn to Julia Child to keep it real.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Light and Delicious Spinach Lasagna

Here's a great recipe for a spinach lasagna that is really delicious and only has 272 calories per serving. I can't remember where I got this, but it's a good recipe for lasagna with not a lot of calories. Enjoy!

Light and Healthy Spinach Lasagna
1 cup onion, minced
1 tsp canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-fat, 1 percent milk
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 (10-oz) packages frozen, chopped spinach, squeezed dry
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz whole milk cottage cheese
1 large egg
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 cup Fontina cheese, shredded

To make the sauce:
Combine onion, oil and 1/8 tsp salt in large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until softened. Stir in garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in 2 3/4 cups milk, bay leaves and nutmeg. Bring to simmer. Whisk in cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup milk. Simmer til thickened. Remove from heat, discard bay leaves. Stir in spinach and1/2 cup parmesan. Season with salt/pepper.

Process cottage cheese, egg and salt with immersion blender till smooth. Set aside.

Pour 1 inch boiling water over noodles to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain and dry with paper towels.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13X9 baking dish. Lay 3 noodles on top, spread with 3/4 cup more sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan. Layer 3 more noodles, sauce, parmesan, Fontina cheese. Continue creating layers will all noodles and sauce are used, ending with Fontina cheese and parmesan on top.

Cover, bake on middle rack at 425 about 20 minutes. Remove foil and heat broiler. Transfer to upper rack and broil til cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

'Tis The Season

Fruits and vegetables are pouring in at my house! I've been busy shelling peas and butterbeans, shucking corn, making peach jam, canning beans....and cooking for clients.

Today is an office day, tomorrow another client cook day....so grateful to love my job and be busy.

The vegetables have been so wonderful, especially the corn. We've been eating yellow corn right off the cob, and I got a couple dozen ears of white corn that I cut off the cob. Can't decide which I like better, but they've both been great.

I've had lots of great tomatoes too and made some great salads.

Not to mention the great watermelon and canteloupe we've had. What a great time of year.....my favorite!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Favorite Time Of Year

Well, it's my favorite time of year except for the heat. I still have not taken the time for a nap on the porch, but I figure if I keep the hammock looking enticing, one day I'll fall into it and have a nice, long nap. It's on my list of things to do.

It's the fresh vegetables that make it my favorite time of year. I've been really enjoying my CSA boxes....I get them from Moore Farms in Alabama.

I usually get their "farmer's pick" box, which means whatever is fresh and ready to pick that week, that's what you get in your box. I like the surprise each week. Everything has been really delicious...fresh lettuces, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, fennel....love it!

The recent box also included kohlrabi and beets that I need to cook this weekend. Kohlrabi I'm not really familiar with and beets are not my favorite. But I'm definitely going to cook both this weekend. I think I'll use some of the kohlrabi raw in a slaw and cook the rest, as an experiment. The beets I plan to roast. Beets are not my favorite but honestly, I've never had fresh beets. So my challenge this weekend is to try these two new-to-me vegetables.
I'm so glad the season is upon us. And I'm trying to stick with my plan of eating what's in season, when things are at their peak. I've also been visiting local weekend farmer's markets and plan to try new ones this summer, branching out from my usual in-town markets. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lavender Tea Cakes

I have a healthy lavender plant among my herbs and wanted to try cooking with lavender. Most of the recipes I found used the flower, but since I only had one lovely flower, I searched till I found a recipe that used the leaves.

So glad I was persistent because I came upon this lovely recipe for Lavender Tea Cakes!

I have this great mold that a friend gave me a while back (thanks, Lisa!) and I decided to use this instead of the loaf pan the recipe called for. I mixed up the batter ingredients, poured into the mold and baked for about 30 minutes. Then, I doubled the glaze recipe and added it to both the top and bottom of the cakes. I also added more lavender leaves into the glaze.

These cakes were delicious....moist and very flavorful. I'll definitely make these again and really glad I found a use for my lavender plant.

I changed the original recipe a little, so below is my adapted version....enjoy!

Lavender Tea Cakes

For the Cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp softened butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg plus 1 egg white
1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup plain fat-free yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 tbsp fresh lavender leaves, finely chopped

For the Glaze:
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh lavender leaves

Preheat oven to 350. Spray mold with cooking spray.

Beat sugar, butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla until well blended, about 5 minutes. Add egg and egg white one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in lavender. Pour into molds and bake about 30 minutes.

Remove cakes from oven and spread with glaze. When cakes are cool enough to remove from mold, spread more glaze on top.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And Now, Raspberry Jam

I was at my local Kroger store on Monday afternoon and I guess someone had over-bought raspberries but they were selling them for 50 cents a carton. They are normally about $2.99 each so this was a real bargain. I bought 20 cartons Monday and returned yesterday and bought 20 more. At the normal price of raspberries, making jam would be expensive, almost prohibitive since each 1/2 pint jar of jam uses one carton of raspberries. But at 50 cents each, why not?

Monday afternoon I got to work making jam. I used 8 cartons per batch. I got my lids boiling, crushed the berries, added the pectin then sugar, filled and sealed the jars, and had beautiful jam.

I got about 30 jars of jam and have a few cartons of raspberries left over....today I'm going to figure out something to do with them and take to our monthly book club meeting tomorrow night. Raspberry tart anyone?