Monday, January 31, 2011

Another Birthday


Another Birthday
Family and friends celebrated another birthday with our son Tom Saturday. His favorite desserts were aplenty. His sister Barbara baked Madelines, his favorite chocolate torte and I baked his favorite cookies.
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The cookie recipe goes way back to his youth. I often baked this recipe because of the generous yield when the children carried lunches to school. One year Tom asked for his birthday gift to have a batch of the cookies and a gallon of milk with the stipulation that he could eat them when he wanted and he could decide who to share them with. Somewhere in my photo collection we have the photo of Tom at the table with his fourteen dozen cookies and a gallon of milk.
Happy Birthday Tom!

Friday, January 28, 2011

National Steinbeck Center

The National Steinbeck Center Some of His Many Works
The Family Home
National Steinbeck Center
Two years ago while spending time in Crans-Montana high in the Swiss Alps, I read three books written by John Steinbeck bringing my total at that time to five. My first was "The Grapes Of Wrath" written in 1939 which was a Pulitizer Prize in 1940 and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner in 1962. At the Center an actual recording of his acceptance speech of his Pulitzer Prize is played.
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When I learned that the Steinbeck Center was located in Salinas, CA. I added that to my "bucket list" which I visited on January 28. The Center is a real treasure with so much preserved for future generations and so worth the time to visit.
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The Center is arranged to take you through his literary works as he wrote them with adequate displays depicting a setting or the artifacts which were used by those he wrote. The actual pickup truck with camper used in his book "Travels With Charlie" is displayed as is the harness from "The Red Pony", only to mention a few.
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At the Center I learned that President John Kennedy recognized John Steinbeck for his efforts of recognizing human injustice through his literary works and planned to present to him the United Stated Medal of Freedom Award. It was awarded almost two months following the assignation of President Kennedy by President Lyndon Johnson.
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The boyhood home was of interest to me for several reasons. While visiting the Center, I learned that two of his works were penned at the family home. "Red Pony" was penned while John was with his dying mother. His grief is expressed through a gift given him and his sister they received as very young youths and with the loss of the pony, a child learns the lessons of life. Another of his book "Tortilla Flat" also was written in the family home and according to documentation was from behind the picture window at the front of the house.
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John had a deep compassion for the oppressed. Several of his works spoke of the injustices toward these people of the Salinas Valley. Other works speak of how we become slaves and encumbered with material possessions. Many of his works were criticized by those enslaving the people he wrote. In the County his works were banned from the publicly funded libraries and schools and ordered burned.
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Today the family home is a small restaurant which serves breakfast and lunch. It is maintained by an organization preserving its history. Plan your visit. It is so worth the time.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meridian Winery

Meet Trudy
Driving north to the Bay area on Thursday, we stopped at the beautiful Meridian Winery in Paso Robles for a Limited Reserve wine tasting paired with cheeses. We were served by a very informative young lady named Trudy. The A.V.A. (American Vitacultural Area) has 26,000 acres of grapes growing in producing vineyards in the Paso Robles area resulting in many very fine wines.
The five tastings were
1) 2009 Limited Release Reisling paired with a Mango Ginger Stilton
2) 2008 Limited Release Chardonnay paired with Parmesan
3) 2008 Limited Release Pinot Noir paired with Gouda
4) 2009 Limited Release Zinfandel paired with Euphoria Gouda
5) 2006 Limited Release Cabernet paired with Bearly Buzzed which is
a three coffee bean cheese with the flavors of cherry cola, anise, and
vanilla.
While all were outstanding wines, I tend to favor a Pinot Noir. Their Pinot was such a beautiful ruby with such clarity and probably the best I have tasted. My husband tends to be partial to Cabernet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smoked Salmon Quiche

Smoked Salmon Quiche
I found this recipe on a favorite blog. Since we are going to visit our children, I thought I could go to my blog for the recipe to prepare it for the family
Ingredients:
Crust:
1 cup flour

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup shredded asagio cheese
2-4 tablespoons ice water

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
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Filling:
8 oz smoked salmon, flaked (not lox)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3/4 cup shredded asagio
2 tablespoons capote capers
2 teaspoons tarragon white wine vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper
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Directions: 
Preheat oven to 425. Place the pepper, butter, flour and cheese into a food processor. Add water one tablespoon at a time and pulse just until mixture sticks together. Form the dough into a ball. Roll out into a crust and place in a pie plate or quiche pan or tart pan. Prick with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes or until just browned. Turn oven down to 325.
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Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into the prepared shell. Bake 45-50 minutes or until fully cooked.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Resident Hawk

Resident Hawk
This morning while enjoying breakfast, my husband called my attention to the hawk that perched atop our finch feeder. He is the resident hawk of our neighborhood. I do not believe he understands how much the neighborhood really wishes he would take up residence elsewhere as he preys on our beautiful songbirds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sun Sand and Surf

Lunch on the Patio This egret was waiting for a distracted fisherman to grab his bait for lunch Surfers waiting for the right swell
Up on the board to ride the surf!
Now to get the sand off!
The Oceanside Pier
Surf, Sand, and Sun

Thursday we took advantage of the wonderful weather and drove to Oceanside for lunch at the Monterrey Fish Cannery with a walk along the ocean. Surfers were out enjoying the high tides and sunbathers were to be seen everywhere on the beaches. We did our traditional walk out the pier to Ruby's Restaurant which is at the end of the pier. The sunshine was just too glorious to stay inside.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cinnamon


Cinnamon
Cinnamon and Cassia, a relative spice, have long been associated with ancient rituals of sacrifice and pleasure. Throughout the Old Testament in the Bible, references to cinnamon, illustrate it was more precious than gold.
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Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, Burma and the southern coastal strip of India. Sri Lanka produces the best cinnamon. Cinnamon now thrives in South America and the West Indies. Cinnamon is a bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family, cultivated as low bushes as to ease the harvesting process. Eight or ten branches grow on each bush and after three years they are harvested in the rainy season when the humidity makes the bark peel more easily. The slim branches are first peeled and then the inner bark is bruised with a brass rod to loosen it. Long incisions are made in the branch, the bark lifts off and the drying process begins. The quills of bark are rolled daily by hand until neat and compact, and any cut offs are used to fill the longer quills.
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The bouquet of cinnamon is sweet and fragrant and its flavor is sweet and warm. The quills of cinnamon or cinnamon sticks are added whole to casseroles, rice dishes, mulled wines and punches, and to syrups for poaching fruits. Ground cinnamon is used in baking cakes, pastries and biscuits.
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Cinnamon is used as a stimulant, astringent, and carminative, used as an antidote for diarrhea and upset stomach upsets. Cinnamon is also know to promote metabolism. Now sold in capsule form, many diabetics have been able to reduce glucose levels of their A1C by using a daily regimen of cinnamon. A1C test readings show the average glucose level controlled with insulin over a specified period of time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nutmeg and Mace

Nutmeg and Mace
Some interesting fact that I have gleaned from my new book "Cooking With Spices and Herbs" might be as surprising to you as they were to me. Did you know nutmeg is a narcotic? It is not problematic when consumed in the amount used in domestic recipes. It is an astringent, a stimulant and an aphrodisiac; nutmeg oil is used in perfumes and ointments.
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Nutmeg is grown on a large evergreen native to the Banda Islands. It grows to about 60 ft. tall and will produce fruit fifteen to twenty years after planting and bears crops for thirty to forty years, bearing fifteen hundred to two-thousand fruit per annum.
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The fruit of the nutmeg tree, which is about the size of an apricot and similar in color, splits when ripe to reveal brilliant red arils encasing the brown nut. The red arils are the mace, which turns to an orange color as they dry. The mace is removed from the nut and dried. The nut is also dried until the kernel rattles inside and this is removed by tapping on the end of the shell- the kernel can be damaged if the shell is cracked on the side.
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Mace and nutmeg smell gloriously aromatic, sweet and warm. Both have a similar flavor, with the nutmeg being slightly sweeter than mace.
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Mace is used in savory dishes, and nutmeg thought used in savory dishes, is especially complimentary to puddings, cakes, and drinks. Mace is also used to flavor milk based sauces such as bechamel and is widely used in flavoring processed eats such a sausages and charcuterie.
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Nutmeg is delicious with fillings for pasta, especially those using spinach and cheese. It may be added to risotto, tomato sauce or sauces for fish or chicken pies. It is excellent is cheese sauce for a cauliflower cheese or onion sauce to serve with lamb chops and in creamy mashed potatoes. Nutmeg is also a traditional flavoring for cakes, ginger breads, biscuits and fruit or milk puddings. Mulled alcoholic drinks are enhanced with a sprinkling of nutmeg such as eggnog or hot milk drinks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meaty Mushroom Lasagna


Meaty Mushroom Lasagna
From the files of Giada De Laurentiis.

Last evening I prepared dinner for friends just arriving for a six-week stay in San Diego. I have had this recipe "on my back-burner" but a pan of lasagna is too much to prepare for just two people. These occasions for cooking dishes with a larger yield are appreciated. Seconds are the compliment that the dish was enjoyed. A third serving is an indication to definitely prepare this dish again! This was a prepare again dish!
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Since the sauce in the recipe is a milk base, I do not recommend freezing left-overs. Have measured and prepared ingredients ready before starting the recipe as it does go together fairly fast.
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Ingredients:
Butter for greasing the baking dish
Sauce:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups warm whole milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella         cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch ground nutmeg
8 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus extra as needed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
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Filling:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus extra as needed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/2 pounds assorted mushrooms quartered,
I used cremini, oyster, and maitaki
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
9 lasagna noodles, plain or spinach
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil for drizzling
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Directions:
Put rack in middle of over. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish, set aside.
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Sauce:
In a 2 quart sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 8 minutes (do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses and nutmeg. Stir until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the prosciutto, 1 tablespoon salt and pepper.
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Filling:
In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden and the liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper.
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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
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To assemble the lasagna:
Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lay 3 lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Spoon 1/2 of the mushroom mixture on top of the pasta. Ladle 1 cup of the sauce over the mushroom mixture and lay 3 more noodles on top. Repeat the layers using the remaining mushroom mixture, 1 cup of sauce, and the remaining 3 noodles. Top with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1 cup smoked mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Drizzle top with olive oil and bake until top is golden and filling is bubbling about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Cut the lasagna into wedges and serve.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ginger, the Great Spice



Ginger, The Great Spice
Perhaps of all spices, ginger has a long respected history. The name is believed to have come from the ancient Indio-Arayan language, singaberi, meaning shaped like a horn. Fresh ginger is used in culinary cooking vegetables and meats, most often in stir-fry and curry dishes.
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Ginger is used in the forms of: Fresh or green ginger, dried whole ginger root, ground ginger, pickled ginger, preserved or stem ginger, chopped candied ginger, and crystallized ginger.
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Culpeper, the herbalist of 150 years ago said "ginger helps digestion, warms the stomach, clears the sight, and is profitable for old men, it heats the joints and is therefore useful against gout". Ginger has an impressive record of treating all kinds of ailments it is said to help poor circulation, and to cure flatulence and indigestion, it is taken as a drink for coughs, nausea and influenza. It is considered to be a cure for travel sickness.
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From my days working as a nurse in OB, ginger ale was given to mother in labor to cure nausea and it was effective.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Star Anise Properties

Healing Properties of
Star Anise
My previous post was a recipe for a Pork Roast with Spices. I mentioned that the star anise sent me on a hunt for the spice. I checked every grocery store in my area of San Diego. No one carried that "exotic" spice as I was told.
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For my birthday I received a book from my dear neighbor Ruth, "Cooking With Herbs and Spices". I was curious what the book had to say about the star anise after learning the harvest was exhausted in 2009 by the Pharmaceutical Companies in compounding the Swine Flu vaccine, Tamiflu. Most surprising is that a tree is six years old before it begins to bear the fruit. The fruit is picked before it is fully ripe as each petal contains a seed which is also ground and used as spice.
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I thought you might be interested to learn that star anise is beneficial in the treatment of halitosis and is also used in cough medications and pet foods. Star anise is the most important spice and dominant flavor in Chinese five spice powder.
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Tomorrow I will blog about the many benefits of ginger. My Trader Joe's store carried a candied ginger prior to the Christmas holiday that did not contain all of the sugar coating that is usually found in candied ginger.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Slow-Cooked Pork With Spanish Paprika And Sweet Spices



SLOW-COOKED PORK WITH
SPANISH PAPRIKA AND SWEET SPICES
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I found a recipe in House Beautiful for a pork roast which sounded delicious! I set out to obtain star anise. After exhausting every possible food store source and coming up empty handed, I googled "star anise". Much to my surprise the supply was first exhausted in 2009 used in the manufacturing of Tamiflu, the vaccine for Swine Flu. My reference book said the flavor is much like anise or fennel seed. I will just increase the amount of fennel seed called for in the recipe.
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Just a little FYI: Star anise grows in China on an evergreen and is harvested between the months of March thru May.
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Ingredients:
2 bay leaves
8 cardamom pods
2 star anise
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pimenton
    (smoked Spanish paprika)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced into a paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 fresh 3 pound pork shoulder,
preferably with the skin on
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Directions:
In a coffee grinder, process the bay leaves, cardamom, and star anise until finely ground (you may have to grind in batches) and place in a small bowl. Grind the coriander and cumin until finely ground and add to the bowl; add the ground fennel to the bowl of spices as well. Mix in the olive oil, pimenton, pepper, garlic, brown sugar, and salt, mixing well to create a paste.
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If the pork has a skin on, score the skin with a sharp knife in 1/2 inch intervals. Rub the paste evenly on the meat. Cover and let set in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.
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Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Scrape off the extra spice rub, then put the pork on a rack in a large roasting pan, skin side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Cover the pan with foil, then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and cook for three hours. Add a bit of water in the bottom of the roasting pan, if there is no liquid, to keep the pork from drying out. Check after three hours; the pork should be fork tender and very moist when done. If not continue to cook until fork tender.
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If your pork has skin, slide the pan under the broiler for three to five minutes until the skin is crispy. If your pork doesn't have skin, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing or pulling apart.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Potato Corn Chowder



Potato Corn Chowder

After I finished washing windows Tuesday, I thought it was a good day for comfort food. Despite a beautiful warm day filled with sunshine, the thought of a bowl of chowder seemed most satisfying. I have a practice to use something daily from my well stocked freezer. Being a Costco shopper, heaven knows those super-sizes aren't always a consumable size for two people leaving left-overs to be placed in the freezer.
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I found a recipe but tweaked it to fit the ingredients on hand. I reduced the amount of heavy cream and used frozen corn rather than ears of corn. I will share the recipe as I prepared my pot of chowder.
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Ingredients:
1 lb. bag of frozen sweet corn
2 quarts water
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (2 1/4 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 thyme sprigs
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
2 cups heavy cream
3 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
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Directions:
Bring potatoes to a boil in water in a large pot with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
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Meanwhile, cook onion, carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is pale golden, about 10 minutes.
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Add bell pepper, corn, thyme, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
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Stir in potatoes with water and cream and gently boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 7 cups, about 30 minutes. Stir in scallions, white pepper, cayenne, and salt to taste. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chili Powder Mix

Chili Powder Mix
I especially enjoy reading the Food & Wine section of the San Francisco area newspapers. Every visitor can attest that the city has an European flair and most restaurants achieve the healthiest preparation of the foods served.
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During a visit with our children over the recent holidays, Barbara gave me the latest edition of The Bay Area News Group food section. What caught my eye was a blend of spices for Chili Powder Mix. I never thought about blending my own chili seasoning but I thought it was interesting learning which spices are used. A chili recipe was also included in this article which I am sharing.
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Chili Powder Mix
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 to 2 teaspoon dried chili peppers
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Directions:
Mix together and store in jar in a cool dry place.
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Chili
Ingredients:
2 pounds ground chuck
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
48 ounce container tomato juice
2 cups ketchup
3 cans chili beans
Dash hot sauce
1 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 cups cooked spaghetti noodles (broken into thirds)
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Directions:
Brown ground chuck with green pepper, celery and onion, then drain. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for an hour in a covered pot on low. Add cooked pasta and serve.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Mushrooms



January Mushrooms

While walking in Carmel, I caught glimpse of these mushrooms or fungi along the roadside. I was not sure if they are edible or poison but I did think they were unique and worth a photo. I know two wild mushrooms that I feel safe eating but commercial mushrooms satisfy my needs.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Garlicky Brussels Sprouts Saute

Garlicky Brussels Sprouts Saute
The published recipe claims even people who don't like Brussels sprouts will eat-and-enjoy this fast dish with a tender crunch. We enjoyed this dish with the posting of January 1, 2011.
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Ingredients:
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
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Directions:
Place Brussels sprouts in bowl of food processor. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until shredded.
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Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until light brown. Increase heat to medium-high, add the Brussels sprouts, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, or until browned, stirring often. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and cook 5 minutes more, or until most of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 6

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Baked Shrimp Scampi
This is a winner!
We are spending the New Year weekend with our daughter Barbara and Ron. Barbara is a foodie and a much better cook than her mother. Meal time with Barbara is always a treat. Barbara has recently enjoyed testing some new cookbooks. One that she has particularly enjoyed is Ina Garten's book, "Back To Basics" and this recipe is a winner.
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I particularly enjoy watching her television program on the Food Network. My most recent tip from Ina is roasting shrimp at 350 for 7 minutes with a little olive oil instead of boiling to cook. What an improvement to the flavor and tenderness
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Ina describes this dish as one she enjoys because she can make it ahead and then bake just before dinner. She suggests a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving gives it a perfect hit of acidity to balance the richness of of all of the garlic and butter.
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Ingredients:
2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in shell, uncooked
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread crumbs)
Lemon wedges, for serving.
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Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Peel, devein and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to set at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.
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In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined.
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Starting from the outer edge of a 14 inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and toward the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture over the shrimp. Spread the butter evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under the broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.
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Serves 6 to 8