Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Salted Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark






Here's one of the yummiest, easiest, quickest treats to make.  And if you're like me, it's likely that you'll already have everything on hand.  Apparently, there's been a very similar recipe around for quite awhile using saltine crackers.  I can't imagine!  The pretzels make this for me.

Now I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but it was hard for me to stay away from these!  I think it was the salty aspect of this treat.  These are absolutely delicious, and addictive!

SALTED CHOCOLATE TOFFEE PRETZEL BARK

About 8 oz (half of a 1# bag) mini pretzels, broken into smaller pieces, more or less, to cover the pan
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups (one 12-oz bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sea or kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line an 11x17" rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (I then sprayed mine with Canola Oil cooking spray).  Cover the bottom of the pan in a layer of broken mini pretzels.  Set aside.  In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and brown sugar.  When the mixture starts to gently simmer and bubble, let it cook for 3 minutes without stirring.  Immediately pour the hot caramel mixture over the pretzels in a back and forth motion to cover most of the pretzels (a few empty/dry spots are ok as the caramel with fuse together during baking).

Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack.  Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of the hot caramel and pretzels. Let the chocolate chips sit for 2-3 minutes until they melt.  Use an offset spatula or rubber spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the toffee.  Lightly sprinkle with salt.

Let the toffee cool completely at room temperature then refrigerate if needed to help the chocolate set up.  Break the toffee into pieces and try not to eat the whole batch.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chicken Salad w/Pine Nuts and Feta






OMG!!!  This salad was absolutely delicious.  I'm not sure what it was, I'm just grateful I have some leftovers in the frig!

OK, a couple of things.  I will list this recipe as I found it in "Cooking Club Summer 2012," however, I made a few changes.  It calls for "rotisserie chicken."  Just so happens our local market (Publix) had their "Mojo" rotisserie chicken on sale (they have different flavors: BBQ, Lemon Pepper, etc).  I really didn't know what Mojo chicken was, but what the heck.  Boy, did I hit the jackpot!  Apparently, Mojo is Cuban-inspired, although no two recipes for marinade I found were the same.

Also, the recipe calls for serving this chicken salad alone.  But I went ahead and tossed some chopped romaine in the vinaigrette to serve as a bed for the chicken.  It made a wonderful, complete entree salad.  Speaking of vinaigrette, I had some of my favorite Julia Child's Basic Vinaigrette on hand, so I used that instead (both vinaigrette recipes are listed below).

As I was eating and savoring this salad, it occurred to me that, could it be?!!!!!.....it could be even better by very lightly drizzling some truffle oil on it.  Oh MY!!!!

CHICKEN SALAD with PINE NUTS AND FETA  (About 6 servings)

Dressing:
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 Tbsp EVOO

Salad:
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, chopped (2 1/2 cups) (I used pickling cucumbers)
2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (toast in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, or microwave on high 45 seconds, stir, again, until they start to brown)
Romaine lettuce, chopped, using as a bed for the chicken salad (lightly dress with salad dressing)

Whisk all salad ingredients except oil in small bowl; slowly whisk in oil.

Toss all salad ingredients except pine nuts in large bowl with enough dressing to coat.  Sprinkle with pine nuts.

JULIA CHILD'S BASIC VINAIGRETTE

Whisk together:

1/2 Tbsp finely minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp wine vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup EVOO
freshly ground black pepper     

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Poached Shrimp on Succotash


This is a wonderful combination of fresh summer vegetables, especially if you use fresh corn cut from the cob.  Fast, easy, no reason to heat up your kitchen and serve it with some good artisan bread.

I'm listing the recipe as published in "Everyday Food Jul/Aug 2012," but as I do with most shrimp salad recipes, I roasted the shrimp instead of poaching (I drizzled olive oil and added a tsp of Old Bay Seasoning to the uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, then broiled for 5-6 minutes .)

POACHED SHRIMP ON SUCCOTASH (Serves 4)

for poaching:
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 lemon, halved
1 pound (31/35) large shrimp

for serving:
2 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup EVOO, divided

1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
2 cups corn kernels (from 3 ears)
2 medium zucchini, diced medium
S&P

Poach shrimp in a medium pot, combine 6 cups water, Old Bay, and lemon, bring to a boil.  Add shrimp and simmer until opaque throughout, 2-3 minutes.  Drain, discard lemon, and transfer shrimp to a bowl.

To serve: Toss shrimp with vinegar, mustard, and 2 Tbsp oil.  In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high.  Add green beans and cook until bright green, 4 minutes.  Add corn and zucchini; saute until crisp-tender, 5 minutes.  Transfer to a platter.  Top with shrimp mixture, season with S&P, and serve warm.  
 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Apple and Pear Crostata


When I first saw this "Barefoot Contessa" recipe, I wasn't too sure.  Pies aren't my strong point, but I thought I'd give it a try.  It was much easier than I expected.  I did the first step of making the pastry the day before and let it set in the frig overnight.  When I took it out the next day, I did let it sit out for a bit to slightly soften, otherwise it was too hard and would have crumbled.

And since you don't have to make a top crust and do that pinching thing (I'm completely handicapped in the area), it actually came out looking great.  You simply fold up about 2" pieces of the outlying crust and then "pleat it" around the edges to make a neat presentation.  

The combination of apples of pears adds that bit of gritty texture from the pears which I appreciated, and who doesn't like that spiced crumble on top?  Serve warm or at room temperature, which ice cream if you like.

APPLE and PEAR CROSTATA

For the crust:
1 cup AP flour
2 Tbsp granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4# (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 Tbsp iced water

For the filling:
2 tart apples
2 pears
1/4 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and pulse 12-15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas.  With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube.  Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass.  Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  *You don't need a food processor for this!  You can mix together the flour, sugar, and salt then cut the butter into it using a pastry cutter or two butter knives.  Then slowly pour in ice water one tablespoon at a time while gently stirring with a fork.  When dough begins to come together in a loose ball, then burn dough onto a well-floured surface and form into a disk.  Handle dough as little as possible.

Preheat oven to 450.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11" circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples and pears into 8ths.  Cut each wedge into 3 chunks.  Toss the chunks with the orange zest.  Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2" border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly (again, you can do this with a pastry cutter.)  Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together.  Sprinkle evenly on the apples.  Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples and pears are tender.  Allow to cool.  Serve warm or at room temp with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.    

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Farro Salad w/Asparagus and Parmesan




I think that farro is just about my most favorite grain, with wheatberries a very close second.  They both have a wonderful chewiness which I just love.  I like to keep a whole grain salad around as a healthier (and delicious) alternative to my quick go-to snack: chips.

FARRO SALAD W/ASPARAGUS and PARMESAN (Serves 6)

1 cup farro
1/4 to 1/2# fresh asparagus, thick bottom snapped off, and cut into about 1" pieces
1/2 cup red and/or yellow cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4+ dried cranberries
fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
fresh chives, chopped, to taste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette, or to taste
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago, divided

TWO METHODS TO COOK THE FARRO:

1)  Cover the farro with water and let soak overnight.  Drain and rinse.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the farro.  Bring back to a boil.  At this point, it won't take long.  Start testing at 5-10 minutes.  Cook until it reaches the chewiness you like.  Drain and let cool.

2) Fill a pot with salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, stir in the  farro, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, then cook the farro uncovered, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and continue simmering until tender, about 30 more minutes.  Drain and allow to cool.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the asparagus, and cook uncovered until tender, about 2-3 minutes, depending on the diameter of the stalks.  Drain in a colander, then immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process.  Once the asparagus is cold, drain well and chop.  Set aside.

Place farro, asparagus, tomatoes, walnuts, cranberries, parsley, and chives in a large bowl.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over and sprinkle about 1/4+ Parmesan cheese, then toss.  Top with the remaining Parmesan.  Serve at room temperature.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Scones






Have you ever used cinnamon chips?  They're found in the baking aisle next to the chocolate chips.  Now I don't know if these are regional or seasonal, but I don't think I've ever found them in Chattanooga.  I had a bag leftover from when Jim was at TMI in Pennsylvania.  This is the end of my inventory and I love them.  So if any of you happen to notice them in your market, please let me know!

CINNAMON SUGAR SCONES (8 servings)

3 cups Bisquick Mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup cinnamon chips
cinnamon sugar

Mix Bisquick and sugar.  Whisk together yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Stir in cinnamon chips.

On lightly floured surface, knead dough gently 10 times.  Pat into a 9" circle.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar (I go a little heavy on this since scones are not very sweet {only 1/4 cup of sugar is in the mix}).  Cut into 8 wedges, place on ungreased baking sheet (I used a Silpat).  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until golden.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Egg in a Nest


Do you remember these?  Not being a big breakfast-food person, I hadn't thought of this in years.  Of course when Mom used to make these for me, it was mid- to late 60's and what did we use then?  White bread and margarine, of course!  I don't know how they ever held together.

Welcome to the 21st Century and host to all kinds of wonderful, hearty, whole-grain artisan breads!  What a difference it makes!  I've been using a 13 grain bread, but can't wait to try it with some rosemary in it.  And this little breakfast with a bit of fruit makes a meal substantial enough to get me to the gym.

EGG IN A NEST (1 serving)

1 slice whole-grain, artisan bread
1 large egg
room-temp butter
S&P

Use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter and cut a whole in the center of the piece of bread.  Lightly butter each side of the bread, carefully from the center hole outside towards the edge so as not to tear the bread.  

In a pre-heated skillet (#4 for me on my glass-top stove) place the bread in the skillet to toast on one side.  Turn the bread and break an egg into the hole.  Now, I like a runny yolk, so I put a lid on the skillet and set my timer for two minutes.  At the one minute mark, I turn the heat off, but leave the skillet on the burner.  After the two minutes are up, I turn the bread/egg to the other side, pull the skillet off of the burner, and let it sit for one more minute.

Sprinkle with S&P.
 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Chicken


Do you like jalapeno poppers, those wonderful  appetizers of halved and seeded jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar cheese?  Then you will love this chicken dish!  I've really had trouble trying to find a new and distinct chicken recipe.  This is just so good and cheesy!  Not spicy, just flavored with jalapenos (the spiciness goes away once they're seeded and sauteed).  And I made mine with reduced-fat cream cheese and cheddar cheese, and then sprayed the top of the chicken with canola cooking spray, so it's low in fat and calories.  I used one 8 oz chicken breast and cut it in half after cooking, plenty for the two of us.  I hope you'll try this!

JALAPENO POPPER CHICKEN (Serves 4)

4 chicken breasts (4-6 oz)
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup reduced-fat cheddar or colby cheese
1 tsp olive oil
4 jalapenos, chopped (ribs and seeds removed)
1 1/4 cup Panko plain breadcrumbs
2 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 tsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp oregano
1 egg (or Egg Beaters)
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare a cookie sheet with light spray of non-stick spray.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the jalapenos and cook until softened.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cream cheese and shredded cheese, stir to combine.  Cut a pocket into each chicken breast.  Stuff each pocket with the cream cheese mixture.  Secure with a toothpick if necessary.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg.  In another bowl, mix the Panko, taco seasoning, parsley, oregano, and salt.  Dip each chicken breast in the egg then the Panko.  Place the breaded chicken breast on the prepared cookie sheet.  To help give the breading a deeper color, you can give each breast a little spray of cooking spray.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink inside the juices run clear.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shrimp and Grits


I've posted this recipe once before, but it is just so good I had to remind you!  I combined several recipes and have come up with this which is absolutely delicious!  And I didn't think it was possible, but I really believe this is even better the second day.  I'm having leftovers for lunch right now.  I microwaved a small serving of the grits and the shrimp mixture (minus the shrimp) for about 45 seconds, then buried a couple of shrimp in the hot mixture (microwaving the shrimp would make them chewy).

The recipe below serves 2, but I think I'll be doubling it next time, for leftovers, you know?

SHRIMP & GRITS (Serves 2)

Grits:
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 cup water
3/4 cup shrimp stock (I boiled a handful of shrimp shells I had in the freezer for a minute in 3/4 cup water, then let sit, covered, until at room temp)
2 Tbsp butter
S&P
1/2 cup regular (not instant) grits (it may be hard to find regular grits....if so, adjust cooking time) 

Bring cream, water, and stock to a gentle boil.  Add butter and S&P.  Slowly add the grits, stirring very frequently.  Reduce heat.  Cook until done (no more than 20 minutes).

Shrimp Mixture:
1 Tbsp bacon grease
1 1/2 oz Italian sausage (I used mild), chopped small
1 green onion, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 # shelled shrimp, sprinkled with lemon juice and S&P
1/2 small finely diced tomato
finely diced red pepper (optional)
1 oz ham, diced small
4 oz (1/4 cup) black-eyed peas
Fresh parsley, finely minced

In a large skillet, melt bacon grease.  Add Italian sausage, until cooked.  Remove sausage, add onion and garlic until just about done.  Add shrimp.  Stir until pink.  Add tomato (and pepper, if you like), ham, and black-eyed peas.  Put sausage back in to reheat.  Throw in some finely minced fresh parsley.  Stir until heated throughout.  Serve over grits.

Serving suggestions:
Fried green tomatoes
Field peas with snap beans
Baguette   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Farro Vegetable Salad


My friend, Donna, sent me a HUGE batch of my favorite grain, farro.  It's kinda hard to find around here.....I can always find it on-line in a pinch, but Donna spends a lot of time in Texas, home of CENTRAL MARKET.....a foodie's dream!  This is grain a bit chewier than wheatberries and with texture a huge part of my dining experience, this is at the top of my list.

This is my favorite farro recipe (the arugula sends it over the top).  It's a great side dish (I served it with grilled Swai and broccoli), but also made a delicious midnight snack!  I go to this recipe over and over, but decided I needed to expand my farro repertoire, so I have half a dozen other farro recipes I plan on experimenting with over the next few weeks.  I'll share the good ones with you!

FARRO VEGETABLE SALAD

1/2 large tomato (three thick slices), diced
1 1/2 cups cooked farro (see note)
1/4 cup chopped arugula, or more to taste
about 2 small pickling cucumber, diced

Mint Vinaigrette:

2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp red wine veingar
1 tsp minced fresh mint
2 tsp honey
S&P

Mix farro, tomato, arugula, and cucumbers.  Toss with vinaigrette.

NOTE:  To get about 1 1/2 cups of cooked farro, start with 1/2 cup raw farro.  Bring 1 1/2 cups of salted water to a boil.  Add the uncooked farro, bring back to a boil.  Take off the heat.  Let sit, covered, for an hour.  Drain.  Bring another 1 1/2 cups of salted water to a boil, turn down to simmer (#2 on my electric cooktop).  Simmer about 30 minutes or until farro is still a bit firm to the bite.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grilled Chicken Caprese


Do you love Caprese salads?  Summer-ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil, sprinkled with S&P, good olive oil, and maybe some balsamic vinegar?  A wonderful summer side salad when tomatoes are at their best.  Well, here's a twist on that, making this an equally wonderful summer entree.  I simply served this with a Caesar salad.

GRILLED CHICKEN CAPRESE (Serves 4-6)

4 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
S&P
4 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4" slices, halved, patted dry
4 chicken breasts, about 1 1/2-2# (see note below)
2 large firm tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2" slices

In a small bowl, combine the basil, vinegar, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.   Slowly whisk in the oil until it is thoroughly incorporated.  Transfer 3 Tbsp of the vinaigrette to a bowl and toss in the fresh mozzarella pieces, coating the cheese with the vinaigrette.  Set aside.  Reserve the remaining vinaigrette for the cooked chicken.

Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel and season both sides with S&P.  Grill the chicken and tomatoes on a hot grill until the chicken is browned and cooked through and the tomatoes are lightly charred (watch carefully, you don't want them to fall apart), about 2-3 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your chicken and heat of the grill).  Transfer the cooked chicken to a platter.  Top with the tomato slices and drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette.  Cover the chicken with an even layer of mozzarella and tent the platter loosely with foil.  Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes (the cheese won't melt all the way, but will get a bit gooey).  Serve.

NOTE:  The chicken breasts should be on the thinner side of things.  If you have gargantuan, thick chicken breasts, slice them in half horizontally, giving you two thinner chicken breasts.  All in all, you should end up with 4-6 thinner pieces of chicken (I cut one 9 oz breast in half horizontally, the chicken cooked about 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other).  Also, look for tomatoes that are ripe but still firm so they will hold their shape on the grill. 

 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Double Almond Cookie


If you are a almond-flavored cookie fan, these are for you.  These are like a rich almond shortbread cookie.  Soft and chewy.

I have taken to making my cookie dough one day, baking the next.  I keep reading how it is much better to let cookie dough rest overnight.  I would definitely do that with this dough.  Even after keeping overnight, there's still a bit of spread when baked.  It is a very soft dough when initially prepared.  The dough hardened up nicely and I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop I found at Bed, Bath, and & Beyond and it worked wonderfully.

DOUBLE ALMOND COOKIES (makes 3 dozen)

2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped or slivered almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp pure almond extract

Combine flour, almonds, and salt; set aside.  Beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Blend in egg and almond extract.  Gradually mix in flour mixture.   Chill dough overnight.

Heat oven to 350.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Bake 10-14 minutes.  

 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jerk Chicken Breast Salad w/Yogurt Spiced Rum Dressing


Here's another summertime salad, no need to heat up the kitchen on this one....the chicken is cooked on the grill.  The chicken does have a bit of spice to it, but the mango and the yogurt dressing help cool it down.  And I always keep a batch of the spicy pecans on hand for other salads or simply to snack on.  They are the best.

NOTE:  Plan ahead.  The chicken should marinade about 24 hours.  Also, outside of the dressing amount, amounts are not given for the rest of the salad.  For two entree salads, I used 1/2 (5 oz) bag of Spring Mix and half a head of romaine and about 6-8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I sliced maybe a quarter of a small red onion, and sliced one whole mango.  I halved the dressing amount and still have half of that left, along with half of the marinade, so I'll be making this salad again sometime within the next few weeks.

JERK CHICKEN BREAST SALAD with YOGURT SPICED RUM DRESSING

Dressing:
3/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 cup spiced rum
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon

For Jerk Chicken Salad:
Jerk chicken breast, grilled (recipe below)
Mixed greens
Red onions, thinly sliced
Fresh mango, cut in strips
Spicy pecans (recipe below)

To make dressing:  Whisk all ingredients together.

To make Jerk Chicken Salad:  Toss greens with dressing and top with onions, mango strips, and spicy pecans.  Slice chicken breast and place on top and drizzle with small amount of dressing.

GRILLED JERK CHICKEN (this is a quarter of the original recipe and would make enough for four entree salads)

1 green onion
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/4 small onion, chopped
1 fresh habanero chile pepper, stemmed and seeded (more or less to your spice-comfort level.....for us, I would use 1/2 of one pepper)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3/4 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper
scant 1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon

12 oz to 1# skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Make marinade:  Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.  Place the chicken in a ziplock bag along with the marinade.  Seal and marinade for 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.  

Let chicken stand at room temp for 1 hour before cooking.  Grill chicken until cooked through.

SWEET AND SPICY CANDIED PECANS  (makes 3 cups)

6 Tbsp corn syrup
3 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp hot sauce
3 cups pecan halves

Combine corn syrup with the next 5 ingredients; mix well in a large bowl.  Add pecans and stir gently to coat.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray.  Spread on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 2 1/2 minutes (I baked for 5 minutes), then, using a fork, stir to with mixture and bake again until pecans are golden and coating is bubbly, about 2-3 minutes more (5-10 minutes for me).  Transfer to a piece of foil and quickly separate pecans with a fork.  Cool them and store in an air tight container at room temperature.  (I store mine in the freezer and they keep just about forever.)  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mango Couscous with Salmon


This turned out to be a real surprise!  We eat a lot of salmon around here and oftentimes, well, it might not be much different than the last.  And, I might add, I've not had much success with couscous lately......seems like I've been getting some old lots.  But this was all perfect.  Fresh couscous, the sweetness of the mango over the broiled salmon.  Well, YUMMM!!!!

It's all so quick and easy.  I bought a microwave bag of the haricot vertes which completed the meal.  Absolutely delicious, easy, healthy.

MANGO COUSCOUS WITH SALMON (Serves 4)

1/4 cup canola oil
2 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley, divided
4 salmon fillets (4-6 oz each)
2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 package (10 oz) plain couscous
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium mango, peeled and chopped

Mango Sauce:
1 medium mango, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
2 fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic, S&P, and 2 Tbsp parsley.  Rub over salmon.  Broil 4 inches from the heat for 6-8 minutes (I used a fillet with skin on and broiled with the skin-side up for the first 8 minutes.....then turned it and cooked about another 4 minutes....depends on the thickness of your fillet) on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring broth and butter to a b oil.  Stir in couscous.  Cover and remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, mango, and remaining parsley.

In a blender, combine the sauce ingredients, cover and puree for 1-2 minutes or until smooth.  Serve with salmon and couscous.

Recipe Source:  Taste of Home "Fresh & Easy"  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Scallops with Creamy Bacon Corn Sauce


This is a wonderful Publix "Apron's" recipe!  And if you're a fan of fresh corn and scallops, you have to try this!  Granted, in the winter time, you could certainly use frozen corn, but really, this is a summer-time dish and the fresh corn makes all the difference.

Publix's recipe calls for sea scallops, but I had bay scallops on hand and they worked wonderfully.  I'm grateful I made the entire recipe so I had leftovers on hand!

SCALLOPS WITH CREAMY BACON CORN SAUCE (4 servings)

3 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4# sea scallops, thawed
4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
8 oz tomato trinity mix (fresh diced tomatoes, onions, bell peppers)
1 Tbsp blackening seasoning (WAY too much for us!!!  I used about 1/2 to 3/4 tsp)
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped chives (optional)

Remove corn husks and silks, slice kernels off cobs (2-3 cups) into medium bowl.  Scrape cobs with the back of knife to release remaining juices.

Preheat large saute pan on medium-high 2-3 minutes.  Season scallops with S&P.  Place oil in pan, then add scallops; cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden, opaque, and firm.  Remove pan from heat; transfer scallops to plate and cover to keep warm.

Cut bacon  into small pieces (using kitchen shears) while adding to same pan (wash hands); cook 3-4 minutes or until crisp.  Drain bacon fat, reserving one Tbsp in pan.  Stir in trinity mix; cook 2-3 minutes or until soft.  Combined blackening seasoning, half-and-half, and corn; add to pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 3-4 more minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Transfer corn mixture to serving dish; top with scallops and chives.  Serve.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce


I found this recipe in a "Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious" cookbook.  I love red pepper sauce, although I did alter this recipe just a bit.  I used Italian-style Panko breadcrumbs instead of the recipe listed below.  Also, I used provolone instead of feta.  And lastly, I used a pre-made red pepper sauce called "Ajvar," something you can find in really good markets or, if you're in Chattanooga, I found it at the European Market (an Eastern European Market) off of Gunbarrel.  I usually eat the sauce alone with those little toast squares you can find at the grocery store.  Yum!

You could also change this to a Chicken Parmigiana-type dish by using marinara and mozzarella.

CHICKEN WITH RED PEPPER SAUCE (Serves 4)

1 egg (or Egg Beaters)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp salt
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4-6 oz each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 jars (7 oz each) roasted sweet red pepers, drained
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

 In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg.  In another shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and salt.  Dip chicken in egg, then coat with the crumbs.

In a large skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the red peppers and Italian seasoning; cover and process until pureed.  Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through, stirring once.  Spoon over chicken; sprinkle with feta cheese.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lemon Basil Shrimp Salad


I ran across this recipe on "www.MyRecipes.com" while looking for a another summer shrimp salad, something a bit different then I've been doing.  The recipe suggested serving this in a Parmesan bowl, but when I found a recipe and tried it, it just didn't work out, so I made some Parmesan crisps (simply put a small drop of shredded Parmesan cheese in a non-stick pan {I was able to get about 7 crisps in a 10" skillet}).  

If you decide to try this, plan ahead.  You'll need to marinade the shrimp and vegetables for 8 hour to overnight.  Also, this recipe calls for cooked shrimp so naturally, I roasted mine (tossed the shrimp with a bit of the marinade on a lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray, upper rack, and roast on high for 5 minutes).

LEMON-BASIL SHRIMP SALAD (Serves 2)

3/4# peeled, deveined shrimp, cooked
1/4 red onion, julienned
1/4 red bell pepper, julienned (I used 2 of the mini red peppers)
1/4 yellow bell pepper, julienned (I used 2 of the mini yellow peppers)
Lemon-Basil Marinade (see below)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 (5 oz) bag Spring Mix
1/2 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
Parmesan baskets or crisps, optional
Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette (see below)

Place shrimp and vegetables and marinade in a zip-lock bag.  Seal and chill 8 hours or up to 24 hours, turned bag frequently.  Stir in basil 1 hour before serving.  Drain and discard marinade just before serving.

Dress greens with the Vinaigrette.  Divide greens evenly between Parmesan baskets or serving plates, arranged shrimp mixture evenly over lettuce. 

LEMON-BASIL MARINADE (plenty for 2 salad servings)

1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp grated lemon rind
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp hot sauce
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/8 tsp salt

Whisk together oil and remaining ingredients in a bowl.

Can be prepared up to a week ahead.  Keep in  an airtight container.  Bring to room temp and whisk before using.

FRESH LEMON VINAIGRETTE (plenty for 2 salad servings)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Gradually add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until blended.

Can be prepared up to a week ahead.  Keep in an airtight container.  Bring to room temp and whisk before using.   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Strawberry Salad


Like the rest of the country, we're in the midst of an oppressive heat-wave, so salads will be the main entree on the menu for a while.  This a wonderful, filling, beautiful salad for a hot day.  For two main entree salads, I used:

STRAWBERRY SALAD  (for two)

5 oz spring mix 
1 small heat of Romaine lettuce, chopped
4 oz toasted walnuts
shredded Parmesan
Sliced strawberries

Dressing:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika
black pepper

Whisk all dressing ingredients together.

Toss greens with dressing.  Arrange green on plate and top with toasted walnuts, Parmesan, and strawberries.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Red, White, and Blue Patriotic Punch


Let me apologize for not getting this out before the 4th.  I really meant to make and post one of these in time for your holiday.

However, I'm thinking you could certainly change up the colors for other holidays/occasions (I'm thinking graduations, Halloween, Christmas, baby showers, etc.)  The method behind this drink is choosing 3 (or more) drinks with varying sugar content and layering the drinks with the highest sugar on the bottom working up to the no-sugar drink on top.  For instance, I used cranberry juice with 30g sugar for the bottom layer, blue Gatorade with 16g sugar for the middle layer and Sprite Zero with 0g sugar for the top layer.

RED, WHITE, AND BLUE PATRIOTIC PUNCH

Cranberry juice, chilled
Blue Gatorade (not sugar-free), chilled
Sprite Zero, chilled
Ice

Fill each glass with ice.  Pour the cranberry juice into the glass, filling about 1/3 of the way.  Slowly pour the blue Gatorade on top of the ice (if you pour it around the sides of the glass and it hits the cranberry juice directly without filtering over the ice, it won't create separate layers) and let it flow down until it fills the cup another 1/3 of the way (so not the glass should be 2/3 full).  Finally, slowly pour the Sprite Zero on the ice and let it slowly flow down to create the final layer.  Serve immediately.