Monday, September 26, 2011

Praline Cheesecake with Bittersweet Ganache

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Hard


This is a very intense, decadent cheesecake. If you like the richer cheesecakes at "The Cheesecake Factory" such as, "Caramel Pecan Turtle Cheesecake", you will like this. Because it is cooked in a water-bath, the cheesecake filling itself is especially creamy. It was fun to make the praline, although I need to warn you about a few things. If you start to find little burned nuts floating in your praline filling, take it off the stove immediately and turn down the heat . I managed to get so many in mine, that by the time the praline caramel was done, I had to strain the darn things out! I was even talking to it, saying "no no no!" to the little dark varmints as they popped up from the bottom of the pan. In hindsight, I think it would be a good idea to: 1)not even put the nutz in until after the praline has cooked, and 2) not to scrape the pan while cooking. Also, if you are daunted by the length of this recipe, simplify it by substituting a graham cracker crust. I did!

Important Note: I made a "baby" cheesecake for Mr. Smith with some leftover cheesecake filling, graham crumbs and put some ganache on top. I liked it even better than the richer version below! So try skipping the praline entirely if you're not used to eating sweets.

Ingredients:

Crust:
Either one Graham cracker crust for a 9-inch springform pan or--
1 1/2 C vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 finely chopped pretzels
1/2 C finely chopped toasted pecans
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg white

Pecan Praline Filling:
1 C sugar
3/4 C chopped pecans
1/4 C toasted chopped pecans (I was too lazy to toast mine)
2/3 C dark corn syrup
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
3/4 t salt

Cheesecake Filling:
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 C sour cream
1 1/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar (I used light--it's fine)
2 T flour
4 large eggs
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1 C sour cream
1 1/4 C firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/3 C heavy whipping cream
1 t vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make a graham cracker crust mixture and follow the directions at the end of this paragraph. OR in a medium bowl, combine vanilla-wafer crumbs, pretzels, and pecans for crust. Add melted butter and egg white, stirring to combine. Make sure your springform pan's bottom is tightly secured to the ring of the pan before proceeding. Press crumb mixture evenly into bottom and up sides at least halfway of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 6 minutes, let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Wrap bottom of pan with 2 pieces of foil, being sure to secure all sides completely to form a waterproof seal for the pan. (I even duck-taped the edges of the foil together.) Place prepared springform into a large (roasting?) pan or soup pot. Set aside.

In medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt for filling, stirring well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, 8-10 minutes. Add pecans and stir. Pour into cooled, prepared crust. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese for filling at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sour cream, beat until smooth. Add brown sugar and flour, beating until fluffy. add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cream and vanilla. Pour cheesecake mixture over pecan-praline filling. Fill roasting pan or soup pot with enough water to come halfway up sides of springform pan.

Bake one hour and 15 minutes, or until middle no longer jiggles when you move the springform pan and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Carefully remove rotating pan from oven. Allow water in roasting pan to cool before removing cheesecake. Let cheesecake cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Refrigerate cheesecake overnight. Run a sharp knife around the edges of cheesecake to release sides. Remove from springform pan. Place chocolate for ganache in a small bowl. Set aside. In a small saucepan, heat cream, butter and corn syrup over midium hight heat until mixture boils. Pour chocolate mixture over top of cheesecake. Use a spatula to spread evenly. Let chocolate set, approximately 30 minutes. Garnish with pecan halves, glazed or plain. Worth the 2 1/2 hours it takes to make for a special occasion.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Favorite Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Not Healthy

I have made this fabulous cheesecake at least 20 times. You can tell, because the recipe card for this is heavily splotched with chocolate and butter stains. It is my all-time favorite, all-purpose, go-to dessert. An unusually light chocolate cheesecake in texture, the filling is more like a creamy chocolate mousse than a cheesecake. Perfect for after a big heavy meal, like Christmas dinner. FYI: it also travels well to pot-lucks. Just freeze it for an hour or so, then take it out of the spring-form pan when you get to your destination! If you're going an hour or more away, freeze it solid in the pan (with the whipped cream on top) before leaving. This is a recipe for a small cheesecake--use an 8-inch springform pan, or a 9 inch pie plate. If you're going to a party, double the recipe and use a 10- inch springform or two 9-inch pie plates. Make it the day before you serve it for best results. Oh, and eat all the leftover Oreos. It's manditory.

Note: You can use a pre-made Oreo cookie crust if you like. It's cheating, but you can do it! You will need two of them--this makes a lot of filling.

Ingredients:

24 Oreo cookies
1/4 C butter, melted
6 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 pkg. (8 0z.) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 C light brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
2 eggs, separated
1 C heavy cream, whupped

Directions:

For the Crust: Whirl Oreos in a food processor under they look like coffee grounds. Or crush them very fine in a heavy-duty plastic bag with a mallet or a rolling pin. Then add melted butter. Press mixture into springform pan, on the bottom and up the sides at least halfway. If using a pie pan, try to extend Oreo mix over the rim of the dish. Put in the oven about 8 minutes at 350 degrees, cool and refrigerate until using. This makes a very firm crust that will hold up to anything--refrigeration alone doesn't do it.

Cheesecake:
In a double boiler, melt chocolate over hot, not simmering, water. Set aside to cool, ten minutes. Combine thoroughly cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add chocolate, mix thoroughly. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 C sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold chocolate mixture into crust and chill 12 hours or overnight. Serve with whupped cream mounded, or piped in rosettes on top. Chocolate curls, or grated chocolate looks pretty too, when sprinkled on top of the whupped cream!

Friday, September 23, 2011

C'est Parfait! It's Cheese Souffle!

Category: Breakfast
Difficulty Rating: Hard
Not Healthy

I found this recipe card in my mom's recipe box. I'm not sure who gave it to her, but cheese souffle is so good, I had to include it. Mom used to make it for us. It was gone in about 15 minutes, it had to be. You can't let souffle wait, otherwise it becomes a frittata! Souffle is basically a science experiment some French person did to blow up a good sauce into a tasty balloon, using beaten egg whites. If you let it stand more than 10 minutes, it starts to deflate. Mom always made cheese souffle without a pan of water under it. Then you get the brown, crusty sides that are sooooo good. Makes a great inexpensive dinner for the fam or brunch for the ladies!

Ingredients:

1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1 C milk
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese (2 C--use mild Tillamook Cheddar if you can)
4 egg yolks
4 stiffly beaten egg whites

Note: Be sure and have your eggs at room temperature before beating the whites. Before you crack 'em, simply place whole eggs in a bowl of very warm (not hot) water for about 10 minutes to warm them up.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter in double boiler; add flour and salt; blend--remove from heat. Add milk slowly and stir constantly until sauce is thick and smooth. You have just made a bechamel sauce--which is the backbone of any cheese souffle.

Fold the sliced or diced cheese to the hot sauce, cover, and let stand over boiling water until cheese is soft. Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with beater; stir the blended cheese slowly into the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (they will form stiff peaks in the bowl when you take out the beaters). Turn them into the bowl with the cheese sauce mixture. Cut and fold with a blending fork or metal spoon (wood is too blunt) until the whites are thoroughly combines and the whole mixture is light and fluffy. Don't be overzealous with the mixing! It's ok if you leave a few small puffs of egg whites un-blended. It's better to under-mix rather than over-mix.

Pour mixture into and un-greased casserole, souffle dish, or ramikens, about 2/3 full. Cook 1 hour and 15 minutes. Do not cover! It will rise and billow over the top if you get it right! If you like a crisp brown crust on the the bottom and sides, don't place the casserole in a pan of water. Eat right away!

Profiteroles: French Cream Puffs or Eclairs

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy

I taught this in a cooking class once. I actually made this over a stove while people were watching and I was talking. So it's gotta be pretty easy to pull off, yes? I mean, I really am not all that coordinated. To show you how casual I am...my assistant, Kate, wore a Tiara. These are cream puffs--widely eaten in France. The dough is called "pate a choux". If you fill them with vanilla pastry cream and frost them with chocolate ganache, they are called "eclairs". But if you don't want to make pastry cream or ganache, you can fill them with your favorite ice cream. Then, drizzle chocolate sauce on top of them to make a dessert that looks fancy but is relatively easy and inexpensive.

Ingredients:

1 C water
6 T butter, cut into small pieces
1 C all purpose flour, sifted after measuring
1 t sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 t. water

Directions:

In a heavy 2-3 qt. saucepan, bring the 1 C water and the butter to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as butter has completely melted, remove pan from the heat and pour in flour and sugar all at once. Beat mixture vigorously for 1-2 minutes, or until mixture forms a mass that leaves the sides of the pan and moves freely with the spoon. All of this happens pretty fast, so be ready for the next step: Immediately remove the pan from heat and use a spoon to make a well in the center of the paste. Break and egg into the well and beat it into the paste. After the first egg has been absorbed, add 3 more eggs 1 at a time--beating well after each egg is added. The finished paste should be thick, smooth and shiny.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter two large baking sheets. If you don't have a pastry bag, drop teaspoonfuls of the paste onto the baking sheets, allowing the same 2 inches of space between them. This will make smaller profiteroles--they will double in size. These are great to fill with chicken or tuna salad for appetizers. But use 2 t for dessert profiteroles.

Beat the remaining egg with 1/2 t water. Lightly brush the top of each profiterole with mixture. Bake for 6 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until profiteroles have doubled in size and have turned a light golden brown. They should be firm and crusty to the touch. Turn off oven and make a tiny, baby, incision near the bottom of each profiterole with the tip of a sharp knife to release the steam. Let them rest a few minutes to dry out on the inside. Then, place on wire racks to cool. On individual dessert plates, slice in half and fill with ice cream (coffee, peppermint, vanilla bean?) of your choice and drizzle on chocolate sauce. Or make the following...

Pastry Cream Filling For Dessert Profiteroles:

Ingredients:

1/2 C sifted flour
1/2 C sugar
1/8 t salt
2 C milk
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in the top of a double boiler.  Add milk slowly, blending until smooth. Heat and stir over direct moderat heat until thick and smooth. Mix 1/2 C hot mixture into eggs, then return to pan. Put over boiling water in other half of double boiler and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes, until thick. Take off the heat, stir in vanilla. Place a piece of  waxed paper or plastic wrap on top sauce to prevent a skin from forming and cool. Chill until ready to use as pastry filling.  Pipe into sliced Profiteroles, put on dessert plates and drizzle with Easy Chocolate Glaze.

Easy Chocolate Glaze:
Heat 1/2 C chocolate chips, 2 T butter and 1 T corn syrup over low heat until chocolate is melted. Cool slightly and drizzle over Profiteroles.



No-Knead French Bread

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Medium (because it takes so long)
Not Healthy

This is another recipe Chef Lauren (my daughter) has used with great success! There's nothing like a fresh, warm, loaf of French bread. Everybody in France knows that, that's why many of them buy a fresh loaf daily. Leftover bread? Make it into a bread pudding! This recipe is by Jim Lahey at the Sullivan St. Bakery. Note: before you make this, note how many hours it needs to rise (12-18), so make it the day before you need it!

Ingredients:

3 C all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 t instant yeast
1 1/4 t salt
Cornmeal

Directions:

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 C water, and stir until blended; dough
will be shaggy and sticky. ( I really don't know what 'shaggy' dough is, but I assume that's how it looks. Wasn't Shaggy a character on the cartoon, "Scooby-Doo"?) Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, a warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when it's surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, or cornmeal. Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough it'll be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-8 qt. heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed, it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on rack.

My Indian Chicken Curry

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy

Category: Chicken
Difficulty: Medium
Healthy if you don't have it over rice (quinoa is fine) and don't use milk

Making curry is sort of like making chili--you can either make it a huge production or you can make a simple everyday version that tastes wonderful and is easy to make. Originally a Weight Watchers recipe, I used to make this light curry about once a month. It's quick, easy, delish. Common Sense Tip: I always have the ingredients--curry powder and Major Grey's chutney on hand.

Note: You can make this with fresh shrimp also.

Ingredients:

1/4 C minced onion
1/4 C sliced apple (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 C butter (or use Coconut oil if you like)
2 t curry powder
1 T flour or corn starch or arrowroot mixed with 2 T water
1/2 t sugar (optional)
pepper and salt to taste
1/2 C chicken broth
1 C milk (or use almond or coconut milk)
1 lb cooked chicken ( use a cooked rotisserie chicken to make this recipe easier)
3 C cooked rice or quinoa
Optional Condiments: 2 sliced bananas, peanuts, Major Grey's chutney, raisins, coconut and/or chopped bacon

Note: As long as you have Major Grey's chutney, or another good chutney (mango?), you don't need all the rest of the condiments. But it's really yummy if you do!

In a large pot, saute onions and apple in butter. Stir in flour, curry powder, salt, sugar and ginger. Add chicken broth and milk. Cook until thickened. Stirring constantly, add broth if too thick; add chicken which has been torn into bite-size pieces. To serve, place large spoonful of rice on plate, then chicken mixture. Layer on whatever condiments you have available on top of the mound, ending with shredded coconut if you have it. If you are serving your family, you can pass the condiments in bowls after serving them the curry on rice. Slightly exotic and fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chou Farci (Stuffed Cabbage Provencal)








Category: Turkey
Difficulty Rating: Easy to Medium
Healthy-ish

This is the perfect meal for when the leaves crunch beneath your feet and your nose gets red immediately when you step outside the door. It's warm, savory French comfort food. You will want seconds. Best of all--CHILDREN like it too!

Yes, it was formerly made with 'bad-for-you' pork sausage, but if you use Jimmy Dean's Turkey Sausage it will be halfway healthy. And still delish!

Ingredients:

One large "Lacey" leafed cabbage OR a large regular green cabbage
Mix 2 pkg.s Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage or your favorite chicken or turkey breakfast sausage
3 onions, chopped
1 C GF bread crumbs (you can stale GF breadcrumbs in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees)
2 eggs
2 t. thyme
cooking string

Directions:

Harder Option: Fill the biggest pot you have with water. Par boil the cabbbage WHOLE for about 2 minutes. Put sausage between the leaves in the cabbage, then tie the cabbage together like a parcel with string. Line a soup pot with strips of bacon. Put 1 can consomme and 2 cans water in pot. Simmer for several hours in soup pot. Take off string, cut in slices like a pie, and serve in bowls with some of the broth.

Easier Option: If you can't find a Lacey Leaf Cabbage, use a regular green cabbage and boil leaves for about one minute each in a pot of water before rolling the mixture inside them. They should be about the size of egg-rolls. Tie each roll with string. Lay the cabbage rolls in the bacon-lined soup pot and follow the rest of the directions. It's easier and less messy than using a whole cabbage.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pots De Creme (little pots of chocolate cream)

Category: Dessert
Difficulty Rating: Very Easy


 I think part of Pots De Creme's charm is that it's usually made in cunning little ramikens or pretty coffee cups. Small things tend to be so ...cute. Like Bichon Poodles or baby penguins or baby... ANYTHING! The other part of it's charm is that it is--the best, richest, chocolate pudding-type thing you ever laid your mouth on. It goes together in a blender in about 15 minutes, which is also charming. From Bon Appetit magazine, circa 1977. Yield: Serves 6.

Ingredients:

6-oz chocolate chips or broken chocolate ( use any quality SEMI-sweet baking chocolate that you like--don't use bittersweet. Not enough sugarrrrr.)
2 T sugar
Salt, a dash
1 T rum or good vanilla extract (don't use imitation vanilla-blech!)
1 egg
3/4 C milk, heated to boiling point, but not boiled
Whupped Cream ( this is optional for some, but for me, it's manditory)

Place all ingredients in blender. Run blender 1 minute on low speed (a stick blender is fine). Pour equally among 6 ramikens, demitasse cups, or pretty stoneware or china coffee-cups. Chill for 2 hours or until firm. Top with whupped cream, if desired.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brie En Croute with Roasted Garlic

Category: Appetizers
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy but Worth It

Isn't is amazing how anything said in English sounds so much better when translated into French or Italian? I took 6 years of French and only remember the first two years. Just enough to get me in and out of a French restaurant without disgracing America. This is one of my daughter, Chef Lauren's, favorite things to make for when she is asked to bring appetizers to a party. She speaks very passable French. People actually understand her and everything. Served with french bread, fruit, or crackers, the melty cheesy goodness of it will send you into another dimension! This was adapted from "The Silver Palate Cookbook" --the garlic was Lauren's addition.

Note:It's easy and it's quick, but it's expensive. If you're on a budget--beware!

Ingredients:

One package of  defrosted puff paste (such as Pepperidge Farm)
1 whole Brie wheel, not fully ripe
1 whole roasted garlic bulb ( preferably the huge kind of garlic if you can find it)
Serve on a platter with cut-up winter fruit and/or sliced baguettes!

Directions:

Roast one bulb of garlic by baking in a 350 degree oven until soft. Peel the garlic by squeezing the bulbs out of their skins. Smash them with a fork on a plate. Spread garlic evenly on top of the brie wheel and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the defrosted pastry square press together any holes with your fingers. Place brie wheel in center of square. Fold the corners and sides of the pastry square over the cheese to make a little "package". Place on parchment on cookie sheet and bake until golden. Remove and put on a large serving platter with a knife. Serve surrounded with cut up apples...pears...sliced baguettes...crackers and small grape clusters. Great for an appetizer buffet table.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Estelle's Corn Risotto

Category: Pasta and Rice
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy-ish

When Lauren was just a little girl, I went to a recipe sharing get-together at Teri Hillenga's house. There were four of us--but we all loved to cook. I was overly enthusiastic as usual, and embarrassed myself by bringing some very dry chocolate Madeleines (cookies). Estelle Stiles, however, had some amazing recipes. She is a fabulous cook! I adapted this one only slightly. Actually, I had to use another recipe for corn risotto for the directions part, because I had lost that page. But do not let this distract you! The sweet and savory taste of corn, wine and cheese together is a winner!

Ingredients:

3 C fresh corn kernels, divided (from about 4 ears) or frozen and thawed--organic is best
1/4 C butter
3 T chopped shallots (onions will do in a pinch)
1/2 C Italian short-grain rice (Arborio) or medium-grain rice
1/4 C dry white wine (I use 2-buck Chuck chardonnay)
3 C or more if needed, chicken broth--heated to boiling in separate saucepan
1/3 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Puree 2 C corn kernels in blender and set aside. Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium/low heat. Add chopped shallots and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice, coat well and cook another 2 minutes until toasted. Add reserved 1 C corn kernels and white wine, turn up the heat up to medium, stirring constantly until wine has evaporated . Add hot broth to rice/corn mix, one ladle at at time, stirring frequently. Add more broth as it is absorbed by rice. Continue this way for about 20 minutes until rice is 'al dente' in a creamy base of sauce. Pour onto serving dish or dishes. Let stand about 2 minutes before eating. Perfecto!

Note: 'al dente' means 'to the tooth' in Italian. The tooth should still still find some substance from the rice grain, it should be as, one Chef said, "a presence". The rice should not be mushy, but it should not be hard either. It should be, like Goldilocks said, "Juuussst riiight".

Chasseur Chicken

Category: Main Dishes
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Pretty Healthy








Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Healthy

This earthy French Bistro classic is literally translated "Hunter's Stew". It's origins are the (probably southern or south-eastern) French countryside where game birds and mushrooms are readily available. I can imagine a ruddy French huntsman coming into his cottage after a morning's hunt, grouse in hand, giving it to his overjoyed wife along with a bag of mushrooms. She hums "Frere Jacques"to herself as she cooks them in a garlicky white wine and tomato sauce. The hunter smiles with delight as she gives serves him a plateful with a loaf of crusty French bread. Common Sense Tip: DO buy shallots for this. But if you don't want to buy them--you can substitute 1/4 chopped onion. My husband especially enjoys this one. Think I'll make it tonight!

Note: I have used canned tomatoes instead of fresh, upon occasion. It tastes fine, but fresh is prettier to look at and better for your health.

Ingredients:

4 t olive oil
1 t butter
2 lbs chicken breasts, boned and cubed
1 C GF flour (in a 9X13 pan)
2 shallots
1 C sliced mushrooms
4 very red tomatoes, peeled and chopped ( blanch them or run hot water over them while you peel them)
2 T chopped parsley
2/3 C. white wine
2/3 C chicken stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil and butter in deep skillet. Roll chicken cubes in GF flour and saute in skillet till brown-ish and cooked through. Set aside. Saute mushrooms in skillet until cooked, but not overcooked (don't let then shrink much). Mix in remaining ingredients except tomatoes to make sauce. Add tomatoes and chopped parsley after sauce is made and simmer with chicken about 10 minutes. Serve with a crusty loaf of French bread and butter, or on a bed of rice. Ooooooooooo!

Trader Vic's Crepes


Catagory: Breads and Brunch
Difficulty: Medium
Not Healthy but does have protein!

My grandmother (Ga-Ga or Gladys) used to make these miraculous French pancakes for us
when we stayed over at her house. I remember her poised over the stove, the smell of sizzling butter filling the breakfast room. She'd put her home-made jam in the middle of the crepe while it was still in the pan. Then, she'd roll them up on the plate. A couple of practiced shakes of the powdered sugar box later, they were done. With the sun shining through bay window, the beautiful china plates and the smell of hot coffee... breakfast was a new revelation indeed. It wasn't just breakfast, it was a celebration!

This is a very easy crepe recipe based on one from "Trader Vic's Helluva Man's Cookbook". Trader Victor Bergeron was VERY French and his mother made them for him also. The eggs make them full of protein--but they don't taste eggy at all. They are almost as quick and easy as making scrambled eggs--a perfect alternative for those of us that want something sweet for breakfast, but need protein too. You can fill them with anything: sausages and apple slices baked previously with butter, cinnamon/sugar, crab with mornay sauce, chicken with a creamy mushroom sauce, scrambled eggs with swiss cheese and pieces of bacon, or fresh strawberries mixed with a little sugar and topped with whupped cream. All good. You can try other fillings--get creative! Don't be afraid, give em a try! Oh, and you don't need a crepe pan--but it does make them come out a uniform size.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
6 T flour (This is for those who are watching carbs, I use 2/3 cup flour--mo bettah.)
3/8 t salt
1 C milk
Butter
Your favorite jam or jelly

Directions: Beat eggs slightly. Add flour, salt, and beat until smooth. Gradually add milk, beating until batter is smooth once again. If possible, cover and chill for 1 hour; then stir before using (I never do this). Heat butter ( about 1/2 t for each crepe) over medium heat in a 7-8 inch crepe pan. (You can use a regular frying pan in a pinch--Mom did!) Pour in about 3 T batter; quickly tilt and rotate pan so batter covers bottom. When lightly brown on bottom, turn and lightly brown on second side. Slip onto a plate or a clean towel. Fill with jam or filling. Roll and either serve immediately while still hot. If you refrigerate filled crepes before serving, heat them at 250 degrees until just warm, not hot. Crepes are wonderful to freeze or refrigerate before using. Simply make them all at once, and as each one is done, place it on a paper plate until cool. Then, layer the paper plates with the crepes and put in a plastic bag to refrigerate or freeze. As they have eggs, I wouldn't freeze them more than a week. Refrigerate about 24 hours at most, or they start getting rubbery.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lauren's Shrimp Scampi








Category: Fish and Shellfish
Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium
Healthy

This is a favorite of  my daughter, Lauren. She used to make it in high school, when she had a cooking column in the school paper. The red bell pepper and parsley makes it just a little bit makes it fresher, lighter tasting. Not easy, but not hard, either. Lotsa chopping, so it's Medium.
From "Cooking Light", 6 servings, 383 calories per serving (which is good for scampi).

Ingredients:

2 lbs. large unpeeled or peeled shrimp
3 T butter
1 C chopped red bell pepper
8 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 C dry white wine
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
Paprika
6 C hot cooked GF pasta (Barilla is a good brand)

Directions:

If you have unpeeled shrimp, peel it, leaving tails intact. Starting at tail end, butterfly underside of each shrimp, cutting to, but not through, back of shrimp. De-vein as you go (take the little dark vein on the back of each shrimpie off). Arrange 8 shrimp, cut sides up, in a shallow dish or pan or each of 6 gratin dishes ( I don't have gratin dishes, do you?). Set aside. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and garlic; saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in wine, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. spoon wine mixture evenly over each serving; sprinkle paprika over shrimp and broil 6 minutes or until shrimp is done. Serve on top of hot cooked pasta. Yield: 6 servings (8 shrimp per serving).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gelato Di Tartufo

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Easy

When Mr. Smith, Lauren and I went to Italy, we ate Gelato. A lot. In fact, a funny waiter even called Mr. Smith "Mr. Gelato" because Alan loved that singular frozen dessert soooo much. I especially liked the chocolate gelato. This recipe is one that you can use with gelato or any rich chocolate ice cream. I found it long ago in either a Vogue or a Bazaar magazine. It's a ball of chocolate ice-cream, filled with liqueur-soaked cherries and rolled in bittersweet chocolate shavings. It looks like a truffle--you know, those coal-like black things that the French search for with pigs in the forest. But it tastes... fantastico! Perfect easy dessert for an Italian Festa.

Note: The original recipe was from the now defunct N.Y. restaurant, Cafe Tartufo. It serves 6 chocolate lovers.

Ingredients:

3 C rich chocolate ice cream or gelato
1 box (3 1/2 oz. size) glace cherries
1/4 C Cheri-Suisse liqueur
2 pkg. (8-oz.) bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate
2 C heavy cream
4 T superfine sugar or powdered sugar
1/4 t pure vanilla
6 pirouette cookies

Directions: Two days or more before serving, cut cherries in half and marinate in liqueur at room temperature,. Chop the chocolate very fine (best done in a food processor) and refrigerate. Make 6 ice cream balls and place in individual dishes. Insert in each of the balls 6 halves of the cherries. Roll each ball in chopped chocolate, coating thoroughly. Place the Tartufos in the freezer overnight (if you like they can be frozen for a week ahead). To serve, pipe a dollop of whipped cream into the center of a dessert plate. Place a Tartufo in the corner of the cream and top with a big cap of whipped cream. Sprinkle with finely chopped chocolate and then stick a pirouette cookie into the cream on a diagonal. Looks amazing, tastes even better!

Farmer's Market Pesto Sauce

Category: Rice and Pasta
Difficulty Rating: Very Easy
Fresh and Lighter Fat than regular Pesto

To make a good Pesto sauce you must have fresh basil. You can usually find pretty good basil at your local market, but the best basil at the best prices is at a Farmer's market. Mr. Smith and I usually go to the one in Aptos. Walking amidst the rainbow displays of dahlias, delphiniums, zucchini and strawberries is one of my favorite things to do. Usually there is a group of musicians playing bluegrass tunes. Parents smile and look on as their toddlers dance in front of the band. The music floats on the air as people stroll in the morning sun. Basil is easy to find, you smell it first. Sweet and pungent, it's green leaves beckon, challenging you to 'Go ahead, be Italian! Make Pesto!'.

Note: My grandmother, Gladys, (who was French/Scottish, not Italian) used to make Pesto sauce and put it on hot fettucine. I think the French call it "Pistou". They float it on top of warm vegetable soup--which is absolutely heaven! You can also put it on french bread instead of garlic butter and warm it up! It's also terrific on  roasted chicken or turkey sandwiches!

Common Sense Tip: Pesto should be made when basil is in season in fall. DO double or triple this recipe. I make my Pesto in an ice-cube tray, then dump the cubes into a freezer bag after they're frozen. Microwave for a minute or two to defrost. From The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook. Yield: 1/2 C

Ingredients:

2 T pine nuts (optional)
2 large garlic cloves
2 3/4 C loosely packed fresh basil leaves (about 1.3 oz)
2 T grated fresh Parmesan cheese (use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can afford it)
2 t lemon juice
3 T extra virgin Olive Oil (get a lighter one--it doesn't interfere with the basil taste)

Directions:

Drop pine nuts and garlic through food chute with food processor on, and process until minced. Add basil, cheese and lemon juice; process until finely minced. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well-blended. Toss into hot pasta and top with plenty of freshly grated parmesan. Mangiamo!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chef Lauren's Chicken Parmigiana

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Not Really Healthy--but has vegetables!

This is one of my daughter, Lauren's, specialties. She started making it back when she was at Harbor High School in Santa Cruz, and had a column in the newspaper called "Chef Lauren's Cooking Corner". Later on after college, she also made it, along with her tasty Chicken Piccata for our family. During that time she was living at home and commuting to work over the hill to work at Stanford. I still can't believe she had the energy to cook for us. But, you see, I was very sick at the time and often couldn't cook due to exhaustion. She did it, with the good Lord's help, for me and for her Dad. A labor of love... That, to me, is cooking at it's best.

Note: this is healthy due to the addition of fresh fresh fresh chopped tomatoes--do get the "Vine Ripened" kind for this.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced very fine
Olive Oil cooking spray
3 C peeled, seeded chopped tomato (ok, you really don't have to peel it)
1 1/2 t dried oregano leaves
1 t basil leaves
1/2 t ground pepper
1/4 t salt
4 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 C flour
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 C shredded mozzerella cheese

Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray, then turn the stove to low heat. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook for fifteen minutes, or until tender. Add tomato, oregano, basil, pepper and salt; simmer uncovered for forty-five minutes. Set aside.

Place each chicken breast half between two sheets of wax papper or heavy plastic wrap. Flatten with a mallet or a rolling pin (or a covered brick?--jk) until 1/8 inch thick. In a shallow dish, like a pie pan, combine flour and parmesan cheese. Dip each piece of chicken in egg white, and put it in the shallow dish. Make sure the flour mixture covers both sides of the chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add each piece of chicken. Cool five minutes on each side, or until browned. Grease a large baking dish and arrange the chicken in it .
Pour tomato mixture evenly over the chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella and any left-over Parmesan you may have. Bake, uncovered, in the oven at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Serve on a bed of pasta or by itself with fresh, hot french bread and a fresh, crunchy salad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bruschetta

Category:Appetizers
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Sorta Healthy

Bruschetta. It's basically garlic bread toasts, with tomato salad on top. The fam and I went into "Il Pirata" down on Capitola Wharf to have dinner a few years ago and had it there. The rough-looking Italian Chef there corrected me when I called it "Brew-shetta". Apparently, it is rightly pronounced "Brew-SKET-ta". I was very happy to know this. But I was even happier to EAT it!

Since it's starchy, serve it as a first course or appetizer when you serve something non-starchy like"Chicken Piccata", "Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Sauce" or a good ole-fashioned grilled steak. Got this precise recipe from Traditional Home magazine 2002, but it's so easy usually I don't even use a recipe. Serves 6-8

Toast Ingredients:

1 thinly sliced sweet French baguette
2 or 3 garlic cloves
olive oil

 Rub each slice with cut side of a garlic clove, then brush or drizzle with olive oil. Broil or grill for 1 or 2 minutes until lightly browned. Cool. (Toasts may be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours in covered container or plastic bag)

Tomato Salad Ingredients:

4 Roma tomatoes or "Tomatoes on the Vine", seeded and chopped (about 1 1/4 C)
--use only the best ripe red ones!
2 T fresh basil, cut into strips
1 T olive oil

Stir together tomatoes, basil, oil, salt, and pepperto taste. Cover; chill up to 4 hours. Makes about 1 1/4 C. salad. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before topping toast.  Buono! Now you have an appetizer fit for an Italian King!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mom's Party Chicken...UPDATE!

Category: Chicken
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Not Healthy

There is something about this chicken that keeps you asking for more. They loved it at our church, Elevation, the other night. It is scruuuumptious! The bacon keeps the chicken moist while the chipped beef makes it salty and the sour cream makes it---richly satisfying. Mom used to make this--it was out of a small locally produced cookbook called "Make it Now, Bake it Later". And, yes, you can. Make it one day, and bake it the next. Excellent for large groups and small. Freezes well. Serves 8.

Ingredients:

8 good-sized chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
8 slices bacon
1 pkg. chipped beef (also called "Dried Beef")
1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can use the low-fat version)
1/2 pt. commercial sour cream

Directions:

Wrap each chicken breast with a piece of bacon. cover bottom of flat greased baking dish (about 8X12X12, but 9X12 will do) with chipped beef. Arrange chicken breasts on top of beef. Mix soup and sour cream together in a bowl and pour evenly over all. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Bake at 275 degrees for 3 hours, uncovered. Should have brown spots here and there on the top when it's done. If it doesn't broil it for 10 minutes until it does.

Black and White Cheesecake

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

As one person said after taking a bite of this cheesecake last night, "This is a WOW!". It really is. The combination of dark chocolate cheesecake layered with vanilla cheesecake is a winning one. It sort of reminds me of the "Tuxedo" cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory restaurant. The original recipe in Women's Day magazine, September 1994, had a different crust. I substituted a cookie crust and it tasted just as good, and was a whole lot easier.Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake in a spring-form pan, or two small (8") pies.

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 lb. package oreo cookies, crushed fine in the food processor (makes 1 1/4 C chocolate crumbs)
1/3 C butter, melted

Filling:

5 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/4 C water.
3 pkg.s (8 oz. each) cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/4 C granulated sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Garnish: 1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8-inch springform pan ready. Process about 3/4 package Oreos until finely ground. Add melted butter and process a couple of minutes more. Press into the bottom and up 2 inches of the sides. Bake 10 minutes and let cool.

Melt semisweet chocolate with 1/4 C water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. or, microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes in microwave safe 2- cup measure. Keep warm. Then beat cream cheese in a large bowl with electric mixer until it begins to smooth out. Scrape bowl and beaters well with rubber spatula. Add sugar gradually, beating until just smooth. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating just until mixed. Set aside 1 cup batter in a small bowl. Spoon remainder of vanilla batter into cooled crust . Stir warm chocolate into reserved batter. Spoon out chocolate batter evenly on top of the vanilla.

Bake one hour and 10 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave it inside 10 more minutes as the oven cools. Take out of the oven, put pan on a rack and cool. Take a mixing bowl and invert over the top of pan, so as to slow down cooling. This hopefully will prevent large cracks which occur when a hot cheesecake hits cold air. After it's cooled cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cake can be refrigerated up to 4 days. Spoon a mound of whipped cream on the top and put on the buffet table, OR serve slices with piped whipped cream on the side! But you gotta have creammmmm!

Philadelphia Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

Category: Desserts
Difficulty Rating: Medium

It's Fall, when a young man's heart turns to...not love, like in Spring. It turns to pumpkin!!! I find most men/boys I know love pumpkin in food. This cheesecake is easy, delish and a fun addition at fall gatherings--tailgate parties, Thanksgiving etc. You only see the pumpkin swirl from the side as you cut in, not the top. So heap or pipe on a pile of whipped heavy cream at the last minute for a garnish. It's luscious looking and covers up any cracks.

This recipe is from an olde "Philadelphia Cream Cheese" magazine ad. I use only their cream cheese for cheese cake. The cheaper, generic brands are too gummy. No, they aren't paying me to say that. Makes at least 12 servings.

Ingredients:
Make one Classic Graham Cracker Crust (I use HoneyMaid Grahams)
3 pkg. (8 oz. each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened.
1 C sugar, divided
1 t vanilla
3 eggs
1 C canned pumpkin
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
dash cloves
OR 1 1/4 t pumpkin pie spice instead of the above spices ( I use this--cos it's easy)

Directions for filling:

Beat cream cheese, 3/4 C of the sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time at low speed After each addition. Add pumpkin, and spices into remaining batter. Spoon 1/2 of the pumpkin batter over crust; top with spoonfuls of 1/2 of the reserved plain batter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with a knife several ( like 10) times for a marbled effect). Note: I find making alternating the batters in almost a "checkerboard"to be helpful before making swirls with a knife. And I do intentionally make swirls, I don't just run the knife through.

Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes, then turn off the oven and let it "rest" inside the oven for another 10. Cheesecake is done when a tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Remove from pan after it is cool by loosening cake from the sides of the pan with a knife and removing sides of springform. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.


Classic Graham Cracker Crust:

Ingredients:
8 whole graham crackers (or 1 wax paper package) crushed. Should make about 1 1/4 C
1/4 C sugar ( I use a heaping T)
1/3 C butter, melted

Mix ingredients together. Spread in and about 2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, or two 8-inch pie pans. (At this point, I would like to acknowledge and thank Marie Callendar's for supplying me with so many cheap pie pans, which I still use). Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool a bit before filling.

Crust: Philly uses a ginger snap crust in this recipe. I tried it and it gets too darn wet and mushy for my taste. I love ginger snaps, but this was a bad idea.

Curried Apple Butternut Squash Soup








Category: Soups
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Very Healthy

This heart-warming recipe started a revolution in the culinary world in the 1970s. Butternut squash soup is everywhere now, even in boxes at Trader Joe's! But 40 years ago, in the midst of a time when most people were eating canned soup, no one had even heard of it. Then, Julie Rosso and Sheila Lutkins started a fabulous gourmet food shoppe in Manhattan, New York, called "The Silver Palate". This recipe is famous... Both Ina Garten and Wolfgang Puck have facsimiles at their food stops. Wolfie even purees roasted red bell pepper and swirls it on top . Very pretty, very good! Serves 4-6. From 'The Silver Palate Cookbook".

Ingredients:

4 T sweet butter
2 C finely chopped yellow onions
4-5 t curry powder
2 medium-sized butternut squash (about 3 lbs altogether)
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3 C chicken stock (it's ok to use canned--but homemade is mui better)
1 C apple juice
salt and black pepper to taste

Garnish:
2-3 red bell peppers, washed, seeded, halved and roasted in the oven till soft and a few chopped green onions or chives OR
1 Shredded unpeeled Granny Smith apple

Directions:

Melt butter in a soup pot. Add chopped onions and curry powder and cook, covered, over low heat until onions are tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, peel the squash ( vegetable peeler works best), scrape out the seeds and chop the flesh. When onions are tender, pour in stock and add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender, about 25 minutes. Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving liquid, and transfer the solids to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or use a food mill (does anyone have one any more?) fitted with a medium disc. Add 1 C of the cooking stock and process until smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and add apple juice and additional cooking liquid, about 2 C, until soup is of the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer briefly to heat through, and serve immediately, garnished with shredded apple or a swirl of pureed red bell pepper or sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.

Note: At Wolgang Puck's cafe in South Lake Tahoe, I saw them using what looked like old-time mustard squeeze bottles to apply the swirls--quick and easy if you are serving a crowd. Either save and use a clean catsup or mustard bottle, or buy one! You can also just try putting a blob of puree in the middle and swirling it with a fork. Not as pretty, tho.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gad Zukes! Shredded Zucchini!








Category: Vegetables
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Healthy

This is great for using up that extra zucchini from your garden as well as pleasing your people. Nutmeg is the secret ingredient. It looks gourmet but it's easy. And it's pretty healthy to boot!

Ingredients:

6 small zucchini (you can also add a cup of shredded, peeled carrots for color if you wish)
2 T butter
6 green onions
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Shred zucchini with a large size shredder or food processor with a coarser shredding disk. Drain on paper towels for a few minutes. Place zucchini in a large saucepan or skillet with butter and green onions. Turn on high heat and toss zucchini mixture until just heated through. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg. Serve immediately, sprinkling with Parmesan cheese if you wish.

Zucchini Bread for Knit Wits

Category: Breads
Difficulty Rating: Easy

Another way to use a bumper crop of zucchini is to make a quick bread. I know women who make many loaves of this in summer and freeze it to use whenever they need it. In any case, it's great with coffee or tea in the morning for breakfast. This is from "Delicious Desserts from the Knit Wits" from Santa Cruz Bible Church circa 2011. As I have mentioned in a previous recipe, this wonderful group of women donate their knitted blankets, scarves, hats etc. to the homeless. They also have a really good time chatting and eating desserts! And if you have a health problem that needs a quick diagnosis, just go to one of their meetings. They are incredibly good diagnosticians and will tell you exactly what is wrong with your bod. They will also feed you yummy things and teach you how to knit, which is even better.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 C zucchini, grated
2 t vanilla
2 C sugar
1 c oil
3 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
3 t cinnamon

Directions:

Beat eggs until foamy; add sugar, zucchini, vanilla and oil. In a separate bowl, mix together; flour salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients; mix well; stir in nuts. Pour batter into 2 prepared loaf pans ( I use 7-inch aluminum so I can give them away). Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.