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Friday, August 31, 2012

CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST

I was driving back to town, after a night away, and could not pass up the opportunity to visit Neighbors Bakery, in Harrison, Arkansas - one of our favorite spots for refreshments when we are in that area.
I bought coffee, cookies and several loaves of bread - but was especially excited to try the challah - remembering I had seen recipes using this particular style of egg bread.
I found this great french toast recipe - delicious!! I loved the hint of orange, and felt it really made the dish something special - perfect for a quick week day breakfast with the kids, or a leisurely brunch with friends.

CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST


6 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
zest from one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 loaf challah bread
butter
vegetable oil

In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, orange zest, vanilla, honey and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4 inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked french toast on a plate and keep warm. Cook the remaining soaked bread slices adding butter and oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot with butter, maple syrup and confectioners sugar.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa, 2002
www.foodnetwork.com/barefoot-contessa/recipes/index.html

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LEMON PASTA SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND FETA

This was a dish I originally planned to take for a picnic in the park with our friends and neighbors. However, it seemed easier to invite them to our home, and to serve directly from the kitchen, as opposed to carrying everything a block away to our local green space. I thought the food was very good, but the best thing by far, was the fabulous company, the conversation, and the fact that our kids played so well together, leaving the adults to actually formulate complete sentences, and follow ideas through to their completion.
I served this salad in individual dishes, having anticipated pulling them out of a picnic basket. I think this pasta salad would taste good anywhere and with most main dishes, but I love the idea of it outdoors - picnic, tailgate, beach, park, forest, or kitchen table - enjoy!

LEMON PASTA SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND FETA


4 to 7 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
12 ounces pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped green onions

Whisk oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and lemon peel in a small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse pasta with cold water to cool quickly and drain again. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese, and green onions. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2003
www.bonappetit.com/

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

COCA COLA CAKE

I recently made this chocolatey, wonderful, moist cake for my family.
This would be perfect for tailgating, as it travels well, is delicious, and makes enough for a large group.
In fact, I had so much, I delivered it to friends to enjoy also.

COCA COLA CAKE


2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup coca-cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
chocolate icing (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 325F.
In a large bowl, sift together sugar and flour. Stir in marshmallows, set aside. In a saucepan, bring to a boil the shortening, butter, cocoa and coca-cola. Remove from heat and pour over sugar and flour mixture, mix well. Stir in (do not beat) the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and eggs.
Mix well. Pour batter into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool. Spread icing on top.

CHOCOLATE ICING

1/2 cup butter
6 tablespoons coca-cola
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 (1 pound) box confectioners sugar

In a small saucepan, bring to a boil the margarine, coca-cola, and cocoa. Boil until cocoa is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Add confectioners sugar, beat until smooth. If it becomes too thick, add more coca-cola 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it reaches spreading consistency.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 2002
www.arkansas.com/dining/recipes/





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

POTATO AND VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MUSTARD RANCH DRESSING

I wanted something quick and healthy as a side for a week night meal, and found this great recipe. It was something I could make with what we had on hand, and paired well with the chicken dish we were having for dinner.

POTATO AND VEGETABLE SALAD WITH MUSTARD RANCH DRESSING


2 pounds of potatoes, unpeeled and cut into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (I left this out)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Place potato pieces and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Combine remaining 1 teaspoon salt, yogurt, buttermilk, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, honey and garlic, in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
Add the potatoes, bell pepper, celery, onion (if using) parsley, chives and dill, to the yogurt mixture, and toss gently to coat.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, August 2012
www.cookinglight.com/

Monday, August 27, 2012

LAMB WITH FETA AND ROASTED TOMATOES

Our family has enjoyed being back in the school routine (Mama a little more than the kids). 
My husband and I decided the start of the school year was a great time to establish new family routines, and as it turns out, some have been more popular than others.
The first one we introduced, was having the kids take turns to pick a family activity and dinner one evening a week. They also help me cook and serve the meal, and of course clean up afterwards.
My oldest son had first choice, and he wanted lamb!! I made plain chops for the kids, but got a little more adventurous for the adults.

LAMB WITH FETA AND ROASTED TOMATOES


1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, divided use
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
4 lamb chops
1 container grape tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely crumbled, or sliced feta cheese

Whisk 1/2 cup olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, 2 tablespoons oregano, and ground cumin in medium bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer 1/2 cup dressing to large bowl, add lamb chops and stir to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add grape tomatoes to remaining dressing in medium bowl, toss to coat.
Sprinkle lamb chops with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy large skillet, over medium high heat. Saute lamb chops until browned on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium, depending on thickness. Transfer lamb chops to serving plates.
Using slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to same skillet (reserve dressing from the tomatoes in bowl). Saute tomatoes until skins begin to wrinkle, about 2 minutes. Top lamb chops with feta, tomatoes and remaining 1 tablespoon of oregano. Drizzle with reserved dressing.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010
www.bonappetit.com/

Thursday, August 23, 2012

CARAMEL ROCKY ROAD S'MORES BARS

CARAMEL ROCKY ROAD S'MORES BARS

I am the Hospitality Co-ordinator at my kids school, and I LOVE it!! Our teachers do an amazing job, and I truly enjoy being able to show my appreciation - in small ways, such as dropping home made treats to the teachers lounge, and in bigger ways, like organizing the annual Teacher Appreciation Luncheon.
I made these bars to celebrate the beginning of the school year, and although they don't begin to express the gratitude I feel as a parent for all the teachers do - its a start.


1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 cups mini marshmallows
1 12 ounce package of chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts
bag of caramels
1/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 375F.
Beat together butter and sugar. Add flour and crumbs, press into a 9 by 13 inch pan.
Sprinkle marshmallows, chocolate chips and walnuts on top of crust. Melt caramels and milk and pour on top.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

FETTUCINI WITH PEAS, SMOKED SALMON AND LEMON

FETTUCINI WITH PEAS, SMOKED SALMON AND LEMON

This was my absolute favorite pasta dish for a while (and I would make it again in a second!!). I made it for friends, for family, for special occasions, and no occasion at all. I ate it for lunch, dinner, and would have had it for breakfast if there were leftovers. A truly wonderful, fresh and very delicious combination of flavors.


1/2 pound fettucini
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen petite peas
7 1/2 ounces smoked salmon
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserve 3/4 cup of pasta cooking liquid.
Simmer cream and lemon peel in a heavy large skillet over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Stir in peas, smoked salmon, wine and lemon juice. Simmer 2 minutes. Add pasta and cheese and toss to coat, adding enough pasta cooking liquid to moisten. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Epicurious
www.epicurious.com/

Monday, August 20, 2012

CARROT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

A friend came for lunch - and I was so very excited to catch up with her - her and her family just returned from a year in Austria. I prepared a simple lunch, and followed up with these carrot chocolate cupcakes.
My kids were a little skeptical, but didn't question when I said the orange bits were sprinkles! I think the addition of chocolate helped smooth the way!

CARROT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES


1 pound of carrots, peeled and sliced
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350F.
Place carrots in a food processor, process until finely minced.
Combine carrots, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and eggs in a large bowl. Combine flour, soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture, stir until smooth. Stir in chocolate.
Spoon batter into muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
www.cookinglight.com/

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CHIPOTLE BLACK BEAN DIP

I was looking for a healthy appetizer for a weeknight snack at home, before going out to meet friends for more appetizers.
This was the perfect recipe, quick and very easy to make, and light and healthy. It had a lovely rich tomato flavor, with a little spice - delicious!

CHIPOTLE BLACK BEAN DIP


1/3 cup salsa
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobe sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl once.
Serve with pita chips.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light, August 2003
www.cookinglight.com/

Monday, August 13, 2012

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

I called these "pancake cookies", because they came out of the oven very flat.
I'm sure the ratio of butter to dry ingredients had something to do with that, but it also made these chocolate chip cookies very rich and wonderfully delicious and gave them a satisfying crunch.
I baked just enough cookies to share with friends - I was planning to run errands, and wanted to deliver a couple of batches while I was out and about. I left the remaining dough in the fridge, and when I baked it up the next day, the cookies did hold their shape a little better.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES


1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I used white chips, and cut up a baking bar of dark chocolate)

Heat oven to 350F.
Cream the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, flour, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Mix together. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.
Place mounds of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned.
Cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes before removing the cookies to a cooling rack.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Morning News, May 2005

Friday, August 10, 2012

MARJORAM PORK LOIN WITH FINGERLING POTATOES

I always tend to use as much garlic as possible when cooking - love it!! This had the most wonderful aroma while cooking (I did sneak in a couple of extra garlic cloves).
We received a last minute invitation for dinner to a friends house, so I took the pork loin with us - it was moist and flavorful - but didn't compare to the authentic German food we were served, or the Portuguese wine, or the fascinating conversation. However, the kids loved it, and the adults complemented it, so I would definitely make it again.

MARJORAM PORK LOIN WITH FINGERLING POTATOES


4 to 6 sprigs of fresh marjoram
2 to 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
salt
ground black pepper
12 ounces pork loin
olive oil
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
6 to 8 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks

Heat oven to 400F.
Strip leaves and buds from marjoram sprigs, discarding stems.
On a cutting board, finely mince marjoram leaves, buds, garlic and a pinch of salt until mixture forms a paste.
Season pork on all sides with salt and pepper. Rub marjoram mixture all over pork.
In an oven safe skillet, add just enough oil to coat and heat over medium-high heat. Brown pork on both sides. Place sliced lemon on top of pork. Add potatoes to skillet and drizzle potatoes with a little oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until pork reaches an internal temperature of 155F and potatoes are tender.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Arkansas Democrat Gazette, May 2009
www.arkansas.com/dining/recipes/

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CAKE DONUTS

Throughout the summer, we have spent a lot of time driving, and we have listened to books on tape in the car, the latest one being "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are a lot of references to good old fashioned, heart warming food throughout the story, and one that was often repeated was donuts.
My son asked if we could make donuts one afternoon, and I jumped at the opportunity to use the donut pan that has been sitting in the cupboard gathering dust! I'm sure the cake donuts we made were quite different to the ones sampled in the story - but hopefully they were every bit as delicious.

CAKE DONUTS


2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 325 F.
Lightly spray a donut pan with cooking oil.
In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter, eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat until well blended. Fill each donut hole 2/3 full.
Bake 8 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.
Cool. Remove from pan and dip into glaze.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

BASIL GIMLET

Even in this dry, hot summer, our basil seems to thrive - and with summer vacation drawing to an end, I couldn't think of a more perfect use for the bounty of our garden, than a cocktail.
This combination was wonderful - a mixture of many of my favorite cocktail ingredients - and I loved that the sweetness of the liquor and simple syrup was balanced with the lime and basil.

BASIL GIMLET


2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce elderflower liquor
1 squeeze of fresh lime
1/2 ounce simple syrup or agave nectar
2 large basil leaves

Combine ingredients in a shaker. Muddle the basil gently into liquid to release oils, but do not break apart.
Shake well and strain into chilled martini glass.
Garnish with basil leaves.
Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012

HONEY ORANGE GLAZED SALMON WITH QUINOA and ASPARAGUS WITH ZESTY CITRUS DRESSING

We had a lot of asparagus in the house - my husband had purchased a large bunch for a recent dinner party. I didn't want it to go to waste, but needed a change from plain steamed or roasted. I found the recipe for asparagus with zesty citrus dressing, and was thrilled to have all the ingredients on hand - pairing it with honey orange glazed salmon, resulted in a wonderful, tasty dinner - perhaps enjoyed more by the adults in the family than the kids.

HONEY ORANGE GLAZED SALMON WITH QUINOA


4 salmon fillets
salt and ground black pepper to taste
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup quinoa
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots

Heat oven to 400F.
Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. In a shallow dish, whisk together orange juice, orange zest, honey and cumin. Add salmon and turn to coat (I left mine to marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes). Transfer salmon to prepared baking sheet and brush on any remaining marinade. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until fork tender.
Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions. Add curry powder, onions and carrots, warm through, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve salmon with the quinoa on the side.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Shape, September 2003
www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-recipes

ASPARAGUS WITH ZESTY CITRUS DRESSING


1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 bunch fresh asparagus

Whisk together orange juice, olive oil, soy sauce, mustard and sugar in a small bowl.
Steam asparagus until crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Place steamed asparagus on a platter, pour dressing over asparagus.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 2005
www.arkansas.com/dining/recipes/

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BAKED BALSAMIC FIGS WITH MASCARPONE CHEESE

A friend had given me this recipe a long time ago, and I have been waiting for fresh figs to be in season to try it. I was so excited when I found them in the supermarket, and made this for my husband and I as an appetizer that very night. Unfortunately, I did forget to sprinkle the mint on, which is why you don't see any in this picture, but it would definitely add another layer of flavor.
It was very simple and yummy, and even though I served it as an appetizer it would also be great as a dessert. 

BAKED BALSAMIC FIGS WITH MASCARPONE CHEESE


6 fresh figs
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar, or balsamic reduction
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
handful of mint leaves, chopped

Heat oven to 350F.
Slice each fig in half lengthwise and scoop out a tiny bit of the interior to make room for the cheese.
Place figs cut side up in a small baking dish, and sprinkle almonds around them. Drizzle vinegar over figs and nuts, saving a little vinegar for garnish. Bake for 10 minutes.
Place a dollop (about a tablespoon) of mascarpone cheese in each fig. Sprinkle with mint, drizzle with remaining vinegar and serve immediately.
Enjoy!