Follow by Email

Thursday, October 31, 2013

DARK AND STORMY DEATH PUNCH

Happy Halloween!!

DARK AND STORMY DEATH PUNCH


1 20-ounce can lychees
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
16 maraschino cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
12 to 14 ounces of dark rum
3 12-ounce bottles of ginger beer
ice cubes

In a small saucepan, bring the lychee syrup and ginger to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stuff 16 lychees with maraschino cherries. Set each lychee in the cup of a mini muffin pan, or in an ice cube tray.
Strain the lychee ginger syrup and pour it over the lychees. Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
Meanwhile, in a pitcher, stir the sugar into the lime juice until dissolved. Add the rum and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Unmold the lychee ice cubes into a small punch bowl. Pour in the lime-rum mixture. Add the ginger beer, stir gently and serve in ice filled glasses.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, October 2011
www.foodandwine.com/recipes‎

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

PUMPKIN SLOPPY JOES and SMOKY CHICKEN CHILI WITH CORNBREAD GHOSTS

This is the perfect time of year for  jack-o-lanterns and ghosts, and making something delicious to feed hungry witches, goblins, Ninjas and ladybugs.

My own scarecrow, clown and cheerless leader have visited pumpkin patches, carved jack-o-lanterns, paraded in their costumes every night since they arrived on the doorstep in a big box, eliciting much excitement, and sampled many kinds of candy. We love our trick-or-treat traditions and these Pumpkin Sloppy Joes and Chili and Cornbread are delightful treats, guaranteed to delight and nourish anyone who has been practicing their tricks.

PUMPKIN SLOPPY JOES


1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned pumpkin
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 hamburger buns
American and Mozzarella cheese slices

In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink, drain. Stir in the pumpkin, tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, chili powder and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut American cheese slices with a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter. Cut mozzarella cheese into shapes to make pumpkin faces. Spoon meat mixture onto buns and top each with a pumpkin.
Enjoy!

SMOKY CHICKEN CHILI

5 slices smoked bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 to 2 1/2 cups smoked chicken, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onions

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels. Chop bacon and set aside.
Wipe out the skillet, cook onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add garlic, chili powder and paprika, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in chicken, broth, beans, tomatoes and barbecue sauce. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes.
Spoon into bowls, and sprinkle with cheese, green onions and chopped bacon.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Pillsbury Best Ever Fall Entertaining, October 2013
www.pillsbury.com/holidays-celebrations‎

CORNBREAD GHOSTS


2 cups flour
2 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Heat oven to 375F.
Mist a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and sugar. Whisk in eggs until well combined. Whisk in buttermilk.
Add dry ingredients to buttermilk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, do not over mix.
Pour onto baking sheet, spreading evenly, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack to cool.
Use a ghost shaped cookie cutter to form cornbread ghosts.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from All You, September 2011
www.allyou.com/food/recipes/‎

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TRAVEL TUESDAY - LOST SOULS - THE HAUNTED HOUSE IN THE BASEMENT AT WASHINGTON SCHOOL - FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS

Each year the 5th Grade class at Washington Elementary transforms the basement of the oldest school in Fayetteville into a haunted house, for the schools Fall Festival.
We hung voluminous amounts of black sheeting, dimmed the lights, fired up the smoke machine, and abundantly decorated, to provide those mortals brave enough to venture down the steep stairs, a journey  through uncharted territory. An expedition they wouldn't soon forget.
This year the theme was a "haunted cafeteria". We started with a range of foods designed to disturb and disgust, "blood" stained table cloths, bones on the floor and rats on the table. Guests then traveled on to a "jail cell", where Lost Souls banged cafeteria trays and screamed to be let out, then continued their intrepid journey past an electric chair. The adventure concluded with the offer of a refreshing glass of "bats blood", and a fright, when a hand reached out from under the table to grab an ankle of the unsuspecting adventurer.

Some of the disgusting food - blue tortilla chips for bat ears, black twizzlers for witch veins, cheese puffs for troll boogers and dried banana slices for rat brains
Also on offer in the "haunted cafeteria" spaghetti and eyeballs

LOST SOULS


Melt 6 ounces of white chocolate chips, transfer to a small plastic food storage bag. Squeeze the air out and seal the bag. Cut a 1/8 inch piece from the corner. Draw a mournful face onto each cookie (I used cocoa cremes from Little Debbie). Make a "LOST SOULS" sign and attach it to the jar of cookies.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Matthew Mead's Monster Book of Halloween, 2009
www.matthewmeadstyle.com/index.php?option=com_content...‎

Monday, October 28, 2013

R.I.P CHOCOLATE MASCARPONE MOUSSE

Today is National Chocolate Day. With Halloween just days away, I thought it would be fun to combine a scary refreshment with a cocoa flavored confection.

R.I.P MASCARPONE MOUSSE


MOUSSE

4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, divided use
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups cream

Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave until chocolate melts, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar and the mascarpone. Whisk the warm coffee into the mascarpone mixture, stirring until fully combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream with the remaining confectioners sugar to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
Spoon the mousse into 6 dishes.

Recipe adapted from daily delicious
http://dailydelicious.blogspot.com/2013/03/chocolate-mascarpone-mousse-for-night.html

ASSEMBLING THE DESSERTS

Microwave 1/4 cup chocolate chips until melted, and transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Snip a very small amount off a corner and squeeze bag to write R.I.P onto 6 Milano cookies.
Stand 1 cookie into each dish of mousse, crush 1 cookie and sprinkle on top of mousse, around the "tombstone".
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine
www.rachaelraymag.com/‎

Sunday, October 27, 2013

MONSTER EYES

This has been a monster of a weekend!!
Helping with the Fall Festival at the kids school, cleaning my house, changing sheets and cooking for overnight house guests, attending a Cooking Class Dinner Party at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and my husband observing and enjoying his obligations at a Rotary Convention and then away in Kansas City at a football game.
A monstrously busy, fun and fulfilling weekend!!

MONSTER EYES


1 pound of sausage
1 cup all purpose baking mix
2 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese
pimiento stuffed green olives

Heat oven to 400F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir sausage, baking mix and cheese with a wooden spoon until blended.
Shape mixture into 1 inch balls, place on cookie sheet. Slice olives and press 1 olive slice into each ball.
Bake for 22 minutes or until lightly browned and sausage is no longer pink.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Best Ever Fall Entertaining, October 2013
www.pillsbury.com/Recipes‎

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GLAZED PECAN BARS

A photographer was coming to the house, and by the way I was cleaning, scrubbing, dusting, organizing and arranging, you would have thought our home was about to be featured in the pages of a glossy National magazine.
I set out water, orange juice, freshly baked Glazed Pecan Bars, a large vase of fresh flowers and my loveliest plates, napkins and glasses.
I took one last glance around, and upon deciding everything was as good as it was going to get,  I ran for the shower.
In the 15 or 20 minutes it took me to wash, apply lotion, perfume, makeup, clothes and shoes, the photographer came, took pictures of my husband in his favorite space and left - our home and every single one of the pecan bars.

The picture that appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette
GLAZED PECAN BARS


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 325F.
Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Press into a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Top with glaze.

GLAZE
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon almond extract

Combine all the ingredients for the glaze, mix until smooth. Spread glaze over the cake while it is still hot. Cut into bars once cool.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

TRAVEL TUESDAY - GOLDEN APPLE BARS - RED STAR, ARKANSAS

It was with great anticipation I set off with my family on a recent Sunday. My husband wanted to look at a piece of property for sale, and I envisioned the perfect opportunity to visit somewhere new.
We began the drive toward Madison County right after church, which is usually the time we journey no further than a nearby restaurant. However, I was hopeful there would be a fabulous little country eatery somewhere in the vicinity of where we were going. There wasn't. Three grumpy children and a hungry husband does not make for pleasant conversation and a convivial time.
Still, I enjoyed the beautiful drive along the gently winding roads, with the Fall colors just beginning to show, and the audio book playing softly in the background.
The directions seemed to be quite clear, but as the gravel road became more overgrown, muddy and narrow, and as we passed an increasing amount of men in camouflage, riding in pick up trucks and on four wheelers and carrying what I assumed were loaded guns, I became progressively uneasy. The deer strung up at the side of the road did nothing to alleviate my fear.
Just as we began to think we would never find it, the green gate we had been looking for, came into view, and it was with great relief and excitement that I exchanged my heels for "hiking shoes", and we climbed out of the car to take a look around.

Mushroom on a log, Red Star, Arkansas


Trees on the property we were looking at



We came across a crumbling foundation, and hornets, that, disturbed at being disturbed, attacked our family nature lover. Disenchanted, we made our way back to the safety of the car, accompanied by the symphony of my daughters sobs, and began the hour and a half drive home. Back past the Head Water School, the boarded up restaurants still displaying faded signs, and the extremely large rattle snake sprawled lazily across the road.


Thirsty, hungry and disheartened, we stopped at the only viable place for food for miles around, a dilapidated, dusty, grocery store. As my family, instantly refreshed, stockpiled beef jerky, apples, ham, cheese, chips and cold drinks, I was horrified with the knowledge this was the finest the area had to offer. After backtracking down the somewhat less beautiful-looking roads, I was thrilled to provide my family with some good home cooking. Needless to say, we will not be investing in land in Red Star, Ar!

GOLDEN APPLE BARS


1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup peeled, cored, chopped raw apples
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350F.
Mix ingredients in order as listed, excluding powdered sugar.
Spread in a greased 7 by 11 pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool. Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Recipes From the Kitchen of Family and Friends, 2005

Monday, October 21, 2013

CRACKER SPOONS WITH CREAMY PIMIENTO CHEESE and LAVENDER GIN GOAT CHEESE COOKIES and CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT BARS

A dear lady and lovely friend hosted a gathering at her home, a farewell party for a colleague of her husbands. I offered to make and deliver some tasty tidbits to help her out a little with the refreshments. 


CRACKER SPOONS WITH CREAMY PIMIENTO CHEESE


1 1/2 package of refrigerated piecrusts
1 egg white, beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
creamy pimiento cheese (recipe to follow)

Heat oven to 400F.
Unroll pie crusts, brush with egg white and sprinkle with salt.
Cut dough into rounds, or spoon shapes. Place cutouts onto baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp.
Remove from baking sheets to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 20 minutes).
Spoon creamy pimiento cheese into a zip-top plastic freezer bag, snip one corner of the bag to make a small hole. Pipe pimiento cheese onto end of each spoon.

CREAMY PIMIENTO CHEESE
Beat 10 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 (4 ounce) jar of diced pimiento, drained, 1 teaspoon grated onion, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 taspoon ground red pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce at medium speed with a heavy duty electric stand mixer 1 minute or until creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, April 2012
www.southernliving.com/food/‎




LAVENDER GIN GOAT CHEESE COOKIES


3 sticks of butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon gin
3 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons dried lavender
generous pinch of salt
2 to 3 egg yolks, beaten
6 ounces of goat cheese

Mix the butter, sugar and gin together until thoroughly blended. Mix in the flour, lavender and salt until it gets doughy. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/2 inch thick. Freeze for 10 minutes.
Roll the dough into about 24 little balls and dunk them in the beaten egg yolks. Put the balls on a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet and smash them with your thumb to make craters. Put some goat cheese in each crater. Bake until lightly golden on the edges, about 10 minutes.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Food Network
www.foodnetwork.com › Recipes › Baking‎


CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT BARS


CRUST
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts, toasted
CARAMEL AND CHOCOLATE
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels

Heat the oven to 350F.
Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
To prepare the crust, combine flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process about 10 seconds to combine thoroughly. Add butter and process until mixture is crumbly, about 30 seconds. Trtansfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly. Scatter nuts evenly over crust and press them in firmly.
To prepare the caramel layer, melt the butter in a heavy medium sized saucepan over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir well until thoroughly combined and smooth. Increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, until entire surface of caramel is bubbly. Immediately pour hot caramel over nuts and spread evenly. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until caramel is bubbly.
Remove pan from oven. Wait 1 minute, sprinkle chocolate morsels evenly over caramel. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes for chocolate to melt. Spread chocolate evenly. Cool completely, then refrigerate 30 minutes to set. Cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Relish Magazine
relish.com/recipes/‎

GARDEN FRESH TOMATO SOUP

Sometimes a warm mug of soup is all you need! Warm comfort on a cold day, and refreshing on a warm day!

GARDEN FRESH TOMATO SOUP


4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of sugar

In a pot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and gently boil for about 25 minutes to blend all of the flavors. Remove from heat, carefully pour into a blender or food processor and mix to desired smoothness.
In the now empty pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a roux, cooking until the roux is a medium brown. Slowly and gradually mix in the tomato mixture. Season with salt and sugar, and adjust to taste.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from All Recipes
allrecipes.com/recipe/garden-fresh-tomato-soup/‎

Sunday, October 20, 2013

SEARED SALMON WITH NEW POTATOES AND DIJON BROTH

My husband is in the process of building a new store, and I become somewhat of a construction widow during the time it takes to get the store built and finished out and up and running. My husband leaves early in the morning to meet with plumbers, electricians and city inspectors and often doesn't come home until late at night. So on the evenings I know he will be home for dinner, I always like to cook something special. Not only was this salmon dish exceptional, but the potatoes were fresh from a friends garden, which I think made the meal extra special.

SEARED SALMON WITH NEW POTATOES AND DIJON BROTH


1 1/2 pounds of new potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
4 salmon fillets
2 cups white wine
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach leaves

Heat oven to 400F. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and boil until almost cooked through, about 12 minutes. Drain, cool. Cut potatoes in half.
Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon in the skillet. Cook until brown, about 4 minutes. Turn salmon over and cook for 2 minutes. Arrange salmon in a large baking dish. Scatter the potatoes around the salmon.
Combine wine, shallots and vinegar in a large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken broth, tarragon and mustard. Bring just to boil. Pour hot broth over salmon and potatoes in dish. Bake until salmon and potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
About 5 minutes before salmon is done cooking, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add half of the spinach to the pot, stir until wilted, about 3 minutes, add remaining spinach and toss just until wilted.
Divide spinach among 4 shallow bowls. Top with salmon fillets. Divide potatoes and broth among bowls.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2006
www.bonappetit.com/recipes‎

Friday, October 18, 2013

APPLE OAT MUFFINS WITH BROWN SUGAR CINNAMON SWIRL

Following the success of the Mexican Luau/Hawaiian Fiesta, we picked up the decorations from the back yard, cleaned up the kitchen, and sent the kids on their way with a fun party favor.
Several weeks later, I was happily pottering or frantically cooking in my kitchen, I forget which exactly, so great was the surprise when I opened the door to my bottom oven, to find cupcakes from the pool party serenely sitting in the rapidly heating insides.
When returning my friends dish, I included these Apple Oat Muffins with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl, oh, and if you happen to be missing anything, feel free to come check out my bottom oven, I'm not sure what you will find in there.

The inside of my oven with the old cupcakes

APPLE OAT MUFFINS WITH BROWN SUGAR CINNAMON SWIRL


1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

Heat oven to 400F.
Fill a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine both flours, oats, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cloves. Mix thoroughly with a fork, make a well in the center and set aside. In a small bowl, combine remaining teaspoon of cinnamon, along with brown sugar and water. Whisk until brown sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, applesauce, egg, oil and vanilla. Pour liquid mixture into center of dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Fold in diced apple.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, then top each muffin with 1/2 teaspoon of the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out almost clean. Cool in pan, on a wire rack for 5 minutes, before removing muffins from pan.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Shape Magazine, October 2004
www.shape.com/healthy-eating/healthy-recipes‎

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BLUE HAWAIIAN COCKTAIL and CRAB SALAD IN ENDIVE LEAVES

During the last gasp of warm weather, a friend hosted her daughters birthday party at the pool in our back yard. When she told me the theme was a Hawaiian Fiesta, I immediately started thinking all things Mexican - pulled out my South of the Border decorations, whipped up some guacamole and planned to set out salsa and chips in my finest Mexican bowls (actually, they weren't really mine, I borrowed them from a friend who had lugged them back from her several trips down south).
It finally dawned on me the night before the party, that it was a Hawaiian theme, perhaps all the talk of pineapples and leis and "Island Paradise in the Pacific" clued me in.
Although I frantically scrabbled for Hawaiian themed recipes, I wasn't able to reverse my careful planning for the Fiesta, even knowing spam is very popular in the Aloha State, I wasn't willing to open a can on my table, the pineapple pieces on the pizzas would have to fill the lack of any other Hawaiian food.
After having the time to investigate Hawaiian cuisine further, I would have made this Blue Hawaiian Cocktail and Crab Salad, to serve to the adults, almost as good as chips and salsa.

BLUE HAWAIIAN COCKTAIL


1 ounce light rum
1 ounce blue Curacao liqueur
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce cream of coconut (I used light coconut milk)
1 cup ice

Combine rum, blue Curacao, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, and ice in a blender. Pulse on high speed until smooth. Pour into glass. Garnish with a slice of pineapple and a marascino cherry if desired (or a cheap paper umbrella!)
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com
allrecipes.com/recipe/blue-hawaiian-cocktail/‎

CRAB SALAD IN ENDIVE LEAVES


4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
24 ounces crabmeat, drained
2 to 3 heads of Belgian endive, trimmed, separated into spears
chopped fresh chives for garnish

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, oregano, salt and pepper in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add the crabmeat and toss gently to coat.
Arrange the endive spears on a platter. Spoon the crabmeat onto the endive spears. Sprinkle with chives and an extra sprinkle of ground pepper and serve.
Enjoy! I would love for you to share recipedoodle with your friends and family!

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
www.foodnetwork.com › Recipes › Seafood‎

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FUNNY CAKE and VANILLA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

I was rushing to meet friends for lunch, a lovely birthday celebration for lovely ladies. I stopped by a local bakery to pick up petit fours for them, and because I wasn't sure I would have time to bake or make a snack for my kids and their friends after school, I also purchased cake pops and adorable football themed cookies.
As it happened, there was plenty of time to mix up this Funny Cake and settle it into the oven to cook, while the kids were happily playing and entertaining each other.

FUNNY CAKE


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 cup cold water
Frosting - recipe to follow

Heat oven to 350F.
Place a sifter in an 8-inch square baking pan. Add flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt to sifter and sift into pan.
Using a mixing spoon, make three wells in the dry flour mixture. Add vanilla to one well, add the vegetable oil to another well, and add the vinegar to the third well. Pour the cold water over the mixture, distributing it evenly. Stir gently until no lumps remain. Bake cake for 35 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from the pan.
Cool in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, spread the frosting on the cake and decorate with sprinkles if desired.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2011
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

VANILLA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
2 cups confectioners sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth, with an electric mixer. Add vanilla paste and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth and spreadable.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, May 2009
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PINK ELEPHANTS ON PARADE - NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Over the summer, I drove Mum and the kids down to Louisiana, ending our journey in New Orleans, which was the first city I stayed in when I came to America. From the middle of a New Zealand Winter, to the middle of a New Orleans summer - it made quite an impression. I lived in Lake Charles, about a 3 hour drive from New Orleans, and traveled to the Big Easy many times - usually when visitors from back home were in town. If there was a place I could have a second home, other than the beach, it would be in the heart of French Quarter. I love it, and love to visit as often as I am able.
On this trip, we spent a couple of nights with friends in Lake Charles, stopped for lunch with family in Slidell, and spent a couple of nights in New Orleans at a hotel my husband had Pricelined for us.
Our first night in town I wanted to re-create an evening we had shared with friends, driving to several different locations. We enjoyed happy hour on the gorgeous front porch of The Columns hotel in the Garden District, where previously I had lingered over mimosa ladened brunches. After toasting the evening with a glass of champagne we moved to The Superior Grill. Mum appreciates good Mexican Food and Margaritas, and this fun location serves both, right on the St Charles Streetcar line. After our spicy dinner, we wanted a little sweet, and I couldn't resist introducing my family to Sucre, a truly gorgeous and unforgettable dessert shop. I first read about this treasure in a cooking magazine, and was thrilled when I stumbled across it on Magazine Street. We sampled Macarons and delectable chocolates, and sat down to allow the kids to indulge in a couple of edible works of art.

The S'Mores Skillet from Sucre

I'm not sure what this was called, but it was delicious
We parked our car in the hotel garage, that night, and spent the rest of our New Orleans holiday on foot. After traversing Jackson Square, Cafe Du Monde, the Mississippi river and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas the next day, we were ready for lunch, and tracked down a fresh new restaurant. SoBou, established in 2012 by some of the regions leading food families, and shortened from South of Bourbon, was an outstanding experience. We were warmly welcomed into this decidedly chic, adult establishment, the kids were comfortable and the adults were fascinated by the fabulous menu, and the beer taps built into the tables.
The fun SoBou napkin
Mum and Elise reflected in the glass behind a table loaded with a pour-your-own beer tap
We ordered 25 cent "Pink Elephant on Parade" cocktails and swooned over dishes such as the Butternut Squash Beignets with Foie Gras Fondue, Duck Debris and Chicory Coffee Ganache, and the Apple and Pear Salad with Camembert and the most amazing Salted Pecan Tuile.
 Butternut Squash Beignets
The fabulous Apple and Pear Salad with Camembert and Salted Pecan Tuile at SoBou
I am never quite ready to leave the wonderful Southern hospitality of my adored city, but am delighted to return to and recreate some wonderful memories with this recipe.

PINK ELEPHANTS ON PARADE


2 ounces vodka
2 ounces pink lemonade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 ounce midori

Mix all ingredients together and serve.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Drinks Mixer
http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink5891.html

Monday, October 14, 2013

THAI PUMPKIN AND CHICKEN CURRY

Sometimes I am just in the mood for a good curry. I love the combination of flavors in this wonderful, flavorful, crave quenching dish.

THAI PUMPKIN AND CHICKEN CURRY


2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
500 grams of pumpkin or 1 acorn squash, peeled and diced
500 grams of boneless chicken, cubed
chopped basil leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan and stir in the curry paste. Saute for 1 minute to bring out the flavors.
Add 1/2 cup coconut milk, then add the pumpkin. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chicken and remaining 1 cup of coconut milk. Cover and simmer until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve garnished with fresh basil.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Foodtown Magazine
www.foodmag.co.nz/‎

Sunday, October 13, 2013

APPLE BUTTERSCOTCH OAT BARS

We were invited to a friends house for dinner, where the kids had so much fun playing outside, they had to remove their mud encrusted garments, and attire themselves in borrowed clothes, so they could venture inside to eat.
When I returned the freshly laundered clothes, I included these Apple Butterscotch Oat Bars, in the hopes we would be welcome back - perhaps on a day when there weren't so many puddles in the yard.

APPLE BUTTERSCOTCH OAT BARS


1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 apple, cored, peeled and finely chopped
1 3/4 cups butterscotch baking chips

Heat oven to 350F.
Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating on low until just combined. Stir in oats, apple and butterscotch chips. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool completely in a pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2005
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

Saturday, October 12, 2013

THE CORDUROY JACKET

My husband and I attended a cider and pork tasting recently with friends - so fun and perfect for the Fall season.
It was a bit of a drive, so I mixed up this Corduroy Jacket cocktail for the passengers to sip and enjoy on the way. It included a shot of cider to ensure we were remaining consistent with the theme of the evening.
Thankfully, our driver wasn't distracted by our conversation and cocktail, as the sun was so blinding, several cars had pulled off to the side of the road.

THE CORDUROY JACKET


1 fresh orange slice
1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1/4 cup cognac
sparkling apple cider
fresh thyme sprig to serve

Muddle orange slice, sugar cube and Angostura bitters in a cocktail shaker to release flavors.
Fill a shaker with ice cubes, and add cognac, cover with lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled. Strain into a glass.
Top with sparkling apple cider and garnish with the thyme sprig.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, February 2013
www.southernliving.com/food/‎

Friday, October 11, 2013

HONEY GINGER GLAZED PORK and ASPARAGUS WITH SHALLOT HONEY DRESSING and SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH PIMENTO VINAIGRETTE and CHERRY WALNUT BARS

A friend had back surgery, and once she was home and recovering, I was able to visit. I delivered a meal to her and her family, which was infused with healing thoughts and prayers.
I love the combination of flavors in this menu, featuring accents from late summer and early fall.

HONEY GINGER GLAZED PORK


2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
3/4 pound pork tenderloin
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350F.
TO MAKE THE GLAZE: combine honey, mustard, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Remove fat from pork, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Brush the glaze on the top of the pork, bake, basting occasionally with the glaze, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 160F.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2004
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

ASPARAGUS WITH SHALLOT HONEY DRESSING


2 pounds asparagus
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Trim the woody ends of the asparagus, add the asparagus to the pot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it is just tender. Drain the asparagus.
Combine the shallot, lemon juice, honey, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Add the olive oil to form a dressing.
Pour over asparagus.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 2013
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH PIMENTO VINAIGRETTE


2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil, divided use
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 4-ounce jar of pimentos, drained
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425F.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and gently toss to coat. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until browned on the edges and just tender, toss once or twice during baking so they brown evenly. Transfer to a medium bowl to cool.
Use a food processor to puree the pimento, mustard, honey and red wine vinegar until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, add half of the vinaigrette to the sweet potatoes and toss gently to combine. Taste and add more vinaigrette as needed.

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2010
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

CHERRY WALNUT BARS


2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
10 ounce jar of maraschino cherries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Heat oven to 350F.
Lightly grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together eggs, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla.
Drain and chop cherries, reserving liquid. Stir cherries and nuts into egg mixture. Spoon over crust. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 hours.
In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in enough of the reserved cherry liquid (3 to 4 tablespoons) to make icing of drizzling consistency.
Drizzle over the cookie.
Cut into bars.
Enjoy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH WARM BREAD SALAD

I was shocked when I realized we had a week where our family wouldn't sit down for dinner at home together one time.
Evenings were busy with gatherings, fundraisers, and dinners - either I had plans, my husband and I were going out, or we grazed at home but at different times, sitting around the kitchen island or standing.
I was able to cook dinner on one occasion, but I left my husband and children enjoying the Roasted Chicken with Warm Bread Salad, while I met friends out.

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH WARM BREAD SALAD


1 4 to 5 pound chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 fresh thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
1 apple, coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups bread cubes (from country style loaf)
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons currants
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
zest of 2 lemons
arugula

Heat oven to 375F.
Generously season chicken cavity and skin with salt and pepper. Loosen skin on breast, slide thyme and bay leaves under skin. Put a sprig of thyme and the chopped apple into the chicken cavity.
Place chicken in roasting dish, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Transfer baking dish to the oven, bake until thermometer inserted into chicken reads 170F, about 1 hour  and 45 minutes. Transfer chicken to a carving board, cover loosely with foil.
While the chicken is resting, toss bread cubes and onion with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, place on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine currants, vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sugar, let stand 15 minutes.
Add bread and onion, along with green onions, parsley and lemon zest. Toss until the bread has absorbed most of the liquid. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange a bed of arugula on plate, top with bread salad and chicken pieces.
Enjoy!

Recipe adpated from Williams Sonoma
www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/‎

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

PUMPKIN PATCH DIPPERS and AUTUMN LEAVES WITH PEANUT BUTTER DIP

Here are a couple of fun Fall ideas for the kids - although to be honest, I enjoyed them too!! I made the Pumpkin Patch Dippers and Autumn Leaves with Peanut Butter Dip for an after school refreshment, as a cheerful, lighthearted way to greet the kids when they came home with their friends.

PUMPKIN PATCH DIPPERS


Peel a large carrot and cut it into 1/4 inch thick coins. Slide a piece of parsley onto a toothpick, then skewer each coin. Thread a sliced green onion stem onto each toothpick. Serve the "pumpkins" in a plate of hummus.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Family Fun, October 2012
www.parents.com/familyfun-magazine/‎

AUTUMN LEAVES WITH PEANUT BUTTER DIP


LEAVES
Heat oven to 400F.
Use a cookie cutter to make leaf shapes, spritz them with cooking spray, and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake for 3 to 4 minutes.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Parents Magazine, October 2009
www.parents.com/recipes/‎

PEANUT BUTTER DIP
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/2 of an 8 ounce container of whipped topping
1/4 cup apple butter
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

Mix all ingredients together.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TENNESSEE TEA CAKES - MURFREESBORO, TENNESSEE

Our nephew just moved to Murfreesboro, Tennessee for graduate school, and my kids were so excited when we planned to visit over a long weekend.
We ran into difficulty while booking our hotel room - apparently we were in town the same time as a Tennessee Walking Horse event and a huge soccer tournament, so our accommodations were not as luxurious as the Five Star hotel we had discovered in Memphis on Priceline the night before.
Although we got the most pleasure out of spending time with Evan, with his passion for History, lovely personality, musical ability, interesting, intelligent conversation and a kitten that my kids remembered from a summer visit to his hometown of Slidell, we also enjoyed several local restaurants. The Blue Cactus Cantina, an interesting combination of Cajun and Mexican cuisine, The Boulevard Bar and Grill, a typical sports bar, and the most fascinating for us, Demos Restaurant. The parking lot was full to overflowing, and we were intrigued to see what was drawing such a crowd. Established in 1989, by Doris and Jim Demos, following early experience in the family restaurant business - it was good Italian food, obviously made with love.
We also visited Stones River, where a decisive battle was fought in the Civil War, attended an interesting presentation from the ranger and drove around the battlefield filling in an activity book the kids had been given.
We love to spend time with family, and there were a few attractions we weren't able to see, so we would definitely re-visit this college town, right in the geographical center of Tennessee.
On the way home we spent a night in Nashville, and after visiting with the Concierge of our hotel, walked to Amerigo West End for dinner. We had relished fun, family Italian for lunch in Murfreesboro, and savored sultry, contemporary Italian for dinner, and I always appreciate when an elegant restaurant features a menu for the children, which Amerigo had. There was a gorgeous, extensive list of food to choose from, but we couldn't resist starting with the cheese fritters, which had been featured in Bon Appetit magazine.
I didn't the the fritter recipe, but made these Tennessee Tea Cakes in honor of our visit.

TENNESSEE TEA CAKES


1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350F.
Line mini muffin tins with paper liners.
Measure butter and sugars into a heavy saucepan and set over medium heat. As the butter melts, whisk in the sugars. Cook, whisking constantly until sugars are completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.
Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour and salt until just combined. Do not overbeat. The batter will be thick and sticky.
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until cakes are glossy and crisp on the outer edges but not completely dry in the center. While still warm, sift confectioners' on top if desired.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2013
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

Monday, October 7, 2013

CINNAMON RAISIN BREAKFAST GRITS

I aspire to make one new recipe every day, which on a typically busy, bustling day can be challenging.
These Honey Cinnamon Grits however, were very quick and easy, and all my cooking and kitchen clean up for the day was done in a matter of minutes, and finished first thing in the morning.

CINNAMON RAISIN BREAKFAST GRITS


1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey

Combine milk, water, raisins and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and immediately whisk in grits in a slow, steady stream. Stir in cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, until thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Swirl the honey over the top just before serving.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, January 2010
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

Sunday, October 6, 2013

CHILEAN SEAFOOD STEW

A stew is usually a dish I consider for the cold depths of winter, however, this Chilean Seafood Stew is light and fresh enough to be enjoyed in the fall, when the weather is fluctuating between warm and cool, and sometimes both in one day.

CHILEAN SEAFOOD STEW


3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno
1 cup white wine
1 cup clam juice
1 (28 ounce) can of crushed tomatoes in juice
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup lime juice, plus 2 limes quartered
2 pounds white fish, cut into pieces
1 pound shrimp, peeled
1 cup whole cilantro leaves, chopped
4 scallions, chopped

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onions until they begin turning brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss in the bell peppers and cook an additional 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, wine, clam juice, tomatoes, bay leaf and lime juice.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the fish and the shrimp and continue cooking 5 minutes, utnil the shrimp are opaque. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the cilantro and scallions. Serve with lime wedges.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Oprah Magazine, April 2004
www.oprah.com/food.html‎

Saturday, October 5, 2013

BEEF AND BACON CASSEROLE

I remember the first time I made this Beef and Bacon Casserole - a friend and I had young children and we decided to unite and cook a meal for our families. It seemed like a brilliant idea - we would get to socialize, our kids would have a play date, and it would all result in dinner.
However,  I'm not sure it was all that successful, we never did prepare a meal together again. We are both proficient, individual cooks, and I always find it challenging and laborious to cook in a kitchen that's not my own.

BEEF AND BACON CASSEROLE


1 pound of ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
6 ounces of fresh mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces of pasta, cooked and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
8 ounces of frozen peas
1/4 cup milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded, divided use

Heat oven to 325F.
In a large skillet, cook ground beef until no longer pink. Drain the fat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are wilted.
Add noodles, soup, peas and 1/4 cup of milk. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and cook on medium low 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Add bacon and 1 cup cheese, stir to combine.
Pour mixture into a casserole dish. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs with butter, add remaining 1 cup of cheese and blend gently. Sprinkle on top of mixture in casserole dish. Return to oven and bake 10 minutes more or until breadcrumbs are golden brown and cheese is melted.
Enjoy!

Friday, October 4, 2013

PASSIONFRUIT KISSES

Over the summer, I discovered Passionfruit in a local supermarket. I was thrilled, I was excited, I was filled with longing and nostalgia, I was shocked at the price!! $1.99 for one diminutive fruit, for something that grows prolifically back home in New Zealand.
I was sentimental and wistful enough for my childhood spent cutting passionfruit in half and spooning out the flesh that I bought several. Although, for that matter, I would do the same thing with a kiwifruit, feijoa or tamarillo.
Now I'm no longer a child, slurping the pulp out of the passionfruit in my Aunties back yard, I wanted a sophisticated alternative, so I baked it into these delicate cookies.

PASSIONFRUIT KISSES


113 grams of butter, softened
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 passionfruit, halved

GANACHE

100 grams of white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons cream
1 passionfruit, halved

Heat oven to 180C. Line baking trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, lemon rind and icing sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg. Beat to combine. Stir in flour and baking soda. Stir in passionfruit pulp.
Roll heaped teaspoons of mixture into balls. Place on prepared trays. Flatten each slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden.
Cool on trays for 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack.
Meanwhile make ganache - place chocolate and cream in a heatproof, microwave safe bowl. Microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.
Stir in passionfruit pulp. Stand for 30 minutes or until thickened. Top cookies with ganache. Stand for 5 minutes. Serve.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Taste
www.taste.com.au/recipes/21038/passionfruit+kisscuits‎

Thursday, October 3, 2013

GRILLED SHRIMP AVOCADO BOATS

I recently read a fascinating article on comfort food, and consequently during a lunch with well-read friends, over our Grilled Shrimp and Avocado, our conversation flowed to that very subject. A common thread throughout both discussions was that comfort food, a term first used in 1977, and defined as "food prepared in a traditional style, having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal"(www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/comfort%20food‎) is an individual preference, and predominantly determined by childhood experiences. The formative encounters, perhaps being the most powerful, and having a greater impact than experiences later in life. So if you grew up eating and enjoying meatloaf, pumpkin soup, pierogi or spotted dick, that is the food you will most likely turn to when you are seeking to soothe yourself through food. Which of course makes me worry what my children will desire, as I barely ever make the same thing twice.
Interestingly, studies of American preferences show males and females differed in reasons for choosing comfort food and the types they chose. Men preferred warm, hearty, meal-type fare, generally triggered by positive emotions, whereas women, choosing snack type foods such as chocolate and ice cream, tend to gravitate toward those foods when they are experiencing negative emotions.
Food consumed as a response to emotional stress or in order to increase positive feelings, may be a key contributor to the obesity epidemic, currently facing many parts of the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comfort_food#Russia)
A hotel I stayed in recently, advertised a "Comfort Food Night", alongside their "Managers Toast Night" and "BBQ" night. Their comfort offerings were a baked potato, cheese burger and a salad.
Whatever your comfort food may be, please indulge responsibly.

GRILLED SHRIMP AVOCADO BOATS


Peel one pound of jumbo shrimp, leaving tails on.
Marinate in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of fresh dill, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon zest. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Cut 2 avocados in half and twist to separate. Remove pits. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Cover, set aside.
Drain shrimp. Swirl a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, cook shrimp for 2 minutes, turn over and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Arrange avocado halves on arugula. Fill avocados with shrimp.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2005
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CHEESY CHICKEN BAKE and SLOW COOKER THAI CHICKEN and GARAM MASALA AND SOUR CREAM CHICKEN BAKE

Tuesday is our super busy, crazy, running from one activity to another night. My daughter has horse riding lessons right after school and we make it home in time with barely 30 minutes until my oldest son and husband walk out the door for Scouts.
I have been tempted to stop and pick dinner up on the way back into town from the stable, but so far  I have managed to make meals in advance. The slow cooker has been the quickest and easiest and my cooking method of choice for these hectic evenings, as it doesn't require any hurried re-heating, a big deal with so little time to enjoy our dinner and time together.

CHEESY CHICKEN BAKE


1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, cut into large cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley or basil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup grated fontina

Heat oven to 350F.
In a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, toss tomatoes, onion, 1/4 cup parsley or basil, garlic and olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
Place chicken on top of tomatoes, season. Bake 30 minutes, turn chicken and bake again until sauce bubbles and chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes more.
Sprinkle with cheese, bake another 2 minutes, garnish with remaining parsley or basil
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine, September 2013
www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/‎

SLOW COOKER THAI CHICKEN


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red and 1 green bell pepper coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts chopped
rice, to serve

Place chicken, bell pepper, and onion in slow cooker. Pour soy sauce, chicken broth, cumin, garic, chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper over chicken. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours. After this time, whisk togeher cornstarch, peanut butter, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and lime juice together with 1 cup of chicken broth. Mix together until smooth, and then stir back into slow cooker to blend well. Cook an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until sauce is well thickened.
Garnish with cilantro - serve over rice if desired.

Enjoy! Please pass onto your friends!

Recipe adapted from The Holiday Cookbook, November 2008
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food

GARAM MASALA AND SOUR CREAM CHICKEN BAKE


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
8 pieces of chicken (I used chicken tenders)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion and cook 10 minutes, or until golden.
Meanwhile, cut shallow slits in chicken to help infuse spices.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cooked onions, sour cream, yogurt, lemon juice, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Mix until smooth. Pour into a resealable plastic bag, add chicken and turn to coat, place bag in shallow pan and let marinate in refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 350F. Transfer chicken and marinade into an 8 by 12 inch baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve chicken with sauce.
Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, August 2013
www.arkansasonline.com/news/features/food/‎