Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stuffed Veal Chops - And Good News!

I am VERY pleased to announce that I will be starting a food writing course next week.  This is exciting news for me.  I have always wanted to write, eat, and cook for a living - now the possibility of this happening doesn't seem so far-fetched.  It feels like I am taking one (small) step closer to realizing my dreams.  Very good news...Yay!

On the flip side, you will benefit from this course as well, since I'll be learning new and exciting dishes that I can pass on to my readers.  I will also be learning how to better express myself through writing, so reading the blog will become a new experience for you all.  Can't wait!

To celebrate this great news, I will share with you a recipe I made for dear hubby at the beginning of the week.  Ladies, if this recipe does not make your husband putty in your hands, than nothing ever will.  I can assure you of that.

Thanks Emeril for another great one!! 

Veal Chops Stuffed With Mascarpone, Pancetta & Carmelized Onions
2 tsp EVOO
4oz pancetta, diced
2c coarsely chopped yellow onions (I used regular cooking onions)
1 T plus 2 tsp minced garlic (in total I used about 3 large cloves from the farmer's market)
1 T plus 1 tsp minced fresh thyme (eyeball it)
8oz mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp each salt & pepper
4 bone-in double cut veal chops, 12-14oz each (I used 3)
2 tsp Essence (recipe follows)
2 tsp veg oil
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1/3c minced shallots (I used 2)
1/2c dry red wine (I ended up using about 1c - salt crisis, more on that below)
1 1/2c veal stock (I used beef stock)
1 T chopped fresh parsley leaves
1c water
1c orange juice
1/2 onion chopped 1 bunch asparagus trimmed

**I didn't do the asparagus the way this recipe said to, I did my trusty roasted asparagus with parmesan instead**

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and set aside (I skipped this and used the skillet both on the stove and in the oven). 

In a saute pan over medium heat, add the EVOO and when hot, add the diced pancetta.  Cook, stirring frequently, until crispy, about 4 minutes.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel-lined plate. 

Add the onions to the pan and cook about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  They should be brown & caramelized when done.  Add 1 T of garlic and 1 T of thyme to the onions and cook for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly. 

In a mixing bowl, combine the pancetta, cooled onion mixture, and mascarpone.  Mix gently and add salt & pepper in necessary. 

Using a sharp knife, make an incision into the veal chop near the top of the bone.  Following the curve of the bone, cut a pocket about 3" long onto the side of each veal chop, making sure not to pierce the other side.  Repeat with remaining chops.  Stuff each one with about 1/4 of the cheese mixture.  Season both sides with Essence (see below).

Heat a large saute pan until hot (I did this over med-hi).  Add veg oil (I used EVOO) and when hot, add the chops.  Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet (or don't - as I mentioned earlier I used the same pan that I browned the chops in), and roast for about 15 minutes for medium-rare (I did 10 minutes; any longer and these would have been overcooked).  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving with the sauce.

While the chops are searing, begin the pan sauce; heat 1/2T of the butter in a saute pan until foamy.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 tsp garlic and 1 tsp thyme and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until reduced by 2/3, about 5 minutes.  Add the stock and parsley and continue to simmer until sauce has reduced to a thickness that coats the back of your spoon, about 5 minutes longer.  Ok this is where I ran into issues - first of all, my sauce took about 20 minutes to simmer and become thick.  I then tasted it and realized I had not mixed the stock with the water accurately and my sauce was WAY too salty.  The recipe now says to remove from heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter, which I did.  But to kill the salt, I kept it on the heat and added some plain yogurt, as well as milk (while continuously stirring) until the saltiness had died down a bit.  I also had to add more wine.  So my sauce was a slightly creamy red wine sauce, but fantastic just the same!

When the sauce is reducing, make the asparagus; combine 1c of water, orange juice, and onions in a medium skillet.  Bring to a boil and add asparagus.  Simmer until tender, 1-2 minutes.  Drain and serve with veal.

I made my roasted asparagus that tends to be one of my go-to side dishes.  I have the recipe on previous blogs, but all I did was toss asparagus with coarse salt, black pepper and some olive oil, and threw them in the oven alongside the chops.  When the veal was done, so was the asparagus.  I chopped up some fresh parmesan and sprinkled this over the asparagus as soon as they were out of the oven.  Easy peasy.

And now for Emeril's "Essence" - it's a creole seasoning that I keep on hand in a mason jar, it's GREAT!

Emeril's Essence
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Combine and enjoy!  I usually double the recipe and gives me an almost full 8oz mason jar that lasts a while.

Hope you try this recipe out, and tell me what you think!  It's was a bit of process, but wasn't too difficult and tasted AMAZING in the end.  I love food!!!

Until next time!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

EASY Kung Pao Chicken

I made this dish the other night for my family and it was a HUGE hit!  Both the kids and hubby loved it, so it's definitely making it to my list of go-to dinners.  It's very quick, uses on hand ingredients and really does taste great.  It's a Kraft recipe - thank you Kraft!  They always have wonderfully quick and delicious meal ideas.  I often find that they don't use enough seasoning for dishes, but this one was bang on.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Kraft Kung Pao Chicken

Kraft Kung Pao Chicken
1/4c water
5c small fresh broccoli florets
1/4c catalina dressing
1/4c peanut butter
1 T soy sauce
2 tsp sriracha
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 green onions (I left these out for the sake of the kiddies)
2 garlic minced
1lb chicken thighs cut in bite size pieces (I used chicken breasts cut in pieces)
1 can of pineapple tidbits

Bring water to a boil in a large skillet.  Add broccoli and cover.  Simmer on medium-low for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile mix together 2 T of the dressing, peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha and pepper until well blended.  Set aside.  Cut 3 of the green onions into 1" pieces, and thinly slice the remaining onion.  Remove broccoli from skillet; cover and keep warm.  Heat remaining dressing on medium-high and add garlic & ginger.  Cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add chicken, cook 2 minutes stirring frequently.  Stir in peanut butter mixture, 1" onion pieces and pineapple.  Cook 5-7 minutes or until chicken is done and sauce has thickened, stirring frequently to scrape up the brown bits.  Transfer Chicken mixture to a platter, top with thinly sliced onions and surround with broccoli.

I served it a little differently though.  I mixed the broccoli into the chicken mixture (at the end, when the chicken was done cooking) and served everything over rice.  It was fantastic!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lobster Bisque & Grilled Brie and Tomato

Ok, so here is my disclaimer before beginning this post...this meal is NOT easy.  It's a lot of work, and quite tedious and annoying, but well worth it in the end.  It's one of those meals that you only make as a special treat.  But not necessarily a special occasion.  I felt like treating myself tonight to a decadent and sophisticated menu.  I deserve it.  It's been a rough week and I'm tired of so many things right now... So lobster bisque it is!

This recipe is courtesy of Tyler Florence from the Food Network.

Lobster Bisque
2 lobsters (I used 4 - 2 of them were 5lbs and 1 was 2lbs - lots of lobster!)
5 T unsalted butter
2 leeks, halved lengthwise
2 onions, halved
2 celery in big chunks (I probably used about 4, had them already cut up in the fridge for snacking)
2 carrots in big chunks
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 strips of orange zest (I always save my orange peels in the freezer to add flavor to my cooking)
2 T tomato paste
1/2 c cognac (I used Hennessey)
3 T flour
4 c cream (I used light cream - 5%)
1 tsp whole peppercorns
coarse salt & pepper
Finely grated orange zest for garnishing
Finely chopped chives for garnishing

Plunge a sharp knife behind the lobsters heads.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Collect all juices that run out.  Remove tails and claws and set aside.  Remove the head sac and liver and discard.  Cut the bodies into pieces.  Heath 3 T EVOO in a large pot over medium heat and melt 3 T butter into it.  Add the chopped bodies, heads, and juices (I didn't use heads - and the fabulous hubby did all the dirty work of chopping up bodies...gross), the leeks, 1 onion, celery, carrots, 1/2 of the thyme, 1/2 of the orange zest and the tomato paste.  Cook until the shells are red and the veggies are soft, about 10-15 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and pour in 1/4c cognac.  With a kitchen match (we just used a lighter - again, this was the hubby's job), ignite the cognac and allow the alcohol to burn off.  Return the pot to the heated burner, add the flour and stir for 2 minutes.  Add water to cover, and stir up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add cream and bring to a boil.  Immediately decrease the heat and gently simmer until reduced and thick, about 30-45 minutes.  Strain into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper.  Meanwhile heat the oven to 400.  Heat remaining EVOO and 2 T butter in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add the remaining onion, thyme, bay leaf, and orange zest along with peppercorns and let cook 5 minutes.  Add claws and tails & toss to coat.  (At this point we had already removed the meat from the claws and tails - and by "we" I mean "he" - so we skipped putting them in the oven as the rest of the recipe says.  We just cooked it up in the pan with the ingredients the recipe says to add).  Removed the pan from the heat and carefully pour in 1/4c cognac.  Again, ignite with a kitchen match and let the alcohol burn off.  Put pan into the oven and let roast until the lobster is cooked through, 15 minutes.  Remove the lobster pieces and set aside.  Once cool enough to handle, remove meat from shells and coarsely chop.  Add meat to strained bisque.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with orange zest and chives, and serve with the recipe below.

 Grilled Brie and Tomatoes On Crusty Bread
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I used small tomatoes from the farmers market and quartered them)
2 T EVOO (I left this out)
coarse salt & pepper
3 T unsalted butter, softened
6 1/2" thick slices of crusty bread
1/2 lb brie sliced thin

Heat your broiler.  Put cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with EVOO.  Season with salt & pepper.  Broil until they burst (I did my larger tomatoes for 10 minutes).  Set aside.  Butter bread on both sides and top each with several slices of brie.  Broil until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.  Top with tomatoes and serve immediately.

Clearly a lot of time and love goes into this meal, so it was nice that hubby and I could do it together.  I hope you find the time in your busy schedule every once in a while to treat yourself to a nice meal like this one.  It's great to go to a restaurant and have someone else do the work for you - no dirty dishes, no fuss, no work to do at all - but there is something very special about making the meals yourself.  Somehow they just taste better.  You know what ingredients are in the meal and where they came from.  There is something very organic and pure about making a meal at home - whether it's on your own or with a loved one.

Take the time to spoil yourself and create a meal of your own that means something to you...then sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup & Sides

I'm not feeling great today.  It's definitely a soup day.

It seems there is a type of food to cure every problem.  Hung over?  Eat McDonalds.  Happy?  Eat cake.  Sad?  Eat anything bad for you...chocolate works for me.  Tired?  Drink coffee.  Defeated?  Have some soup.  Food is the answer to everything!

Since it's Meatless Monday, I turn to my trusty tofu for the protein in this meal.  You can make the soup with or without it.  I increased some of the ingredients below because I wanted more soup then what the original recipe made. I also had stale mini pitas to use up, so I made parmesan crisps as a side.  My veggie is asparagus that I picked up from the farmers market.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Soup With Lime
2 T butter
2 garlic minced
1 onion chopped (I used 3 onions and 1 shallot, love onions!)
1 1/2 tsp chili powder (I didn't have any, so I used about 3T cajun seasoning)
3 c chicken broth (I used about 4 cups and then poured more water on top to cover the potatoes)
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (I only partially peeled them; skin is good for you, just wash well)
1 1/2c milk
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch (I had none left, so I used flour)
3/4c plain yogurt (I used Astro 0%)
1/4 tsp salt, pepper
1 tsp lime zest
2 T lime
1 package extra firm tofu (if using), cubed small

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion, and chill powder.  Saute for 5 minutes.  Add the broth and sweet potatoes (this is where I topped up the pot with boiling water to make sure everything was covered).  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes (I left mine on high heat to continue boiling because I left some peel in - didn't change the cooking time though, go with 20 minutes).  Move pot off of burner, and puree with a hand blended until smooth.  Add milk if necessary to thin(I didn't).  Return the pot to burner and stir in milk.  This is also where i threw in a package of cubed extra firm tofu.   Heat, stirring, until steamy but do not let boil (this only takes a minute).  In a small bowl whisk the cornstarch (or flour) into 1/2c of the yogurt.  Stir into soup.  Heat stirring for 1 minute.  Stir in salt and season to taste.  Stir lime zest and juice into remaining yogurt.  Ladle soup into bowls and dollop with the lime yogurt.

Parmesan Pita Crisps
Pita bread (I used mini pitas)
Garlic salt (I chopped up fresh garlic and mixed it with the oil for brushing - warm it up in the microwave first)
Parmesan (shredded or grated, your choice.  I used a fresh block and chopped it up)

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut pitas into pieces (if you are using whole pitas) like triangles or squares.  Brush each piece with oil then sprinkle with garlic salt (or use the garlic oil as mentioned above).  Top each piece with parmesan.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Best served warm (right away)

Roasted Asparagus (with Parmesan of course...)
Asparagus (I do big batches of this, depends on how many you are feeding)
Coarse salt
Fresh pepper
Parmesan, shaved

Set oven to roast at 400.  Toss Asparagus with some EVOO and coarse salt.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Top with shaved parmesan,  Roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on the amount of asparagus you are cooking.

A great meal, hope you love it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I might have mentioned previously that my dear hubby is a home renovator.  He's wonderful with people, and home owners always love him.  He has recently been working for a home owner who gave him two fabulous muffin recipes (after he of course tasted and loved them).  He requested I make them immediately...which of course I did, and he was right, they were great!  Thanks Jackie, we love them!

Check out Jackie's recipes below - they are wonderful!

Jackie's Banana Pineapple Muffins
1c crisco (I used about 3/4c and 1/4c  butter, I was all out of crisco)
1 1/2c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3c flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp nutmeg
1c drained crushed pineapple
2c mashed bananas (I used 1 banana and 2's all I had at the time!)

Preheat the oven to 375.  Cream the shortening and sugar.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Combine pineapple and banana into mixture.  Jackie's very important words of advice - DO NOT OVER MIX!  I put them in muffin papers in the tins.  Bake for 25 minutes (although mine needed to come out after about 21 minutes.  Apparently I didn't make mine big enough, because hubby complained that Jackie's were bigger and fluffier). 

They were delicious!

And one more...these were my favorite...

Jackie's Apple Carrot Muffins
2c flour
1 1/4c sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2c grated carrots
1/2c raisins
1/2c chopped walnuts (I left these out)
1 apple diced
3 beaten eggs
1c canola oil
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together first 5 ingredients in a bowl.  Add the next 4 ingredients and mix.  Add last 3 ingredients and mix well.  Bake 20-25 minutes.

I had started to peel the apple in this recipe, and then thought, why bother?  I chopped it up small enough so that the skin wasn't noticeable, and it's healthier that way too!

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did, thanks again Jackie!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Not So Curried Chicken...

This is one of my kids' favorite recipes.  Mine and the hubby's too.  It's my mom's 'curried' chicken recipe.  Although it's do I say it...North Americanized.  My hubby is of Jamaican descent - so I can assure you this is not West Indian recipe.  We also love Indian food - it absolutely cannot be classified as East Indian curry either. 

I liken it to when I used to go to clubs, and looked forward to hearing a certain type of music (that would have been advertised as the feature that night).  I was always disappointed, because they never played the TRUE genre I was looking for, they only played the top hits that were circulating on the radio.

So this curried chicken isn't a TRUE's a very run-of-the-mill, easily enjoyed recipe.  Best for picky eaters, if you ask me, because there is nothing here that wouldn't be liked.

"Curried" Chicken
18 pieces of chicken (I used breasts this time - but have used legs, thighs, whatever I had at the time)
1 garlic, chopped (I used 3)
salt & pepper
juice of half a lemon (I used a tsp of bottled lemon juice)
1/2c butter or margarine (I find this to be WAY to much - a little under a 1/4c will do just fine)
1 1/2 T curry powder (this is why we are allowed to call it curried
3/4c Dijon mustard
1c honey
1 T soy sauce

Put all of the chicken in a baking pan.  Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and warm them up (I put them in a bowl and warmed them in the microwave).  Pour all over the chicken.  Bake at 350 for 60 minutes (this time would vary depending on what type of chicken you are using.  Chicken breasts only need about 40 minutes, thighs can be anywhere from 40-60 minutes depending on the size, etc.  Leave a comment if you have questions).  Baste if the chicken isn't well covered (it will be, unless you're using a HUGE pan...which you shouldn't be!).  That's it.  Enjoy!

I serve this with rice and a simple salad.  It's a quick meal, and always a pleaser!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hot & Spicy Tofu

When I tell you that tofu tastes like chicken, if prepared correctly, I'm sure the skeptics baulk at me.  Well, let me tell you again...tofu tastes like chicken!  It's a healthy vegetarian option for even the die-hard meat lovers.  Give it a chance with this recipe - you will love it!  The thing about tofu that you have to remember is that it literally tastes like nothing.  It's up to you to season it to your liking.  Skip this step, and you definitely won't be eating it again.  But season it like you would chicken, and it will become a regular staple in your home.

Hot & Spicy Tofu
3 T oil
1lb firm tofu, cubed
1 red onion, sliced
1 red pepper sliced
1 green chili pepper, chopped
3 garlic crushed (I chopped them)
1/3c hot water (I did 2c)
3 T vinegar (I did 12 T)
3 T soy sauce (I did 12T)
1 T brown sugar (I did 6 T)
1 tsp cornstarch (I did 2tsp)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (I did 2tsp)

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Tofu preparation is very important, so although this wasn't part of the actual recipe, here's what you have to do before cooking tofu - chop it up into bite size pieces, lay them on a few pieces of paper towel and cover them with paper towel.  Press down, and leave to dry out for a few minutes.  It's good to put something heavy on top to draw out the moisture.  This will help to give a chewy chicken consistency rather than a soft soy-like consistency (no good).  Toss tofu in the oil and cook until browned on all sides (this takes about 5-8 minutes).  Toss in onion, pepper, chili pepper and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes.  In a small bowl whisk together the hot water, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and flakes (as mentioned above, I pretty much did the sauce x 6 because I hate when I make something without enough sauce, and this recipe definitely didn't have enough).  Pour over tofu and vegetables, and toss to coat.  Simmer 3-5 minutes.  Serve over rice.

A great vegetarian meal, and you really do feel like you're eating meat.  Try it!