Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms

149. A terrific addition to any holiday meal is Stuffed Mushrooms. Every cook has her own favorite combination of flavors when filling mushroom caps. I have found it is smart to purchase the large button mushrooms, because your work load is minimal.

I found this recipe on-line for Stuffed Mushrooms and it looks very good and also this recipe for Italian Stuffed Mushrooms. Both, I'm sure are scrumptious!

My recipe was so easy and versatile.

Stuffed Mushrooms

20 large white mushrooms, stems trimmed, washed
1/4 cup chopped onion or scallion
8 oz of cream cheese or 1 package Laughing Cow wedges, softened (wedges are lower in calories)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup fine bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil or butter melted

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop the stems into small cubes. Place in a mixing bowl. Place the mushrooms, cap side down in a baking dish that has been oiled lightly.
Place remaining ingredients in the bowl with chopped mushrooms. Mix everything together by hand. Taste for seasoning.
With a teaspoon, begin to fill each mushroom cap, overloading with the cheesy breadcrumb mix till all the filling is distributed in each mushroom.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes or till stuffing is light brown and mushrooms are tender. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Do not over bake. These also make a yummy appetizer...just choose a smaller mushroom.

"Mushrooms and tubers are the luxuries one might call frivolities of the kitchen.
Of late 'foodies" seem to have discovered a taste for both cultivated and wild mushrooms. They have a subtle and distinct flavour, a crisp but yielding texture,
but no real food value or calories. If the right mushroom is used for the right recipe, the resulting culinary delight may be heavenly."
~ Hrayr Berberoglu

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

148. My project for this week was to explore the artichoke and to make a delightful dish. An artichoke is actually a flower, a perennial thistle in the sunflower family. When the bud is permitted to grow to it's full potential, the plant stretches out 6 feet in diameter and up to 4 feet in height, and a beautiful purple flower emerges. Someone discovered these buds can be harvested before the flower begins to develop, as it is in a young stage. The entire bud can be eaten including the choke, which is slightly above the artichoke heart. Only in the more mature artichoke buds, the choke becomes spiky and impossible to digest.
One of my artichokes was too mature and I cut it open to show you the fuzzy choke.

The artichoke is a new phenomenon to me but one I have desired to figure out and conquer.
Some people think an artichoke is more work than it is worth...I dare to differ. This recipe was so easy and not difficult in the least. And the end result was "delightful". The flavor was so rich and delicious. We all agreed it would be great for tapas or as a delicious appetizer. While exploring, I found this post on SimplyRecipes.com on "How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke".

My recipe for Artichokes with Bagna Cauda is from the new Bon Appetite Magazine for April 2010. You can find it here on Epicurious.

Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

Bon Appétit | April 2010

by Ivy Manning

Bagna cauda is a warm, garlicky dip traditionally served with raw vegetables. It hails from northwestern Italy's Piedmont region. In this version, the sauce is served with cooked artichokes. And don’t be scared off by the three heads of garlic called for in this recipe. Simmering the garlic mellows its flavor significantly.

Yield: Makes 6 servings
3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
3 tablespoons butter
1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained, anchovies chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch.

Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from peel and place cloves in small bowl.

Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute.

Add mashed garlic and oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).

To prepare artichokes, trim the stems , cut the top 3/4 inch removed, cut the tips of remaining leaves with kitchen scissors


Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water.

Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size of artichokes. Drain.

Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda.

Test-Kitchen tips:
To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand. Use scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.

"These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual "food" out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead."
~Miss Piggy

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flower in Bloom

147. I just had to share the pictures of my Amaryllis bulb and how
beautifully it bloomed.
I received the bulb for Christmas and I waited to plant it at the end of January.
It took about 2 weeks for the plant to grow to full height.
It was thrilling to see 4 buds develop!
And the color of the flower was stunning!
So lovely...and we watched each bud bloom.

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes!
~William Wordsworth

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Beef Pot Pie

146. Our special Irish dinner was homemade Beef Pot Pie. When I saw this recipe it was a great choice for a St. Patrick's Feast. The original recipe is for Beef and Guinness Pie. It called for Guinness Irish stout...but I just can't stand the smell, taste or even the thought of it. So I substituted with an extra half cup of beef stock. Wow! Who needs the stout? This recipe was outstanding. And it is topped with puff pastry. It was such a beautiful presentation.

Beef Pot Pie


Yield: Makes 4 main-course servings
Active Time: 1 1/4 hr
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons drained brined green peppercorns, coarsely chopped
(I substituted with capers)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Rough puff pastry dough
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water

Special equipment: 4 (14-ounce) deep bowls or ramekins (4 to 5 inches wide)
or similar-capacity ovenproof dishes

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Pat beef dry. Stir together flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Add beef,

turning to coat, then shake off excess and transfer to a plate.

Heat oil in a wide 5 to 6-quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderately high heat
until just smoking,

then brown meat in 3 batches, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes per batch,

transferring to a bowl.

Add onion, garlic, and water to pot and cook, scraping up any brown bits from bottom

of pot and stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato

paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef with any juices accumulated in bowl, broth, Worcestershire sauce, peppercorns, and thyme and bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to oven.

Braise until beef is very tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Discard thyme and cool stew completely, uncovered, about 30 minutes. (If stew is

warm while assembling pies, it will melt uncooked pastry top.)

Put a shallow baking pan on middle rack of oven and increase oven temperature

to 425°F.

Divide cooled stew among

bowls (they won't be completely full). Roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured

surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick.

Trim edges and cut dough into quarters.

Stir together egg and water and brush a 1-inch border of egg wash around each

square. Invert 1 square over each bowl and drape, pressing sides lightly to help

adhere. Brush pastry tops with some of remaining egg wash and freeze 15 minutes

to thoroughly chill dough.

Bake pies in preheated shallow baking pan until pastry is puffed and golden brown,

about 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake 5 minutes more to fully cook dough.

"Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread...there may be."

~ David Grayson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whoopie Pies

145. Happy St. Patricks Day!
Today we celebrated with a yummy dinner and then baked up a couple batches of "Whoopie Pies" also called "Gobs" or "Moon Pies".
We made a batch of chocolate
and a batch of vanilla, which we colored green for St. Pats.
The recipe I used is from Epicurius and turned out so very good and buttery.

You can find the recipe here: "Whoopie Pies"
My daughter's school is having a fund raiser tomorrow. We thought the
Whoopie Pies would be a good seller.

"Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity."
~ Sean O'Casey

"A silent mouth is sweet to hear"
~ Old Irish Saying

Sunday, March 14, 2010


144. For Christmas my honey gave me a Paella pan. Hurray!!! a new adventure! The cooking of Paella has been on my list of "Foods to Tackle" for some time now. We searched our recipes and found this recipe in my honey's old "Foods of the World" series of Time Life Books. Paella was in "The Cooking of Spain and Portugal" cookbook. (purchase here)
The recipe is authentic to the "Levante" area on the east coast of Spain. This area is known as the "Land of Rice" with its miles of rice paddies, green and lush. Reading about this area made me want to fall into the pages, like Alice, and experience the foods, people and surroundings.

I took the recipe and "tweaked" it adding and omitting certain ingredients. Bobby, I'm making Paella!!!! You inspired me on your Throwdown! (Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Paella)

Time Life Books Foods of the World
"The Cooking of Spain and Portugal" (modified)

1 1/2 to 2 lb live lobster
6 medium-size shrimps in their shells
6 small hard-shelled clams, live
6 mussels, live
1/2 lb chorizos sausage, or other garlic-seasoned smoked pork sausage
1 1/2 to 2 lb chicken, cut into 12 serving pieces
2 teaspoons salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 ounces lean boneless pork, cut into 1/4" cubes
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 medium-sized sweet red or green pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut in strips 1 1/2" x 1/4"
1 large tomatoe, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups raw medium or long-grain rice or imported short-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron or saffron threads pulverized with a mortar and pestle
6 cups boiling water (I made a seafood stock by boiling shrimp shells, clams and mussels)
1/2 cup fresh peas or frozen
2 lemons, cut lengthwise into 6 wedges

With a cleaver or large, heavy knife, chop off the tail section of the lobster at the point where it joins the body and twist or cut off the large claws. Remove and discard the gelatinous sac in the head and the long intestinal vein attached to it. Without removing the shell, cut the tail crosswise into 1-inch thick slices and split the body of the lobster in half lengthwise, then crosswise into quarters. Set aside.
Shell the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. With a small, sharp knife, devein the shrimp. Scrub the clams and mussels thoroughly with a stiff brush under cold running water and remove the black, rope-like tufts from the mussels. Set the shrimp, clams and mussels aside.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Place oil in paella pan and heat. Add chicken, browning on all sides, once the chicken has taken it's last turn, add the sausage, sliced. Add the lobster turning the pieces frequently, cook over high heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the shell begins to turn pink. Remove lobster, chicken and sausage to a separate plate.

To make the sofrito, add the pork and brown it quickly on all sides over high heat. Add the onions, garlic, peppers and tomato. Stir, and cook briskly. Add the rice, salt and the saffron. Pour in the boiling water and stir constantly bringing to a boil over high heat.
Turn off the heat and taste the liquid for seasoning.
Add more salt if necessary.
Arrange the chicken pieces, lobster, sausage, shrimp, clams and mussels on top of the rice and scatter the peas at random over the whole. Set the pan on the floor of the oven and bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and the grains are tender. At no time should the paella be stirred after it goes into the oven.

When the paella is done, remove it from the oven and drape a kitchen towel loosely over the top. Let it rest for 5 to 8 minutes. Then garnish with the lemons and serve at the table directly from the pan.
"WHAT" It was fantastic! We used shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, chicken and Chorizos sausage and Uncle Ben's long grain rice.

~ Baltasar Gracian, 1650

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


143. Wontons rate high on my list of tapas and appetizers. My girls love "Crab Rangoon", which is fried wontons with a cheesy crab filling. Oh, so good. Most wontons you order in a Chinese Restaurant will have pork filling. And usually are in soup.
With a taste for Chinese food and the desire to create something, my honey picked up wonton wrappers in the veggie section of the market. I had pork sausages and used them for the filling. I pushed the filling out of the sausage skins into a bowl. I chopped up scallion green onion, crushed a clove of garlic and added about 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce. Then a sprinkling of ground ginger till I could smell it in the meat. I prefer chopped or grated fresh ginger. Then opened a can of water chestnuts and chopped them, about half the can, into tiny cubes. I began to fill the wrappers with a small amount of meat but the wrappers were too small to pull up like little purses, so I decided to fold them in a triangle pocket shape.
Wipe the edge of the wrapper with cold water and use a 1/2 teaspoon size small spoon to fill each wrapper. Of course if you use the large size wonton you will have to adjust your filling amount.
You don't have to press too hard, just make sure there is a seal. Some people suggest cornstarch in water to seal...but plain old water works just fine. There is cornstarch already on each wrapper to keep them from sticking together.
Each wonton turned out perfect. Then place them on a tray or plate to rest as your oil heats up.
I fried them in hot canola oil, about 1 1/2 cup in a small sauce pot. Then, drained them on a paper towel.
They turned out so delicious!
Crispy and light on the outside and juicy tender meat on the inside. When you bit into them, the juicy center would burst in your mouth.
Homemade is always the best!
"Do not fear going forward slowly; fear only to stand still."
Chinese Proverb


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