Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart

aspargus puff pastry tart.jpg

1 frozen puff pastry, thawed

5 oz fontina cheese, shredded

1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus

olive oil to drizzle

salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16×10 inch rectangle.  Trim uneven edges and place onto a baking sheet (I used parchment paper).  Take a knife and lightly score the dough 1 inch from the edges to mark a rectangle, then pierce the dough with a fork inside the markings at 1/2 intervals.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Do not worry if it is “puffed” up.

Remove the pastry from the oven and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus to fit crosswise inside the tart shell and lay them in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until asparagus is tender, about 20 minutes.  This tart would work well with a variety of other vegetables, including mushrooms or bell peppers.  Experiment with your favorite!

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Chicken Cacciatore

chicken-cacciatore6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 cup flour, seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, for dredging

4 tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 brown onions, thinly sliced

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

4 tbls butter

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup red wine

1/2 cup  fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tsps fresh thyme, chopped

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour.  Heat the olive oil in a deep dutch oven or heavy stock pot over med-high heat and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time.  Transfer the browned pieces to a plate while you finish the others.  Do not cook the chicken through.

Once the chicken is all browned and on a plate to hold, add the butter to the pot, then add the  onions and peppers and cook over med-high until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes).  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits from the bottom.  Cook a few minutes to reduce the wine.  Stir in the tomatoes and add half a can of water. Stir the herbs and  in.  Return the chicken to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and simmer uncovered until they are tender and chicken is cooked all the way through, about 15 minutes more.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Roasted Peppers

This just might be the simplest thing you’ll ever see on a food blog.  But they are so flavorful and you can use them in such a variety of ways that once you make them you may just always want to have them in your fridge. I add them to sandwiches, quesadillas and, just like my grandmother did, love to eat them piled on a fresh-cut slice of French bread with a piece of Provolone cheese. Add a glass of wine and call it “dinner.”

peppers-on-bread

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

6-8 Bell peppers, a variety of red, yellow and green works well

Extra virgin olive oil

Core and seed the peppers.  Slice the peppers fairly thin and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for a total of approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.  Peppers will be slightly shriveled and darkened when done.  Salt and pepper to taste.  If you wash the peppers just before slicing, be sure to DRY them completely before putting them on the baking sheet or they will end up “steaming” in the oven.

 

Spicy Deviled Eggs

Spicy Deviled Eggs

I love deviled eggs, and I have to give credit to my friend and coworker, Deena, who came up with this recipe to serve at an event we did for work.  She’s a wonderful chef and has had a private catering business for many years, and she’s so much fun to work with because some days all we do is talk food!  I figured with the holiday season upon us I’d post this recipe as it’s really different from any other deviled egg recipe I’ve ever had. 
 
                                                        Spicy Deviled Eggs
 
12 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chilled
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and minced
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. drained capers
1 T. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
½ t. red chili???? Oil
1 T. fresh parsley, minced
A thick balsamic vinegar or reduction for drizzle
 
 
Cut eggs in half lengthwise.  Place yolks into a bowl and mash with a fork.  Mix in mayonnaise, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and chili oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Mix in parsley.
  Pipe or spoon egg mixture into egg halves, mounding slightly.  Drizzle with a thick balsamic vinegar and serve.
 
Makes 24.

Super Sugar Cookies

Halloween Sugar Cookies

 
Super Sugar Cookies
 
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Icing from recipe below
colored sugar, sprinkles or gel to color icing
 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
 
In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt and stir together.
In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until well blended.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well mixed.  Lower speed, and scraping down the sides, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.  Do not overmix.
Gather the dough into a ball, then flatten slightly and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. 
When chilled through, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to a 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut dough into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully from the 12 minute mark so as not to brown.  Immediately transfer the cookies from the baking sheet to a cooling rack to cool.  Cool completely before decorating with the icing.
 
Cookie Icing
 
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
 
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth.  Divide into smaller bowls to color different colors with liquid or gel food colorings.  Sprinkle with colored sugar or candies while still wet.  Allow to set before serving. 

Crostini, plain and simple

Crostini, plain and simple Crostini, plain and simple
 
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Pizza Fondue

pizza fondue 001

 
This make a great appetizer for sure, but I’ve long served it as a quick dinner for my girls.  I’ve paired it in the picture with crostini but it’s also great with garlic bread as a dipping tool!  The recipe calls for mozzarella cheese and one thing I want to point out is that mozzarella can be a salty cheese, so choose wisely, or at least know how it tastes before you put it into this recipe.  If you make it and it turns out too salty, try adding a little more cheddar.  Other add-ins could be those that you’d put on to a pizza, such as sliced olives, diced pepperoni, green peppers etc., so whether you try this for dinner or a game-day appetizer table, you can make it your own.
 
                                                                         Pizza Fondue
 
1 pound ground beef
1 Tablespoon oregano
24oz jar marinara sauce
16oz grated cheddar
10oz grated mozzarella cheese
 
In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef until well done.  Add the marinara sauce and oregano and mix well.  Stir in both cheeses and stir until the cheeses melt.  Keep warm in a chafing dish if serving as an appetizer.  Serve with crostini or thin slices of garlic bread.

The Girls’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies

 
I call this “The girls’ recipe because it’s one that actually started with them, or one of their friends rather.  Then they just became the cookie makers in the family, which was fine by me!  With so many chocolate chip cookie recipes around, it’s hard to say what makes one better than another… As for me, I like this one the best because it was passed “up” to me for a change!  Grab a glass of milk and sit around the table for some talk with these cookies…you never know the stories you’re going to here with all these girls!
 
The Girls’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
 
3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk, mini, YOU choose!)
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
 
Combine the Crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg and beat until well blended.
 
In another bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.  Mix into creamed mixture.  Stir the chocolate chips and nuts in.  Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 8- 10 minutes.  Cool 2 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. 
 

Original Chex™ Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow

So even though my girls grew up loving this sweet treat, I recently brought this to a  puppy-themed  birthday party for a friend and it was still a hit with the grown ups.  Yes, I still do “themed” birthday parties with my friends! What’s that saying about age?  It’s only a number. And you’re never too old to have a birthday party with all the trimmings.  Anyway, I’ve also always thought this snack would be a cute addition to a Halloween costume for a little one dressed as a puppy… they could carry it around in a little dog dish as an accessory to their costume.  Whenever you make it, you can guarantee it won’t last long!  

 
Original Chex™ Puppy Chow
 
 
9 cups Chex cereal (I like Rice Chex)
1/4 butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar
 
In a small, heavy-bottom pan over very low heat melt the butter,  peanut butter, and chocolate chips; stir in vanilla and remove from heat.  Pour Chex cereal into a large bowl and pour chocolate mixture over, gently mixing until all is evenly coated.
Pour half of the powdered sugar into a large paper bag and pour the coated cereal into the bag.  Pour the rest of the powdered sugar on top and fold top of bag several times to “seal.”  Shake bag gently for several minutes to thoroughly coat the cereal with powdered sugar.  If you open bag and some of the cereal is still wet and dark chocolate in appearance, add more powdered sugar in necessary, re-close bag and continue shaking.  If you don’t have a large enough bag to do the whole batch at once, do two smaller batches at a time.  Store in an air-tight container.

Judy’s Chex Mix

I got this recipe from a neighbor and good friend of 20plus years and my girls have grown up loving it….and Judy.  It’s a staple any party we have, as well as something I always make around the holidays to have to snack on and give in decorative bags as a little gift.
 
chex-mix
 
1/2 box rice chex
1/2 box corn chex
1/2 box cheerios
1/2 small bag stick pretzels
1 lb peanuts, pecans, OR cashews
2 ½ sticks butter
½ cup bacon drippings
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons garlic salt
 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Melt butter with the bacon drippings in a medium sized saucepan;  add Tabasco sauce, peanut butter and garlic salt and stir to mix well. 
In a very large bowl,  combine all cereals, pretzels, and nuts, then drizzle butter mixture over and stir gently to coat.  Pour into a large roasting pan and bake in oven for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool before serving.

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