Grilled Asparagus with a Tarragon Cream Sauce – French Style

I love asparagus, especially asparagus that are pan seared, roasted or grilled. When “charred” just a little, the asparagus takes on a whole new dimension of smoky flavor. I love cream based sauces – so rich and decadent. I adore the wonderful licorice flavor that tarragon imparts. You can see why this recipe was perfect – bringing all those marvelous flavors together in one sinfully yummy side dish.

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Anne’s Awesome Bacon-Spinach Quiche

It’s funny how certain “first” bites just stay with you forever. My first bite of an Omelette was  – of all places – on an airplane flight. My first bite of Quiche was at a little mid-town bistro – and it was an instant love affair. I’m not sure if it was the Quiche itself that I fell in love with or the quaintness of this tiny French Bistro (long since gone) that I adored so much. Many a Sunday morning was spent there, sipping a Mimosa and nibbling on fresh-baked goodies. Many a Saturday nigh I could be found sipping Champagne and indulging in Chocolate Mousse perfection while discussing the politics of the day. Oh to the finer things in life!

1917767_102923659725576_1228181_n-1I was fortunate enough to have grown up in an atmosphere that centered around family times, and plenty of entertaining – both in and out of the kitchen. We didn’t need a holiday as an excuse to get together. Family gatherings always included plenty of wonderful food, lots of laughs and some of the best off-key entertaining on the planet. While the adults put out a spread to end all spreads; the kids could count on a captive audience that loved everything we did. I can remember my sisters doing a wild hula dance. We sang “I want to Hold Your Hand” so off-key that the dogs in the neighborhood howled! It was only natural that as adults we love to entertain – and ham it up in the process.

Anyway, the first time I had home-made Quiche was at a family brunch. It was an Easter extravaganza to end all Easters. My middle sister, Anne, made the most awesome Bacon-Spinach Quiche as her contribution to the festivities. I’ve since collected and perfected a few recipes of my own, but hers has a very special place in my heart.

Anne’s Bacon-Spinach Quiche Pie
1 Pound cooked Bacon, crumbled
1 Package Frozen Spinach, thawed and drained of liquids
½ Cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
½ Cup Jack Cheese, shredded
½ Cup Sliced Mushrooms
10 Eggs
½ Cup Milk
Dash of Nutmeg
Uncooked Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. While the oven is heating, fry up the bacon and drain on paper towels. Let the bacon cool, then crumble and set aside.

Roll out pie crust and place crust in a deep-dish pie pan and set aside.

Shred cheeses, mix together and cover bottom of pan about 1/3 of the way up with a layer of the cheese mixture.

Layer spinach, mushrooms and bacon over the cheese. Whisk eggs, milk and a dash of nutmeg together. Pour over Quiche.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue to bake for 45 minutes to an hour until firm and cooked through.

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Here’s to childhood memories and first bites!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with a Twist

I love mashed potatoes – a beautiful canvas for so many wonderful things! Smothered in gravy – oh my! Oozing with melted butter – oh yeah! As a bed for stews or meatballs or just the way they are – I’m there!

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A Cheater’s Guide to Buttery Croissants with a Kiss of Almond

I adore a breakfast of pastries, fresh fruits, good coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice. I hold a special fondness for light, delicate pastries on a spring morning, when the very air is an invention to linger. Fresh pastries on Easter Morning are especially welcome.

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Easter Basket Cupcakes

Growing up, we could always count on Dad’s Easter Cake. He baked a layer cake, frosted it with green-tinted buttercream and topped his cake with coconut that had also been tinted green for the grass. Dad made a big handle for his Basket Cake by folding a large sheet of foil into just the right size and bending it into shape.

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New England Cod on Potato Shingles with Zapped Broccoli

The absolute best part of the Lenten Season is that the supermarkets are jam-packed with fish and seafood – and just about everything is on sale!  It gives me a chance to stock up on all sorts of yummy things to keep in the freezer. (Yeah, I know fresh is best, but when you live on a budget sales are even better!)

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Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin

A few years back, there was a miscommunication with regard to Easter and who was hosting the event. Typically, my youngest sister plays hostess to a potluck Easter feast.  I’m generally in charge of the appetizers and desserts, while my sister and her family provide the main attractions – the ham and all its beautiful trimmings. I assumed we would be going to my sister’s house, as we had in the past.

You know what they say about the word assume, right? Ass-U-Me. A few days before Easter as I put together the shopping list for the week, I shot my sister a quick email to ask what time we should be at her house. For whatever reason, my sister FORGOT that we usually gathered at her house for Easter Supper, so she and her family had accepted another invitation. Oh my! No worries. I immediately called my Dad. He and his wife had no plans for Easter. Great – we’d move everything to the farm instead. And with a smaller group, there was no need for a big ham dinner. I knew the perfect alternative to ham – beautiful, festive and sure to please. This spectacular Pork Tenderloin is great for entertaining a few friends for dinner. The presentation alone is sure to get plenty of wows and praise.

 

 

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin
3 1/2 pound pork loin roast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup roughly chopped raw pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Trim the fat from the roast, leaving only a quarter-inch of fat on top that will melt away, creating a nice golden under crust while basting the meat in its flavorful goodness.

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper. Place pork on a roasting rack over a shallow foil-lined rimmed baking pan. (Easy clean up). Roast pork in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. (It doesn’t hurt to brush the rack with a little olive oil to prevent pork from sticking and to help with the clean up there as well).

While the pork is cooking, combine the brown sugar and Dijon mustard into a paste. Fold the chopped pecans into the paste and set aside until ready to use. (To chop pecans, work in small batches. Lay pecans in a single layer on a chopping board. Chop with a hand-held food chopper – about 5 or 6 “wacks” should give you nicely chopped pecans. My food chopper is from Pampered Chef – had it for years and love it!)

After pork loin has roasted in the oven for 30 minutes, remove the loin from oven. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Spread prepared baste evenly over the of the top of the pork loin and return to oven.

Baste the roast about every 15 minutes, scooping up the glaze and nuts that fall off back over the top of the roast.

Continue to roast pork loin until the internal temperature reaches between 145 to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. (That’s about 20 to 25 minutes per pound). The pork will still have a little pink at 145 degrees, which is safe to eat. At 160 degrees, the pork is well-done.

If the glaze starts to burn, simply cover loosely with foil and continue to cook.

Remove pork from oven, tent and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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This roast is especially delicious when served with Rice Pilaf or caramelized apples. A nice green vegetable such as Asparagus or Green Beans adds color to the plate.

Hope you enjoy!

Smokin’ Cowboy Rib-Eye Steak with Spicy Onion Rings

Many, many year ago, Hubby and I took a road trip, just the two of us, to New Mexico. I can’t remember the last time a road trip, or any vacation for that matter, didn’t include Kiddo. This was one of those “we are a couple, right?” kind of trips. Just the two of us, doing whatever we pleased. While in Santa Fe, we had an unforgettable steak dinner at Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe. Hubby and I both adore spicy foods, and New Mexican cuisine is out-of-this-world delicious. You haven’t truly experienced heat on a plate until you’ve dined in New Mexico!

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Smoked Paprika Chicken – Dark Meat Chicken At It’s Best!

In recent weeks, I’ve been organizing and reorganizing my Yumprint recipe collection.  Originally my “cookbooks” within Yumprint were organized in categories such as a beef cookbook, a chicken, a pork and so forth. In other words, all my beef based recipes were lumped into one book aptly named Beef.  As the collection grew, finding something Italian or French within a sea of Beef or Chicken recipes became increasingly more difficult. While searching through recipes often brought inspiration, it was also a pain if I were looking for a particular type of cuisine in a hurry. Naturally, I went through all my various cookbooks and redefined the recipes (Yumprint sorts recipes in an alpha-numerical listing within each book). the only way that seemed to make sense – I read each recipe, then gave it a country of origin such as Chicken – Italian: Chicken Parmesan for example. This worked well for a while, but did not completely solve the hunt and peck grind. Sure, I could have simply typed Chicken Parmesan into the search parameters, but when you have thousands of recipes to search, it takes a minute. No, this simply would not do – more information was needed. What if I were standing in front of a freezer packed with chicken legs that I needed to use up but did not have clue one as to what I wanted to make with all those legs. Now the focus had shifted from just a country of origin to inspiration using a particular cut of meat. Problem solved. Everything was renamed yet again.  Chicken- French: Chicken Provencal  became Chicken, Legs – French: Chicken Provencal. Now all my recipes using breasts or legs or thighs are lumped into separate groups,  followed by country, followed by the actual name of a dish. As I plunged head-long into this process, I began to notice something that caused me to wonder. Chicken, Breast – American held far more recipes than Chicken, Thighs – American. Why was that? Do Americans eat more white meat than dark, thus explaining a broader assortment of recipes calling for breast? The answer? Yes, we do. Studies indicate that an average, meat-consuming American will eat approximately 60 pounds of chicken a year. (Obviously this study does not take into consideration chicken wings and Super Bowl Sunday). Of the chicken eaten, a whopping 80% of that is breast meat. Wow! The real kicker here is that most professional chefs would rather work with dark meat – thighs in particular. Dark meat is less dry that white meat, it has more depth of flavor and that slightly gamey wow factor. So what gives with the rest of us? There are all sorts of theories floating about, but the bottom line is we need to embrace the deliciousness of dark meat. I for one intend to do just that!

To begin with, isn’t the picture lovely? In all fairness, it’s not mind – the photo; like the recipe, is a William-Sonoma creation (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/paprika-chicken.html). When I cooked for my guys, they were far to hungry to wait for the usual “photo” section – we cooked, we ate, we enjoyed. Boy, it was good!

This recipe is perfect for a delicious week-day meal. From start to finish, it took under an hour. Okay, so maybe it’s not speedy-quick, but it’s one of the tastiest chickens I’ve prepared in under an hour. I will admit, I did find that the cooking time was a little longer than the recipe called for, but then again I had fairly large thighs in the skillet, so it would make sense. Not only was the finished dish very tasty, it was juicy, too. Hubby and Kiddo have let me know this recipe is a real “keeper”. Now Hubby has always been a fan of dark meat, so it’s no surprise that he enjoyed it. However; Kiddo is funny when it comes to chicken – he rarely likes chicken on the bone, although I don’t have a clue as to why. And he prefers white meat over dark meat hands down. So for Kiddo to say he want this again, that’s two thumbs up. Yeah, it’s good!

As usual, I made a few changes to the original recipe. First off, as the photo shows, William-Sonoma uses legs and thighs in their recipe (3 each). I elected to go with just the thighs (7 – strange package) because it’s what I had in the freezer. As it turns out, the rub was perfect for the amount of chicken I had on hand. I did change the rub just a bit – using chopped roasted garlic rather than roasted garlic powder. (What can I say, I’m a huge fan of garlic!) The only other change I made was to lift the skin from the thigh (without removing it) and put some of the rub between the meat and the skin, thus increasing the wonderful flavor throughout the meat. Beyond that, no other changes or alternations were necessary.

Now that I’ve shared my tips and alterations, let’s get down to the real reason we’re here – to cook up a wonderful chicken recipe using dark meat that is fast and tasty.

Smoked Paprika Chicken
1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon Chopped Roasted Garlic
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
6 Chicken Thighs, bone-in; Skin-on*
1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil

Note: I prefer thighs, but this recipe will work with all legs or a combination of legs and thighs.

In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, garlic powder, salt, cayenne and brown sugar. Set aside.

Gently lift skin from meat without removing the skin. Sprinkle a little rub under the skin, gently message into meat.  Rub remaining spice mixture evenly over the entire chicken pieces.

In a nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the chicken skin side up. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook about 15 minutes.  Turn chicken, cover and continue to cook until juices run clear, about 10 minutes longer.

Uncover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the skin begins to crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Easter Appetizers That Are Sure to Please

Now that I’ve shared an elegant Easter Supper, I thought I’d press on with the whole Easter Celebration Theme. I simply adore appetizers, don’t you? Little bite-size morsels of goodness that you can just pop in your mouth. What’s not to love? Best of all, appetizers provide variety – in color, in texture, in flavors – all on one plate.

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An Elegant Easter Supper in Four Courses

Before we know it, Easter will be upon us – a time of celebration, for renewal and rejuvenation.  I grew up in a different time – when wearing your “Sunday Best” meant something extra special. Brother Dear always got a new suit for Easter, complete with a bow-tie. My sisters and I could count on new Easter Bonnets and bright new shoes. Back in those days, ladies covered their heads at Mass and a new hat was always cause for excitement.

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Super Easy Cinnamon-Nutmeg French Toast

We love French Toast.  Why else would I have 44 (and counting) different recipes dedicated to French Toast? Interestingly enough, French Toast isn’t even French.  The earliest recorded recipe to survive is written in Lain, somewhere around the 4th or 5th century.  There is no mention of egg, the bread is simply soaked in milk and then pan-fried.  It would be more accurate to call this breakfast favorite “Roman Toast” rather than French. By the 15th century, it was commonly called “Pain Perdu” – which is French for “lost bread”.  Making French Toast was a convenient way to reclaim stale bread by soaking it in a mixture of eggs and milk, then frying it up. Ironically, in France Pain Perdu isn’t even served in the mornings but rather as a dessert. In the beginning, there were two ways of making French Toast – how the toast was prepared was an indication of the status of your household.  One called for stale bread to be dipped in a mixture of milk and egg, the other called for white bread (the most expensive in its day), with the crusts removed.  Throwing out any part of a slice of bread, however stale, would never have occurred to the poor.  If you could afford to toss out bread, you must be elite!

Culinary historians disagree over the roots of French Toast. The simple concoction of bread, eggs, and milk likely dates back to Medieval times, when the battering process was used to make stale loaves more palatable. The question is whether the French were truly the first to dip and fry their bread, or whether other Europeans stumbled upon the “invention” on their own. So if French Toast dates back to the Romans, why is it known as French Toast today? One popular legend has it that in 1724 an innkeeper in Albany, New York first came up with the recipe that most closely resembles French Toast today. His name was Joseph French. He promoted his breakfast toast as French Toast, which is simply a punctuation error. It seems that Joseph French never learned about the use of an apostrophe “s.” His toast should have been called French’s Toast. In culinary history, this mistake can be seen in a number of different recipes such as German Chocolate Cake. The baker’s last name was – you guessed it – German. My personal take is that while trivia is always nice to know, just so long as the food it good, who really cares?

The most common recipes for French Toast use milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.  In this version, I omit the vanilla, replacing it with Sunny D (this gives it just a hint of sweet orange flavoring) and add nutmeg.  I like the nutty sweetness that nutmeg brings to the mix.

Super Easy Cinnamon-Nutmeg French Toast
10 Slices of Bread
3 Eggs
2/3 Cup Milk
2 1/2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1 Dash of Nutmeg
3 Tablespoons Sunny D Orange Juice (optional)
Powdered Sugar for dusting (optional)
Butter for serving
Maple Syrup for serving

Cut bread to create 20 triangles. Stale bread is best. It will stand up to the batter without becoming soggy and toasts nicely. I prefer Texas Toast or Artisan Bread.

In 4 cup measuring cup, whip eggs with a whisk until pale and blended. Add milk, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat until creamy. Don’t let the eggs get too frothy.  You’re looking for a smooth, silky batter that resembles a custard. If you have a batter-powered whisk, this will make quick work of blending. You want to make sure the cinnamon and nutmeg are well incorporated into the batter and not simply floating about on the surface.

Pour batter into a shallow dish large enough to allow bread slices to be dipped. Add Sunny D (not “real” orange juice – smooth-style Sunny D will impart a hint of sweet orange flavoring without the citrus acid that might curdle the milk).

Heat a large griddle to about 325 degrees. Oil griddle with margarine, just enough to lightly coat griddle.

Dip bread slices two at a time into the mixture to coat both sides. (If necessary, continually whisking will keep the cinnamon blended for even distribution for all the bread slices, otherwise the cinnamon may float to the top and there won’t be any left after only a few slices of bread have been dipped).

Place dipped slices onto the griddle and cook until golden, about 3-5 minutes. Flip bread to “toast” other side. While the toast is still on the griddle, lightly butter each slice. This will allow the butter to melt quickly and the bread will soak in all that wonderful buttery flavor.  If necessary, cook the toast in batches so as to not over-crowd the griddle.

Plate on individual warmed plates. If desired, dust with powdered sugar. Pour on the syrup and enjoy!  This is wonderful with fresh fruit and maple sausage.

Super Moist Breaded Ranch Chicken

The inspiration for this chicken dish came from love pomegranate house, a self-proclaimed die-hard DIY-er with lots of recipes, tips and projects. Those of you who are familiar with me know that I love to tweak and play around with recipes. This recipe was no exception. The original recipe included Parmesan Cheese and garlic power mixed into the bread crumbs along with a package of Ranch Dressing Mix (the dry stuff). The breasts are dipped into melted butter, then rolled in the breadcrumb mixture before being fried. (Sound delicious, doesn’t it?)

I skipped the garlic powder and Parmesan Cheese (Hubby isn’t a fan of cheese). Rather than dip the chicken in butter to moisten before breading, and to get that same wonderful Ranch flavor, I brushed the breasts with bottled Ranch Dressing first.

When Kiddo (my harshest and most vocal food critic) took one bite and said “How did you get the chicken so moist?” I explained that brushing the chicken breasts with the Ranch Dressing and rolling in breadcrumbs created a tasty “thermal” blanket, keeping the natural juices of the chicken IN the chicken. The wine at the end added moisture as well.

All he knew was that the chicken was “yummy” and that’s what counts, right? Add to the fact that you can have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, and you’ve got the makings for a great weeknight meal. Or a delicious Sunday supper without investing a whole lot of time.

I served my chicken with Rice-A-Roni (haven’t made that in years!) and cut green beans. The chicken finished a little ahead of the rice, so I held it in a warm oven (about 300 degrees), and poured the pan-drippings over the breast to help hold it the moisture. That was perfect – the chicken held and stayed super moist while the rice cooked another 10 minutes. It’s always nice to know if a recipe will hold in the oven when your timing is a little off.

Breaded Ranch Chicken
1/2 Cup Ranch Dressing
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 boneless chicken breasts
2-3 Tablespoons White Wine

Filet chicken breast lengthwise to create 2 thin breasts from each larger breast. (Or use thin sliced breasts from the market).

Pat breasts dry with paper towels.

Brush breast with Ranch Dressing, then roll in bread crumbs.

Melt butter with olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once melted, lower heat to medium, place breaded chicken into pan.

Cook for about 5-8  minutes or until golden brown. Turn and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes.

Add wine to the skillet, cover and “steam” for a few minutes longer or until chicken is cooked through.

Transfer to a warm platter, drizzle with pan drippings and serve with favorite sides.

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Breaded Ranch Chicken (3)
Cut chicken into thin breasts (or as I did, buy the thin-cut breasts), pat dry and brush with Ranch Dressing. Roll coated breasts in breadcrumbs while the skillet warms.

Breaded Ranch Chicken (4)
Place breaded breasts into the skillet with melted butter-olive oil for frying. Cook breasts for about 5 minutes or so until golden and cooked mid-way through.

Breaded Ranch Chicken (6)
Turn chicken and continue to cook another 5 minutes or so until golden and cooked through.

Breaded Ranch Chicken (7)
Add a little wine to the skillet, allow chicken to “steam” for a few minutes. The wine will impart additional flavor and moisture to the meat while deglazing the pan. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, drizzle with pan drippings.

Breaded Ranch Chicken (8)
Serve up these super-moist Breaded Ranch Chicken Breasts with your favorite sides and enjoy!

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Better than a Big Mac Burger

Do you remember when McDonald’s first introduced us to their Big Mac Burgers? Oh my stars – these were not your average “fast food” burgers. Back before convenience of drive-thru windows, you actually had to walk inside a McDonald’s to order your burgers, then wait for them to appear.

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Breakfast Tacos: Chorizo and Egg

Many moons ago, long before Hubby and Kiddo were a part of my life, I spent a year working at a Veterinarian Supply Company. I’m not talking about your neighborhood Vet who cares for dogs and cats; I’m talking about large animal vets – cattle and horses. Running with the big boys.

Continue reading “Breakfast Tacos: Chorizo and Egg”

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