Monthly Archives: August 2015

Scalloped Potatoes

My daughter Abbi and I were recently looking through the freezer trying to figure out meals for the week. I listed off all the proteins that I had in there. It quickly donned on me that as recent as 5 years ago some of what I listed would have NEVER been in my house let alone in my freezer waiting for me to cook.  Lamb chops – they are for the guys. Salmon I really want to like it, it just hasn’t happened yet. Some Bangers from a local pig farm that just need a little mash to go along the side, and even some pork belly just screaming at me to make pork belly steamed buns.

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There are also some things that used to be in my cupboard that I haven’t purchased in many years. I love scalloped potatoes and since my husband thinks he is a potato farmer we have a lot of potatoes on hand. Thankfully when stored properly his harvest lasts many months and we don’t have to eat them every day.

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While there are many ways to prepare potatoes I feel we sometimes get into a little potato rut on occasion, one of my daughters favorite comfort food is mashed potato and when she arrived home recently from her 2 year stint in Japan she wanted mashed potatoes with every meal and I am pretty sure we had them 3 or 4 times in the first week she was home. I do know that scalloped can take a little more effort than mashed, there cheesy goodness cannot be denied. If you are looking for something a little different tonight I don’t think you will be disappointed and will find it pretty easy to make. And if there are any leftovers, they are amazing!

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A mandolin does help but not necessary

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 dash cayenne pepper

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated cheese

In a small sauce pan, melt butter and whisk in the flour. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour taste. Add all of cold milk at once stirring with a whisk; season with salt and cayenne. Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk and it thickens a bit. Reduce heat and stir in cheese.

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Place a half of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour half of cheese sauce over potatoes.

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Repeat with second layer of potatoes and cheese sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake uncovered for an hour at 350°F

Bumper crop of cherry tomatoes – oven dried and chopped caprese

My daughter Abbi and I were watching one of my favorite celebrity chefs Ina Garten – I totally have Ina envy, she has a great place in the Hamptons; she has a very cool party barn, amazing gardens and a great kitchen plus I love her food;  she cooks like me, or maybe I cook like her??? Regardless I do have the great kitchen and my gardens while not TV worthy they work for us. We also have water nearby unfortunately it is a swamp – yup we are definitely not living in the Hamptons 🙂 OK back to the show, she was making dinner with Neil Patrick Harris and his chef husband David Burtka, they made a steak salad that sounded amazing; so we decided to make it for dinner the following night. It was totally worth it and very easy; the rub had some heat but was balanced out by the greens and the sweet roasted cherry tomatoes.

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Steak Rub: 1/4 cup dried mushroom, he wanted porcini we had oyster. 2 tbs kosher salt, 2 tbs whole black peppercorns, 1 tbs crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tbs granulated garlic, 2 tbs sugar. using a spice grinder add a couple of the ingredients at a time in a bowl mix well. I now know why it was a little extra spicey – Abbi made the rub and just confessed she added an extra tbs of crushed red pepper flakes and put in 1 tbs less of the sugar…

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We had some of the rub leftover and being as frugal as I am, we thought it might just work for the pork chops we were making for dinner.  It did but I will say it had a lot more heat than we tasted on the steak. To cut a little of the heat I finished off the chops with a drizzle of my brother-in-laws honey.

PORK DINNER

I was pretty proud that last night’s alfresco dinner was mostly from our gardens. I cooked everything out on the grill and thankfully the bugs stayed away long enough for us to enjoy dinner on the patio. Inspiration for the sides came from what I harvested from the garden earlier in the day. We had my husbands potatoes, our first brussels sprouts and the first batch of beets all from our garden and while everything was coming off the grill my husband ran to the garden to cut some fresh chives for the potatoes – everything was simply delicious.

HARVESTS

2 ways to oven dry cherry tomatoes

From the show they simply cut the tomatoes in half added olive oil and salt and pepper roasted in a 300’ for 2 ½ to 3 hours. These worked out great with the steak salad and the rub no competing for flavors. I have SO many more tomatoes that I needed to do something with, we also had my version of chopped caprese salad with dinner, all agreed we could have this every day for the rest of our lives, good thing since we have a ton of them right now!

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I wanted to make some more oven dried tomatoes but maybe with a little more love. I sliced them in half, added olive oil salt pepper and some dried basil and oregano plus some fresh pressed garlic; which was also from my garden. I roasted them at 225’ for 1 ½ hours then I shut the oven off and left them in the oven overnight.  You may need to adjust the timing based on how large your tomatoes are but OMG I think I just made dried cherry tomato crack…Life is good!

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Chopped Caprese Salad

Cherry tomatoes cut in half

Mozzarella Cheese cut into small chunks

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove crushed garlic

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Fresh basil leaves roughly chopped

CHOPPED CAPRESE

Place tomatoes and mozzarella in a bowl, salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl add olive oil, garlic and basil let sit for a minute or two so it flavors the oil and add it to the tomato mozzarella bowl stir till mixed and enjoy! Seriously make this!!!

Baked Avocado Fries & a kicked up dipping sauce

Let the harvesting begin! This year we tried a couple of new crops in the garden; Eggplant and Brussels Sprouts. I did not realize that eggplants are pretty finicky, they need perfect soil to sun and water ratio. I garden but I am not a gardener. I really don’t have the time or the patience to cater to plants that need coddling. I have pretty good luck with most plants, though this year no zucchini; so sad!!! But you should see my cabbages and I have already canned a dozen jars of pickles from my cucumbers. Today I am going to try, for the first time mind you, to make my own sauerkraut.

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I planted the Brussels sprouts mainly because they look really cool; my guys were not thrilled because they knew if they grew, we would be eating them. I hate wasting food which is why I am making sauerkraut. We planted 6 cabbages and they were all HUGE, I gave a couple away to family but that still leaves more than we can eat in a sitting plus they all came at once. I really should learn how to stagger plantings I guess that would be the non-gardener part of me. Did I also mention that the plants are making a bunch of mini cabbages?

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SO CUTE!!! – that’s my husbands work trailer peaking thru the leaves

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we harvested all the broccoli, new shoots coming back!

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adorable, need to figure out when to harvest these baby’s

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more baby cabbages growing from when we harvested the huge one. See the butternut squash peaking out in the upper left corner, we are going to have a ton of those this fall!

To go along with my hate wasting food mantra I had some very ripe avocados that I needed to use up before they went bad. I didn’t want to make guacamole like I usually do. I had taken fish out and have always wanted to try making avocado fries. Fish and Chips with a healthier chip sounded kind of cool. They were baked not fried and had a little dipping sauce that wasn’t ketchup; we do love trying something a little different.

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The wine is for me!!!

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I put mine on my silpat – if you don’t have one get one!!!! You’ll thank me later…

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Baked Avocado Fries

1 avocado – sliced into fry lengths sized fries

1 cup flour

1 egg beaten

1 cup dried breadcrumbs

2 tbs grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 450’

In 3 shallow bowls, I normally use a pie plates but these take out containers were just fine here. Flour in one, egg in another and bread crumbs in the third; season all with salt and pepper! Gently press avocado into the flour shaking off excess, dip into beaten egg and press into the bread crumbs. Place on a baking sheet once all placed, sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese. Bake in a preheated oven until cheese has melted and the fries are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

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Dipping sauce

3 tbs sour cream

2 tbs garlic powder

1 tbs tomatillo salsa – or use what you have on hand – I used salsa I had in the fridge

1 dash Sriracha or similar, or more to your liking

In a small bowl stir all ingredients together mixing thoroughly

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Cannoli Dip

A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for a quick meaning last minute BBQ. It is so nice having some things on hand to whip up to bring or make for a quick get together.  Proteins that take marinade pretty quickly and cook up fast on the grill, steak tips, boneless skinless chicken thighs and shrimp all great options I’ve even pulled off a pork tenderloin on the grill in about 30 minutes.

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My girlfriend made a very nice pasta salad and the piece de resistance; in my opinion was her cannoli dip for dessert. If I was in a pastry shop and I had to choose one; either an éclair or a cannoli, it would be the éclair every time. However after NP brought over her cannoli dip, I might have to ponder for a minute, or better yet I might just get both.

I have made the dip twice since and I has not disappointed anyone that I have served it to. With one exception; I have mentioned more times than I can count how opinionated my husband is, well guests dishes are no exception. NP put mini chocolate chips in and on top of her dip; as it should be and my husband would have rather of had the chocolate be shaved instead. We all told him where he can go with his shaved chocolate; basically he can shave his own chocolate, we are sticking with the mini chips.

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Cannoli Dip

1 brick cream cheese softened

2 cups ricotta

1 ½ cups confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup+ mini chocolate chips

Cannoli chips i found mine at my grocery store and they have 2 kinds.one with powdered sugar and the other with cinnamon – i bought both – it makes a lot of dip.

NP said you can also use crumbled sugar ice cream cones; I haven’t tried them yet

Beat together ricotta and cream cheese till smooth; add the vanilla and sugar and mix well.  Add the cup of chips and sprinkle a little more on top.

Cupcake – like homemade

I thought I would put my very opinionated husband and my son to the test this morning, at work tomorrow we are celebrating a birthday for a co-worker. I offered to make the cake and went with easy out cupcakes; well actually I really like cupcakes and I bought some really cute cupcake papers as an impulse buy at the register; my girlfriend KP will LOVE that comment. She loves to shake her head at me when we are shopping and I grab something close to the register.

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Kind of looks a little like a hydranga

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cute cup papers right!!!

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I have a great chocolate cake recipe but never really tried finding a white cake that I liked. My co-worker is one of those super picky eaters and only likes white cake, white frosting – boring so I added just a hint of blue food coloring; I tried to make them variegated in color. My test was to take a box cake mix and make it taste like homemade or as close to homemade as possible. I figured who better to see if they can taste the difference is both of my guys. Who both; mind you drove me crazy with wanting one before I was ready to set up the test, course they also didn’t know I was testing something and they were my guinea pigs.

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I do always make the same frosting no matter what flavor cake I make or how many.

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A few years ago a girlfriend of mine asked me to make her cupcakes for her wedding. I can bake but that doesn’t make me a baker and I can throw a mean party but that doesn’t make me a caterer either.  I have never made 130 of anything.  Let alone transport that many decorated cupcakes. Please note it if you ever say yes to a friend it was SO much easier to decorate the cupcakes on site than to travel 3+ hours in a car hoping they make it intact.

130+ cupcakes and homemade white chocolates for my friends beach wedding on the Cape

130+ cupcakes and homemade white chocolates for my friends beach wedding on the Cape and a cutting cake for her and the groom!

Easiest Frosting

2 sticks of butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

*Easy to color and if you want a little chocolate taste add some unsweetened cocoa powder

Room temperature butter; beat till smooth; add the sugar and vanilla and beat till light and fluffy. So easy to adjust to how much you need, add a little more of each and taste as you go.

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If you forget to take your butter out of the fridge in time, cut it into smaller pieces, it will soften faster

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if you are making 2 colors and want them mixed I put the white on one side of my piping bag and the light blue on the other.

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practice on parchment paper, you can always scoop it up and put it back in the bag. I used a star tip for my flowers

Box Cake Mix – reading the directions on the back, instead of oil use butter and make sure to double it, add an additional egg, replace the water with milk and adding a little vanilla can’t hurt.

Verdict: the altered cupcake was definitely moister; the flavor was good and in pinch could be pulled off as homemade. Homemade frosting definitely helps sell it more. My guys at first couldn’t tell the difference or so they say, they just wanted to try another couple of cupcakes.