Author Archives for dclarkabal

8 hours cooking/baking

Since my daughter is home from Japan for a short visit we had friends and family over this weekend.  I took Friday off from work and cooked up a storm.  I spent 8 hours making dishes and desserts enough to feed anywhere from 10 to 20 people.  Since we had family from as far away as Virginia to a few that live right up the road I decided to just have an open house. Come as early as you want and leave as late as you want. Lunch would be served at 1 and dinner at 6 and whoever was here in between would not go hungry. At my house no one ever goes hungry!

 

White Chocolate Craisin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

White Chocolate Craisin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

Chicken Rice Soup

Lunch Menu: 4 Bean Chili, Corn Bread and Pulled Pork with Cole Slaw Sandwiches, Clam Chowder and Cookies

Dinner Menu: Ham, homemade beans, Macaroni & Cheese, Chicken Soup and Texas Sheet Cake

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When I know I need to feed this many people; I need to be very organized.  Thursday night I did all my grocery shopping so I could wake up in the morning and get going.  I envy the well-stocked kitchen & pantry on these types of occasions.  I have a large and a medium sized crockpot but could have used 2-3 more.  I have 2 large pots but could have used 4-5 more.  Unfortunately if I buy anymore cookware, dishes, glasses or utensils; my son will pitch a fit.  You see he does the majority of the dishes in the house and is running out of places to store all my treasures.  I kind of see what he means but I can’t help myself I need and use every item I bring home.  I have been using my class as an excuse to why a new sauté pan shows up or why I have a new Le Creuset in the cupboard. On occasion I do take inventory and clean out my stash, don’t tell Alex it’s just to make room for more.

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Make this cake – Trust me it is delicious and easy!!!

I got this recipe from a friend, I am not sure why it is called this but I really really like it.

Texas Sheet Cake

Add to Sauce Pan

1 Stick of Butter

½ Cup Vegetable Oil

4 TBS Cocoa

1 Cup Water

Boil the above in a pan for 2-3 minutes

Sift together

2 Cups Flour

2 Cups Sugar

Pour over chocolate sauce and mix well

Add to the above

½ Cup Buttermilk

1 tsp Baking Soda

2 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

Mix well and pour into greased jelly roll pan

Cook at 400’ for 20 minutes

Frosting to be added to hot cake

Add to Sauce Pan (you can use the same one; I cleaned mine when the cake was in the oven)

1 Stick Butter

1/3 Cup Buttermilk

4 TBS Cocoa

Bring to a boil

Add the following

1 Box of Confectioner’s Sugar (roughly 2 ¾ Cup)

½ tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla

¾ Cup Chopped Walnuts (I added after so I could make ½ sheet without – work fast as the frosting hardens quickly)

Once cooled – slice into whatever size pieces you would like and store in airtight container – they don’t stick too bad so you can stack

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

I had a cooking class last week where we made 3 different chicken dishes.  We made Harvest Roasted Chicken, Skillet Chicken and Chicken Cordon Bleu. I had blogged a few weeks ago about the Chicken Cordon Bleu it was a huge hit as I knew it would be the white wine sauce is just that awesome!!!

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I had 4 attendees at this class; 2 have come to previous classes and there were 2 new students.  I always find it quite comical some of the things I end up sharing with the class.  The cutting of an onion is always something new that we practice, this particular class we set a timer for searing chicken so they would leave it alone and let it brown.  Another tip shared was if you try to flip the meat and it doesn’t release from the pan to leave it alone.  Once it releases than you can turn it over.  One student couldn’t believe how long 5 minutes truly was; everyone wants to flip before its time. I see it ALL the time.  Let it set and get all yummy before flipping!!!

 

 

My daughter arrived from Japan Friday night for a 12 day visit.  SO excited to see her after her being gone for 8 months; we will be having several of her favorite meals while she is home.  She has already had mashed potatoes each of the 3 days of her being home in America.  We literally just finished eating a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and gravy for Sunday dinner.

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Some of the things that she can either not get or it does not taste like it does here in the states, is bacon, steak and burger. We are all SO excited she is here and are looking forward to hearing all her stories.

Skillet Chicken

1 TBS Cajun Seasoning Blend

¼ Tsp Salt

¼ Tsp Pepper

4 Chicken Thighs – Bone in works best for this

2 TBS Olive Oil

4 Cloves, peeled and lightly smashed

8 Small red or new potatoes, about 1 ½ inches in diameter

2 medium onions chopped finely

1 Cup peeled and cut carrots

2 ribs Celery, halved lengthwise and chopped diagonally into ½ inch pieces

½ Red bell Pepper, cut into large dice

2 Tablespoons AP flour

1 Cup chicken broth

½ Cup Wine

2 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley

In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper.  Rub mixture on all sides of chicken

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, add chicken (skin side down) cook until chicken is browned, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer chicken to plate, set aside.

Add potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, garlic and bell pepper to skillet.  Cook and stir 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat.  Slowly stir in chicken broth and wine.  Scraping up browned bits from the bottom of skillet bring to a boil, stirring often.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Place chicken back into skillet.  Cover and cook about 30 minutes, or until chicken is done and juices run clear. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered about 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

My nemesis – the hard boiled egg white chocolate chip craisin cookies

Who would ever think that they would be taken down a few pegs by a hard boiled egg?

My eggs are not pretty so I thought I would share a picture of one of my Orchids

My eggs are not pretty so I thought I would share a picture of one of my Orchids

If I were ever on Iron Chef or Chopped and the secret ingredient was an egg that you had to have at least one be hardboiled in some form or fashion per dish. I would be chopped first round and it would be the biggest Iron Chef upset bar none. It’s not that I can’t cook them so they come out perfect which I can; they come out yellow, no brown rings (overcooked) or still semi raw but they are golden yellow as they should be. I for some strange bizarre reason cannot peel the damn things without making a complete and utter mess of the kitchen, the sink and worst of all the poor little egg. I have tried adding vinegar, salt separately and together.  I have tried peeling the cold, warm, hot. under water without water and even with a spoon.  Nothing works for me.

I have seen many deviled eggs in my days, not a huge fan of eating them but when I see them at parties and cookouts; trust me I look to see if the whites are a beaten up as mine when I am done with them. I have a couple of theories on this. Either everyone else has mastered the process and I am destined to never be included in that crowd OR they make twice as many as they need and only show off the pretty ones. Earlier this week I made 5 hardboiled eggs; my guys love deviled eggs which is the only reason I keep making them. I only had two that were worthy of going out in public, thankfully the guys just throw them in their mouths and don’t bat an eye at them. One was SO pathetic that there was no way that it could even be turned into a devil, that one I ended up cutting up and threw it on my salad that I made for my lunch.  I usually post a picture or two but I am embarrassed to show off my ineptitude with hardboild eggs.

My deviled eggs are traditional – a little bit of white vinegar, some dry mustard and some mayo, a little salt and white pepper Mix well and I put that into a zip loc bagie, clip a corner and fill the eggs.  Sprinkle a little paprika et voila.

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Since I didn’t take pictures of the eggs I thought I would share something that I know is yummy and looks good to boot.

1 Cup softened unsalted butter (not melted)

1 Cup packed brown sugar

1/2 Cup Sugar

Cream the above –  Beat in

2 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

Combine the below

1 1/2 Cup Flour

1 Tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Salt

Stir in

3 Cups old fashioned oats

Add a bag of white chocolate

and a 10 oz bag of craisins

either spray a sheet pan or cookie sheet or use a silpat – drop by spoonfuls onto sheet and bake at 350′ for 10-12 minutes – do not over cook, let set on the sheet for a minute or two ENJOY!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner – Class Thur 3/20 6pm

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! 
Looking for a night out? Maybe a recipe or two to add to your list of go to meals. All are easy enough to make during the week but flavorful and impressive enough to show off. 

We will make 3 totally different chicken dinners
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Harvest Chicken
Skillet Chicken

Let me know if you are interested in coming Thursday the 20th at 6pm. 
Cost is $45pp and the first class includes a personalized binder for you to keep.

Lasagna throw down

Last weekend a girlfriends’ mother asked “would you like this magazine (all recipes) I won’t be making anything out of it” I generally grocery shop on Sunday’s; I take a look at my supermarket flyer, ask the guys what they might like and have a tentative weeks’ worth of meals planned before I head out.  I am pretty lucky that my family are willing to try anything at least once; or maybe they are the lucky ones that I love cooking new recipes. You never know when you will come across a winner and in some cases a dud.

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I took the magazine and immediately ripped out 6 recipes I would like to try. I ended up making 2 of them on Sunday 2 more by Wednesday.  A couple of them were definite keepers (Gumbo, Slow-Cooker BBQ Ribs), one was very good (Stuffed Peppers) but maybe not a weekly/monthly meal but I will be making them again. The last turned out to be a pretty sweet surprise for me.  It was dubbed “World’s Best Lasagna” I was very intrigued how this could be; I never had a formal recipe for the lasagna that I have been making for many many years. I followed this recipe and instructions exactly.  Since it makes a 9×13 inch dish I invited my in-laws over to share. The consensus was it was good, but they all liked mine better.  They said my lasagna had more of a bite than this one.  Everyone was in agreement that you could serve the “World’s Best” to just about anyone and they would all like it, it was a solid good lasagna.

OK not a real thrown down but 5 people voted mine better – might not count since they were all family but if you knew my family they will let you know if they like something or not. if you get my drift.

Here is my recipe – I only make a huge pan of it if we are having guests otherwise I use smaller dishes and freeze all but one that we cook up and eat for dinner with a nice salad and some yummy bread.

Package Sweet Italian Sausage casing removed and crumbled and cooked

2 jars’ of your favorite spaghetti sauce

Large yellow onion diced

4 cloves Garlic crushed

Olive Oil if needed

White wine

1TBS dried oregano

1TBS dried basil

1 TBS Garlic powder

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked Black Pepper

32 oz. Ricotta cheese

2 Eggs

2 TBS dried Parsley

1 ¾ Cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

2-3 Packages Mozzarella

1 Box no-bake Lasagna Noodles

The amounts above can all be adjusted to your taste

In a large stock pot cook the sausage to well done.  Remove and set aside; add the onions to the sausage oil and sauté until softened about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Add sauce, take the wine and swirl around the empty jars; add to the pot.  Add oregano, basil, garilc, salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. In the meantime mix the Ricotta, eggs, parsley and ¾ Cup parmesan cheese.  Once you have the above made you can decide if you want to make 1 9×13 pan OR 3 or 4 smaller one.   The layering is the same.  1/3 of the Sauce – Noodles slightly overlapping – Ricotta – Mozzarella – Parmesan cheese; repeat 3 times.  Cover with tinfoil and cook for 45 minutes, remove tinfoil and cook for another 45 minutes.

Croutons & Coleslaw admission

I am proud to admit that I have not purchased a bag or box of pre-made croutons in at least 13+ years.  I was literally at the grocery store just a few hours ago and saw a couple picking up a bag; I had to chuckle to myself because I was actually contemplating telling them how easy it was to make their own and that they are handsdown better than what you can buy at the store any day of the week.  I can see the headlines now; women arrested in Market Basket produce for accosting couple over bagged croutons.  I refrained… I then saw the same couple pick up a premade bag of salad; I tried not to judge. I am not perfect by any stretch; I have made my own coleslaw many times over the years but I will confess that it is way easier to buy a tri-color bag of shredded cabbage and carrots; I do make my own dressing for the slaw but sometimes everyone needs a little assistance.

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I have been trying to help my family eat a little better.  While we are definitely foodies and only want to eat food we like; which is not always the most healthiest choices and we don’t really adhere to the motto “eat less” either.  I figured if we had a salad before each dinner maybe we wouldn’t eat as much steak, chicken, pork chops, lasagna or whatever we are eating for dinner.  Last week I made some pretty yummy salads I must admit, They were more like a meal since I added some leftover bacon and I made a couple of hard boiled eggs.  My salads tend to be whatever we have in the produce drawer, I found that really like adding sno-peas, they add some really nice crunch and are very sweet. I cut off the ends, blanch for a minute remove from the heat; add to a ice water bath so they stay green and crunchy. (my salad is the one without the raw onion – I don’t like raw onions at all and I have no desire to learn)

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Croutons

Crust removed from whatever bread you want to make the croutons from.  I tend to make croutons every time we have leftover French or Italian bread that we had for dinner the night before, I have also used whatever sandwich bread we have in the drawer.

Day old Bread

Olive oil

Garlic Salt

Salt

Dried Parsley

Remove crust; cube into the size you want to eat; place in a ziploc bag; add olive oil; just enough to lightly coat the bread.

Bake in a 350’ oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned

If you are in a pinch you can pan sear them; I tend to do this in the morning if I make a salad for work

Cole Slaw

1 bag of tri-colored coleslaw

1 cup of Mayo

¼ cup Dijon mustard

1 Tbs cider vinegar

1 lemon juiced

Pinch of sugar

1/25 tsp celery seed

Several dashes of hot sauce

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the above ingredients; add to the coleslaw and let set for 10-15 minutes until it melds.  Great on pulled pork sandwich!

Looks can be deceiving – Coffee Cake

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We had a birthday at work the other day; I asked the b-day girl what she would like to snack on for the day.  She was not a big snacky type person and said that I should make something that I would like to eat.  Well I am not going to argue with that.  So I thought hmmmmm I haven’t had a sour cream coffee cake forever; which is kind of sad.  I do have a great recipe that I have made numerous times over the years but I am always looking for different recipes that I can try.  While I do know the culinary rule of “never try a new recipe on guests” I swear I break that all the time and for the most part pretty successfully.  So I broke the rule and made a new recipe and while it was absolutely beautiful and definitely something you could find at a bakery or high end coffee shop (I swear I saw something like this at Starbucks) it was just far too dry and dense for me.

All at work really enjoyed it or at least they were being polite, my family was clearly not impressed and are far too outspoken.  My husband actually said to me if I sliced it thinner he would like it better, I literally being as quick witted as I am; and has also been mentioned to me a several times, told him to take smaller bites.  Clearly there was an issue.  I totally know how I would fix this and it’s SO simple.

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Preheat oven to 350’ grease and flour 10 inch tube pan.

1 ½ sticks of butter at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 x-large eggs at room temperature

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cup sour cream

2 ½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 package instant vanilla pudding

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp kosher salt

Streusel

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup AP flour

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp kosher salt

4 TBS cold unsalted butter cut in pieces

¾ cup chopped nuts optional and of your choice

Glaze

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 TBS real maple syrup

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time; add the vanilla and sour cream.   In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture just till combined.  Use a spatula to completely mix the batter.

Streusel:  add the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl; use a fork to combine to a crumble.  If using nuts add at this time.

Spoon half the batter into the pan, sprinkle with ¾ cup or more streusel.  Spoon the remainder batter in the pan, spread the remainder of the streusel on top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Test for doneness.

Let cool on a wire rack, transfer to serving plate and mix the glaze, add a few drops of water if needed to make it runny.  Drizzle as much or as little as you would like.

My spin is the vanilla pudding which is also in the zuchini bread recipe I use and also I would make and add more streusel. Is there such a thing a too much streusel??? I don’t think so.

Sometimes the best food comes from unexpected places

Spent a long weekend in Millinocket ME, had a wonderful time and some great food.  I was unable to blog yesterday as there was no WiFi.  Thought it was pretty comical I had no problem blogging from Cancun Mexico but Northern Maine not going to happen.  I was told the next time I go up there will be. I am sure if I tried a lot harder I could have figured out a way to get it done, but we were so busy with playing and eating. We logged over 120 miles on snowmobiles; which is saying a lot since I have not been on a sled in 10+ years.  It is just like riding a bike – well at least I picked it up again pretty quickly.  Did you know that new sleds have heated hand, feet and butt warmers – Brilliant!!!!

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Mt. Katahdin this morning – view from my friends camp

The sled I borrowed for the weekend

 

 

Sunday we had plans to meet my girlfriends’ nephew and friends for lunch out of the trails then later back at her place for Sunday dinner; there were 9 of us in total.  We brought the turkey from home as they could not get one locally. There was a very lengthy discussion as to when to put the bird in the oven, at what temp, and when we HAD to be back to take it out.  There was a lot of doubt that we would be eating a moist bird.  Our back of plan was lots of gravy and plenty of wine. Well our precise planning worked; dinner was excellent, the bird was juciy and everyone was thrilled. Dessert were very yummy soft peanut butter cookies. Try them if you can.

1 Cup peanut butter

¾ Cup butter

¾ Cup Sugar

¾ Cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Eggs

2 Cups Flour

1 Tsp Soda

Add a handful or two of Chocolate Chips if you want – we did

Cream butters & sugars, stir in vanilla and eggs; add flour and soda till combined.  Either use a cookie scoop or just place about a golf ball size of the dough about 3 inches apart on an ungreased pan or sheet. Cook at 375’ for 10 minutes till slightly brown, do not overcook.  Leave on the ungreased pan for a minute or two till set.  Makes approx. 36 cookies

There are times when no planning garners some pretty amazing results.  On the way home we wanted to stop for a bite to eat.  We ended up down in the Old Port area of Portland.  We saw a place parked and started walking got to the one we saw originally and it just didn’t look right.  My husband said he saw a café a few storefronts back that looked pretty good, at least there were people sitting, eating and smiling; that was his deciding criteria.

olive cafe pizza

What a delightful gem Olive Café turned out to be.  It’s a cozy little Mediterranean Restaurant, great atmosphere and wonderful food.  We each had a salad which were both wonderful and split a pizza.  I was slightly afraid of the ingredients on the pizza but just had to try it.

Chicken Shawarma Pizza – Marinated Grilled Chicken, Garlic Sauce, Chopped Tomatoes, Chopped Parsley, Chopped Pickles, Mozzarella & Feta Cheeses and Sumac garnished with Tahini sauce on a thin crispy crust that was cracker like.  First time ever having pickles on a pizza have no idea was sumac is and don’t recall ever having tahini sauce – it was excellent we ate the whole thing!

Not easy being green – why do veggies get such a bad rap

I am just as guilty as the next for steering clear of everything green growing up!  I was brought up in the era of having to sit at the table until my plate was cleared.  I see good and bad in this approach.  I still feel the need to finish my plate, which is bad for your waist line; good for making you try food that scares you.  I recall as a child placing peas along the underside rim of my plate in hopes that no one would notice.   The family dog wasn’t opposed to any veggie of any color; pretty sure because they don’t see color hmmmm.

I didn’t change my ways until my early 20’s and it has been ongoing challenge ever since.  I have been pretty successful over the years hiding things I dubbed yucky!  I can cut up an onion so small that it disappears in a soup love the flavor, didn’t like the texture – I don’t have to do this as much anymore.  Broccoli was hidden in stir fry or covered with cheese sauce.  Peas were usually covered with gravy mostly only in chicken pot pies.  Asparagus was always covered with hollandaise and just in the last 2 weeks I have been working on brussel sprouts.

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There is speculation that if you eat something 7-10 times you can train yourself to like it.  For the most part I do believe this.  I can now eat Peas, Asparagus and Broccoli without smothering them with anything.  Brussel sprouts are still a work in progress; I am only on try 4 but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Asparagus – we love (except my son) roasting or even grilling with just a little olive oil, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We now have an asparagus patch in our garden
Peas – I only like frozen sweet peas – and they are a great tasting side as well as a punch of color – presentation, presentation, presentation.
Broccoli – great steamed or pan seared with some shallots, kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. We have been growing broccoli for many years with great success – We harvest and freeze when we can’t keep up before it flowers.
Brussel Sprouts – we are still eating them with a gravy or sauce of some sort – we are working on it – these look cool but they won’t be making it into my garden anytime soon.

Pasta

1lb tube pasta such as rigatoni, (whole wheat works too)
2 cups frozen peas
3/4 cup pesto
2 handfuls argula
8 oz goat cheese

boil pasta (in salted water) according to the packages directions, at the last minute add the peas, drain and return to the pot. Add pesto and stir to combine.  Add the arugula and toss. Cruble goat cheese on top and a grind of fresh crack black pepper.

*If you wanted to use this as a meal add some diced cooked chicken

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Basil Pesto

6 ounces fresh basil, stems removed, washed and patted dry
4 ounces pine nuts
5-6 garlic cloves (or 7-8 like I do)
2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup olive oil – more or less
kosher salt
fresh crack black pepper

Combine basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or blender. Pulse until all combined and chopped. Add olive oil to desired consistency. Finish by pulsing in the parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Guacamole & Sweet and Salty Wings for the big game

We are the typical New England sports fans – we watch the Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins – Neither one of us enjoys watching Basketball on TV but we did get to a playoff game once years ago and it was amazing to be in the old Boston Garden, that place was rocking – I can safely say that as we had nose bleed seats and saw the dust coming off the rafters when the fans were jumping & yelling!  So it was pretty sad that the Patriots couldn’t pull off the last win to get to the Super Bowl – the game was super ugly and they definitely deserved to lose – very disappointing!

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Whether we stay home or head to a party I always make some guacamole, this year we are staying in to watch the game so I am also going to make some Sweet & Salty Wings and an extra-large Italian Grinder to cut up and share.  For dessert I am going to make some Chocolate Mousse for the first time.

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Guacamole – Base your measurements on how many avocados you have

4 ripe Haas avocados

1 small onion chopped

2 small tomatoes diced and seeded

1 lime juiced

2-3 cloves of garlic crushed

1 TBS Cilantro

4-5 shakes of hot sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

Chop onions pretty small, dice and seed tomatoes, crush garlic add all to a medium bowl, cut avocado in half remove seed and add meat to the bowl.  Juice lime and add cilantro.  Stir and breakdown some of the avocados – I like to leave them a little chunky.

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24 Chicken wings – tips removed and wings segmented – bake at 400′

I like to bake mine – it makes me think they are slightly healthier…

24 wings segmented

3-4 slices of bacon cooked crispy

½ Cup real Maple Syrup

Kosher Salt

 

 

Wire rack and sided baking sheet – sprayed with non-sick cooking spray

Single layer, not touching (they can a little but you want the wing to crisp up) Bake for 20 minutes, turn and cook for another 15 or until cooked through. Place on tray of choice.  Chop up the crispy bacon into small pieces, and sprinkle over the chicken. Heat the maple syrup till warm and pour all over – serve warm, you will need wet wipes of some sort but they are worth it!

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