tips & tricks – odds & ends – bits & basics

Saving time and trouble in the kitchen conserves a cook’s energy. Seasoned cooks know many of these tips and basics, but if you’re new to the culinary world, you’ll appreciate learning these.

tips & tricks (totally random)

  • Add ½ cup of water or beef broth to 1 lb ground beef (or chicken broth to ground turkey or chicken) for the juiciest burgers ever.
  • Cookie and ice cream scoops make life easy. How have I lived without them all these years! Use them to make uniform size cookies and meatballs, dip batter into muffin cups, the list is endless.
  • For sky-high muffins, let batter sit in tins for about a half-hour before baking.
  • If using coarse or kosher salt, double the amount called for in recipes calling for regular table salt. The opposite also applies.
  • Freeze ground meat packed in 1-qt zipper freezer bags, and flatten to about ½ to ¾ thick, distributing evenly. Freeze flat. This takes only a half-hour or so to defrost.
  • Wrap chicken or pork chops separately (I use cheap sandwich bags), freeze 2 hours; place in a larger freezer bag. Pull out only pieces you need. No defrosting huge blocks of meat for hours!
  • Never buy scallions for $1 a bunch again! Cut off the white root ends. Put them in a glass jar with an inch of water, place on a sunny windowsill, and they will re-grow! Keep trimming off when you need green tops, and they’ll shoot up again! Trimming encourages growth. Mine shot up 8 inches in a week. You can also plant them in a pot after a while.

freezing veggies

  • Most vegetables like peas and green beans should be blanched before freezing. Blanching means boiling for three minutes or so (varies by vegetable), plunging into icewater to “shock,” draining very well, and wrapping securely before freezing. Blanching ensures your veggies will maintain their color and won’t get freezer burn if used within a reasonable period.
  • I always blanch my bell pepper halves before making stuffed peppers because they bake up so much more colorfully. Fresh sliced, halved, or whole bell peppers, however, can be placed in plastic bags and frozen dry without any need for blanching. So can sliced apples and berries.

basic recipes i can’t live without

homemade ranch dressing is so good, and it is SO much healthier than the bottled kind, which is loaded with sugar (Really! Have you read the ingredients?) This mixes up quick and easy.

  • ¾ cup buttermilk (Shake well!)
  • ¾ cup real mayonnaise (Do not substitute with Miracle Whip!)
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp each dried tarragon and basil (Essential!)
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk together and refrigerate for a couple of hours if you have time. Make it on the fly, and it still tastes better than that stuff hiding in the valley advertised on TV. Add some fresh chopped chives just before serving. (Mine are coming up! So stoked!)

crumb topping can always be found in my ’fridge. I make it in triple batches and never have an excuse not to whip up an awesome pie. This topping bakes up golden-buttery and sweet and makes that second crust unnecessary. I’ve used it on apple, berry, peach, and rhubarb pies with great success.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ stick soft butter
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Mix with your fingers till crumbly. Pile an inch or more deep on top of your pie and bake as usual. Double or triple so you always have it on hand. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. Makes a great topping for coffee cake, too!

basic quiche is a springboard for endless variations you can whip up in record time, amazing your friends and family! Well, maybe not quite that fab, but it’s a handy, delicious, and filling meal and makes great leftovers. I love my homemade crust, but I use the prepared rolled crust for my quiche. Add grated cheese (any kind), ham, cooked mushrooms, or whatever.

  • 2 cups shredded cheese (Swiss is traditional but not required)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°. Beat eggs. Add milk and salt. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Spread cheese (or any other stuff) evenly over top. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let sit 15 minutes before cutting. Great cold the next day!

basic crepes (pronounced kreps) are a meal or a starting point for fancier dishes. Whether served with fruit and eaten like pancakes or stuffed with savory crabmeat filling and smothered in Swiss cheese sauce, crepes are not only versatile—they are also convenient since you can make up a bunch of them and freeze for a quick meal on busy nights.

  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • Dash of salt

Beat well. Batter should be thin, so add more milk if needed. Prepare a 10-inch nonstick frying pan by heating to medium and spaying lightly with cooking oil. When pan is hot enough (a drop of water dances around and disappears), pour in one third cup of batter and immediately swirl pan around to distribute so batter covers entire pan surface. When top is set and edges brown and begin to curl, flip crepe carefully. Cook till second side is lightly brown. Slide on to a large plate and cover with a damp tea towel till all batter is cooked. These can be rewarmed in the microwave and served right away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer separated by sheets of wax paper or parchment and well-wrapped in plastic or foil.

basic brown butter sauce is a delicious way to transform a plain pasta or rice meal into something special, and the ingredients are usually on hand or easily obtainable. This is a basic recipe, but there are endless variations with the addition of mushrooms, Parmesan or Romano cheese, fresh sage leaves (yummy), lemons, hazelnuts, or pine nuts, vegetables like parsley, chives, blanched green beans, asparagus, artichokes or cauliflower, and proteins like lobster, mussels, crab, scallops, or chicken. I’ve been making this on the fly, so thanks for the great directions from CD Kitchen!

  • Cut 1 cup (2 sticks) of salted butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and place in a 2-quart sauce pan. Place the pan of butter on a burner over medium heat. Bring butter to a slow boil (about 5 minutes).
  • Once the butter begins to boil, stir constantly to prevent residue from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the butter cooks, it will start to foam and rise. Continue stirring, otherwise the butter foam could overflow (about 5 minutes) and catch fire.
  • When the butter stops foaming and rising, cook until amber in color (about 1 to 2 minutes). It will have a pleasant caramel aroma.
  • Turn off the heat and remove pan from burner. Let the sediment settle to the bottom of the pan for a few minutes.
  • Pour the brown butter through a strainer into a small bowl. Do not disturb the residue at the bottom of the pan.
  • You can keep it hot over a double boiler. Brown butter can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated in a microwave as needed, but be careful!
  • Boil your pasta of choice until al dente. Drain pasta and divide into four servings. Spread with 1/4 cup of hot brown butter.

Next time we’ll post additional basic recipes you can tuck away in your recipe notebook (you do have one, right?) and pull out when you’re in a bind or on a tight schedule. Add your own personal touch, and you’ll impress even your toughest critic.

Print this revised post: CJ-5-13-15-TIPS

“them that works hard eats hearty!” (part 1)

369px-Amish_On_the_way_to_school_by_Gadjoboy2

In the mid 1700s, Anabaptists fled persecution in Europe, settling in Pennsylvania and 19 other states. They are now a presence in Aroostook County and other parts of Maine, and they have brilliantly colored my childhood memories. We are fortunate to have these talented folks in our midst. Known collectively as Pennsylvania Dutch, both sects, Amish and Mennonite share similar history, fashion style, and religious beliefs. The difference between them is lifestyle—Amish live off the grid and travel by horse-drawn carriage while Mennonites accept and use technology and embrace the convenience of motorized travel.

As a kid in Philadelphia I remember buying many delicious treats from the Mennonite booth at the flea market. Amish-style foods were available in all the grocery stores and bakeries. I learned how to prepare many of these dishes as a young girl. I enjoyed their humor, too—a humor they are famous for. We had plaques hanging in our home with Pennsylvania Dutch proverbs like, “We grow too soon old and too late smart,” “The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get,” and “Kissing wears out, cooking don’t.”

For the next couple of columns, I will feature food from these gentle, hardworking, devoted folks. Of course, most of the dishes derive, not from Dutch, but from German cookery (Deutsch is German for German!)—usually very simple with fewer ingredients than most other European fare. But hard work deserves good food, so these dishes do not lack richness and satisfaction!

dumplings (spaetzle)
Spaetzle is a German noodle they call dumplings . Great mixed with hot buttered whole green beans or as a side with schnitzel gravy. HINT: Dropping the batter into boiling liquid using a funnel or a metal colander will make it easier than pouring from a bowl. Batter can be thinned a bit if necessary. Cooking time is not specified so taste testing is necessary! Start testing after 3 minutes.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt plus 2 tsp for cooking water

Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water or meat broth. In a large bowl, place flour. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly to keep mixture smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Salt and mix well. When cooking in boiling salted water or meat broth, pour the batter from a shallow bowl, tilting it over the boiling water or broth. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, slice off pieces of the batter into the boiling liquid. Dip blades in the liquid before each cut to prevent sticking. Remove from liquid using a slotted spoon or spider. Drain well before serving,

amish cucumber salad
If you’re on a salt-restricted diet, skip salting the cukes and onions. Or if you’re too lazy to do it, that’s okay, too. You will need to eat it all up the same day, though, because the water will leach out into the dressing over time. My Aunt Myrtle taught me how to make this. It disappears from the table quickly.

  • 2 medium cucumbers, pared and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbs vinegar
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or dill (optional)
  • White or black pepper

Sprinkle cukes and onion with a teaspoon of salt and let stand for a few minutes. Pat with towel or absorbent paper to remove moisture. Place cucumbers and onions in a bowl, dissolve sugar in the vinegar, add a pinch of salt and mix with sour cream. Toss thoroughly with cucumber mix to cover. Turn out to a serving dish; dust with pepper and parsley or dill. Chill. Best eaten same day.

amish red cabbage (rote kraut)

Place 4 Tbs of bacon grease in a large heavy pot. Brown one finely chopped onion till golden. Shred one 2½ lb head of red cabbage. Mix ¼ cup vinegar with ¼ cup water and 2 Tbs sugar.

Next, place cabbage in onion and grease. Pour vinegar and sugar mixture over. Salt and pepper to taste, and combine. Bring to boil over medium high heat taking care not to scorch bottom. Quarter 1 large pared, cored apple and place on top of cabbage. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Makes 10 servings.

amish scalloped spinach

  • 2 lbs fresh spinach
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 Tbs butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups bread crumbs, divided
  • ½ cup chopped bacon
  • Salt and pepper

Wash spinach and remove tough stems. Drain and cook with a little water in covered pot over moderate heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Add milk, beaten eggs, 1½ cups of the bread crumbs, butter, salt, pepper then mix well. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup bread crumbs and the chopped bacon, on the top. Bake in moderate oven (350 ° F) 35 minutes.

amish corn soup with rivels
Rivels are miniature dumplings dropped into soup, similar to spaetzle, to extend the volume of the meal and add taste and texture with little effort.

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 2 qts water
  • 1 cup rich milk
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Parsley

Add corn to water and cook for 10 minutes. Mix egg, flour and milk together in a medium size bowl. Pour this batter through a colander, letting it drop into the boiling corn. Add butter and salt. Cook slowly in a covered pan for 3 minutes. Test for doneness. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

amish pickled beets

  • 3 lbs. whole fresh beets
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tsp whole allspice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 pt. vinegar
  • ½ cup water

Prepare jars for canning by sterilizing in a large pot of boiling water or baking jars in the oven. See a book like Putting Food By (Hertzberg, Vaughn and Greene) for exact canning instructions. Remove greens and root strings taking care not to trim too closely or beets will “bleed” into the cooking water. Boil until tender. Cool a bit, remove skins, and cut into thin slices or chunks as desired. Tie spices in cheesecloth packet. Bring to a boil the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices. Add beets and boil 5 minutes. Pack in sterile jars and fill with hot liquid. Seal.

pennsylvania dutch red beet eggs
In high school I cleaned house every Saturday for a couple, both artists, who were of German descent. After working for a couple of hours, they would put out a spread on the kitchen table and their two children and I would enjoy these delicious beets and eggs along with thick slices of creamy Meunster cheese and dark pumpernickel bread. I still use their recipe for the beets to this day.

To make red beet eggs, thinly slice some red onions and add to hot pickled beets about two-thirds up in a large jar. Cool. Hard-boil six eggs. Remove shells and drop the eggs into the jar making sure they are totally submerged in the liquid. Refrigerate at least overnight. Longer is better. These take on a beautiful color and excellent flavor and are grand as appetizers served with crisp vegetables. They are also good sliced in sandwiches or salads.

Next time, I will post some delicious Amish and Mennonite desserts. Remember, “Eat yourself full!”

PRINT THIS POST: CJ-AMISH-pt1

 

 

comforting chicken and rice

Getting through all this sub-zero weather, polar vorteces, and Alberta Clippers means eating lots of comfort food. And to me, chicken and rice is the quintessential warmer-upper. These recipes are a nice diversion from the standard chicken stew. If you’ve never tried making oriental, Mexican, or Indian food, now’s your chance. These meals are super easy to make, plus their flavor profiles are not too over-the-top. And your kitchen will smell amazing!

orange glazed chicken with buttery rice

I made this last night, and what a refreshing change—so easy to put together. Sweet and savory, this dish is satisfying and delicious. This is so yummy with an oriental flair, quick and easy, and the kids will gobble it up. Serves 4, so double it for a crowd.

First, prepare the rice:

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Stir the rice into the butter and cook until all the rice granules are milk-white.
  2. Pour in the water. Add salt and bring to a full boil, cooking until the water boils down and is no longer visible, and pockets or holes appear in the rice when the water is gone.
  3. Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and let the rice sit for 20 minutes. Fluff, eat, and enjoy.

While the rice is sitting, prepare the chicken and broccoli:

  • 1 cup orange juice, plus the zest of one orange, divided
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger or 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbs dry sherry
  • 4 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs lite olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer)
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 lime
  • Salt

Directions

  1. Put the orange juice in a bowl. Add the orange zest, ginger, soy sauce, sherry, maple syrup or honey, coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
  2. Cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces and pat them dry with a paper towel. Salt lightly. Place the oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side is golden.
  3. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until it has reduced into a thick glaze.
  4. While the orange juice mixture is simmering, fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Put the broccoli in a steamer basket, and bring the water to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid, and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. When the sauce has thickened, turn the chicken and spoon the sauce over it. Squeeze lime juice over the top. Serve with buttery rice and steamed broccoli florets.

 

creamy chicken curry

This rich-tasting dish showcases traditional Indian spices without covering up the complexity of the other ingredients. You can buy tomato paste in a tube now—so convenient when small quantities are called for, and it is essential in this recipe. So is the turmeric, which is praised for its antioxidant and healing qualities.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs lite olive oil
  • 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp curry powder, divided
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ tsp tomato paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tsp coarse salt (or 1 tsp plain salt)
  • 1 cup hot water (optional)

Directions

  1. In a wok or heavy cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions for 6-8 minutes or until transparent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  2. Stir in cumin, turmeric, 2 tsp of the curry powder, red pepper flakes, and half the salt. Cook stirring constantly for 1 minute till fragrant. Take care not to burn. Add tomato paste. Mix to combine.
  3. Season chicken pieces with remaining curry powder, salt, and pepper. Add to pan, and cook for about 5-6 minutes until outside is golden brown.
  4. Open the coconut milk. Pour into a bowl and use a rubber spatula to scrape all the contents from the can. Mix well to blend before pouring coconut milk into the pan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 7 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. If sauce has cooked down, add hot water as needed.
  5. Serve hot with white rice. Pass the lime wedges.

 

cheesy chicken and yellow rice

This is so easy. All you need is a package of Goya’s flavor-packed yellow rice (in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store), a few veggies, and chicken for a truly delicious and tummy-filling dish in only 30 minutes. And because it’s one dish, you save dishwashing, too!

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz package of Goya Yellow Rice mix
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in ¾ inch pieces
  • Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning, to taste, or alternative*
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Add contents of yellow rice package, tomatoes, and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. Return to a boil, stir well, then reduce heat to low. Cook covered until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
  2. Heat remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt, and fry, stirring often, till golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add adobo seasoning and cook for a minute or two. Add peppers and onions to skillet and cook, stirring, till veggies are soft and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked rice and mix till well combined. Mix in cheese, stirring till melted. Keep warm till serving.

* You can substitute the Goya Adobe Seasoning by adding 1 Tbs white vinegar, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp sugar, and ½ tsp table salt.

 

chicken and brown rice soup

Everyone knows brown rice is much better for you than white. But the longer cooking time can be a stumbling block for many cooks. This satisfying soup combines the savory taste of chicken, black beans, sage, and veggies that marry beautifully with the brown rice, and the hands-off, quick prep makes brown rice a smart addition to your diet. And a great low-calorie lunch.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ¼ cup diced carrots
  • ¼ cup frozen corn
  • ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ cup brown rice

Directions

  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Cook chicken breasts in the broth until no longer pink, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken using a slotted spoon and shred with a fork.
  2. Stir shredded chicken, celery, onions, carrots, corn, black beans, sage, pepper, salt, and bay leaf into the broth and cook till vegetables are slightly softened, about 20 minutes. Add brown rice and simmer till rice is tender, about 1 hour.

PRINT THIS POST : Comforting Chicken and Rice

 

seafood: a refreshing change

After all the red meat and gravy on the table the past few weeks, it’s a nice change to serve seafood. When buying shrimp, choose raw, not precooked, so yours don’t end up overdone and tough. Bags of frozen large or jumbo size are economical. You can use half a bag and keep half in the freezer.

When selecting fish, be sure to choose wild-caught, which is not heavily processed, nor does it contain antibiotics or unnatural food that can taint its flavor.

salmon cakes with peach salsa  Fresh salmon is quite expensive and best prepared poached or grilled. When making my tasty salmon cakes, use inexpensive wild-caught canned salmon, which flakes easily, and the edible crushed bones provide a big burst of calcium! This makes four nice size cakes you can serve with sides or pop them on a bun with lettuce, sliced red onion, and horseradish sauce along with the peach salsa. Very flavorful. I made these the other night. Jerry ate two and I ate one, so I saved the last one for my lunch the next day. Wow, so good heated up in the toaster oven at 400° for 10 minutes.

ingredients for the salsa

  • 2 large ripe peaches (or use a 15-oz can of sliced peaches packed in juice)
  • 1 medium scallion, finely sliced
  • 1 Tbs minced pickled jalapeno peppers (or use 1 fresh if desired)
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro (optional or sub parsley)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar

ingredients for the cakes

  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 15-oz can red or pink salmon
  • 2-3 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely minced sweet red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely minced yellow onion
  • ¼ cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup (or more) Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

directions

  1. Prepare salsa. Drain and dice peaches. Combine in a small bowl with scallions, lemon juice, jalapenos, salt, and sugar. Stir in cilantro and set aside.
  2. Heat heavy skillet over medium high heat. Thoroughly drain salmon and remove dark skin if desired. Flake salmon and crush bones with a fork. Mix in all remaining ingredients except oil, butter and Panko.
  3. Place Panko in a flat bowl. Line a platter with wax paper. Use your hands or ½-cup measuring cup to form at least four cakes about 1-inch thick, carefully coating them with Panko and placing on the platter. Cakes will be very soft.
  4. Place olive oil and butter in pan, swirling to cover bottom. When shimmering, transfer cakes carefully to pan. Fry 3-5 minutes on each side till golden brown. Serve with peach salsa and sour cream on the side.

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TIP: Panko breadcrumbs can be found in the ethnic section of your grocery store. The brand name is Sushi Chef.

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heavenly sweet coconut crunch shrimp  This delicious shrimp is not only good, but it’s also pretty low in calories. Serve with sweet and sour or sweet chili sauce, rice, and a green veggie.

ingredients

  • ¼ cup Fiber One Bran Cereal (original)
  • 1/3 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
  • 3 Tbs Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12 oz (about 20) raw large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed
  • 1 small egg, beaten

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Place cereal in a sealable plastic bag. Remove as much air as possible before sealing. Using a meat cleaver or heavy can, crush cereal through the bag. Add coconut, Panko, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to bag. Seal and shake to mix. Transfer to a large plate and set aside.
  3. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  4. Pat shrimp very dry with paper towels. Beat egg and toss shrimp to coat. One at a time, shake excess egg off shrimp and place in crumb mixture, flipping and patting till well coated. Space evenly on baking sheet.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes until coating is light browned and crispy. Serve immediately.

deb’s clam casserole  My college roommate used to make this for us—a cheap but filling meal, delicious served with stewed tomatoes and toast points. This recipe makes plenty for four.

ingredients for the casserole

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 small cans minced clams (juice and all) or 2 cups freshly shucked clams
  • 30 saltine crackers, crushed
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • ½ cup (1 stick) melted butter, cooled

ingredients for the stewed tomatoes

  • 1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh, cored, skinned, and diced)
  • ½ small onion, finely minced
  • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and finely minced
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

directions for the casserole

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray the inside of a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly, ending with the butter. Pour into baking dish. Bake 1 hour until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.

directions for the stewed tomatoes

  1. While casserole is baking, place all ingredients except the cornstarch mixture and salt and pepper in a saucepan. Cover and bring to boil over medium high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 8-10 minutes till vegetables are soft.
  2. Stir cornstarch mixture well and add to pan, stirring constantly till sauce thickens. if too thick, add a bit more water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cover and simmer another two minutes till cornstarch is thoroughly cooked. Serve alongside clam casserole with English muffins or toast. Nice stick-to-your-ribs winter meal!

my baked stuffed white fish (cod, flounder, haddock, hake, pollock, sea bass, or sole) with my seafood stuffing  I buy whatever white fish is on sale or marked-down frozen as long as it is fresh-smelling and firm to the touch (never be afraid to ask the person at the fish counter to let you smell the fish before you buy it). White fish from the ocean is usually wild-caught, so you don’t have to be concerned about that. White fish can be used in chowders, breaded and fried, or baked. Avoid oily fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, or bluefish, which need to be prepared differently.

My stuffing includes “imitation” crab meat, a product made from ground fish called surimi, which is purified and flavored, so it is purely protein and one I do not object to using in some of my recipes as it is very flavorful and economical. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surimi] If you prefer, you can use real crabmeat.

ingredients for the stuffing (makes 2 cups)

  • ½ of ¾-lb. block frozen imitation crab meat (Louis Kemp is the best brand)
  • 1 cup Ritz or Townhouse crackers, crumbled
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 stick celery, finely minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Pepper to taste

directions for the stuffing

  1. Mix all well.
  2. Refrigerate for an hour before using.

ingredients for the baked stuffed haddock or any white fish

  • 1 lb. white fish fillets
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups my seafood stuffing

directions for the baked stuffed fish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Prepare either a 9-inch square pan or two individual au gratin dishes with cooking spray. Drop 1 Tbs butter into individual dishes or 2 Tbs into pan. Place in oven to melt.
  3. Remove pan/dishes from oven and place half lemon juice into them.
  4. Cut the fish into pieces to fit the dishes or pan. Sprinkle remaining lemon juice on top, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  5. Divide seafood stuffing over tops of the fish, and dot with remaining butter cut into small cubes.
  6. Bake from 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serves 2.

seafood newburg  Use lobster, white fish, or crab—even imitation crab or lobster by Louis Kemp. Make this sauce and placed cooked seafood in it for a few minutes to warm through. Be careful. Do not boil! The sauce is delicate and will break easily if boiled too hard. Simmer only. Sorry for the unconventional presentation of this recipe. It is the only one I have and have followed for years.

directions

  1. Melt a half stick of butter in a skillet. Add 2 Tbs dry sherry and 1 Tbs bourbon. (If you need to cook raw haddock or shrimp, you can add it here.) Stir, cooking for 2 minutes.
  2. Remove fish, and add 1½ cups milk, cream or half-and-half, bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  3. Stir in another Tbs sherry, 1 Tbs bourbon, and ¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg.
  4. Whisk in 2 egg yolks OR 1 Tbs cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs water, a dash of cayenne, and a ½ tsp paprika. Add your fish, including cooked lobster, back into pan.
  5. Cook 3 minutes or so. Keep warm. Serve over rice or toast.

seared scallops with brussels sprouts and bacon  Scallops can be very dear, but when they are on sale, 3-4 scallops to each diner should be plenty as they provide some pure protein and minerals from the sea—a winning combination. Ask for “dry” scallops if they are available. They haven’t been processed or plumped up with salt water, so they leak less liquid when you are cooking them. You also get more meat for your money. You can easily double this recipe for more diners at the table.

ingredients

  • 5-8 oz fresh brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 slices bacon cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs water
  • ¾ Tbs butter
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • pinch of pepper
  • 6 large sea scallops
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

directions

  1. Blanch sprouts in a 2-qt. saucepan of boiling salted water, uncovered for 3 minutes, then drain.
  2. Cook bacon in a microwave or a heavy skillet over medium heat till crispy; transfer to a small bowl, reserving fat.
  3. Add 2 Tbs broth and 2 Tbs water to skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up brown bits. Add butter, salt, sugar, pepper and blanched sprouts and simmer covered for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove lid and cook over medium high heat stirring occasionally till liquid is evaporated and sprouts are tender and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in bacon and remove from heat.
  5. While sprouts are cooking, pat scallops VERY dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil with 1 tsp bacon fat in a 6-inch skillet over medium high heat till hot but not smoking. Place scallops to sear, turning once till golden brown and cooked through, 4-6 minutes TOTAL (that means 2-3 minutes per side). Do NOT overcook.
  6. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
  7. Pour off and discard fat remaining in the 6-inch skillet. Add remaining chicken broth and simmer, scraping up brown bits for 1 minute. Stir cornstarch into remaining 1 sp water and stir into pan with any juices that have accumulated on the scallops plate.
  8. Simmer 1 minute, stirring, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve brussels sprouts topped with scallops and sauce.

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holiday fare 2 colorful and tasty

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Many folks serve lasagna on Christmas Eve. Prepared ahead, it’ll feed an army. Instead, I like to make a colorful pan of stuffed peppers, and keeping all those holiday treats and calories in mind, I make it vegetarian, served with a nice salad. Double them if you’re entertaining. Here’s your complete, mostly red and green, Christmas Eve (or any eve) supper from breakfast with Overnight Coffee Cake, an appetizer, salad, and entrée for dinner, and a classic Wassail that you can make ahead.

cranberry orange cheese ball   A lovely combination and a great way to start a meal.

Ingredients for the Cheese Ball

  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 2 pkgs (8-oz ea) cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar

Ingredients for the Caramelized Pecans

  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs sugar

Directions

  1. Chop cranberries in a blender or food processor. Add cream cheese, juice, and sugar, and blend till well mixed.
  2. Use a rubber scraper to turn mixture out onto a piece of wax paper and shape into a ball as best you can. Place in a bowl and wrap with the wax paper. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium heat. add pecans and sugar and stir about 3-5 minutes. Do not let it burn! Spread on sheet of wax paper or parchment to cool.
  4. When ready to serve, remove cheese from ‘fridge and shape into a ball. Pat pecans on to cover. Serve with crackers, celery and carrot sticks, or pita chips.

broccoli salad   This is Trisha Yearwood’s recipe. It is very good, and the sunflower seeds are a nice touch.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups broccoli florets, blanched for 3 minutes, shocked in icewater, and very well-drained
  • ½ small sweet onion, minced
  • ¾ cups golden raisins
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ jar pimentos, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 slices bacon, diced and browned
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix mayo, sugar, vinegar, raisins, onions, and salt and pepper to taste. Add broccoli and pimentos to coat.
  2. Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with bacon and seeds just before serving.

saucy stuffed peppers   I make these with tempeh, a fermented soy product found in the vegetarian section of your store. Healthy, tasty, and very good for you, you won’t miss the meat. (Of course you can use ground meat if you wish.) You can make these ahead without placing in sauce, wrapping the stuffed peppers individually in clear wrap or a plastic bag. 

Ingredients

  • 3 colorful bell peppers (I use red and green this time of year!), halved lengthwise, and seeded
  • 1 8-oz block of tempeh (I like the one with flax seed), crumbled
  • 6 lg or 12 sm fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3 Tbs Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 24-oz can Hunt’s Original spaghetti sauce (or your own homemade—even better!), divided
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Blanch seeded pepper halves by boiling five minutes. Handle carefully with tongs. Shock in icewater. Drain well.
  3. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish with sauce reserving ½ cup for filling. Nest all six pepper halves into sauce, cut side up. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, place olive oil, and heat on medium till shimmering; add onions and garlic,, stirring often, for about four minutes till soft. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Add tempeh and press with a fork to improve the crumble texture.
  5. Add mushrooms and ½ cup reserved sauce, stirring to coat.
  6. Add bread crumbs, ¼ cup of the parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir well.
  7. Fill pepper halves with tempeh mixture, dividing evenly. Cover with foil and bake 20-25 minutes or till sauce is bubbling and peppers are tender..
  8. Mix mozzarella with remaining parmesan. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese mixture; return to oven till cheese is melted and browning. Serve orzo pasta topped with a pepper half or two and a dollop of sauce.

Variation: If you need to double the servings to six peppers (12 halves), you can increase the filling without needing more tempeh by adding 6-8 more mushrooms, a can of well-drained petite diced tomatoes, and a half bag of washed baby spinach. Increase oil to 3 Tbs and double the breadcrumbs and cheese. Cooked rice can also help stretch it.

no-hassle wassail   Serve this tasty hot drink when the carolers come home from a frosty night of song. Or just anytime you’re in the mood for a sweet, spiced treat. You can cut ingredients in half for a smaller crowd. The rum is optional, of course!

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • ½ gallon apricot nectar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
  • 3 cups dark rum
  • 6 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Simmer until a heavenly aroma fills the kitchen.
  3. Transfer to a crockpot and keep warm while serving. For a fancier look, float orange slices decorated with cloves among the cinnamon sticks.

overnight coffee cake   Serve this to overnight guests or your family on Christmas morning. They’ll think you’re wonderful!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped nuts
  • ¼ nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×13 pan. Set aside. Place flour, white sugar, sour cream, butter, half of brown sugar, eggs, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Beat at medium speed till blended. Spread in prepared pan.
  3. Combine remaining brown sugar, nuts, and nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  4. Next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Remove cover from pan and bake 35-40 minutes until it tests done.

Very aromatic, warm, and delicious.

Holidays are the perfect time to share food and fun with family and friends. I hope yours are blessed.

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