romantic suppers and sweets

Shrimp pasta

I failed to post this column on time as I became ill shortly before the holiday! Sorry to all my followers! Here it is, new and improved!

Valentine’s Day means expressing your love for your spouse, partner, family, and friends. What better way than to say it with food you lovingly prepare? Here are two suppers and two desserts to consider.

pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and feta cheese
Who said you can’t serve seafood with cheese? Ever have a tuna melt? Crab and swiss? Here’s delicious exception perfect for a Valentine Day supper.

ingredients

  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb raw large or jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1 Tbs each white wine and balsamic vinegar
  • ½ to 1 lb pasta (I usually make only half a pound since I like a higher shrimp-to-pasta ratio using linguine or bowties.)
  • 15 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • 1 (6-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese

directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook shrimp, garlic and white wine for 4-5 minutes or until shrimp is pink. Do NOT overcook!
  2. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente; drain and keep warm.
  3. While pasta is cooking, place diced tomatoes and halved grape tomatoes with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and basil over medium heat into wine mixture in skillet until tender—10 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, toss hot pasta with shrimp, tomato mixture, and feta. Feta will melt slightly. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a crusty bread.

 

Chicken feta beans toms

greek chicken tenders with veggies
Prefer chicken? This dish is packed with flavors sure to spark up any evening!

for the chicken

  • 2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive or avocado oil, divided
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 3­/4 Tbs balsamic vinegar (do not substitute)
  • 1 cup grape/cherry tomatoes, halved

for the greek dressing

  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 fresh squeezed lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt 1/2 tsp black pepper

directions

  1. Sauté mushrooms in large frying pan with 1 tsp of the oil, until just browning. Remove from pan, set aside.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium­-high, add green beans. Sauté until green beans are cooked, but still a bit crunchy. Remove from the pan, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil over medium-­high, add chicken, salt, and pepper.
  4. Cook chicken 3­-4 minutes on both sides and remove once browned & cooked though. Remove from pan, set aside. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
  5. In the same skillet, lower heat to medium, add dressing, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Stir and heat until bubbling.
  6. Toss in mushrooms, and green beans then the cooked chicken and tomatoes. Stir to heat through. Serve over rice or pasta.

 

easy chocolate bar fondue
This takes on a romantic hue when served with champagne. If made ahead, keep the chocolate warm in a double boiler till ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound milk or dark chocolate bars, broken into pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1 store-bought angel food cake, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces dried fruit, such as pineapple slices and figs

directions

  1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the cream and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Transfer the fondue to a warm serving bowl or fondue pot.
  2. Serve immediately with forks for dipping strawberries, angel food cake, or whatever you like.

 

chocolate-cinnamon pudding with raspberries
So easy to put this together ahead of time. Kids will especially love the flavors.

ingredients

  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries, thawed

directions

  1. Combine the cocoa, cinnamon, cornstarch, and 2/3 cup of brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in milk and 1/2 cup of cream.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until pudding is thick and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  4. Whip remaining cream in a separate bowl with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form.
  5. Pour pudding into individual ramekins or a large bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chill for at least two hours. Top with raspberries and whipped cream.

your turn
Hope you enjoy these romantic dishes! Here is a PDF you can print out for your recipe collectionRomantic Suppers and Sweets Blog 2-16

fruit

Fresh fruit, preserved fruit, frozen fruit, canned fruit—it’s all good because fruit is sweet, always available, and versatile as an ingredient in savory dishes, like ham and pineapple or pork and applesauce, as well as desserts. And now we can enjoy fresh berries and watermelon in January! My first recipe is especially for the cook who hates heating up the kitchen in the middle of summer!

no-bake berry crisp
You can use fresh or frozen fruit of any kind. No need to thaw. Serves 6.

Topping:
¾ cup sliced almonds, divided
2/3 cup flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbs butter, melted

Filling:
1/3 cup white sugar, divided
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 lbs berries, apples, peaches, or frozen sweet cherries
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt

Optional: If using sweet cherries, add ¼ tsp almond extract and 2/3 cup dried cherries; for apples, add 2/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries.

Finely chop ¼ cup of the almonds. Mix them with flour, both sugars, cinnamon, salt, vanilla in a bowl. Stir in melted butter till it looks like wet sand and no dry flour remains.

In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, toast remaining ½ cup almonds over medium-low heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add sugar mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool and wipe out skillet.

Prepare the filling. Mix 2 Tbs of the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Combine fresh or frozen fruit with lemon juice, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar in the skillet. Cover and cook over medium heat until fruit thaws and/or releases its juices. Stir about halfway through. If adding any dried fruit, do it at this time. Time will vary depending on the kind of fruit you are using, but 5-7 minutes should do it. Uncover and simmer till fruit is very tender.

Sprinkle in cornstarch mixture and stir till thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and distribute topping evenly over filling. Return skillet to heat and cook till filling is bubbling around edges. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

nathalie’s apple squares
Nathalie Lagerstrom was an incredible woman. She spoke fluent Swedish and was a passionate gardener and volunteer. When my mother died, Nathalie brought these to the reception at Faith Lutheran Church. Of course I had to ask her for the recipe, which she knew by heart! Now Nathalie is gone, and we will miss her spirit. This is quick and easy to prepare using stuff you already have around. Apples can be substituted with any other fruit, and this can be doubled to fill a 9×13 pan for a crowd.

Ingredients
1 egg, well beaten with 1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup canned milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup peeled, chopped apple

Topping
2 Tbs sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, place ingredients in order given and mix well. Grease an 8×8 pan. Pour batter into pan. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle over batter. Bake about a half hour or until golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into squares.

granny cake
This is so delicious. Keep in the refrigerator—IF any is left, that is!

2 cups sugar, divided
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup evaporated milk OR coconut milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9×13-inch pan. Mix 1½ cups of the sugar, flour, salt, soda, eggs, and pineapple in a medium size bowl, pour into the pan, and top with a mixture of the brown sugar and pecans. Bake 45 minutes.

Mix ½ cup of the sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. As soon as cake is out of the oven, pour the mixture over entire cake.

one-dish apple pudding
This is from the Shakers of Sabbathday Lake, Maine. I met these wonderful folks when they came to Caribou to do a history presentation at the Nylander Museum in 1986. Part of the program was a cooking demonstration. It was so much fun. Now you can enjoy this great recipe, which I make often. It’s so easy, but my family thinks I spend hours on it. Yours will, too!

2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
3 Tbs flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla or rose water
Dash of salt
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup finely chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 medium apples, peeled and finely diced
Plain cream, whipped cream, or ice cream

Break eggs into a 1½-quart casserole and beat well. (Do NOT use a smaller dish as mixture rises and will go over in the oven.) Stir in all remaining ingredients except cream. Bake at 350° for about 35 minutes till golden on top. Might take up to another 10 minutes if needed. Serve warm with cream of choice.

Other ideas:
Substitute brown sugar for white.
Top with wheat germ, drizzle with melted butter, and sprinkle on nutmeg or mace for more flavor
Serve with lemon yogurt or sour cream.

blueberry lemon pound cake
Just right for your holiday celebrations, big enough for a crowd, and blueberries are local and fresh right about now. Can be made a day or two ahead to save you rushing around at the last minute. Historical factoid: pound cake recipes go back to before colonial days when a pound of butter, a pound of eggs, a pound of sugar, and a pound of flour was mixed to create a cake. I like the modern measurements much more. And not many of us has a scale in the kitchen anymore nor do we cook over an open fire either!

For the cake:
1/3 cup whole milk
6 large eggs
1 ½ Tbs vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour plus more for flouring baking pan
1 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt (double if using kosher salt)
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing baking pan
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup freshly grated lemon zest
3 cups picked over blueberries, tossed with 1½ Tbs flour (Wild blueberries are preferred and frozen is fine if fresh is not available.)

For the syrup:
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup white sugar

TIP: One medium lemon yields approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest (rind) and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Be sure your lemons are at room temperature for maximum juice.

Make the syrup while cake is baking:
In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and sugar, stirring till dissolved. Let cool a bit.

To bake the cake:
Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt or tube pan with butter. Preheat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Into another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter with the sugars and zest till light and fluffy. Next, add the flour and egg mixture alternately, beating after each addition until just combined. Fold in 1½ cups of the berries.

Spoon one-third of the batter into the baking pan, spread evenly, and then sprinkle ½ cup of remaining blueberries over it.

Spoon half of remaining batter into pan, spreading evenly over blueberries on top. Sprinkle ½ cup of remaining berries over it. Repeat to finish with last layer of blueberries on top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and ten minutes or till golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle of cake is clean.

Remove from oven, and immediately poke top evenly all over with a wooden skewer or cooking fork and brush with the prepared syrup. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, invert on to rack, remove pan, and poke all over with the skewer or fork. Brush with remaining syrup. Yummy!

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mother’s day breakfast

CooksJ_logo

Most of the dishes I feature are personal favorites, some are new, and many come from family and friends. I pull recipes from all kinds of sources, including you! Just comment at the end of any post if you have any suggestions for additions or improvements to my recipes, or drop off a note to me at the Aroostook Republican office in Caribou, and I’ll get back to you.

These are the recipes that appeared in the newspaper this week, May 7, 2014. I’ve also added two bonus recipes that weren’t in the paper and will probably do that every time. I have found a way for you to easily print these from online. Just look for the link at the end of the post. This blog is still emerging, and the layout might change over the next few weeks as I get a feel for the formatting tools, but my goal is to make it as easy to navigate as possible. —Connie

MOTHER’S DAY RECIPES
Kids and Dads love to prepare breakfast on Mother’s Day. These recipes are so easy but so delicious. The first two recipes are similar but one is savory and the other sweet; both start out with a Yorkshire Pudding or “popover” kind of base.

Warning: Do not use skillets that cannot go into the oven, like teflon-coated or pans with plastic handles! Cast-iron or Guardian aluminum are best.

Toadinthehole
toad in the hole
Kids will get a giggle out of the name of this dish, which originates in England and is thought to get its name from how it resembled a toad poking its head up out of a hole. Serve it with a nice fruit cup or sliced strawberries on the side to provide a bit of texture variation and some acid to counter the richness.

1 scant cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
½ cup water
2 eggs
Half a pound of uncooked breakfast sausages (I like Jones brand)
1 Tbs butter

Preheat the oven to 400°. Mix the batter first so it has time to sit: Put the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl and pour in the milk and water. Whisk together, then beat in the eggs. Whisk until completely smooth and set aside.

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat and put in the sausages. Cook, turning often, until they are browned on all sides. Put in the butter and let it melt; make sure the pan is well coated with fat (you might be able to skip the butter if your sausages are fatty enough). Arrange the sausages evenly in the pan, then give the batter another stir and pour it over. Pop the pan in the oven and bake 20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350° and bake another 10 minutes.

Serves four if everyone behaves, but you might want to double it.

gigantic apple popover
This is a fun dish that will delight any mom!

2 apples, peeled and sliced
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup sugar (or substitute Splenda)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp oil
2 packed Tbsp brown sugar (or substitute Splenda)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 425°. Melt the butter in a large cast iron skillet and saute the apples over medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the sugar and cinnamon and cook just a little more, until soft but not mushy. Scrape them into a pie pan, arranging them to cover the bottom, and let cool.

Place the eggs, milk, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla in a bowl and beat well, then stir in the flour and salt. Whisk vigorously, and make sure it’s smooth, or you can use a blender or a hand mixer.

Pour the batter over the cooled apples and put the pan in the oven. Let bake 20 minutes, then turn down to 350° and bake another 20 minutes or until golden on top. DO NOT open the oven door while the popover is baking!

Cut in thick wedges, and serve hot or cold.

BONUS RECIPES

overnight coffee cake
This was my mother’s recipe. It is easy for kids to make the night before, and it will create a tantalizing aroma in the morning!

2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar (divided)
1 cup sour milk, buttermilk, or sour cream (if available, but regular whole milk will do)
2/3 cups butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans, your choice)
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. In a large bowl place flour, white sugar, milk, butter, ½ cup of the brown sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed till combined, then add eggs. When well-mixed, pour into prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine remaining brown sugar with nuts and nutmeg. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

Next morning, preheat oven to 350°. Uncover pan and bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Top should be golden brown.

Not just for Mother’s Day. This is great for Christmas morning or to serve to overnight guests. They’ll think you’re amazing. And you are!

PBSmoothie

peanut butter banana smoothie
This dish will intrigue and surprise Mom, but be sure to make enough for everyone!

2 bananas, broken into chunks
2 cups milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbs honey, or to taste
2 cups ice cubes

Place bananas, milk, peanut butter, honey, and ice cubes in a blender; blend until smooth, about 30 sec. Makes 4 servings. This one is addicting.

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