Thursday, August 17, 2017


When you saw the title, what did you think would be in this recipe? Well, I learned recently of a new type of squash, called Chayote. Apparently it's used in Mexican cooking. And since it's always a good to try new things, we did. You could use this raw in a salad, but I decided to cook it, and that is pretty simple.

Just wash and slice the squash. (I cut it in quarters and removed a bit of the center, like I would cut a pear.) Saute it in a bit of olive oil and butter with some sliced onions. Season with garlic, oregano and salt and pepper.

We used it as a side dish for Jerk Pork and Black Beans and Rice.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Second Drink

The new ingredient in this drink is Amer Picon. I may not be too familiar with cocktail ingredients, but I have at least heard of gin and rum. I've never heard of Amer Picon liqueur, have you? Anyway, part of the fun of trying new recipes is learning new trivia. So, here's what I've learned:

Amer Picon is a bitter-sweet French aperitif. (“Amer” is the French version of the Italian “Amaro,” which translates as “bitter.”) It starts with dried orange peels that are macerated (soaked) in alcohol and then distilled. (This basically creates a flavored vodka.) The distillate is then infused with gentian root and quinquina (to add bitterness), and topped off with sugar (for sweetness) and caramel (for coloring).

The liqueur was created in 1837 by Gaétan Picon who—after contracting malaria while stationed in Algeria—infused alcohol with dried orange zest, gentian, quinine, sugar syrup and caramel before distilling it. Picon, who had apprenticed at French distilleries before joining the army, already knew a bit about chemistry and attributed his recovery to the botanical blend he’d created.

I learned that even if I wanted to buy this liqueur, I couldn't, because it's no longer available in America. Because of that, this bartender tried recreating the formula. He basically added some orange tincture (vodka infused with orange peel) and blood orange bitters (a non-alcoholic flavoring) to a bitter liqueur. Since we're going non-alcoholic, and since we only need 2 dashes, I figure the blood orange bitters will work just fine by itself. Now, let's see if I can find a jar!


1 ounce white grape juice (instead of rum)
1 ounce pineapple juice
1/4 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1 tablespoon sugar

Shake all the ingredients together with ice and serve in a tall tulip glass.


Mushroom Caesar Salad

This recipe came from Delish, and was pretty good. While I may not add mushrooms next time, I think it's a pretty good Caesar dressing. 

Caesar Dressing

1 hard-cooked egg
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste, optional

Combine ingredients in small food processor. Toss with Romaine, Parmesan cheese and croutons. Add fresh or cooked mushrooms, or maybe even chicken or shrimp, whatever you'd like. This was enough dressing for two large servings.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sweet and Sour Pork

One of the recipes Dad wanted to try was Sweet and Sour Pork. We used the recipe from their Betty Crocker Cookbook, with Mom's notations that it was a good one. And it was!

Sweet and Sour Pork

2 pounds pork boneless top loin, cut into 3/4" pieces
Vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained and syrup reserved
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 medium carrots, cut into thin diagonal slices
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
8 cups hot cooked rice

Beat flour, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the egg in large bowl with hand beater until smooth. Stir pork into batter until well coated.

Add pork pieces, one at a time, to hot oil. Fry about 20 pieces at a time about 5 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels; keep warm.

Add enough water to reserved pineapple syrup to measure 1 cup. Heat syrup mixture, brown sugar, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the soy sauce, carrots and garlic to boiling in large pot; reduce heat to low.

Cover and simmer about 6 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender. Mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water; stir into sauce.

Add pork, pineapple and bell pepper. Heat to boiling, stir constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Serve with rice. Makes 8 servings.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Buttermilk Pancakes

The author of "Oh, Sweet Basil" did some experimenting with buttermilk pancakes, and her "melt-in-your-mouth" recipe lived up to its reputation.

Melt in Your Mouth Buttermilk Pancakes
Serves: 8-12 pancakes (3-4 servings)

1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups of sifted flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, slightly whisked
2 cups of buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted and melted

Preheat a griddle to medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Drizzle in the butter as you continue to whisk.
Switch to a wooden spoon and make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir until almost completely combined. Please remember, the more you stir pancakes the more flat and tough they will be so please mix until a few streaks of flour are remaining.
Butter the griddle and scoop ⅓ cup of batter and cook until bubbles begin to form, flip and cook until golden. Serve immediately.

Note: We tried it again, cutting the recipe in half, for just the two of us, and since we didn't have 1 cup of buttermilk, but only 1/4 cup, I just added regular milk to makeup the difference, and it turned out just great.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pot Pie or Dumplings?

I didn't feel like making what was on the menu today. Actually, I didn't feel like making anything. I imagine we all have days like that. So, I googled "what to make for dinner tonight" and took a quiz. It wasn't very helpful either.

Yesterday I roasted a turkey and this morning I boiled the frame, so I had plenty of turkey and broth, but I didn't really want to make soup. It is July, after all! After spending too much time trying to come up with an idea (can we say "procrastination"?), I decided I liked the idea of tukey pot pie. However, I didn't feel like making a pie crust (mainly because it isn't terribly healthy), but figured dumplings would be a good compromise. Although it is July, it has been a very rainy day, so comfort food sounded quite appealing.

That's a nice long story to say here's what we had for dinner!

Basically I combined turkey and vegetables, shook some turkey broth and flour together to make a sauce, added a bit a cream just because I could, plus some herbs and spices, poured the hot mixture into a casserole and topped it with biscuits.* I baked it at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and it turned out quite nicely.

I would copy the recipe here, but this is one of those "adjust to your liking" "doesn't need a recipe" recipe, so I won't. Have fun creating your own version!

*In my surfing I saw the suggestion to substitute cornmeal for part of the flour, and since I had corn in the filling I did. However, next time I'd stick to just regular flour.

08/29/2017 - Today I decided to do the long version, making two pot pies and freezing them for later. Once again, it's really still a process - make a turkey gravy and mix in cooked turkey and vegetables, season as desired (I used thyme, sage, marjoram, salt and pepper), plop into a pie crust and bake. You can also freeze first; here's the recipe I looked at for inspiration - Freezer Chicken Pot Pie.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The First Drink!

The recipe said to use a large wine glass, but 1/4 cup of liquid doesn't fill it up very much.
The first drink we tried was Bataan Royale which calls for gin, white rum, cherry liqueur, triple sec, grenadine and lime juice.

Those first four ingredients contain alcohol, so we made some substitutions and came up with this.

Virgin Bataan Royale 

1 tablespoon juniper berry infusion (see here)
1 tablespoon white grape juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon cherry syrup (from a can of cherries)
5 dashes grenadine (or 5/8 oteaspoon)
3 dashes triple sec* (or 3/8 of a teaspoon)
Orange slice

Mix everything except the orange slice and shake to combine well. Serve over ice in a large stemmed glass and garnish with an orange slice.

*I found a non-alcoholic version (basically water, corn syrup, and orange extract) at the grocery store, but you could also use orange juice.

It would be nice to have a back stories for these drinks, but the cook book doesn't include them. All I know is that Bataan is a province in the Philippines. I guess we'll have to imagine our own story for how this drink got its name.

Wayne felt like he was doing a science experiment, and he looked like it, too, with all the different jars and measuring cups and spoons. It turned out to be a pleasant experiment, definitely a taste combination we've never had before, kind of light and refreshing, and we're looking forward to seeing what the next drinks taste like. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Clam Linguine

We first tried this recipe over 15 years ago. That's how long we've been trying to improve our diets and do more "low-fat" cooking! It's a good one, and quite festive if you use red peppers. (Today I'm using yellow ones.)

Linguine with Clam Sauce

3-4 ounces uncooked linguine, cooked and drained
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (or yellow or orange)
1 teaspoon flour
1 can minced clams, drained and liquid reserved
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook garlic and pepper in oil until crisp-tender, then stir in flour. Add clam liquid, salt, pepper and oregan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in clams and peas. Heat through. Serve over pasta and sprinkle with cheese. 2 servings.

P.S. Did you notice from the picture that we used fettucini instead of linguine this time. It really doesn't matter!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Garlic Basil Tortellini

We had some tortellini in the fridge, and here's the recipe I decided to use. It turned out well.

Tortellini with Garlic Basil Sauce

32 ounces chicken broth divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (16 ounce) package frozen cheese tortellini
4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese for garnish
Minced fresh parsley for garnish, optional

In a large pot, bring 2 ½ cups broth to a boil. Add cheese tortellini. Return to a boil and cook about 5 minutes. The tortellini will float to the top when cooked and the internal temperature should be 165ºF for at least 15 seconds. Drain completely. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 1 ½ cups broth with corn starch. In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Stir in garlic and basil and cook about 2 minutes. Add broth-cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil; simmer until the mixture thickens. Add the cooked tortellini to the skillet and toss to coat. Pour into a serving dish and garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley, if desired.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tri-Tip Roast

Wayne's next Dutch oven recipe called for a tri-tip roast, which meant that I had to do some research and find one. The book described it as the butt end of the sirloin, with the grain going in three directions - hence the name tri-tip.

I looked at these sites as well -

Just a Pinch:

The tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs per side of beef. In the United States, this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s, when it became a local specialty in Santa Maria, California, rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, cooked over red oak wood and roasted whole on a rotisserie, smoked in a pit, baked in an oven, grilled, or braised by putting a pot on top of a grill, browning the meat directly on the grill surface before and after the braising. (The tri-tip is still often labeled the "Santa Maria steak".) Most popular in the Central Coast of California and Central Valley regions of California, it has begun to enjoy increasing popularity elsewhere for its full flavor, lower fat content, and comparatively lower cost.

The TriTip Guy says it's also called

  • The California cut
  • Bottom sirloin tip
  • Triangle cut
  • Bottom sirloin primal cut
  • Santa Maria cut
  • Newport steak
  • Bottom sirloin butt (but not a rump roast)
The Weber site:

Due to its triangular shape, tri-tip also goes by the name "bottom sirloin butt" and "triangle roast". Tri-tip is nicely marbled, tender, and one of the most flavorful cuts of beef you'll find. As a whole, untrimmed roast, tri-tip may weigh about 5 pounds. The tri-tips you're likely to find at the supermarket will weigh 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds and measure 2-3" thick.


Apparently I ought to be able to find it at Costco, maybe Publix, or at Charlie's Gourmet Meat Market, which is now found inside The Butcher Shop Beer Garden and Grill restaurant at 209 6th street, West Palm Beach (561) 622-9988. Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm. [6/19/2017 Note: called the butcher shop - they can order it with a day's notice -$12.99/lb.]

Amici Market, located at 155 N. County Rd. in Palm Beach (next to Green's Pharmacy), carries tri-tip, although it must be ordered at least a day in advance. Call 561-832-0201, or visit

However, I also heard that Trader Joe's carried tri tip, and since that's closer than all the other options, I tried it first. Success, they do carry it! And that's nice, because I think we have several recipes that call for that cut of meat in our Dutch Oven Cookbook.

The first one was basically a pot roast. The entire tri tip was browned on all sides in a bit of bacon grease along with some sliced mushrooms. That baked in a low oven for an hour. Then we added quartered onions, potatoes and carrots and cooked it for another 1 1/2 hours. Although it took a bit of time, it was simple and delicious!

Alcohol Substitutes

We're starting the "Drinks" section of the Columbia Restaurant Cookbook. Unfortunately, these are alcoholic drinks, and since we don't drink alcohol, we're going to have to make some major adaptations. I figured there would be a resource to help me and I was right. Here's one from What's Cooking America. Of course, the first one I'm trying to find is gin, and it's not on this list! So, I'll have to keep looking. Here's another list from Gourmet Sleuth. Below is my compilation from the two. Use your common sense on deciding if it should be a 1:1 substitution or not. For example, apple juice could probably be the equal amount, but an extract should probably be mixed with grape juice or something. You would treat needing 1 tablespoon differently than needing 1 cup.

Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Alcohol in Cooking

Amaretto – 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for 2 tablespoons.
Anisette – Anise Italian soda syrup or fennel. Also use the herbs anise or fennel.
Apple Brandy - Apple juice or apple cider.
Apricot Brandy - Syrup from canned apricots, or apricot preserves.
Beer or Ale – Chicken broth, beef broth, mushroom broth, white grape juice, or ginger ale.
Bourbon – 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of non-alcoholic vanilla extract for 2 tablespoons. 
Brandy – Water, white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice, diluted peach or apricot syrups.
Champagne – Ginger ale, sparkling apple cider, sparkling cranberry juice, or sparkling white grape juice.
Cherry Liqueur (Kirschwasser) - Syrup from canned (Bing) cherries, Italian soda cherry syrup or cherry preserves.
We'll use the syrup from these bottled cherries when the recipe calls for a cherry liqueur. And then we can eat the cherries!
Claret – Diluted grape juice or cherry cider syrup.
Coffee Liqueur – To replace 2 tablespoons of liqueur, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chocolate extract mixed with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, which has been mixed in 2 tablespoons of water. Can also substitute expresso, non-alcoholic coffee extract, or coffee syrup.
Cognac – Juice from peaches, apricots, or pears.
Cointreau – Orange juice or frozen orange juice concentrate. 
Creme de cacao - Powdered white chocolate mixed with water; vanilla extract mixed with powdered sugar.
Creme de cassis - Black currant Italian soda syrup or black currant jam.
Creme de menthe – Spearmint extract or oil of spearmint diluted with a little water or grapefruit juice.
Gewurztraminer – White grape juice combined with lemon juice. 
Gin - Basically an infused vodka, flavored with juniper berries. (This was complicated enough that it deserved its own post.)
Grand Marnier or Orange-Flavored Liqueur – Unsweetened orange juice concentrate or orange juice.
Grappa – Grape juice.
Kahlua – Substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chocolate extract for 2 tablespoons. 
Kirsch – Syrup or juices from cherries, raspberries, boysenberries, currants, or cider.
Maraschino Liqueur – Syrup or juices from canned maraschino cherries, or almond extract.
Mirin - White grape juice mixed with lemon juice or zest.
Peppermint Schnapps – Non-alcoholic mint or peppermint extract, mint Italian soda syrup, or mint leaves.
Port Wine, Sweet Sherry, or Fruit-Flavored Liqueur – Orange juice or apple juice; Concord grape juice with some lime zest added, cranberry juice with some lemon juice added, or grape juice concentrate.  
Red Wine – Red grape juice, cranberry juice, chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, clam juice, fruit juices, flavored vinegar. 
Rum (light or dark) – Water, white grape juice, pineapple juice, apple juice or apple cider, or syrup flavored with almond extract. Note: golden rum is also known as dark rum.
Sake – Rice vinegar.
Sherry or Bourbon – Orange or pineapple juices, peach syrup, or non-alcoholic vanilla extract. 
Southern Comfort – Peach flavored nectar combined with a small amount of cider vinegar. 
Sweet White Wine – White grape juice plus 1 tablespoons Karo corn syrup.  
Tequila – Cactus juice or nectar.
Triple Sec – Orange juice concentrate, orange juice, orange zest or orange marmalade.
I found a non-alcoholic version of triple sec in our local grocery store. Basically it's an orange-flavored syrup.
Vermouth, Dry – White grape juice, white wine vinegar, or non-alcoholic white wine.
Vermouth, Sweet – Apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, non-alcoholic sweet wine, or water with lemon juice.
Whiskey – If a small amount is called for, it can be eliminated. Whiskey generally tastes like oak barrels and malt/wheat.
White Wine – Water, chicken broth, vegetable broth, white grape juice, ginger ale, white grape juice. For a sweet white wine, add a bit of white corn syrup as well.
Vodka –  Vodka is theoretically not supposed to taste like anything. You could use white grape juice or apple cider combined with lime juice or plain water in place of vodka.


Finding a non-alcoholic substitute for gin isn't as simple as finding one for Cherry Liqueur (just use the juice from canned cherries) so I figured it needed its own post. Basically you need to infuse some liquid with the flavor of juniper berries. Because apparently there are different varieties of gins, flavored differently, I also came across many different recipes for making your own. I don't have a "favorite" gin, and really don't even know what one tastes like, so I'm just going to make up my own recipe and see if it does the job!

Gin - Basically an infused vodka, flavored with juniper berries.Try soaking juniper berries in white grape juice with a bit of lime juice. Check out this blog post or even this one for a non-alcoholic version of a gin and tonic. To me it just looks like a lot of work when water would quench thirst just fine. And another one. And another one.

As you can see, while the common ingredient is juniper berries; there's no consensus for the remaining ingredients. Here's what I'm going to do the first time we try a recipe that calls for gin, based on some bartender's suggestion: “Mimicking gin is pretty easy. Simply infuse water overnight with the botanicals used in your favorite gin. You’re going to need juniper berries, and you’re probably going to have some citrus peel and various herbs. The water draws out all the flavor of the aromatics, so when you strain it, you basically have a clean tea ‘gin’ infusion.”

By the way, I actually found juniper berries locally, at a store called Fresh Market, on the "spice" end cap with other pre-packaged "bulk" spices.

Juniper Berry Infusion or Syrup 
Gin Substitute

2 tablespoons juniper berries
lemon peel strips from 1 lemon
8 coriandor seeds*
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup turbinado sugar**

Place juniper berries, lemon peel and coriandor seeds in a heat-proof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let steep for at least 15 minutes, or even overnight. Strain the liquid. That makes the infusion. If you want a syrup, return the liquid to a boil and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

I also found the intriguing history of gin here:
The name "gin" is derived from the French and Dutch words for juniper: "genièvre" and "jenever," respectively. This spirit was created by Dutch physician Dr. Sylvius, who redistilled pure alcohol with juniper berries in hopes that the berries' therapeutic oil would manifest in a low-cost medicine. The medicinal project was a success, though it came at the price (or gain, if you look at it that way) of a spirit with a flavor that effectively hid the harsh taste of alcohol. If you've ever used the phrase "Dutch courage," or liquid courage, you can thank Dr. Sylvius -- before charging into battle, British soldiers would down a shot (or two, or three) of gin.

*If I had cardamom seeds I'd use those instead. Some sites say that coriandor and cardamom aren't substitutes for each other, but one website did suggest it. Since apparently coriandor seeds have a citrus overtone, I think they'll work fine in this experiment.

**Really any sugar would work. My inspiration recipe called for demerara sugar, which I don't have on hand. I do have turbinado sugar in the cupboard.

We have a bunch of juniper berries in the pantry now, so I googled how to use them. Maybe someday we'll give one of these recipes a try.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Glazed Chicken

Here's a simple recipe that is quick and delicious. We originally tried it on boneless chicken breast pieces, but then had it later the same week on salmon. Both versions were terrific.

Glaze for Chicken or Salmon

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon water

Combine all ingredients. Spread 1/2 the glaze on some chicken or fish, then sauté in non-stick pan for a few minutes. Flip and spread with remaining glaze. Cook until done.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Japanese at Home

After hearing two rave reviews in less than a week, we had originally planned to try out Tokyo Bay Buffet for our Friday night dinner. However, plans changed and we decided against it. We still needed to eat dinner, though, so I figured I'd try some new recipes, keeping the Japanese theme. In addition to some simple sushi - a summer roll - from the local grocery store (which is actually pretty decent), we tried Teriyaki Salmon and Sunomono.

Teriyaki Salmon for Two
For two small salmon filets, make a marinade of 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons sake or sherry, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger. After marinating the fish for just a few minutes, saute the salmon until done, then remove and bring the remaining marinade to a boil to turn it into a glaze. Pretty simple!

Sunomono for Two
Peel, remove the seeds, and thinly slice 1/2 a large cucumber. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and let sit for 5-10 minutes, then squeeze dry. (I rinsed as well first.) Combine 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon soy sauce. Mix with the cucumbers. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds and serve.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Baked Lobster

Technically I guess this is Baked Lobster Tail, but I wanted to remember the procedure I used because it worked. I got the directions from this site.

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the top of the shell lengthwise, starting from the base and going toward the end of the tail.
  • Crack the bottom of the shell using your hands, but be sure that you don’t smash the shell.
  • Reach inside the newly opened shell and gently remove the meat from the shell, but don’t detach the meat from the base of the tail. After pulling the meat out, lay it on top of the shell.
  • Remove the darkly colored vein from the meat and throw it away. (I didn't bother with this step.)
  • Place the tails on a baking pan with enough water to shallowly fill the bottom of the pan. This water will help steam your tails quickly and thoroughly!
  • Base the tail with clarified butter and top it with seasoning of your choice – we recommend paprika for great flavor and color.
  • Bake your tails for exactly 1 to 1 ½ minutes per ounce. You’ll know that your baked lobster tails are done when the meat is white and firm with no gray coloring or translucency.

I did 3 ounce tails for six minutes, because that's how long the steaks were in the oven and it just made things easy. They tasted just fine, and 3 ounces was actually the perfect size when paired with steak.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shrimp Tacos - Another Version

We enjoy shrimp tacos, and like our usual recipe, but last week I had the thought to try something different. I read a tip to "dry-brine" shrimp (see below) before cooking to make it taste better. I don't know if it made a huge difference, but it was delicious. Our tacos themselves were pretty simple, just the shrimp, with a bit of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Serious Eats:
There's one technique that we've found improves all shrimp, regardless of cooking method: a quick brine of salt and baking soda. It may sound minor, but the combination works wonders: the salt helps keep the shrimp nice and moist as they cook, while alkaline baking soda delivers a crisp, firm texture. You're looking for about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every pound of shrimp; give it a quick toss and rest the shrimp in the fridge for anywhere from 15 minutes to about an hour.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Looking for a Chicken Pasta Recipe?

I was, and this is the one I chose to try. Of course I had to adapt it a bit, but the finished result was given the "thumbs up" so we'll have it again sometime.

Chicken and Pasta with Tomato-Butter Sauce
(scaled for 2-3)

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. chicken breast, cut as large or as small as you wish
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
4 oz. dry spaghetti, cooked and drained

Sauté the chicken in the olive oil until golden brown, then remove from pan and set aside. Add the tomatoes to the pan. After a bit add the garlic and seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the butter, add the chicken back and toss with cooked spaghetti. Delicious!

Cheesy Mashed Pumpkin

I still have pumpkin sitting in the freezer from when we cooked up our Halloween jack-o-lanterns, and I've decided there has to be another way to use it that isn't a pie or a quick bread. We made Pumpkin Rolls a week ago, but that only used half the container. Google came to the rescue with Creamy Mashed Pumpkin. Our pumpkin pureé is already pretty liquid-y so I didn't add a lot of cream, but I did stir in a fair amount of cheese. When I asked Wayne what he thought he said, "Yum. Reminds me of grits, just more smooth." So, there you have it. I'm always grateful when an experiment is successful. We'll most definitely have this again!

Cheesy Mashed Pumpkin

1 cup of pumpkin pureé
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix together. Heat through. Serve. It's that simple.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Creamy Peach Blueberry Pie

As I was fixing Turkey Divan (separated) and Pumpkin Rolls for dinner last night, I realized I had a Thanksgiving theme going, so a pie for dessert made sense. However, I wanted a summer pie, not a winter one, but since it was Sunday, I needed to already have all the necessary ingredients. This peach pie was on my pinterest board, but I didn't have fresh peaches. I noticed this blueberry version on the same website and decided I would combine the two. It turned out to be delicious and I'll definitely add this to our pie repertoire!

Creamy Peach Blueberry Pie

1 unbaked 9" pie crust
2 cups canned, sliced peaches, drained
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
dash salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
Topping: Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter

Place peaches and blueberries in pie crust. Combine sugar, flour, salt, eggs and sour cream and pour over fruit. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle topping over pie and return to oven. Bake an additional 35-34 minutes.

It almost looks prettier during the baking process.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Water Chestnut Meatballs

Water Chestnut Meatballs

2 cups soft bread crumbs
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound pork sausage
8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup milk
16 oz can sweet and sour sauce (about 2 cups)

Combine everything but the sweet and sour sauce and mix well. Form into 1" balls, place in greased baking dish and bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Gently stir in the sweet and sour sauce and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

I couldn't find a 16 oz. can, so I bought two 12 oz. bottles instead. We used all of one and part of the other. Interestingly, although both labeled "sweet and sour sauce," one was more orange (a duck sauce type) and the other more red (tomato based). I actually really liked the combination. You could also make your own sweet and sour sauce. Here's one recipe I found from a quick Google search - The Best Sweet and Sour Pork Meatballs. You'll have to decide yourself if it's really the best!

This is meant to be served as an appetizer, but I think it would taste just as good over rice. In fact, I decided to serve it with fried rice, and while both tasted fine by themselves, they were just as good mixed together.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alaskan Smoked Salmon

As a way to help us prepare and get more excited about our Alaskan cruise in a few months, we picked up some smoked salmon. Anyway, it's been fun discovering new recipes and experimenting with different ways to try it.

The traditional Bagels and Lox:

Added to scrambled eggs:

In a pasta dish: Saute a bit of onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes and spinach in olive oil. Stir in cream cheese, smoked salmon and cooked pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese when serving.

Smoked Salmon Pizza: Spread cream cheese on a pre-baked pizza crust. Top with garlic powder and smoked salmon. Bake for a few minutes, then top with chopped chives and capers before serving.

Smoked Salmon Dip: Combine 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, 1 green onion, thinly sliced, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 dash Tabasco, 4 ounces smoked salmon, and 1 avocado, mashed. Serve with cucumber, celery or crackers.

The dip also made a great filling for an omelet.

To my recollection, this is the first time I've had smoked salmon, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. If anything, I thought it might be like jerky. However, it was quite moist and I liked it. Wayne even said it's the best he'd ever had. So, that's pretty good. For the record, the packaging was pretty deceptive. I figured the piece of fish inside would be as big as the package, but it was about half the size of the box. At least, next time I'll know what to expect!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bake Sale Cookoff Recipes

Time for another post showcasing recipes from the Old-Fashioned Bake Sale Cookbook. As usual, these are all quite delicious.

Oatmeal Brownie Gems

You can't go wrong with M&M's and brownie mix, and adding oatmeal gives the illusion that maybe these bars are a bit healthy!

Toffee Brownie Bars

As you can see, it takes about a year to make one recipe from each section, so in January we were back to brownies. This version is similar to our Four-Layer-Dessert with a crust topped with brownie topped with chocolate and nuts. You can find the recipe here.

Captivating Caterpillar Cupcakes

Remember, this is a bake sale cookbook, and there are going to be eye-catching recipes. This is one of them. Basically it's an ordinary cupcake, but decorated to look like a caterpillar crawling on the grass. Although it took a bit of patience during the decorating step, the most difficult part of this recipe was finding star-shaped nonpareil decors! 

Brownie Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Instead of jelly bean caterpillars, the next cupcake recipe used Reese's Pieces for decoration, and had a little peanut butter surprise inside to catch the buyers' attention! To make the filling, combine 1/3 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 egg. Form the mixture into 18 balls and place one in each of 18 foil baking cups. Then top with prepared brownie batter and the candies before baking.

There's the surprise filling!
Pumpkin Bread
11/22/14 - plain with cream cheese
7/18/15 - with nuts and preserves
3/19/16 - with raisins and cream cheese frosting
6/10/17 - with nuts and raisins and ice cream

This recipe comes with quite a few variations. We've been waiting a long time for the one topped with ice cream! However, when I make pumpkin bread in the future, I think I'll stick to my niece's recipe.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

When I decided to make them for Father's Day this cookbook must have been where I recalled seeing a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Cookies. Although I used a different recipe than the one in this book, they're actually quite similar, and if we make them again we'll probably use the other one, because it adds a cream cheese frosting drizzle.