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By learning about basic ingredients and how to use them, you can create simple, quick and delicious meals your family will love!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Wait! Don't throw away those pumpkin seeds. Here is a delicious and healthy way to prepare a fall snack for your family. One large pumpkin will generally yield 1 cup of pumpkin seeds, and smaller pie pumpkins will yield about the same amount.

Basic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups Pumpkin Seeds
2 TB Margarine or Butter
1 1/2 tsp Salt

Remove largest chunks of pulp from the pumpkin seeds but do not wash.

Toss the seeds with margarine and salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 250F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Stir two or three times through out the roasting. Store at room temperature in a sealed container.

Sweet Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup Pumpkin Seeds
1 TB melted Butter or Vegetable Oil
1 TB Sugar, more or less to taste
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Allspice

Remove largest chunks of pulp from the pumpkin seeds but do not wash.

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Toss seeds with butter, sugar and spices. Spread coated seeds on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden brown.

Hot and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups Pumpkin Seeds
2 TB melted Butter
1 TB Frank's Hot Sauce
1/2 tsp Salt

Remove largest chunks of pulp from the pumpkin seeds but do not wash.

Combine seeds with butter, hot sauce and salt. Spread seeds on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake 45 - 60 minutes, turn once or twice, until golden brown.

Homemade Trail Mix

Find a few foods that your kids really love (like M&M's or chocolate chips) and you can sneak in a few healthy additions (like nuts, seeds or dried fruit) to this trail mix. They have a healthy, high-energy snack to carry them through the day.

Add in a few things you know they will like:

Mini Pretzels
Goldfish Crackers (whole grain would be even better than regular)
Mini Chocolate Chips or Peanut Butter Chips
M&M's candies (use sparingly)

Then add the healthy stuff like:

Kashi's Heart to Heart Toasted Oat Cereal (kids love this cereal as a snack)
Multi-Grain Cheerios
Peanuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts
Pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Cashews or Almonds
Dried Cherries or Apricots (cut into bite-sized pieces)
Banana Chips or Craisins

In a bowl combine 1/4 cup each of the above ingredients. You can use all or just a few and see which combinations the kids like the best. Put in snack size bags and you have enough for a week of lunches.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mesquite Bacon BLT Sandwich

This recipe is from Arizona, the land of Mesquite foods! If you have not tried Mesquite-Smoked Bacon, you are in for a treat. You'll never want a regular BLT again. Enjoy!

16 Thick-Sliced Mesquite-Smoked Bacon Strips, about 1 pound
4 6x4-inch pieces Focaccia, Ciabatta or other rustic-type bread about 2 inches thick
8 Red-Leaf Lettuce Leaves
Large Tomatoes, cut into 16 thick slices
1/2 cup Mayonnaise

Cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until just crisp, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain excess fat. Set aside.

Halve each 6 x 4-inch piece of ciabatta horizontally; lightly toast. Spread about 1 TB mayonnaise on each slice of ciabatta. Top 4 of the slices of ciabatta with a lettuce leaf, then with 4 slices of tomato, 4 slices of bacon and finish with lettuce leaf. Place mayonnaise side of remaining 4 ciabatta slices on top of lettuce. Cut each sandwich in half on the diagonal. Serve immediately.

Corned Beef Sandwiches

Just the thought alone makes your mouth water... corned beef, dark swirly rye bread, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, with Russian dressing - grilled. Our national love affair with Corned Beef Sandwiches, also known as the Reuben, has been going on since the 1920s, though the exact origin is strongly disputed.

Regardless of who owns the title of creator of the first Reuben, this sandwich has steadily gained in popularity over the last 90 years or so, especially during St. Patrick's Day festivities.  It's nearly impossible to find a restaurant that doesn't serve this tasty sandwich and many variations exist as local bars put their own twist to this classic meal.

Corned beef is very simple to prepare at home.  Just remember to cook it low and slow and the result will be a fork-tender brisket that slices easily for sandwiches.

To Prepare Corned Beef

1 Corned Beef Brisket (3 - 4 lbs) including spice packet
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 TB Garlic, minced
1 TB Butter

Drain and rinse the corned beef, reserving the spice packet. Place the onion, garlic and butter in the bottom of a large soup pot.  Saute the onion and garlic for 6 minutes or until tender, then place the brisket into the pot.  Add enough water to the pot to fully cover the meat, and add the spice packet to the water.  Turn heat to medium-high, bring to a boil for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about  3 hours, turn the brisket over occasionally using a fork.  (The longer the beef simmers the more tender the meat, so for a 3-4 pound brisket, 3 hours works great.)
Add additional water, if needed, to keep the beef covered.

Remove meat from pot and allow to rest 10 minutes. Slice the meat against the grain and prepare sandwiches as below.

Sandwich Ingredients for 4

2 TB Butter, softened
8 slices Rye Bread
8 slices Swiss Cheese
3/4 lb Corned Beef Brisket, thinly sliced
1/2 lb Sauerkraut
1/4 cup Russian Dressing

Butter one side of four slices of bread, and place the slices buttered-side down on a large piece of wax paper on a flat surface. Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese, and then divide half of the corned beef among them.

Using paper towels, squeeze out excess moisture from sauerkraut. Divide the sauerkraut among the sandwiches, and top each with one tablespoon of Russian dressing. Add another layer of corned beef and a second slice of Swiss cheese to each sandwich. Top with the remaining bread slices; butter the side facing out.

Preheat a griddle or frying pan to medium heat. Cook the sandwiches on one side until the bread is golden brown. Use a spatula to carefully flip the sandwiches over and finish cooking on the second side. Cut the sandwiches in half before serving. Serve with Seven Day Slaw.

Salmon Burgers

Panko Crumbs are Japanese breadcrumbs and can be found in the Asian section of your local market.

1 1/4 lb Salmon Fillet, skinned and deboned
2 TB snipped Fresh Dill
2 TB snipped Fresh Chives
1 tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
1 TB Lemon Juice
2 tsp plus 2 TB Olive Oil
1/2 cup Panko Crumbs or Plain Bread Crumbs
6 Potato Rolls, warmed

Coarsely cut salmon into cubes and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add dill, chives, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Pulse briefly 2 or 3 times to roughly chop fish and combine ingredients. The salmon will hold together like ground meat. Do not overprocess.

Shape salmon mixture into 6 patties about 3/4 inch think. Place patties on a small baking sheet covered with plastic wrap. Chill, covered, for 2 hours.

To cook, place panko crumbs in a shallow bowl. Gently turn patties in crumbs to coat all over.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute patties 3 minutes; turn and saute 3 minutes longer until golden and crisp.

Serve burgers on warmed buns. Top with a generous dollop of Cucumber Sauce and serve with extra sauce and sliced tomatoes and lettuce, if desired.  Serves 6.

Cucumber Sauce:

Peel and coarsely grate half of a cucumber. Press excess liquid from cucumber between several sheets of paper towels. In a small bowl combine cucumber with:

1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
2 TB Mayonnaise
1 Minced Scallion
2 TB snipped Dill
1/8 tsp Salt

Chill, covered for 2 hours before serving.

Grilled Fish Sandwich

3 TB Dijon Mustard
2 TB Light Mayonnaise
1 TB chopped Fresh Dill
Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 lbs Skinless Haddock, about 3/4-inch thick, cut into 4 fillets
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
2 TB Olive oil
4 Kaiser Rolls, warmed
1 cup shredded Romaine Lettuce

Combine mustard, mayo and dill and set aside.

Preheat grill. To prevent fish from sticking, rub a paper towel moistened with vegetable oil over the grill rack.

Blot the fillets on both sides with paper towels. Season with kosher salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil.

Arrange fillets on the grill rack, about 6 inches from heat source; grill 4 minutes over medium-high heat. With a metal spatula, gently turn the fish; grill about 4 minutes longer, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Spread the insides of the kaiser rolls with the dill sauce. Place one fillet on each bun, top with shredded romaine and serve.  Serves 4.

Crab Roll Sandwiches

You could also substitute chopped lobster meat or peeled and deveined finely chopped shrimp for the crabmeat.

2 lbs Cooked Crabmeat
2 bunches Scallions, white and light greens parts only, thinly sliced
2 Celery Stalks, finely diced
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
8 to 10 Hoagie Rolls or Hot Dog Buns
8 leaves Leaf Lettuce or Bibb Lettuce
3 Ripe Tomatoes, sliced

Pick over the crabmeat, discarding any pieces of shell. Finely chop the meat. In a bowl, combine the crabmeat, scallions, celery, lemon juice, mayo and salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the rolls until lightly browned. Spoon some of the chilled crabmeat mixture onto half of each roll, then top with lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately. Serves 8 - 10.

Lobster Patties

The added flavors - sweet juicy mango, crunchy slaw, the lime marinade, and the toasted cumin, coriander and fennel in the lobster patties - bring tropical notes to the burger without overwhelming the flavor and texture of the lobster. Serve this with a simple green salad and margaritas.

1-1/4 pound cooked Fresh (not frozen!) Lobster Meat, 1/4" dice
3 medium Limes, juiced
1/2 lb Shrimp, peeleed and deveined
1 medium Carrot, peeled, fine dice
1 medium Celery Rib, fine dice
1/2 tsp Whole Cumin Seed
1/2 tsp Whole Coriander Seed
1/2 tsp Whole Fennel Seed
2 Egg Whites
2 small Hot Red Peppers, seeds, stem and membranes removed, minced
4 TB Cilantro, fine mince
6 TB Panko Flakes
2 TB Flour
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Hot Sauce to taste

Zesty Slaw Topping

1/4 head Cabbage, trimmed, cored and cut in thin slices
1 Carrot peeled and shredded
1/4 medium Red Onion, sliced very thin, slices halved
1 TB Cilantro, minced
1 Green Chile, membranes, stem and seeds removed, minced
2 tsp fresh Ginger, peeled, minced
1/2 C Lime Juice
1/4 C Mayonnaise
Salt and Hot Sauce, to taste
6 Onion rolls
Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 ripe Mango, peeled, cut in thin slices

Using 2 medium glass bowls, marinate lobster meat 30 minutes in the juice of 2 limes and marinate shrimp 30 minutes in the juice of 1 lime. Still keeping them separate, drain lobster and shrimp, pressing out liquid. Refrigerate lobster and shrimp until needed.

Sauté the carrot and celery in a small amount of oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Heat a small dry sauté pan until hot, then add the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Toast the spices, stirring constantly, a minute or two until they start to brown and give off fragrance. Remove to a spice grinder and puree to a fine powder. Set aside.

Place shrimp and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth, about 1 minute.

Blend the minced hot red pepper, cilantro, panko flakes, carrot/celery mixture, flour, lobster meat, shrimp/egg mixture, and toasted spice mix. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Divide into 6 equal portions and press firmly into burgers. Allow to rest 30 minutes, refrigerated, while making the Slaw Topping.

Slaw Topping: mix all the Slaw Topping ingredients well and refrigerate.

Heat a griddle pan over medium-high heat. Using an egg or pancake ring, spray the rings with the vegetable oil spray or a light olive oil coating. Place patties inside egg forms, place on griddle pan and cook about 6 - 8 minutes on each side. When burgers are nearly finished, turn off heat and let burgers rest 2 minutes before gently removing with a spatula.

Toast the onion rolls until lightly browned, 2 - 3 minutes.

Place one patty on each of the toasted onion roll bottoms. Lay slices of mango on the burger patty, and top with a portion of the Slaw and, if desired, a slice of red onion. Lay the roll top over the slaw on each burger.

A binder material is required in a lobster burger to hold it together. However, restaurant lobster burgers, (usually factory-produced and sold frozen to the restaurant) seem to go way too far with the binding agents (to insure that the burger stays together and also to reduce the amount of lobster that goes into each burger, I assume) so, like a lot of lobster rolls you get in restaurants, they can be very unsatisfying. This recipe goes in the other direction, to see just how much lobster, and how little of the binding agent, can be used before the burger starts to fall apart. The formula used here - a little flour, panko and egg white for binders - works, but be aware that these burgers are delicate, especially before the egg white is cooked. That's why we recommend the egg forms, since the stress of turning the burgers with a just a spatula might be too much for them. The delicious lobster flavor and texture of these burgers is definitely worth the additional care you have to give them during preparation.

Reuben Sandwich

When I serve Reuben Sandwiches, the big debate is over the dressing...Thousand Island, which is traditional or Russian, which is also a favorite. It is a personal preference, but if you can find Russian dressing, it is a delicious addition.

Sliced Rye Bread or Swirled Rye
Swiss Cheese, thinly sliced
Corned Beef, thinly sliced (try cooking your own Corned Beef; it is very easy and tastes great)
Sauerkraut, drained
Russian Dressing, or the traditional Thousand Island

Butter the bread. Place sliced cheese on one slice of bread followed by a bit of sauerkraut, then add slices of corned beef, top with a drizzle of Russian Dressing and then add the second slice of bread.

Grill the sandwich in a skillet 4 -5 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Flip sandiwch and grill 2 - 3 minutes longer.

Italian Portabella Sandwich

4 large Portabella Mushrooms (about 3-4 oz each) cleaned, stems removd
1 (6 oz) jar Marinated Artichokes
1 TB Olive Oil
1 small Red pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 small Green Pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch strips
1 medium Sweet Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of Black Pepper
4 slices (4 oz total) Provolone cheese
8 slices Italian Bread, about 1/2-inch thick, lightly toasted

Place mushrooms in a ziplock bag. Pour marinade from artichoke hearts into bag, reserving hearts. Seal bag and toss to coat. Let marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning and the reserved artichoke hearts. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Using a long-handled brush, season rack with vegetable oil.

Place mushrooms on rack with stem side up and grill, covered, for 3 minutes. Turn mushrooms and grill 3 minutes longer, until tender. Turn mushrooms again (stem side up) and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Place a slice of cheese on each mushroom, and grill covered, about 1 minute to melt the cheese.

Top each slice of toasted bread with a mushroom. Top mushroom with 1/4 of the peppers and onions mixture, add top slice of Italian bread and serve immediately.

Light Confetti Slaw

2/3 cup Light Mayonnaise
2/3 cup Light Sour Cream
1/4 cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
3 TB Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Medium Head Green Cabbage, cored & finely shredded (about 6 cups)
1 Red Bell Pepper, cored and diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, cored and Diced
1 Yellow Pepper, cored and diced
5 large Carots, trimmed, peeled, and coarsely grated

In a large bowl, combine the mayo, sour cream, dill, lemon juice, pepper, salt and sugar; stir to blend well.

Stir in cabbage, peppers and carrots. Stir to coat and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours or overnight for best results. Serve chilled.

Sweet & Spicy Asian Slaw

1 (16 oz) bag Coleslaw Mix
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
4 Scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Fresh Mint, chopped
1/2 cup Roasted Peanuts, chopped


5 TB Lime Juice
2 1/2 TB Fish Sauce
3 TB Sugar
3 TB Rice Vinegar
1 TB Grated Fresh Ginger
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
4 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil

For the salad, combine coleslaw mix, bell pepper, cucumber scallions, cilantro, mint and peanuts in a large bowl.

For the dressing, combine lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger and cayenne in medium glass bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat. Season with salt. Serves 4-6. Use within 2 days.

Perfect Pasta Salad

Mix and match ingredients you have on hand to create a unique and fun pasta salad.

To make your pasta salad a meal, add cooked and cubed chicken, ham, bacon or turkey.

Pasta  - 4 - 5 cups cooked and cooled;  Choose shapes that will hold onto the dressing such as penne, rotini, bow tie, etc.

Vegetables - 3 cups cubed/diced;  Add color, crunch and flavor with thinly sliced radishes, seeded and cubed cucumber, tiny broccoli florettes or grated carrot

Cheese  - 3 - 4 oz shredded;  A sprinkle of Parmesan or Romano can add lots of flavor or use grated cheddar or a 6-cheese Italian blend

Dressing   - 3/4 to 1 cup salad dressing;  Change up the flavor of each salad by choosing a Balsamic Vinegrette, Caesar (creamy or vinaigrette) or even a basic ranch-style dressing

Herbs  -  1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped;  Choose basil, parlsye, cilantro, chives or whatever you have on hand

Extras  -  1 chopped Avocado,  1 cup drained/rinsed Beans,  1/4 cup chopped Olives,  1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped cooked Bacon;   Add chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped olives, leftover chicken or turkey, or anything else that will tie in with the flavors of your dinner.

Mimosa Salad with Orange Honey-Mustard Dressing

This is a great salad to serve for a summer brunch.  It looks very elegant but is quite easy to assemble.

5 oz Black Walnuts
8 oz Mixed Salad Greens, washed
11 oz can Mandarin Orange Segments, drained
7 oz can Hearts of Palm, thinly sliced
6 oz Fontina Cheese, finely shredded
1 cup Orange Honey-Mustard Dressing (see receipe below)

Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and place in oven at 375 degrees, lightly toasting for about 4 - 5 minutes. Let toasted walnuts cool to room temperature. In a salad bowl, toss salad greens, Mandarin oranges, hearts of palm and walnuts. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and serve with Orange Honey-Mustard Dressing on the side.

Serves 4.

Orange Honey-Mustard Dressing

1/2 cup Deli Style Mustard
3/4 cup Honey
9 oz can Mandarin Orange Segments, drained
1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Light Mayonnaise

Place all ingredients, except mayo, in a blender. Puree until orange segments are no longer in large chunks. Fold puree into mayo until thoroughly blended.  Maps 3 cups Dressing

Tarragon Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Roasted Walnut Oil will add a rich walnut taste to salad dressing, pasta, and grilled meat or fish. It can also be combined with balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar to create a simple vinaigrette. Since this oil is not refined, it has a very high level of antioxidants and is a rich source of omega-3s.

1/4 cup Minced Shallots
3 TB White Wine Vinegar
4 TB chopped Fresh Tarragon
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
7 TB Roasted Walnut Oil

Whisk all ingredients until blended. Season with salt and pepper and serve over a mixed greens salad.

Sesame Miso Dressing

Grapeseed oil has a light flavor and contains a high level of polyunsaturated fat. It can also be heated up to 485°F, making it great for healthy cooking. As one of the richest natural sources of linoleic acid, grapeseed oil helps fight heart disease and high cholesterol.

2 tsp Red Miso
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
2 TB Sesame Oil
1/3 cup Grapeseed Oil

Blend the miso and Dijon mustard together and slowly add the rice wine vinegar, blending as you go. Whisk in the sesame oil and grapeseed oil.

To serve on a salad:

1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
3 cups chopped Savoy Cabbage or Napa Cabbage
1 cup Arugula
1 Ear Corn
1 Avocado

Chop the cabbage, slice cherry tomatoes in half, carefully cut corn off the cob and dice avocado. Combine all ingredients and drizzle with dressing and serve.   Makes 4 Servings

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup White Vinegar
1 tsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Sugar
2 TB Corn Syrup
2 TB Parmesan Cheese
2 TB Romano Cheese
1/4 tsp Garlic Salt - or one clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp Parsley Flakes
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Olive Garden Salad Mix

Mix all ingredients in blender. If the dressing is a little too tart, add a bit more sugar. Serve over the Olive Garden Salad Mix, recipe follows.

1 bag American Blend Dole Salad
4-5 slices Red Onion
4-6 Black Olives
2-4 Banana Peppers
1 cup large Croutons
1 small Tomato Quartered
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Chill a large salad bowl for at least 30 minutes. Pour bag of salad in bowl and top with red onion, black olives, banana peppers, tomatoes, and croutons. Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese and add plenty of Olive Garden Salad Dressing on top.  Serves 4

Blue Cheese Salad Dressing

4 oz Blue Cheese, crumbled
1 TB White Wine Vinegar
1/3 cup Buttermilk
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Using a glass bowl, mash blue cheese and buttermilk together until the mixture resembles cottage cheese.

Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Use as a salad dressing or vegetable dip.

Classic Vinaigrette

Vinaigrettes are typically made of oil, vinegar and seasonings and used on salads, meats and poultry and fish. This recipe is the basis for many varieties of vinaigrettes. Try using different oils, vinegars and jams. Also try coarse Dijon mustard with honey. The possibilities are endless.

1 part Vinegar – Use Balsamic, red wine or cider vinegar
2 parts Olive Oil – Use Organic Extra Virgin, if possible
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard Powder ( or 2 tsp Dijon Mustard)
1 – 2 TB Honey ( You can also substitute fruit jam such as Blackberry, Raspberry or Strawberry)
Fresh Black Pepper and Sea Salt to taste

In a glass bowl combine all ingredients and whisk until completely blended.

Serve on salad, over cool pasta for a pasta salad, or use to marinate meat or fish.

More Vinaigrette Dressings

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Serve this dressing over hearts of romaine sliced lengthwise. For a full meal, add sliced cooked chicken on the side.

1/4 cup Fresh Lemon Juice
3 TB Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tsp Whole Grain Mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Garlic clove, minced
6 TB Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Combine lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and garlic in a jar. Place lid on jar and shake to combine. Add the olive oil and shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper and keep chilled until ready to serve. Shake well just before serving.

Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette

1/2 Large Egg Yolk
2 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 TB Heavy Cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk with the lemon juice. Whisk in olive oil and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with lettuces, shellfish and crudites.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 Medium Shallot, very finely chopped
2 TB Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the best quality oil available)

Blend shallot, vinegar and salt and let mixture sit for 30 minutes. Immediately before serving, whisk in olive oil and serve.

White Wine Vinaigrette
3/4 cup Dry White Wine
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/4 cup White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or simply by shaking in a jar. Makes 1-1/2 cups. Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator, covered, as this keeps very well.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/4 cup Raspberry Vinegar
1/2 cup Olive Oil
3/4 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Sugar
Pinch of Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well. Shake well just before serving. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

This dressing is a twist on the ordinary vinaigrette. The classic vinaigrette recipe of 2 or 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar has been lightened up to reduce the fat and calories, but increase the flavor.

1/4 cup Apple Juice
1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
2 TB chopped Onion
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp dried Greek Oregano
1/4 tsp each dried Rosemary and Thyme
1/2 tsp Dry Mustard Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 Roasted Red Bell Pepper (from a jar or you can roast your own)

Combine all ingredients in a blender until mixed thoroughly.

Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess dressing was invented in the 1920's at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in honor of William Archer's hit play, The Green Goddess.

This classic salad dressing became more popular in the 1970's. This beautiful green dressing adds a touch of color and delicious flavor to a big salad or can be used over broiled or poached fish or chicken.

1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 1/2 TB Tarragon Vinegar
1 1/2 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped Fresh Italian Parsley
1 TB chopped Fresh Mint
1 1/2 TB chopped Fresh Tarragon
2 TB chopped Fresh Chives
6 Anchovy Fillets, coarsely chopped
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. Blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup.

Green Goddess Dressing keeps refrigerated for 5 to 7 days.

* For a lower-calorie version of this classic recipe, use light mayo and light sour cream.
* To use as a sauce for fish or chicken, thin slightly with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing -

This recipe includes a bit of Basil and Onion for added flavor.

1/3 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup Sour Cream
2 TB Chopped Fresh Chives
4 TB Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Mint
1 TB Chopped Fresh Basil
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 1/2 tsp White Wine Vinegar
2 tsp Anchovy Paste or 2 small Anchovy Fillets
1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp Finely Chopped Garlic
1/4 tsp Dried Minced Onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a blender or small food processor, combine all ingredients until thoroughly blended. Chill until you are ready to serve with your favorite greens and veggies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rub Seasoning Mix for Pork or Chicken

We created this great basic rub that adds the perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavors to pork or chicken.

2 TB Garlic Powder 
1 TB Onion Powder
1 TB Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 TB Paprika
2 TB Sugar
1 TB Salt
1 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard
1 TB Seasoned Salt

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Rub onto meat, pressing into any pockets. Makes enough rub for 4-5 pounds of Pork Boston Butt Roast or 5 pounds Chicken Leg Quarters.

Lemon Risotto with Parmesan

An excellent side dish to poached fish, lemon grilled shrimp, Lemon Scallops or Lemon Chicken Thighs. 

2 TB Butter
1 TB Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
5 1/2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 cups Arborio or other Risotto Rice
3 tsp finely Grated Lemon Rind
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese or Parmesan Romano
2 TB Butter
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter, oil and onion and cook for 6 - 8 minutes or until onion is softened and golden. Place the stock in a separate saucepan. Cover and bring to a slow simmer.

Add the rice and lemon rind to the onion mixture, stirring over medium heat for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the rice is almost translucent.

Slowly add the hot stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente (around 25-30 minutes). Stir in the parmesan, 2 TB butter, salt and pepper, then serve.

Serves 4.

Quinoa Salad

Purchase quinoa at most major supermarkets or any natural foods store.

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used a little less than 1/8 c)
1 tsp Minced Garlic 
1 small Shallot, chopped
1 Jalapeno, seeded, chopped
4 Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 cup uncooked Quinoa
1 cup Water (maybe more if needed)
1 small Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 TB finely Chopped Cilantro
1 TB Fresh Lime Juice
12 Endive Leaves
Sea Salt

Pour the uncooked quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve; rinse and drain. (This helps remove some slight natural bitterness from the grains). In a small saucepan, add quinoa and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, and cover until all of the water is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. (If the water has evaporated before the quinoa is cooked, just add a bit more.) The quinoa will be done when the grains have turned partially white, and the spiral-like germ of the grain is visible. They should maintain a slight crunch when eaten. This will yield about 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.

In a small skillet, sauté garlic and shallots in olive oil over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add the jalapeno and curry powder; heat another 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool. Place in a bowl, and add cooked quinoa, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Toss to coat well. Serve in endive leaves or eat on its own.  Makes 4 side or 2 main servings.

All About Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)

These small, round, and beige-colored seeds soften when cooked, almost resembling caviar in texture. It is a good alternative to rice because of its lightness.  

Quinoa is a high-protein grain that contains all 8 essential amino acids. It's high in fiber, magnesium, and iron; plus it's gluten-free. And suprisingly, quinoa is as delicious as it is nutritious.

Each 1/4 cup of quinoa has 160 calories, 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

The tiny seeds, about the size of pellets of couscous, cook in about 20 minutes. The only special handling required with quinoa is to give it a good rinse before cooking; otherwise, the grains can be bitter.

Basic cooking instructions: Soak quinoa in warm water for 5 minutes. Wash, drain and rinse several times. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups boiling water. Return to boil, lower heat and simmer until water is absorbed and serve.

Experiment with this ancient and delicious grain.  Quinoa is becoming more and more popular because of the health benefits.  Check back soon for more recipes using this delicious grain.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

2 16 oz bag Frozen Brussels Sprouts, cooked and drained
2 TB Olive Oil
8 Thick Slices Bacon (about 8 oz) cut into 1/2-inch strips 
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt, plus additional if needed
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a large skillet, heat olive oil, add bacon and cook until slightly crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and set aside. Increase heat to medium-high, add Brussels Sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and slightly crispy, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar, salt and pepper and bacon. Stir gently and serve.  Serves 8

Oven Baked Potatoes

Some say wrapping baked potatoes in aluminum foil helps them cook faster (aluminum conducts heat, then traps it), and it does keep them hot longer once they come out of the oven, which is why restaurants use this method. Wrapping potatoes will also give you a softer, steamed skin, if that's what you like.

If you prefer the potato skin crispy and seasoned, rub the potatoes with olive oil and coat them with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper before roasting them on a baking sheet (turning once or twice). They don't take a noticeably longer time to cook, and the oil keeps the skin from getting too dry and papery, and it adds flavor that makes eating the skin even more tasty. 

For a very crispy skin, skip the olive oil and run warm water over the potatoes and quickly sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake as usual. Be sure to pierce the potatoes with a fork or knife several time before baking to keep the potatoes from spliting.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes and add your favorite toppings..

Tasty Toppings for Your Potatoes

Other than the stand-by sour cream, grated cheese and butter, what can be added to a baked potato to make it a nutritious meal? Try these suggestions:

Chili Topping. You can use a can of prepared chili or make your own for this topper. If you want to make your own, brown lean ground beef with onions, mix in tomatoes, chili beans and some chili powder and let simmer while the potato is baking. Once the potato is ready, split it open and top it with the chili and slivers of cheese.

Taco Topping. Once again you will need to brown some ground beef, onion and add a package of taco seasoning. Once ready, top your potato with the beef mixture and add a dollop of sour cream and some shredded cheese.

Cheddar Bacon Topping. Mix together 1 cup of mayonnaise, ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, and ¼ cup of cooked, crumbled bacon. This is a more traditional topping that is sure to please any diner.

Tuna Topped Potato. Slice four baked potatoes in half and scoop the pulp out of each side. Mix this in a bowl with about 1 cup of mayonnaise, a 6-ounce can of tuna, drained and rinsed, and 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, grated. Place the mixture back into the potato shells and bake for about 10 minutes.

Greek Topping. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to perk up your potato try this topper. Mix together some feta cheese, a dash of olive oil, sunflower seeds, and some kalamata or black olives and add it to your baked potato.

Also try:
Different flavors of salsa and add some black beans

Steamed broccoli and cheese, add a dash of Sriracha Sauce (in the oriental section) for an extra spicy taste

Mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and blue cheese

Plain yogurt, minced tarragon, thyme and marjoram

How Much Wine to Purchase

How Much Wine Should You Purchase for Your Event?
Whether you're planning a wedding, a banquet or a small dinner party, it can be difficult to estimate how much wine you'll need to buy, balancing the desire to avoid running out against the need to stay within a budget.
There is no one, foolproof system for calculating how much wine you need for events, as no two events ever have exactly the same. Experts all agree on one point, however, that is it is always better to over-cater than run out of wine, so always round up your numbers.
Here are some steps you can take to help estimate your wine requirements.  
Do your research
  • What type of crowd you are expecting? Perhaps some of your guests are pregnant or non-drinkers or a high proportion may prefer beer to wine. Perhaps the guest list includes a number of children.
  • What's the average age of your guests? A younger group will consume more than an older group.
  • What time of the year is the event? People tend to drink more beer and white wine in summer than in cooler seasons.
  • What time is the event? People tend to drink more at evening functions than daytime functions.
  • How formal is the occasion? At more formal functions less wine tends to be consumed, while a relaxed event will have more life and encourage greater consumption.
  • How long will the event last? The longer the event, the more you'll have to buy.
  • How many people are expected?
  • Is food being served? People drink less while they're eating.

Unless you and your guests are wine connoisseurs, it may be best to stick to more traditional, well-known wine styles such as a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc as your white wine offering and a Merlot-based wine as the red alternative.
Working out the numbers
Armed with the number of guests and the type of wine you will be serving, you can use the following formulas to determine how much wine to buy. All formulas are based on standard 750ml bottles which contain four to five glasses of wine depending on the size of the glass used. Restaurant wine glasses are usually 150ml to 200ml, while flutes hold 100ml to 150ml on average.
For shorter functions, allow one and a half glasses of wine per person, per hour or half a bottle of wine per person per two-hour period. For longer functions it may be easier to break your event into different parts. Allow three to four drinks for a buffet or dinner of about four hours in length. For an all-evening party of about five or six hours, count on four to six drinks per guest, not including wine with dinner. This should equate to one to one and a half bottles of wine per person.
The recommendations and examples below err on the generous side, as again, there is nothing more embarrassing than running out of wine at an event. Bear in mind also that these are consumption averages for the whole group, taking into account those who don't drink wine or won't drink much, as well as those who may well drink quite a lot!
For a 50-person party that is expected to run for five hours, allow 1.25 bottles of wine per person (based on half a bottle of wine per person per two hours). If beer is also going to be served or you know there will be a lot of non-drinkers, round this down to one bottle per person or less. Out of the 63 bottles of wine this equates to, you may like to include sparkling wine in the mix, especially if the party is celebratory. If so, the breakdown could be 20 bottles of sparkling wine, which allows for two flutes per person, then depending on the taste of the guests, the male to female ratio, season, etc, split the remaining total roughly in half and purchase 23 bottles of white wine and 20 bottles of red wine.
For a 100 person wedding that runs from 5pm to 1am (assuming that the ceremony takes the better part of an hour and actual drinking time is seven hours) consider allowing two drinks per person for the dinner and another four drinks per person for the reception. This totals six drinks per person. You may like to break this down further, splitting it by red, white and sparkling wine. Assuming sparkling wine is going to be used for toasts, allow one glass per person - 100 flutes at 150ml a flute equates to 20 bottles of wine. That leaves five glasses per person which equates to 120 bottles (using 180ml servings), you could then split this to 60 bottles of white wine, 50 bottles of red wine and 10 more bottles of sparkling for those who want to continue with it.
Top Tips
Often retailers will offer you a deal when you buy be the case, and they may even buy back any unused stock - providing it is in pristine condition.
Selecting wines and champagne for a big event such as a wedding should be fun. Throw a wine-tasting party and invite the bridal party, friends or family to help determine the winelist. Decide on your budget, then buy a selection of wines in that price range.
If you are concerned about alcohol consumption, limit automatic refills. Ensure waiters ask guests if they would like their glasses topped off. It's been proven that people are much more wasteful with wine when it's on the table than when it's being served... they also drink more.
A nice touch at weddings is to select at least one special bottle of wine for the bride and groom to enjoy with their meal. You may like to extend this to close family and friends to enjoy at their table as well.
If you are ordering glassware, plan on 1.5 glasses per person for three hours or less, two glasses per person for longer as people have a tendency to 'lose' their glass.
To estimate how much you may spend on alcohol, you can expect to spend approximately half as much per person on wine as you spend per person on food.

The best wine to serve with a meal is a wine that you enjoy!  Many people will tell you serve white wines with chicken, fish or pasta. Or only serve red wines with steak or beef dishes. NOT!  Try different wines until you find one that YOU like. Don't leave this choice up to someone else.  
Any don't let the high prices of some wines scare you off.  The wine market is now a huge global business. While the California wines have greatly improved over the last few decades, we now have wines available from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.  With the increase in competition from these various imports, the prices have dropped considerably.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Ca-burr-nay So-veen-yawn)Cabernet Sauvignon is a rich full-bodied red wine. Aged in oak, this is a complex wine with cassis and blackberry flavors as well as hints of bell pepper. To make these wines drinkable sooner they are often blended with other grapes. French Bordeaux is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot to soften the tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon is the "classic" wine to serve with red meats.

Merlot (Mare-lo)Merlot is softer tasting than Cabernet Sauvignon due to having less tannins.  It is a smooth, dry red wine. Merlot is often described as having the flavors of boysenberry, black cherry, herbs, and mocha.  Merlot is best
with poultry and grilled meats, but these types of wines actually goes well with most foods. 
Pinot Noir (Pee-no Na-wahr)Pinot Noir is a smooth silky red wine that is extremely fruity. It is characterized with aromas and flavors of black cherry or rose petals with hints of spiciness. Pinot Noirs are enjoyed for their soft velvety texture. High in alcohol, they are full bodied but not heavy. Pinot Noir can be enjoyed with grilled salmon, roast beef, lamb, duck, and mushrooms.
Sangiovese (San-gee-oh-ve-zee)Sangiovese is a medium bodied dry red wine with earthy aromas and berry, plum, spicy, or floral flavors. It has a smooth texture. Sangiovese is the main grape used to produce Italian Chiantis. Sangiovese goes especially well with pasta and other Italian foods. 
Syrah (Sah-ra)Syrah is a hearty red wine noted for its complexity of aromas and flavors including ripe cherry, raspberry, plum, smoke, and white pepper. It is a dark red wine, sometimes almost black in color.  Syrah is wonderful eaten with duck, wild game, steak, and beef. 
Q: What's the difference between Syrah, Shiraz, and Petite Sirah? 
A:Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape - Shiraz is Australian for Syrah. Shiraz is usually made in a rich, fruity style with woodsy aromas, while Syrah has a smokey taste with ripe cherry and raspberry flavors. Petite Sirah, on the other hand, is a completely different varietal, a descendent of the now extinct Durif. It makes a robust, peppery wine with heavier tannins.

Zinfandel (Zin-fan-del)
Zinfandel can be light to full bodied. It can be rich and spicy or lighter and fruitier. Aromas and flavors that are typical include raspberry, jam, black pepper, and licorice. Zinfandel tastes great with steaks, grilled meats, and tomato based dishes. 

Chicken and Wild Rice Chowder

This is a great way to use up leftover chicken. If you cut up the carrots and celery in advance, this recipe can be prepared very quickly.

1 cup Carrots, sliced (2 medium) 
1 cup Celery, sliced (2 stalks)
1 cup Mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp Garlic, minced
2 TB Butter
1 TB Olive Oil
3 TB All-Purpose Flour
2 14-oz cans Chicken Broth
1 cup Precooked Chicken Breast, diced
3/4 cup Cooked Wild Rice
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1-1/2 cups Milk

In a medium saucepan heat butter and olive oil. Add carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic and saute until tender. Stir in flour and mix to coat. Add broth, chicken, wild rice and pepper. Cook and stir until mixture is bubbly and slightly thickened. Stir in milk and heat through.  Serves 4.

Grilled Lamb Burgers w/Blue Cheese & Onions

The beef will add just a bit of fat to the lean lamb and creates a very tasty burger. The addition of blue cheese and sauteed onions add the finishing touch!

1 lb Ground Lamb
1 lb Ground Beef
1 Large Egg
1 Onion, finely diced
Salt and Black Pepper
1 cup Breadcrumbs
10 oz Crumbled Blue Cheese
2 Red Onions, thinly sliced

In a large bowl, combine ground meats, egg, diced onion, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands to combine. Add breadcrumbs until the mixture binds together. 

For each burger patty, combine a handful of the meat mixture with about an ounce of blue cheese, pressing the blue cheese into the middle of each patty.

Grill on high heat for 3 - 5 minutes per side.

For garnish, gently fry the sliced onions over a medium-high heat until brown and crispy. Garnish each burger with sauteed onions and serve.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Herbs

Roasting a large cut of meat, such as a leg of lamb, is very easy and only requires a few steps. Be sure to have an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. 

3 1/2 pound Boneless Leg of Lamb, butterflied ( ask the butcher to do this for you)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Drizzling
1/4 cup Chopped Parsley, plus 2 sprigs
1/4 cup Minced chives
1 TB Chopped Thyme, plus 2 sprigs
2 tsp Chopped Marjoram, plus 1 sprig
Salt and Black Pepper
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.

Open the leg of lamb on a flat surface, fat side down. Drizzle the olive oil over the lamb, rub in the herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

Roll up the lamb, fat side out, and tie with kitchen twine at about 1-inch intervals. Season again with salt and pepper.

In a small roasting pan, line the bottom with the herb sprigs. Add the lamb and roast in the top of the oven for about 1 hour, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meat registers 125 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes. Strain the roasting juices into a cup and skim off the fat. Discard the strings and thinly slice the roast. Drizzle with the juices, sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve.

How To Roast and Peel Red Peppers

Red PeppersCharred Peppers

We've used this same method for red peppers and poblano peppers with equally good results.

If you have a gas range, turn the burners on high and place the peppers directly onto the grates. Using tongs, turn the peppers so they char evenly. Warning: Use caution as the peppers may hiss and bubble, but don't worry, it's just the water from the peppers evaporating. Peppers can be cooked on the grill the same way.

If you have an electric range, broil the peppers on high heat with the oven door slightly ajar. Otherwise, the oven will automatically moderate the temperature. Be sure to turn with tongs to ensure even blistering. 

As soon as the peppers are blackened all over, place them in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. The steam from the peppers will condense and help facilitate peeling. Do not open or you will release the steam.  You can also add a few tablespoons of water to the bowl to encourage the "steaming".  This does seem to speed up the process.

While the peppers cool, set up your cutting board and place a fine meshed sieve in a bowl nearby. Take a pepper, and with a sharp paring knife, make a slit down the length of the pepper cutting through only the top skin. Cut the flesh away from around the stem, trying not to separate the seeds from the knob of flesh that they cling to. Place the stem and seed knob into the sieve and open up the rest of the pepper like a book. Scrape the seeds from the inside of the pepper, placing the seeds in the sieve. The sieve will keep all the seeds and skins separate but allow any pepper juices to drip out.

Turn the pepper over and scrape the knife against the skin of the pepper, scraping off all of the charred skin. Wipe off the knife in the sieve. Slice the pepper into strips and place in the bowl under the sieve. DO NOT wash the peppers or the taste will be diminished. When finished with the peppers, cover them in oil, adding some garlic slivers, if desired, and store in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.

How to Cook Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Raw Pumpkin Seeds can be purchased from any health food store. The small green seeds are sold in bulk and usually run about $3 - $4 per pound. These are perfect to use for roasting when you do not want to deal with a messy pumpkin. 

Here is a simple recipe for Hot Sauce Pumpkin Seeds.

2 cups Raw Pumpkin Seeds
2 TB Butter
2 - 3 TB Frank's Hot Sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a heat-proof measuring cup melt the butter in the microwave. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat. Next add the hot sauce and again blend well.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the seeds out in a single layer. Lightly sprinkle the seeds with salt.
Bake the seeds about 10 minutes then gently stir and turn them over. Return the seeds to the oven and bake an additional 8 - 12 minutes, until they are a light golden brown and still just a bit green. Do not overbake the seeds or they will be too crunchy and will lose their pumpkin flavor.

Remove from oven, stir gently and let cool slightly before eating.

How to Make Party Punch

A few suggestions when preparing Punch --

If it sparkles or bubbles, pour it in last. Try to add ingredients in the order given and always add club soda, champagne, or anything carbonated last. If time permits, the punch should be the last thing you do before guests arrive in order to preserve the bubbles as long as possible. 

Chill all ingredients before mixing. Adding ice to warm juice will create a watery punch. If possible, chill the punch bowl before use.

Larger ice molds last longer than small ice cubes. You can use a fancy ice mold or simply use a flexible plastic storage bowl to make a large ice cube of juice. Try adding mint leaves, cranberries, cherries or lemon and lime slices to the mold before freezing.

When using liquor in a party punch, don't spend a lot of money on the champagne or wine. An inexpensive champagne will taste fine when mixed with fruit juices.

How much punch to make? Assuming your guests will each consume about 3 4-ounce cups of punch, you can estimate about 1 gallon of punch per 10 people. Adjust this figure accordingly depending on the type of punch (alcohol or non-alcoholic), the time of day, and the other beverage choices available.

Cajun Blackening Spice Mix

5 TB Paprika
1/4 cup Salt
1/4 cup Garlic Powder
2 TB Fresh Ground Pepper
2 TB Onion Powder
2 TB Cayenne Powder
2 TB Dried Oregano
2 TB Dried Thyme

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container. Delicious for grilling salmon, chicken or shrimp. Also try in Creole Jambalaya.

Shake and Bake Substitute for Pork & Chicken

Instead of buying the expensive little packets of coating for chicken or pork, some of which cost as much as $3.00 for a one ounce packet and are mostly salt, save yourself some money and make your own mix.

Both of these dry rub mixes can be prepared with basic ingredients in your own spice cupboard, and they taste even better than the store bought brands.  For a little extra spice you can even add cayenne pepper to the mix.

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Seasoning Mix
For Pork
2-1/2 TB Cornmeal 
2 TB Flour
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp  Paprika
1/2 tsp Dried Sage
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Cayenne  (optional - add for extra spicy coating)

Mix ingredients and use the same as the store bought package. Recipe will coat 6 - 8 pork chops.  You can use this coating on bone-in or boneless chops.

Coat pork chops with mixture, pressing the rub onto the meat.  Place chops on a lightly greased cooking rack, spray the chops lightly with olive oil and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.**  During the last 10 minutes of cooking, turn the over to the BROIL settings to finish the chops with a browned and crispy top.

** Use a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 140 degrees, then remove the chops from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.

For Chicken
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 cup Cornmeal or Cracker Crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/4 tsp Basil

Combine all ingredients in a large ziplock bag and shake well. When ready to use, brush chicken pieces with olive oil and place in bag; shake well to coat. Bake chicken pieces at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until juices run clear. Yield: coating for 8 - 10 pieces of chicken.

Creamy Tarragon Dressing

Tarragon adds a delicious flavor to this creamy dressing. If you like gardening, Tarragon is easy to grow and you will find many uses for this tasty herb, such as making your own Tarragon Vinegar.

1/2 cup Non-Fat Plain Yogurt
1/2 cup Low-Fat Mayonnaise
1 TB Chopped Fresh Tarragon or 1 1/2 tsp Dried Tarragon, crumbled 
1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until blended and smooth. Chill 1 hour before serving.

Creamy Tarragon - Garlic Dressing

2 TB Mayonnaise
2 TB White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Tarragon
1/4 tsp Finely Chopped Garlic
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, tarragon, and garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

More Information on Tarragon --

Tarragon is a small, shrubby herb in the sunflower family. Two species are cultivated, Russian and French. Leaves of the French variety are glossier and more pungent. Most commercial Tarragon comes from dried leaves of the French Tarragon plant.

Tarragon has a slightly bittersweet flavor and an aroma similar to anise.

It is commonly known as a flavoring for vinegar and is used in pickles, relishes, prepared mustards, and sauces, and adds distinctive flavor to sauces. Tarragon also goes well with fish, meat, soups and stews, and is often used in tomato and egg dishes.

How To Grow - Tarragon is a hearty, easy to grow herb. It can be grown in a pot in full sun and grows to a mature height of about 24". A single plant offers a large harvest of leaves which can be dried and kept in a jar for up to 6 months.

** Note: When you purchase a Tarragon plant be sure it is French tarragon and not Russian, as the Russian variety has a much less pungent flavor.


Arugula is a member of the mustard family and is generally used in Meditteranean style recipes, especially Italian cuisine. With its peppery and slightly bitter flavor, Arugula will add a kick to a basic salad. It's flavor is similar to watercress. Like most greens, Arugula is very low in calories and high in vitamins A and C. 

How to Grow
Arugula is a simple variety of greens to grow at home. Sow the seeds in a sunny location in succession plantings (approximately every 20 to 30 days) from early spring to fall.

Arugula performs best in spring to early summer. After that time, plant it under the shade of an "airy" tree (not dense shade), or under shade cloth. It is not fussy at all, although too much drought and summer heat will cause the leaves to be smaller and more "peppery".

To harvest simply pick the young leaves and the plant will keep generating new ones for months. Older leaves are a bit tougher and hotter.

To store , rinse the leaves in cool water and dry on paper toweling. Wrap leaves tightly in a zip lock bag. Best if used within two days.


Basil is one of my favorite herbs to use.  It is a member of the mint family and a native of India. 

The most common use for basil is pesto sauce, but this tasty leaves can be used to flavor pasta sauces, add to salad dressings, or even use on sandwiches in place of lettuce leaves.


Thai Basil or "Siam Queen" - Culinary, ornamental. Red stems and flowers in clusters, green leaf. Very attractive. Licorice-basil aroma. Used in Thai recipes.

Sweet Italian Basil - Culinary variety. Standard, traditional green-leaf selection. Perfect for pesto or chopped fresh and sprinkled on garden-grown tomatoes with olive oil.

Italian Large Leaf Basil - Sometimes called Lettuce Leaf Basil. Produces very large leaves. One leaf can cover a slice of bread! Good basil flavor and fragrance. Excellent choice for Grilled Tomatoes with Mozzarella.

How to Grow
Basil can be grown from seed or purchased through a nursery. Plants need good soil, lots of sun and moderate watering. Mature height 18" - 24" , spaced 12 inches apart. To promote bushiness and best flavor, pinch off growing tips and blooms as they appear.

How to Freeze
Harvest a large bowl of basil leaves and remove stems. Rinse under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Place a few handfuls of basil into a food processor and drizzle with about 3 TB extra virgin olive oil. Pulse until basil is coarsely chopped and basil is well coated with oil. Place mixture in small plastic containers and freeze.

This is a really easy sauce recipe that showcases the bright flavor of Basil.

1 cup packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic (you can help it along and give it a rough chop, if you like)
1/4 cup lemon juice (the real stuff)
3 tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Put first three ingredients in blender and mix until blended. Add the olive oil. Maybe a little more, depending on consistency. Drizzle over hot, grilled chicken or fish or even use on a salad.


Oregano is widely used in Italian dishes, tomato sauce, pizza, fish and salad dressing. The Mexican Oregano is a bit stronger than Mediterranean Oregano.  

Oregano is a strong antioxidant, containing 42 times the antioxidant power of apples, and 12 times more than oranges. Among the potent antioxidants found in oregano are beta-carotene, myristic acid and quercetin.

When using Oregano, either fresh or dried,  add this herb to your dish near the end of its' cooking time to preserve the flavor.

How To Grow -

Oregano is a member of the mint family and is easy to grow when purchased through a nursery. Plants need good soil, lots of sun and moderate watering. Mature height 12" - 24" , spaced 12 inches apart. Oregano is best planted in a large pot as plants can spread aggresively.

Cooking with Oregano -

Add fresh oregano to stuffing, couscous, rice, polenta or garlic mashed potatoes.

Rub chicken with a little butter or olive oil and chopped fresh oregano right before grilling.

Blend fresh oregano, spinach, olive oil and Parmesan cheese in a food processor to make a tasty pesto topping for bruschetta or pasta.

Add tomatoes and fresh oregano to scrambled eggs.

Fold chopped fresh oregano ino bread or biscuit dough.

Add chopped oregano into a mixture of tofu and ricotta cheese and stuff manicotti shells; top with marinara sauce.


The strong piney fragarance and the flavor of rosemary goes well with a variety of foods. It can be included in many poultry or beef recipes. When roasting a whole chicken, place several sprigs inside the chicken before roasting or, for a stronger flavor, place the sprigs under the skin on the chicken breast with a little butter. 

How to Grow

As a member of the mint family, rosemary has dark green needle-like leaves, tiny blossoms and a spicy scent. It is a difficult plant to grow from seed, so buying a start from a nursery is ideal. Plant in direct sun and keep evenly moist. The tips of the plant care be harvested year-round, but be careful not to remove more than 50% of growth at one time.


Tarragon is a small, shrubby herb from the sunflower family. Two species are cultivated, Russian and French. Leaves of the French variety are glossier and more pungent. Most commercial Tarragon comes from dried leaves of the French Tarragon plant. Personally, I do not care for the Russian variety, which is found in most nursery stores. Ask specifically for the French variety, if possible, as the flavor is much more bold and distinctive.

Tarragon has a slightly bittersweet flavor and an aroma similar to anise. It also contains an essential oil which tastes like anise, but this flavor is lost when the herb is dried. 

It is commonly known as a flavoring for vinegar and is used in pickles, relishes, prepared mustards, and sauces, and adds distinctive flavor to sauces. Tarragon also goes well with fish, meat, soups and stews, and is often used in tomato and egg dishes.

How To Grow -

Tarragon is a hearty, easy to grow herb. It can be grown in a pot in full sun and grows to a mature height of about 24". A single plant offers a large harvest of leaves which can be dried and kept in a jar for up to 6 months.


Thyme is a member of the mint family and is considered by many herbalists as the very nearly perfect useful herb. It ranks as one of the finest herbs of French cuisine. The general rule of using herbs in cooking is - when in doubt use thyme.  

Thyme comes in a multitude of flavors, fragrances, growth habits and hardiness ranges. But all varieties are tough, easy-to-grow perennials with pungent leaves and dense clusters of pink, white or lilac flowers.

How To Grow -

Buy plants at an herb nursery for planting in spring. Plant in a sunny location, with well-draining soil, and place plants about 8 inches apart. Cut plants back after they flower in summer to promote bushiness. Thyme is also a great container herb.

Protect plants with a winter mulch if the variety is not reliably hardy in your area.

Divide plants every three or four years to keep them dense and healthy.

Clip foliage and flowers anytime you need them. The more you cut, or even shear back, the more the plants will grow.

Honey Baked Ham

This Easter, enjoy a delicious Honey-Baked Ham without the high price tag or the long wait in line. This ham tastes exactly the same.

5 lbs Precooked Ham
1/4 cup Whole Cloves
1/4 cup Dark Corn Syrup
2 cups Honey
2/3 cup Butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 

Score ham, and stud with the whole cloves. Place ham in foil lined pan.

In the top half of a double boiler, heat the corn syrup, honey and butter. Keep glaze warm while baking ham.

rush glaze over ham, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Baste ham every 10 to 15 minutes with the honey glaze. During the last 4 to 5 minutes of baking, turn on broiler to caramelize the glaze. Remove from oven, and let rest a few minutes before serving.

North Carolina Style Pulled Pork

First Step, Get the Pork Ready for Smoking

2 Pork Butts, about 5 pounds each
2 TB Pickling Spice
2 TB Black Pepper
2 TB Paprika 
1 TB Garlic Powder
1 TB Cumin
1 TB White Sugar
1 Quart Carolina BBQ Sauce (see recipe below)

Mix the spices together. Rub barbeque sauce onto the pork, and then rub on the dry seasoning. Allow the pork butts to rest for at least a couple of hours to absorb the spices.

Next, Mix Up a Great BBQ Sauce

1 cup Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Water
1 TB Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes.

Mix all ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. This sauce really improves if it is allowed to rest for a day or two, which gives the flavors a chance to blend.

Feel free to experiment with different amounts of the peppers and the sugar to get the sweetness and heat you desire.

Fire Up the Smoker!

A temperature range of 215 to 230 degrees F is what you want, and the closer to 215, the better. (Even though it will take a little longer, lower temperature smoking makes for juicier meats.) Place the pork butts into your smoker, fat side up. After five hours or so, begin to baste it with the vinegar sauce every hour.

When the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, remove the pork from the smoker, wrap it or cover it, then let it rest for at least an hour. This step make a tremendous difference in the final texture and flavor of the pulled pork.

After the rest, pull the pork, add some sauce, and serve it on buns. It's a nice touch to have a variety of sauces, pickles, salsas and relishes available for your guests so they can build their sandwiches as they see fit. And most important of all….Don't Forget The Coleslaw!

Smoked Country Style Pork Ribs

5 pounds Country Style Pork Ribs
1/4 cup Onion Powder
2 TB Kosher Salt
1 TB Black Pepper
1 TB Sugar
1 tsp Mustard Powder 
1 tsp Allspice

Mix all of the dry rub ingredients, and then evenly coat the mixture onto the ribs. Cover and refrigerate them for at least two hours...overnight if you can. Country style ribs are usually cut thick, so resting overnight is not too long.

Bring your smoker up to 225 degrees, and add your favorite smoking wood. Position the country style ribs so there's plenty of space between them for the smoke and heat to circulate.

It will take from three to six hours for them to get to the "falling apart" stage of doneness. Pork has to reach 165 degrees before it is considered done, but a higher internal temperature will make it much more tender. When they reach 180 degrees, they'll melt in your mouth.

Country style pork ribs beg to be bathed in a good, rich barbecue sauce. Try this Kansas-Style BBQ Sauce on your ribs next time you smoke them.

Creamy Sweet Potato Bisque

3 cups Sweet Potatoes, peeled & cubed (2 medium potatoes)
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 small Garlic Clove
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/8 tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) Chicken Broth 
1 1/3 cups Milk
1/4 cup Salsa
Diced Green Onions for Garnish (optional)

In 2-quart saucepan, combine first 8 ingredients. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan; add milk and heat through. Serve garnished with salsa and diced green onion.  Serves 4-6.