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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!!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Creole Jambalaya

Sometimes for an event like a Super Bowl party, you might want to serve a dish that is a bit more "substantial".  With lots of beer and cocktails flowing it's a good idea to have something for guests to eat that will balance out the drinks.  This hearty dish will do just that and, to make things easier, it's all cooked in one pot.

This recipe is adapted from an Emeril dish. It includes chicken quarters that are seared on the outside before they finish cooking in the oven, smoked sausage (in place of andouille sausage which is quite pricey) and shrimp that is gently steamed in the same pot just before serving the dish.  The flavors are amazing!

First a little history! There are two primary methods of making jambalaya. The first and most common in Southeast Louisiana is Creole Jambalaya (also called "red jambalaya"), which originates from the French Quarter of New Orleans. The second style is Cajun Jambalaya, which contains no tomatoes, and is known as "Brown Jambalaya" in New Orleans. For another twist on this classic dish you might want to try our Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya.

Since there are as many different recipes for Jambalaya as there are for chili, this is another dish that changes from one family to another to satisfy specific tastes. The Jambalaya can be adjusted by adding more or less shrimp or go heavier on the hot sauce and Cajun seasoning if you want a more spicy flavor. Try this recipe once and adjust to suit your own taste buds.  Serve with a loaf of crusty french bread and Olive Oil Dipping Sauce.  Enjoy!!

3 - 4 pieces Chicken Leg Quarters
2 TB Cajun Blackening Spice
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 cup Celery, chopped
1 cup Green Peppers, chopped
1 cup Onions, chopped
1 TB Garlic, minced
1 lb pkg Beef Smoked Sausage cut into 1/2 inch slices, then halved
2 cups Long Grain White Rice
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 - 14 1/2 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 TB Tomato Paste
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Tabasco Hot Sauce
1/2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
4 Bay Leaves
1 tsp dried Thyme
1-1/2 lbs medium Shrimp (21-25 size), peeled and deveined

Preheat oven to 375.  Season the chicken quarters with Blackening Spice and salt. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 - 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.

Add the celery, peppers and onions to the pot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add the sausage, cook 2 more minutes. Add the rice and stir well, cooking another 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon of the Blackening Spice, Tabasco, bay leaves and thyme. Stir to combine. Return the chicken quarters to the pan and nestle the pieces into the rice mixture.
Cover the pot and bake until the chicken and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.

Toss the shrimp with the remaining Blackening Spice. Remove the jambalaya from the oven and add the shrimp to the top of the pot, gently pressing the shrimp into the rice. Cover the pot and let stand for five minutes, undisturbed. The shrimp will be cooked through from the steam in the pot.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baked Swai (Catfish) Tacos

This is a super easy (and healthy) way to make fish tacos for dinner.  We included a scoop of crunchy Chipotle Slaw and a few delicious slices of avocado to create a taco that tastes fresh and light.  A squeeze of lime on top is a perfect final touch.

The Swai fillets can be purchased individually frozen, and are a real bargain at around $3 - $4 per pound.  Allow 1 fillet per person, or 2 tacos each.  This is a twist on Catfish Tacos that are pan-fried. 

1 cup Panko Crumbs
1 cup  Yellow Cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp  Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
5  Swai Fillets
3  Large Eggs
10  Flour Soft Taco Shells
Fresh Lime Wedges
Sliced Avocado

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil and set aside.

Split each of the 5 fillets down the center to create 10 narrow fillets. Place fillets on a paper towel and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, combine panko crumbs, cornmeal, old bay, salt and pepper.  In a second bowl scramble the eggs. 

Next, start your assembly line. Dip each fillet in the egg mixture, then the crumb mixture and place on the foil lined pan.  When all fillets are coated, use an olive oil spray to lightly coat each piece of fish.  This will give the fish a lightly crunchy texture when it is cooked. 

Bake fillets about 15 minutes or until the fillets flake when tested with a fork.

To serve, place one fillet on a flour tortilla shell, top with a few spoons of Chipotle Cole Slaw, a few slices of avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Enjoy!

Do you love avocados??  Then you will love the new Avocados From Mexico recipe website "Recipes From Avocado Lovers" to give foodies who love avocados the opportunity to upload their favorite avocado recipes, download ringtones, wallpapers and other fun items to show their avocado love and discover other fan favorite avocado recipes.

Disclaimer:  This sponsorship is brought to you by Avocados From Mexico who I have participated with for this promotion.  However, monies received will never influence the topic, content or post.  Thoughts and opinions are always 100% honest and my own.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Spicy Swai Po' Boy Sandwich

Here is another tasty way to use Swai Fish Filets in a spicy Po'Boy-Style sandwich.  Swai has become a favorite at seafood markets because it is so reasonably priced and has a mild sweet flavor similar to regular catfish.

The sauce used on the fish is quite versatile and can be used on shrimp or even chicken for a delicious zingy flavor.  As a finishing touch, a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon tops this sandwich off nicely.

1 lb  Swai Fillets, cut into 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch pieces
2  Cloves Garlic, minced
3 TB  Olive Oil
1 - 2 tsp  Sriracha (to taste)
1 tsp  Balsamic Vinegar
1 TB  Fresh Finely Chopped Basil
1 tsp  Paprika
1/4 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
Leaf Lettuce
Hoagie Rolls, Sliced lengthwise and hollowed out in the center

In a medium glass bowl, toss all ingredients until fish is evenly coated.  Let marinate for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Carefully pour the marinated fish mixture into the hot skillet.  Arrange fish into a single layer and let saute about 3 minutes before turning and cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Remove skillet from heat and prepare sandwiches immediately by placing a piece of leaf lettuce on a hoagie roll and then filling the center with the fish.  Enjoy!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pork Chops with Dijon-Cream Sauce

Nothing tastes better than a perfectly cooked pork chop, especially if you top it with a delicate and creamy Dijon cream sauce.  The chops are quickly seared in a skillet to seal in the juices then cooking is finished in the oven.  Not a lot for prep goes into this recipe and with just a handful of ingredients it's perfect for a weeknight dinner.

6 (3/4-inch-thick) Pork Chops
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
2 TB  Canola Oil
1  Large Shallot, finely minced
3 TB  Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup  Chicken Broth
1/4 cup  Country-Style Dijon Mustard
2 TB Heavy Cream
3 tsp  Fresh Lemon Juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat pork dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil to hot skillet, swirling to coat, then brown chops, turning over once, about 8 minutes total.  (This will sear the outside of the chops giving them a nice golden brown edge, but not cook them thru to the center.)  Transfer chops to a shallow baking pan, reserving skillet.  Bake chops, uncovered, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off fat from skillet, then cook shallots in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and any juices from baking pan and boil, scraping up any of the tasty browned bits, for about 2 minutes. Add mustard and cream and return to a boil, then add lemon juice and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Pour sauce over chops and serve with mashed potatoes and steamed spinach.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Orange Sweet Potato Cookies

We are still having so much fun creating recipes with sweet potatoes and this cookie is one of my favorites so far. These cookies get a double dose of orange.  The orange zest added a bright burst of flavor and was accented even more because the leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes we used had a touch of orange juice in them.  (See the link above to prepare sweet potatoes with orange juice.)  These were so simple to make and it's a great way to use up leftovers.  Enjoy!

1/2 cup  Butter, softened
1/2 cup  Crisco Shortening
1/2 cup  Sugar
1/2 cup  Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp  Baking Powder
1/4 tsp  Baking Soda
1 cup  Cooked Mashed Sweet Potatoes (leftovers work great)
1  Large Egg
1 tsp  Finely Minced Orange Peel
1/4 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
2 cups  Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat butter, shortening and sugars together until smooth.  Add all remaining ingredients and stir to fully combine.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10 - 12 minutes until cookies are firm and no longer moist on top.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Sausage and Cheese Dip

The Super Bowl is just 9 days away!!  Today we have for you an easy snack to serve in a crock pot when you have guests over for the big football game. With just 3 ingredients, this is a hearty snack that everyone will love.  Just set the crock pot on the lowest setting and stir occasionally.  Any leftovers can be reheated the next day and added to the top of scrambled eggs for a delicious and quick breakfast.

2 lb loaf Velveeta
1 lb Hot or Mild Sausage
1 can Rotel Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies (Regular or Spicy)

In a large skillet, brown and crumble sausage. Drain sausage on paper towels. Cut cheese into cubes and put in crock pot with the can of tomatoes and crumbled sausage. Turn crock-pot on low and stir occasionally until cheese is melted. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Beer Battered Swai Po' Boy Sandwich

For this yummy sandwich creation we used Swai Fillets, which are a variety of catfish, to put a little twist on the classic Po' Boy sandwich.  Using Sam Adams as the base for a simple tempura-style batter, the fillets were quick fried and the result was a light, sweet breading that only needed a little guacamole and a squeeze of lime as a finishing touch. 

To quickly fry the fish I used my electric wok.  The wok is very handy for cooking tempura-battered foods because it keeps the temperature of the oil steady, which in turn cooks the foods to a nice golden color.  This same batter works great on zucchini, eggplant or to make onion rings and is also delicious on chicken strips, scallops or butterflied shrimp (leave the tails on the shrimp and it makes them easy to eat and they will look beautiful!)

2 lbs  Swai Fillets, cut into 1-1/2 to 2-inch pieces
2 cups  Flour
2 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper
4  Egg Yolks
2 TB  Butter, melted
1 bottle  Sam Adams Beer (1-1/2 cups)
Canola Oil for Frying
French Bread or Hoagie Rolls

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. 

In another bowl blend the egg yolks and melted butter.  Slowly whisk the beer into the egg/butter mixture, then add this mixture to the dry ingredients.  Cover batter with plastic wrap and let rest for about 30 minutes.  (The batter can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours, if needed.)

Using a wok or heavy-based pot, such as a dutch oven, heat about 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees.

Pat the fish fillets with a paper towel to make sure the fish is dry.  Dip the fish into the batter one piece at a time then carefully place them into the oil.  Cook 4 to 6 pieces per batch, for about 5 minutes, turning several times until the fish is golden.  Place cooked fish on paper towels to drain.

Working in batches, keep the fish warm while the remaining fish is cooking, adding more oil to the pan if  needed.  The fish will cook very quickly so be sure not to overcook or the coating will be soggy.

To prepare sandwiches, slice hoagie rolls horizontally but without cutting all the way thru.  Scoop out  about half of the bread from the rolls, line with leaf lettuce then add the pieces of Swai.  Top with Spicy Guacamole or a squeeze of lemon or lime and serve.  Enjoy!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken Breast

Macadamia nuts are very nutritional little powerhouses.  Containing the highest amount of beneficial monounsaturated fat of any type of nut, studies have shown that including macadamia nuts in your diet may help lower your cholesterol levels.  But, what's really important is that they taste great!

I've been meaning to try this recipe for so long and I'm glad I finally got around to making this for dinner.  We love to create new dishes with Macadamia Nuts including Macadamia White Chocolate Chip Cookies and Baked Banana Cheesecake, but this was the first time I've tried using them as part of an entree, and we were very impressed with the results.

This meal was quick to prepare because the chicken breasts are sliced horizontally, to produce thin fillets.  Be sure to chill the breaded chicken for about 30 minutes before cooking as this step will ensure the breading stays on the chicken.

1/2 cup  Soy Sauce
1 1/2 TB  Brown Sugar
1 TB  Cooking Sherry
2 TB  Olive Oil
2 tsp  Fresh Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Fresh Minced Ginger
4  Chicken Breasts, (about 2 lbs) boneless & skinless,
     cut in half crosswise so you have 8 thin fillets
1 cup  Finely Chopped Roasted Macadamia Nuts
1 cup  Panko Crumbs
1 cup  Flour
3  Large Eggs, beaten
2 TB  Canola Oil
1 TB  Butter

For this recipe you will need a large gallon-sized ziploc bag to marinate the chicken.  To the ziploc bag, add the soy sauce, brown sugar, sherry, olive oil, garlic and ginger.  Next add the chicken breasts, zip the bag closed and turn over several times to fully coat the chicken.  Let marinate for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

In a medium bowl combine the macadamia nuts and bread crumbs, and in a separate bowl beat the 3 eggs.

Start your assembly line and bread the chicken breasts, first in the flour, next in the eggs then finally in the nut-crumb mixture.  Be sure to press the nut-crumb mixture firmly onto the chicken so the breading sticks.  Place the fillets on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  (This will help the crumb mixture to adhere to the chicken.)

In a large heavy skillet, heat oil and butter over medium heat.  Add chicken fillets, cover and saute for about 5 minutes without turning, until fillets are golden brown.  Gently turn the fillets over and cook 4 -5 minutes longer or just until the chicken juices run clear.  (Test the thickest piece of chicken at this point to check for doneness.

Serve with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Garlic Butter Green Beans, and honey mustard to dip the chicken into if desired.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crock Pot Chili

Back to Super Bowl Foods today, we have a super easy batch of Chili in the crock pot.  Serving a pot of chili for a party will save you a lot of time since the cooking is done before the guests arrive and will allow you to enjoy the party with your guests.

This is a more tomato-based chili than I have made in the past and I was not sure if my family would give this dish a thumbs up or not.  But, to my surprise, the kids liked this version even more.  It may have been the sweetness of the tomatoes or maybe the not-too-spicy seasonings, but this got rave reviews and, as a bonus, it saved me a lot of time by cooking with the crock pot!  The spice mixture makes enough for about 3 batches of chili so be sure to save the mix in an airtight container to use for your next batch of chili!  You can also make this dish with a little more of the spice mix if you like a more spicy chili.

As an extra bonus, this chili will also be great on top of Chili Hot Dogs!

Seasoning Mix
4 TB  Chili Powder
2 tsp  Ground Coriander
2 1/2 tsp  Ground Cumin
1 1/2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 1/2 tsp  Onion Powder
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp  Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper

2 lbs  Lean Ground Beef
1 small Onion, finely minced
1 28-oz can  Crushed Tomatoes
1 15-oz can  Chili Beans in Medium Sauce

In a small bowl, mix together dry spices;  set aside.

In a large skillet, cook ground beef until cooked through and drain.  Add the onion and 3 teaspoons of the seasoning mix.

In the crock pot, add tomatoes, beans and 2 more teaspoons of the seasoning mix.  Stir to combine, then add the ground beef to the crock pot, stir again, and cook on LOW for 6 - 8 hours.

Crock Pot Chili for Hot Dogs

Cooking Bonus and Time-Saver!  The best thing about making chili, soups or stews is...leftovers! 

The Crock Pot Chili was so yummy on the hot dogs we wanted to add this picture.  By making chili one night you easily have dinner ready for another night.  Chili freezes well in freezer bags, just spoon chili into bags, lay flat in freezer and use within about 3 months.

NOTE:  If serving Chili Dogs for a party, use another crock pot filled about 1/3 deep with hot water to heat the hot dogs and then keep them warm during the party.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Southern-Style Salmon Patties

Salmon Patties are one of those 1950's-style foods that never really seems to fade away.  The patties are quick to make and can be served on a plate or, if you have kids who are a little too picky when it comes to fish, just announce these as Krabby Patties and serve them on a bun and your kids will love them.

There are many different recipes for Salmon Patties but this is a great starter recipe.  If you like foods a little more spicy, add the optional cayenne pepper, or add a 1/2 teaspoon of fresh dill to the mixture.

2 (14 3/4 ounce) cans Canned Salmon, drained and all bones removed
2 Green Onions, finely minced
1/2 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1/2 cup Flour
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Ground Cayenne (optional but adds a nice little kick)
2 Eggs
3 TB Mayonnaise
Canola Oil for Frying

Place drained salmon in a mixing bowl and flake evenly with a fork, making sure to remove any bones.

Add all remaining ingredients and stir until well blended. Shape the mixture by hand into patties about the size of an average burger. We ended up with 8 patties, but these can be made larger or smaller.

Heat 1/4 inch of canola oil in skillet over medium-high heat, add patties and brown until crispy, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn patties and brown on the other side for about 4 minutes.  Place patties on paper towel lined plate to drain.  Serve with cocktail sauce or tarter sauce.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Traditional Muffaletta Sandwich

This is a great sandwich to serve football fans because a lot of people have never heard of a Muffaletta. As a bonus, much of the work can be done in advance.

The Muffaletta (pronounced moo-fuh-LET-uh) is actually a large, round loaf of Sicilian bread which in New Orleans is used to make a Muffaletta Sandwich.  The origins of this sandwich trace back to the French Quarter in the early 1900's, and credit for this delicious sandwich should probably be given to the Italian immigrants as well as the influence from Spanish, French and Creole settlers also.
The texture of the bread is similar to a focaccia bread, with a coarse, sturdy texture. The bread is piled high with layers of deli meat and provolone cheese and finished off with a traditional olive salad.  Many restaurants in New Orleans have different variations of this sandwich on their menus.  Some of them warm the sandwich to melt the cheeses, or change the components of the sandwich, but the flavors are always brought together with the olives, celery, garlic and oregano in the salad mixture.
In order to make this sandwich a bit easier to handle, we substituted Pita Pockets, which had a surprisingly nice texture and held the sandwich together well.  It also made the sandwich more portable and a little less messy.
Be sure to make the Olive Salad early in the day so the flavors have time to develop.  This also makes last minute prep easy if you will be serving these for a party.  Enjoy!
1 large loaf Fresh Italian Bread (round loaf preferred) or use Pita Pockets
Olive Oil (optional)
5-6 oz thinly sliced Genoa Salami
5-6 oz thinly sliced Ham
5-6 oz Mortadella
5-6 oz thinly sliced Provolone Cheese

Slice the loaf of bread in half horizontally and scoop out about half of the soft interior from the top and bottom.

Brush the inside bottom of the loaf with olive oil if you like, or with the juice from the olive salad marinade. Layer on the cold cuts and cheese. Top the cold cuts with as much olive salad as will fit without spilling out. Replace the top of the loaf.  Cut into quarters and serve. Makes 1 loaf or 2 - 4 servings.

If using the Pita Pockets, slice a whole Pita in half and layer your meats and cheese inside, then top with a scoop of olive salad.

Olive Salad - Makes 1-1/2 cups, enough for 2 to 3 large loaf sandwiches

1 cup coarsely chopped Mixed Green and Black Olives
1/4 cup finely diced Celery
1/4 cup finely diced Carrot
2 tsp chopped Garlic
2 TB dried Oregano
1 tsp freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/2 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 TB Red Wine Vinegar
2 TB fresh Lemon Juice

Blend all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours. The salad will keep for several days refrigerated but gradually loses its punch.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Super Bowl Foods

It's the biggest day of the year for football fans...Super Bowl Sunday!!  This year is even more special because the big event is being held in my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana.  And guess what, all those years of waiting for the Super Bowl to be in Indy and now I don't live there...boo.

Well, regardless of your location, and even if you aren't a big football fan, this is a great day for people to get together and share some delicious food and fun drinks. (Even if you are only watching the game for the fun commercials!)

Check back often over the next 3 weeks as we revisit some tasty finger food recipes, such as Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings and introduce a few new favorites, along with some great drinks to go along with all of the snacks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seafood Pot Pie

This is not your ordinary grandma-style pot pie!  A mouthwatering blend of seafood, homemade stock and a creamy white wine sauce, this recipe is perfect for your next special occasion. 

Unfortunately, we weren't able to find as much lobster as we would have liked, so we had to improvise a little, and the results were fantastic.  The base for the creamy sauce started with a batch of homemade stock made from shrimp and lobster shells and white wine.  Yes, it does take a little extra time to make the stock, but the flavor was SO worth it.   This meal is something that will impress your guests and have them asking for the recipe.  Enjoy!!

Prepare the Seafood Stock

4-6 cups  Seafood Shells (I used the lobster shells and shrimp shells)
1  Large Onion, chopped
1  Carrot, chopped
1  Celery Rib, chopped
Cold Water (enough to cover shells)
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
2 tsp  Fresh Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
12  Whole Black Peppercorns
1/2 cup Dry White Wine

In a large soup pot combine shells, onion, carrot, and celery, and add enough water to cover.  Place the remaining spices in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the top.  (If you don't have cheesecloth, I used a tea ball and it worked great!).

Add the spice bundle to the pot and bring to a boil.  When the stock begins to boil, skim off the foam.  Allow the stock to boil for about 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stock for 30 minutes, then add the white wine and simmer 10 minutes longer.  Strain the stock using cheesecloth and a colander and discard shells.  Use the amount of stock needed and the remainder can be frozen for another recipe.

For the pot pie crust, I did cheat a bit on this step and used store bought pie crust.  I used a glass to cut 2 large circles for each pie, placed them on a baking sheet with 1 circle overlapping the other.  For seasoning I added a sprinkle of thyme and kosher salt and baked them per the instructions, then set aside.

Now for the Filling
2 TB  Butter
1  Small Onion, finely diced
4  Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
2  Carrots, diced
1/2 cup  Frozen Pearl Onions
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
2 cups  Seafood Stock
1 cup  Half and Half
1 lb  Shrimp, (21-25 size) peeled and deveined then sliced down the center, shells reserved to make stock (above)
2  Medium Lobster Tails (gently remove meat from shells & cut into 1-inch cubes, reserve shells for stock)
3/4 lb  Bay Scallops, rinsed
4 TB  Butter
4 TB  Flour

In a large soup pot, melt the 2 TB butter.  Add the onion, potatoes, carrot and pearl onions, stirring to coat with the butter.  Sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper and cook about 5 minutes until the vegetables begin to brown on the edges but are not fully cooked.

While the vegetables are cooking you can get the next step ready. 

In a small skillet make a roux by melting the 4 TB butter over medium heat, next adding the 4 TB flour and stirring until the mixture turns slightly brown.  ** You may not use all of this mixture depending on the thickness of the broth desired.  I used about 3/4 of the roux by it's always better to have a bit extra on hand should you need it!  Keep the mixture warm.

Back to the filling:  Add the seafood stock and half and half to the pot and gently stir the vegetables, cooking for about 5 minutes until the carrots and potatoes are almost tender. Carefully add the shrimp to the pot making sure to push them down into the broth, and simmer on low for 3 minutes. Next add the lobster, followed by the scallops.  These will cook very quickly and only need about 4 minutes to finish the filling.  Increase the heat slightly to medium and add a few teaspoons of the roux to the filling, stirring gently and adding more roux as needed to get the desired consistency.

Spoon the filing into soup bowls, add the double-circle crust on top of each and serve.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Banana Bread in the Bread Machine

Nothing tastes better than a slice of warm banana bread on a cold day.  Unfortunately, bread takes a little extra time to prepare and bake.  With this recipe, the bread machine will do all of the work for you and you get to enjoy all of the cinnamon-banana goodness.

A few years ago bread machines were quite trendy, but their popularity has since faded and most people pushed this handy appliance to the back of their shelves.  With winter upon us, this is a great time to pull out that bread machine and make a loaf of delicious and healthy banana bread.  By including the whole wheat flour the end result is a more compact loaf, which only intensifies the banana flavor, and increases the health benefits. 

** Bread Machine Recipe

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Sugar
5 TB Cinnamon Applesauce
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Eggs
1 TB Hot Water
2 1/2 Large Bananas ( or 3 small bananas)
Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture

Place ingredients in the pan of a bread machine.

Select the DOUGH setting and press start. Mix the bread about 5 minutes until the bananas are well combined into the batter. If needed, use a rubber spatula to push dough from the sides of the bread pan.

After the 5 minutes, when the dough is well blended, press STOP and sprinkle the top of batter with the Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture.

Select the BAKE setting and press start. The Bake Cycle time may vary with machines, but cooking time will be about 50 - 60 minutes.

To test bread for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the bread. If the bread is done, the toothpick will come out clean. If there is dough on the toothpick, reset the machine and BAKE 10 to 15 minutes longer.

When the bread is completely baked, remove pan from bread machine and cool.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pumpkin Cookies with Cinnamon M&M's

Why is it that some of my best recipe ideas sprout up in my dreams?  I was seriously dreaming about these Cinnamon M&M's a few nights ago and today this mouthwatering dream became a reality.  I've been thinking of ways to highlight the subtle cinnamon flavor in these candies without the cookies being too sweet.  The combination of cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin are a classic and heavenly match, but adding the cinnamon M&M's makes these cookies even better.  Everything tastes better with M&M's.  Enjoy!

2 1/4 cups  Flour
2 tsp  Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp  Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp  Ground Nutmeg
1 tsp  Baking Soda
1 cup (2 sticks) Margarine, softened
1/2 cup  Sugar
1/2 cup  Packed Brown Sugar
1 cup  100% Pure Pumpkin
1  Large Egg
2 tsp  Vanilla Extract
1-1/2 cups  Cinnamon M&M Candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and both sugars in a large mixer until smooth.  Add pumpkin, egg and vanilla and blend.  Slowly add in the flour mixture.  When fully combined, fold in the candies by hand.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto lined baking sheets and slightly flatten the dough using the back of the spoon.

Bake 12 - 14 minutes or until the centers are set.  Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  Makes about 30 cookies.

**Note:  The M&M's did get a little melty while cooking due to the cinnamon coating, but it did not have any effect on the flavor.  These tasty pumpkin gems are definitely worth a try.  Check your local retailers holiday clearance area and you might find some of these still on the shelves.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Braised Pork Chops with Spiced Apple Rings

I love to find unique ingredients when I'm shopping, and on sale is even better, so when I spotted these Spiced Apple Rings on clearance after Christmas, I had to grab a few jars.  I knew I had tasted these in the past, the apples have a cinnamon-spicy flavor, but I really did not want to go with a dessert dish.  Then that German DNA must have kicked in and I thought Pork Chops!  The combination of pork chops and apples is serious German-style comfort food and these little pink apples just needed a little inspiration to become something yummy.

The sauce for these chops is truly amazing.  The pork flavor combines with a delicate sweet-cinnamon apple and the butter just brings all of it together.

2 TB Butter
1 jar  Spiced Apple Rings, juice reserved
6  Pork Chops, about 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
3 TB  Butter
1/3 cup  Brown Sugar
2 TB  Cornstarch
2 TB  Cold Water

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, melt 2TB butter over medium-high heat.  Add 3 TB of juice from the apple rings.  Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. When the butter is melted, add the chops to the skillet and braise about 5 minutes on each side, until the edges are browned but the chops are not cooked all the way through.

Using a large baking dish, add 3 TB butter, brown sugar and the remaining apple ring juice.  Stir the sauce to combine, and add the chops to the baking dish.  (Reserve the skillet as you will need it to finish the sauce at the end.)

Place 2 apple rings on top of each pork chop and gently pour the pan juices over the chops and apple rings.  Spoon a little more of the combined sauce over the chops then cover the baking dish with foil.  Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops, until the chops are cooked thru.  (**Note: 15 minutes was just about right for the chops we used.  Be sure not to overcooked pork or it will be tough.)

When the chops are cooked, transfer to a serving platter and keep warm.  Pour the pan juices back into the skillet you used earlier.

In a small bowl, combine the water and cornstarch and set aside.

Heat pan juices over medium-high heat until the mixture just begins to simmer, then add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir continuously until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.