Friday, September 21, 2018

Cinnamon Roll Crepes

Cinnamon Roll Crepes
There is a Nun Study by Dr. David A. Snowdon.  It assessed cognitive aging and concluded that a positive emotional outlook early in life can help people live longer.  “The study showed that nuns who expressed more positive emotions in their autobiographies lived significantly longer -- in some cases 10 years longer -- than those expressing fewer positive emotions.” (New York Times, 5/7/2001).  The premise is similar to Shawn Achorand his study of happiness and the benefits of positive psychology.  Shawn encourages us to take a gratitude challenge: for 21 days, write down 3 things that you are grateful for (and you can’t repeat anything) so that means 63 things that you are grateful for.  For me, the first five would be pretty easy: family, health, friends, food, and shelter.  I have made it (sort of) through day 2, but the next 58 would require more creative stretching and a heightened awareness of just how many positive things there are to be grateful for.  

I got it!  #6 – pre-made crepes.  I am grateful that someone else makes these dainty, fragile little rounds of yumminess.  On to day 3….

Wandering through the newly opened Central Market by our house, I spotted some pre-made Belgian crepes in the freezer section.  Délicieuse! (I had to look that up – it is supposed to mean delicious in French.)  Whether you prefer (or your grocery has pre-made) French or Belgian crepes, this Bobby Flay recipe is a winner.  Even David would add cinnamon roll crepes to his gratitude list.

#7 - I am grateful to you for going on this culinary exploration with me.

Happy birthday (yesterday) Aunt Chris (#8)!!

Ingredients:
Cinnamon (Rum) Sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crepe Filling:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cold heavy cream 
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Note: half this amount filled 7 crepes

For the cinnamon (rum) sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, rum (optional) and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and cook a few more minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

For the filling: Combine the cream cheese, cream, confectioners' sugar, vanilla and orange zest in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until light and fluffy.

To assemble: Place a crepe on a flat surface with the browner side down. Smear 3 to 4 tablespoons filling across the crepe slightly off center and a few inches from the bottom (facing you), fold the bottom up over the filling and then roll the crepe tightly. Place seam-side down on a plate or platter and repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. Spoon the sauce over the crepes and dust with confectioners'. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Asparagus with Pecorino and Pine Nuts

Asparagus with Pecorino and Pine Nuts
“To think the same way, to share the same opinions – this is not peace.  Unity is not uniformity.  True peace comes through the expression of differences; many perspectives, each offering a partial view of the truth…  Only when we open ourselves to understand all sides of an issue will we attain peace...” I read this passage the other day and it is the way more eloquent version of what I wanted to say last week.  I did some research and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis have been quoted similarly about “unity and uniformity.”  It’s a thing.  Pass it on.  

Our dinner table did not fully agree on this dish, but I applaud all diners for tasting a new vegetable.  If I understand the perspective of the younger members at the table, the pecorino-romano is a strong, nutty, rich cheese flavor.  The lemon juice tempered it and gave the sauce a brightness and you can’t go wrong with toasted pine nuts.

Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch green pencil asparagus
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino-Romano, plus extra for garnish 
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

The asparagus can be grilled or oven roasted.  Either way, toss the asparagus with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  Grill on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or oven roast at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

Add the Pecorino-Romano, lemon zest and juice and some salt and pepper to a bowl and mix to combine. Slowly whisk in the remaining <1/4 cup olive oil to form an emulsion.

Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the pine nuts (and more Pecorino).

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Kale, White Bean and Farro Salad

Kale, White Bean and Farro Salad
“Ban shredded cheese. Make America grate again.”  Saw this posted to Facebook.  I’m not making a political statement – it just made me laugh. I hate that there is so much hate. What happened to respect?  What happened to tolerance?  What happened to acknowledging that we don’t all have to think or believe the same way and yet we can still have a conversation and come out better afterwards because we heard a different point of view? For example, my friend, Susan, likes this salad with a tahini dressing.  That dressing doesn’t suit my taste buds, but I’m still going to hang out with Susan.  

What is farro? (said “fahr-oh” – not “pharaoh” – which would make more sense because it’s an ancient grain.)  It is a whole grain that is not gluten free but heart healthy, vegan, and a great source of iron.  For all of those reasons, I shouldn’t like it but this salad has a great combination of flavors and is hearty.  Find your favorite dressing (tahini, lemon or cider vinaigrette) and then let’s have a respectful discussion while we eat salad and grate cheese.

For the salad:
  1. 1 bunch kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
  2. 1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled farro
  3. 1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  4. 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  5. 1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes chopped
  6. 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  7. 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

For a cider vinaigrette dressing:
  1. 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  2. 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  3. 1/2 teaspoon honey 
  4. 3 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Place salad ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss together until the salad is well dressed/coated. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

White Bean Dip with Pita Toasts

White Bean Dip with Pita Toasts
The yin to my yang.  David is the morning person; I am better at night. It has worked out well so far.  He drives the kids to school most mornings; I pick them up from parties and late sporting events.  The kids groan when David has an early morning meeting or is out of town. As if they have ever been late to school; they are just not as early as when David drives.  If I had a custom license plate, it would read: 4EVR L8.  It is probably why friends don’t assign me “appetizer” when there is a get together.  Dessert is a better choice for me - - - until I started making Giada’s white bean dip.  Now my friends will ask me to make this appetizer (and that I drop it off earlier in the day so others can enjoy it even when I arrive late.)

PS - I have already been told that I am not letting go adequately.  Darn!  Reset.   

Ingredients
  1. 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  2. 2 cloves garlic
  3. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  4. 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons
  5. 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  6. Salt
  7. Freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1 package of pita bread (you can also serve with bagged pita chips or veggies)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush the pita with olive oil.  Cut each pita into wedges or strips. Arrange the pita pieces on a large baking sheet. Spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color.

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.  (Double this recipe if taking to a get together.)

Serve the pita toasts warm or at room temperature alongside the bean puree.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

French Toast Waffles with a Mixed Berry Sauce

French Toast Waffles with Mixed Berry Sauce
Over the summer, Travis took a Wellness class.  One of the assignments was to interview a parent on topics such as curfew, alcohol, drugs, etc.  Travis asked me “what is the hardest part about parenting?”  <Is “everything” an appropriate response?  Think quick, Mom.  Impromptu is not my strong suit.>  The answer that kept swirling in my head and thus my response to him was “letting go.”  I like to be in control; uncertainty is unnerving; I am a fixer and a perfectionist. I have spent most of my time as a parent deciding, controlling, influencing, and guiding.  But I know that our job as parents is to develop self-sufficient, independent adults.  I try (and try and fail and try some more) to let go little by little.  And I watch them falter and do it differently and try to keep my mouth shut (because I know that I can prevent the failure and fix the issue).  As a new school year starts, it is time to let go even a little bit more.  

Andrew found this Bobby Flay recipe and was eager to try it. We’ve tested it with challah and brioche – Bobby calls for good white bread (like Mrs. Baird’s???) and peanut butter (Andrew deleted that ingredient).  Send your kids off to school with this for their breakfast and it’s destined to be a great day.

Ingredients:
For the Waffles:
  1. 4 large eggs
  2. 3/4 cups whole milk (we used 2%)
  3. 2 tablespoons sugar
  4. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. Pinch of salt
  6. 8 slices brioche or challah, crusts removed
  7. Nonstick cooking spray or melted butter
  8. Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
  9. Fresh mixed berries, for garnish

For the Mixed Berry Sauce:
  1. 1 pint (2 cups) fresh strawberries
  2. 1/2 pint (1 cup) fresh blackberries
  3. 1/2 pint (1 cup) fresh raspberries
  4. 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1/4 cup water
  6. 2 heaping tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
  7. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

To make the Mixed Berry Sauce:
Combine the strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan, bring to boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. 

Transfer the berry mixture to a blender or food processor, add the raspberry preserves and lemon juice and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator stored in a container with a tight fitting lid for 1 week.

To make the French Toast Waffles:
Crack the eggs into a medium baking dish and whisk lightly. Add the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth. 

Press down on bread slices to flatten slightly. Soak the bread in the egg mixture until completely soaked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. 

Spray the top and bottom grates liberally with nonstick spray or melted butter.  Heat a square 4 slot waffle maker (we used a Belgian waffle maker). Remove the French toast from the eggs using a slotted spatula, allowing excess egg mixture to drip off. Make 2 at a time on the diagonal of the grates. Press down gently at first, then add a little pressure to the cover and press until the cover is completely closed. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining 6. Carefully remove each French toast waffle to a plate. 

Dust with confectioners' sugar and drizzle with some of the mixed berry syrup. Garnish with fresh mixed berries.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Baked Ziti

Hello my friends.  It’s been a while.  Since we’ve last spoken, David “ran a marathon” and our oldest turned 15, got his learner’s permit, had his wisdom teeth pulled, and grew as tall as me.
 
Baked Ziti
Also since we’ve spoken, I have made a variation of this ziti by Ree Drummond 3 times.  Everyone likes it, even Elizabeth.  That is not a misprint.  I will admit – there is a timing element, aka, pain in the butt factor, of this dish so allocate enough time for the cooking, simmering, cooling, and baking (right, Mom?).  Nothing says “happy end of summer” like a hot pasta casserole.

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½ large onion, diced 
  • 1 pound ground meat (i.e., ground beef, Italian sausage, ground turkey) 
  • 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce or marinara sauce 
  • 1 – 14.5-ounce can tomatoes with juice, like Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound ziti
  • 3 cups mozzarella, grated 
  • Half of a 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 egg

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground meat (beef, sausage, turkey or a combo of any 2) and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove 1 ½ - 2 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a 3-quart Pyrex dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and another cup of mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Let stand 5 minutes; sprinkling with chopped parsley before serving, if desired. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin

Make the ordinary extraordinary.  It’s the details and the small touches that elevate the everyday to a higher status. Write a hand written note.  Tell someone that you think their blouse is a pretty color.  Give your kids fruit for dessert (on a toothpick with some mini-marshmallows or with some whipped cream).  Secretly buy a police officer lunch.  Bake a pork tenderloin and drizzle it with apricot glaze.  Come up with your own extraordinary and see how it elevates your happy.  

Rosemary Apricot Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds of pork tenderloin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons minced rosemary
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet and brown tenderloin on all sides. Roast in oven until 150 degrees – about 15 – 20 minutes.

Combine preserves, lemon juice and pressed garlic.  Remove meat from pan, brush with jam mixture.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Slice tenderloin and serve over polenta, mashed garlic potatoes, or rice and drizzle sauce on top of meat.