Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blender Date-and-Orange Muffins

Here’s another weekend morning treat! The texture and flavor of these muffins is nothing short of outstanding.
Blender Date-and-Orange Muffins:

1 large whole orange, including skin and pith
½-c. orange juice
1 large egg
½ c. butter or margarine 
½ c. pitted dates (see Note)
1-½ c. white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ c. sugar
¾ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Wipe orange skin with a clean, dry cloth. Cut orange into eighths, removing seeds. Blenderize very thoroughly with orange juice, egg, and butter or margarine. Drop in dates, a few at a time, continuing to blend until coarsely chopped. In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt, combining thoroughly. 
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in blenderized ingredients, stirring just until moistened (Over-mixing will toughen muffins). Bake 15-20 min. in ungreased paper liners in muffin cups. Yields 1 dozen standard-sized muffins.
Note: Dates are the perfect complement for orange, but I didn’t have any. Instead, I added dried blueberries as I poured the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Stirring in fresh blueberries would have turned these muffins an unattractive purple. Whenever you add fresh berries to muffins, drop (rather than stir) them in.

Buzz moist ingredients

Spoon into greased muffin papers

Serve fresh from the oven

Orange Julius

If good things really do come in small packages, that certainly applies to this recipe! Thick and creamy, it’s an excellent low-calorie substitute for a milkshake. If you don’t have easy access to crushed ice - my refrigerator dispenses it - wrap ice cubes in a clean tea towel, smashing them with a hammer. It’s a lazy Saturday morning in the time zone where we live. Ron is still sawing logs. This makes a great wake-up!
Orange Julius:
1 c. orange juice
½ c. nonfat dry milk
Few drops vanilla extract
1-½ tbsp. sugar, to taste
½ c. crushed ice
Whirl until frothy on high speed in blender. Serve at once.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Brie en Croûte

Thanks to my Cape Cod pal Mary Flynn for this recipe!

Brie en Croûte: 
7 oz. (200 g) pre-packaged frozen puff pastry (see Note
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ c. chopped walnuts
⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 (8-ounce) wheel brie
¼ c. brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
Crackers, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Defrost puff pastry overnight or 15-20 minutes at room temperature.  Roll out thinly. Place brie in center of rolled pastry (To test that pastry is rolled thinly enough, cover the top and side of brie with enough pastry to gather above it and tie with kitchen twine. Don’t tie the pastry yet! You’re merely checking that you’ve rolled the pastry to the right size). 
In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Saute walnuts in butter or margarine until golden brown, approximately 5 min. Add cinnamon and stir until walnuts are well coated. Cool. Scrape and slice the top rind from brie. Place the walnut mixture on top of brie centered on pastry. 
Sprinkle brown sugar over butter-walnut mixture. Press pastry edges around brie, gathering at the top. Gently squeeze together excess dough, tying with kitchen twine. Brush beaten egg over top and sides of pastry. Place pastry-wrapped brie on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Serve with crackers.
Note: Depending where you live, puff pastry is packaged very differently. In the time zone where I live, I buy frozen puff pastry in a 14-oz. (400 g) package. For this recipe, I thaw half the package. This recipe may look complicated, but it’s actually very easy to make. Everyone loves it! “Croûte” means “crust” in French. Food that is “en croûte” is wrapped in pastry before it’s baked.

Cheese Krispies

Sympathy. Dollinks! There’s another run-up to the Stanley Cup on TV, and I - ever the devoted spouse - am trying to sound enthusiastic. When the first game in the series pitted the Chicago Blackhawks against the Vancouver Canucks, I screamed wildly, leaping from my seat as Chicago scored the first goal. Ron had to remind me that we do not live in Chicago. 
Two days ago, when the score tipped in the Canucks’ favor and the ’Hawks lost, I assumed the Canucks had won the Stanley Cup and yelled “Right on!” Ron gently explained the Canucks would now play Nashville. Which they’re doing as I speak. I’d normally retreat to the kitchen to make something interesting for the game, but sending you a couple of tried-and-true favorites is the next best thing. 
(Ron's just screamed: “Oh, no! A breakaway!” He’s wild-eyed! He’s pumping his fist! He'll need talking down, especially if the Canucks lose. I’ll have to post this quickly and prepare to hold his hand) From its name, I suspect this recipe originates with the Kellogg company, the manufacturer of Rice Krispies. I’ve been making this recipe so many years that I’ve lost its source.
Cheese Krispies:
½ c. butter or margarine, slightly softened
1 c. all-purpose flour
1-½ c. sharp grated cheddar
1-½ c. Rice Krispies
1 large egg, well beaten
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. cayenne pepper
Dash coarse black pepper
Paprika, as needed
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Using a pastry blender, cut butter or margarine into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cheddar, mixing well. Add Rice Krispies using an under-over motion with your mixing spoon, to prevent crushing. Add beaten egg, and all seasonings except paprika. Mixing with clean hands, roll into 1-in. balls. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Flatten with fingers or palm to about ⅜-inch. Bake 15-to-20 min. While still hot, dust lightly with paprika. Cool 10 min. before serving. Makes 2 dozen. 
P.S.: The Canucks won the hockey game. Gee, I guess I should say the Canucks won the hockey game! Ron hasn’t been this pleased since the day he squeezed into his 21-year-old tuxedo.

Assemble ingredients: Margarine, grated cheese,
flour, Rice Krispies, seasonings

Add cereal to well-mixed ingredients

Compress into balls

Flatten with fingers or palm, compressing edges in circle

Into the oven ...

These are a quick appie for any special occasion!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Potato-Crusted Chicken

It’s fast! It’s easy! It’s fabulous! If you’re wondering what to make for dinner tonight, try my Potato-Crusted Chicken! Once you’ve had this dish, you’ll want to make it over and over, Dollinks! 

Potato-Crusted Chicken: 
½ c. margarine
½ tsp. seasoning salt
2 tsp. seasoned pepper
8 - 10 chicken thighs, skinned
1-½ c. instant mashed potato flakes
Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. Melt margarine, stirring in seasonings. Dip chicken into margarine and then into instant potato flakes. Resist the temptation to drizzle any remaining margarine or butter over coated chicken pieces or the chicken will burn.  Bake, uncovered, on parchment-covered cookie sheet for 1 hr.

Coat chicken with potato flakes
An hour in the oven, and it's ready to serve!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ron’s Seafood Pesto Pizza

Get ready for an extra-special treat! Ron created the topping recipe for this decadently delicious pizza. It makes a great casual dinner for four-to-six people, or - cut into 3x3” pieces - a terrific hot appetizer for those afternoons when you just want to kick back and watch TV. Ron uses a Westbend bread machine to make the dough for this superb pizza, but any quality brand will do. You can also make this recipe without a bread machine, following the method you would normally use to make bread. 

The double-crust dough recipe that follows makes the base for a 13x18” pizza. If you’re a traditionalist, two large pizza pans will do just fine. However, using a rectangular cookie sheet will allow you to cut more appetizer serving-sized pieces. My cooking is good - but not as good as Ron’s! This truly is one of my favorite recipes! 

Ron’s Seafood Pesto Pizza:
To Prepare the Bread Machine Pizza Dough:
1 ¼ cups +1 tbsp. lukewarm water, 80-95 deg. F.
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2-½ tsp. active dry yeast (or 2 tsp. bread machine yeast/fast-rise yeast)
Cornmeal (to sprinkle over baking sheet)
In the order listed, add all ingredients except yeast to bread pan. Tap pan to settle ingredients; level ingredients to push some of the mixture into corners. Make a well in centre of dry ingredients; add yeast. Lock pan into bread maker. Program bread machine for “dough” setting and turn on. (Check your bread machine’s Use and Care book to determine how long this step will take. The model of Westbend bread machine we have requires 1 hr. and 40 min. I formerly used another brand of bread machine in which the “dough” setting took 2 hr.) 

When dough is ready, place on floured work surface, kneading one minute; kneading pizza dough much longer will destroy the air bubbles that lighten the dough. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Roll out to fit 13x18” rimmed cookie sheet. Sprinkle sheet with corn meal. Slip dough onto greased sheet, pressing edges to fit, forming an edge. Cover dough with a clean cloth, allowing it to rise in a warm, draft-free place 20-25 minutes.
To Prepare the Pizza Topping:
⅔ c. commercially prepared tomato sauce (Ron uses “roasted garlic” flavor)
14-oz. pkg (400 g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
5-6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz. (250 g) peeled, medium-size, uncooked shrimp (double seafood quantity if making appetizer-size portions)
3-½ oz. (100 g) uncooked scallops, cut into ½” pieces  (double seafood quantity if making appetizer-size portions)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into ½” chunks 
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped into ½” chunks
⅔ c. pesto
Spread tomato sauce evenly over crust. Sprinkle with three-quarters of grated Mozzarella cheese. Evenly spread the garlic, shrimp, scallops, and bell peppers over pizza. Dollop pesto here and there, evenly over pizza. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese. Bake in preheated 410 deg. F. oven for 25-30 min., until dough is blistered and golden and topping appears bubbly and lightly browned. Allow to rest 5 min. before cutting.
This will be the best pizza you've ever tasted!
Note: This recipe makes one thick-crust pizza in the pan size Ron used. Spreading the dough between two large pizza pans will result in a thinner crust. If you do that, bake each at 425 deg. F. for 10-12  min. on your oven’s upper and middle racks. Never bake pizza below the middle rack; your oven’s uppermost racks provide the hotter temperature pizza needs. For a more flavorful crust, remove pizza from oven midway through baking, quickly brushing the edges of the crust with olive oil infused with minced garlic.
Note: Allow three hours from start to finish for this recipe, from to making the dough to assembling the filling.

Assemble your ingredients ...

Spread thin layer of tomato sauce
Spread 2/3 cheese over the tomato
Sprinkle on topping ingredients

Apple Puff Pancakes

Whether you prepare this fabulous brunch dish for guests or for a special family occasion, this must-have recipe is high on the YUM! factor. Unlike large, flat Dutch pancakes - or “pannekoeken” - this baked, puffed, pancake originates in Germany. I serve it with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. Ron likes sausages with it … I can never say “no” to Ron!

Apple Puff Pancakes:
To Prepare the Pancake Batter:
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
4 eggs
1 c. milk
¾ c. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
To Prepare the Apple Filling:
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 12 slices each
¼ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
You will need a 10-inch cast-iron frying pan to bake the apple batter, as well as a second skillet to sauté the apples. 

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Warm butter or margarine in cast-iron frying pan on medium-low heat until sizzling. Be sure it doesn’t burn! To make pancake batter, add remaining ingredients to blender, buzzing several seconds on “high” setting until well combined. Pour into sizzling butter or margarine in cast-iron frying pan and immediately transfer to preheated oven. Bake until puffed and golden, 20-to-25 min.
Prepare apples as directed. Combine brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon. Add apple slices, stirring until well coated with sugar and spice. On medium-low heat, sizzle butter or margarine in skillet. Add apples, stirring well to sauté and to allow sugar to caramelize, about 5 min. Lowering heat further, cover skillet to allow apples to soften, 5 min. more. 
Remove pancake from oven and immediately transfer hot apples to depression in center. Slice  into four pieces, serving with whipped cream and maple syrup. Serves 4.

Sauté apples to soften and caramelize
Remove puffed pancake from oven

Pour hot apples into pancake center

Ready for the table!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb

Cooking is a philosophy. For some people, that translates to “Eat until you’re tired. Sleep until you’re hungry.” That particular philosophy is not one I share. Presented attractively, good food nurtures both body and soul. Ron and I have every meal by candlelight. I do mean every meal - including breakfast (We’ll eventually get around to paying that electrical bill …!). Candlelight costs only a few cents - why not create a beautiful atmosphere? Candlelight is calming. It’s romantic. It promotes slower eating and, I suspect, better digestion. Even when I was single, I always lit a candle at every meal (All the better to pray that I’d remarry, Dollinks!). A candle’s flickering light helps you reflect on the day’s events, or - over your bowl of Cheerios - on the events of the day still to come. Lighting a candle reminds us to be thankful - not only for the meal before us, but for the everyday miracle of life.
Ron and I don’t “stoke” as we eat. We try to eat mindfully, laughing and talking about the day’s events as we consume our food. When I was single and lived alone, I listened to classical music as I ate. As often as possible, I had guests at my table. Whether you make it yourself, have a cook prepare it, or have guests bring potluck, food offers us the opportunity to bond, share, and celebrate. Its significance far transcends what goes into our stomachs.
Please! Don’t let your children play computer games during a meal. Don’t watch TV. Don’t text. Don’t take calls on your mobile, or otherwise engage in any solitary pursuit unrelated to eating, whether you share your table or eat alone. Good cooking means good eating and good eating means good living. That’s my sales pitch for the day! Moving right along …
I made Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb last night. I thought you’d enjoy making this simple, showy dish for yourself, so Ron took photos as I prepared and served it. Because we had a guest, I made more than I otherwise would for our usual table for two. Sometimes, Ron cooks. Sometimes, I do. There’s no hard and fast rule in our house. The person who does the cooking is the person who has the most time on that particular day, or who feels the least tired, or who happens to be in the mood.
Ron is rather fond of my rack. He says it always puts him in the mood. (Come to think of it, he’s fond of my rack of lamb, too … it puts him in the mood for dinner!) As an experiment, I bought both Canadian and Australian lamb racks to make this dish. I regret I didn’t have access to European, Greek, American, or New Zealand lamb for this recipe, because I know all are excellent.
The Canadian lamb was far meatier and far more expensive - more than double the price of Australian lamb. However, the Canadian lamb carried a thick sheath of fat, adding weight and cost to my purchase. The Australian lamb was well-trimmed. I’m of two minds about which to buy in future. Fat adds flavor - but it also adds calories. Fortunately, most of the fat cooked away from the Canadian rack, but it was still much fattier than we normally like our meat.
I originally got this recipe from the New Zealand Lamb Board, but I’ve modified it over the several years I’ve made it. Because it requires only minimal advance preparation, it’s the perfect make-ahead company dish, allowing you to relax with your guests as it cooks in the oven:
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb:
4 racks of lamb, four-to-five bones each
1-½ tbsp. olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. coarsely crushed black pepper
1 tsp. dried chervil
½ tsp. dried rosemary or dried marjoram
½ tsp. coarse salt
1-¼ tsp. dried thyme
Pat lamb racks dry with clean paper towel. Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl. Brush and rub generously over each rack of lamb, including meaty ends. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hr. Preheat oven to 475 deg. F. (Forgive me, international readers! Although I understand metric, I normally think and work in Imperial measures. Unless there’s an outcry urging dual measurements, I’ll continue to use Imperial. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!)
Intertwine lamb racks in shallow roasting pan, fat-side up. Roast 10 min. Turn oven heat to 375 deg. F. Roast another 20-25 min. or until internal temperature registers 130 deg. F. on a meat thermometer. Meatier cuts require slightly longer cooking. Transfer to cutting board and let stand, covered with a tent of foil, for 5 min. Don’t forget this step!
Now, Dollinks! I like a showy table with plenty of pizzazz (Unfortunately, Ron has forbidden me to wear my tiara at the table). Ron says carving these racks at the table is very difficult. I suggest you briefly “display” this culinary work of art before your guests, without setting it down. Once your guests have had a peek, retreat to the kitchen to carve each rack between the ribs on a standard cutting board. Rearrange and garnish them on your serving plate, and there you are! Take a bow! This dish serves 6-to-8.
I accompanied our lamb with a few simmered potatoes, steamed spinach, peeled baby carrots, and steamed butternut squash. For taste- and eye-appeal, I dabbed cranberry sauce into the depression from which I removed the squash’s seeds. Arranging food in an attractive way increases the pleasure of eating. More about that on another day! A bientôt, mes chéris!

Brush lamb with oil and herbs
Intertwine ribs, cover, and chill
TA DAH! Present to your guests

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pancakes, Porridge, and Sex

If you're planning to make a special breakfast this weekend, here’s a simple, quick-to-make recipe! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve used commercial pancake mixes for years, having become lazy in my dotage. My friend Jim changed all that (my buying mixes; not my laziness or my dotage). When I tried his wonderfully easy pancake recipe the other day, I knew I’d never buy another mix! I like my kitchen, but don’t want to be chained to it, so plan to mix, label, and store the dry ingredients so they’ll be handy whenever we feel like a quick pancake breakfast. 
Jim’s Pancakes:
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt (½ tsp. works just fine)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 c. milk
½ c. melted butter or margarine
2 small eggs, beaten (reduce liquid slightly if using large eggs)
Combine dry ingredients, mixing well. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine and milk, melted butter or margarine, and beaten eggs. Pour into dry ingredients, stirring until lumps disappear. Using ¼-cup measures, pour onto a lightly greased, preheated griddle set at 325 deg. F., or onto a frying pan, turning when the surface of each pancake loses its sheen and a peek shows the griddle-down side lightly browned. This makes 12-to-14 light-as-a-feather pancakes. 
Variation: Kids young and old love blueberries, chocolate chips, or banana slices dropped onto each pancake as they cook. 

Tip: The quickest way to dispense lump-free pancake batter? Squeeze it from a clean plastic ketchup bottle.
I love buckwheat pancakes - but some of the ingredients in this recipe need to be mixed the night before you want to use it. 
Buckwheat Pancakes:  
1 pkg. (1 tbsp.) traditional yeast (bread machine yeast works fine)
1 tsp. sugar
2 c. lukewarm milk
1-½ c. buckwheat flour
½ c. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
½ tsp. baking soda
Stir yeast and sugar into lukewarm milk (110 deg. F). Allow to stand 10 min. Combine and sift together flour, cornstarch, and salt (As a fine, dense powder, cornstarch tends to mix poorly with liquid ingredients. Combining and then sifting the dry ingredients aerates them, helping them mix better with the liquid in this recipe. If you don’t have a “sifter,” use a spoon to press the dry ingredients through a sieve).
Add dry ingredients to liquid. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, combine well with egg and baking soda. Bake on lightly greased, preheated griddle set to 300 deg. F. 
*  *  *  
Homemade porridge remains one of my favorite simple breakfasts, winter or summer. I’m always surprised that people use mixes to cook their oatmeal, when making it from scratch is so easy. The recipe Ron and I use follows. We ladle up hot porridge with a splash of milk and either maple syrup, raw sugar, or brown sugar. I prefer my cooked oats plain, but many people enjoy adding chopped apples or raisins to the cooking pot. Europeans quite often make porridge with chocolate milk, topping the bowl with chocolate shavings. Once, in a swish hotel, I even had it served with a drizzle of scotch! Oatmeal is a high-fiber, low-fat dish - a healthy way to start the day, my Dollinks!
Ron’s Porridge:
1 c. large-flake oatmeal
2 c. milk (we prefer skim)
Dash of salt (omit at your peril! Unsalted oatmeal tastes like cardboard)
In a medium saucepan, simmer 3-to-5 min. over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until thick. 

Oh, Yeah ... The Sex Part: 

I lied.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nicole!

My artistic brother René sent me his annual birthday card. While celebrating my birthday isn’t this blogs intent, I’ll happily share it with you! Click on each page to enlarge it!  xox   Nicole 

Welcome to My Recipe Blog!

Im Nicole Parton - the real Nicole, I mean! As my 16 blog followers already know (14 humans and two canines), my daughter Erin set up this blog in my name as my 65th birthday surprise! 

Using my name, she’s posted past recipe e-mails Ive sent to a number of friends. If you’ve read the blogs Erin posted before today without my knowledge, youre probably aware that I stumbled onto my own blog by accident! Today, Erin handed over the keys to the kingdom! 
Some of my friends have admitted they’re a little nervous about becoming blog “followers.” Honest! It’s no different from having an e-mail account. Your e-mail address and password will remain confidential (even to me), you’ll have the option of following “publicly” or “privately,” and you won't get SPAMed … unless, of course, I publish a recipe for SPAM (highly unlikely, Dollinks!).

The convenience of becoming a “follower” is that you’ll receive an e-mail link each time I post new recipes. Your e-mail box won’t clog up with “stuff” when you’re preoccupied (in flagrento delicto or otherwise). You can choose to delete or read my posts at a time thats more convenient - or not at all. If you crave a cigarette after reading this blog, I’ll feel I’ve succeeded. If your neighbors crave a cigarette, I’ll know it’s gone “viral.” 
Despite my little jokes (“Your recipe commentaries are supposed to be funny?” you ask), I’m a serious cook who began messing around in the kitchen nearly 60 years ago. I’ve had my share of disasters (like the time my sister Paulette poured out the contents of the sugar canister and substituted salt while I was making a cake. That literally took the cake - because no one else would!). 

I suspect we all make mistakes in the kitchen; reading about my bloopers may make you feel better about yours. So pull up a computer chair and stay awhile. I hope you’ll find some new and interesting recipes here, as well as having a little fun. I’m doing “birthday stuff” today, but will blog more often when things settle down.

xox  Nicole