Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dinner Party Series: No-Peek Stew

It’s Autumn in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. I wish I could pretend we’ve been jumping into huge piles of raked leaves, but it’s been abnormally cold and has been raining buckets since early OctoberThis might be depressing, but No-Peek Stew rates high on the comfort-foods scale. 

Youll never find a simpler stew! No browning of the meat! No thickening with flour as you battle the lumps! Youll use this recipe all your life, as I have. My friend Michele Vernon-Martin gave it to me when we were in our 20s. I’m now in my early 70s, (Computer failure! Whoops!) and Ive been making this stew, ever since!

Served with fresh buns and a salad, this is a simple but satisfying dinner when you feel like kicking back and entertaining. It seems to me that Pumpkin Crème Caramel is the ideal accompaniment for this easy dinner

Check the Index under Desserts for several other equally good Crème Caramel recipes.

I hope you enjoy the table settings I occasionally feature under the Dinner Party Series heading, because I’ve included an Autumn tablescape that may spark some ideas! 

No-Peek Stew:

2 lb. (1 kg) stewing beef
2 level tbsp. (30 mL) dried onion soup mix
One 10-oz. (284 mL) can undiluted condensed mushroom soup
One 10-oz. (284 mL) can mushrooms, drained
1/2 c. (125 mL) dry red or white wine
1/4 c. (60 mL) instant tapioca
2 tbsp. (30 mL) fresh rosemary or thyme
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into eighths, or equivalent in small potatoes
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/2-in. (1.3 cm) coins, or equivalent in small carrots
1 stalk celery and leaves, chopped into 1/2-in. (1.3 cm) pieces
1/4 c. (60 mL) frozen peas
1 tbsp. (15 mL) gravy darkener
2 tbsp. (30 mL) fresh parsley or 1 tbsp. (15 mL) dried
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 deg. F. To an ungreased 2-quart (2 L) casserole, add beef, soup mix, condensed mushroom soup, mushrooms, and wine. Combine well, cover, and bake 1 hr. Stir in tapioca, fresh rosemary or thyme, and all vegetables except peas. Combine well, cover, and bake 2 more hr. Add frozen peas, gravy darkener, and parsley when stew comes out of the oven, stirring well. Season to taste. Serves 4.

The stew started with 2 lb. (1 kg) quality beef.

Three hours later, it looked like this - 
tender and delicious!

So here’s the table! I used a washable cloth runner to pick up the Autumn colors I was seeking. I also used gold-colored, plastic charger plates under yellow plates I’ve had for years. To create a more interesting table, each guest had a different-colored napkin. 

To introduce some fun and variety to my table ... 

I used a different Fall-toned color ... 

for the napkin at each place setting.

Check your cloth napkins each year ...  

... for any that need replacing.

At our next Autumn dinner party, I went a little fancier, using a tablecloth with a protective pad underneath. Red, hand-crafted beaded napkin holders added glitz and pizazz to this table, as did the totally impractical but beautiful hold napkin covers I whisked away as our guests uncovered and opened their cloth napkins. 

These same yellow plates have served me well over many years: I found them at a bargain price at Walmart.

Fancy-schmantzy is fun, once in awhile!

A crafter made me these beautiful beaded rings @ $5 apiece.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness ...
Ode to Autumn, John Keats, 1819

I treasure this Fitz & Floyd serving plate, and use it  
every Fall. I bought it on sale for $49 - a true bargain! 

Note: This recipe is a variation of the No-Fuss Beef Stew I printed in May, 2011. Youll find it under Main Dish: Beef.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thai Chicken Skewers with Soy-Honey Sauce

I love this recipe! It’s similar to, yet different from, my Thai Chicken Skewers with Peanut Sauce. Each is indexed under Appetizers, as well as under Thai.

This recipe requires extra time for marination

Thai Chicken Skewers with Soy-Honey Sauce:

1 c. (250 mL) dark soy sauce
6 tbsp. (90 mL) vegetable oil
6 tbsp. (90 mL) lemon juice
6 tbsp. (90 mL) liquid honey
3 (45 mL) tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1-1/2 tbsp. (22 mL) ground ginger
2 tbsp. (30 mL) red hot pepper flakes
5 boneless, skinless fresh (not previously frozen) chicken breasts, each cut lengthwise into five strips

Combine all ingredients except chicken in marinating tub or large, covered jar about 3 hr. (see Note). Soak full-size wooden skewers in cold water about 1 hr.  When skewers are ready, thread marinated chicken on them. Turning once, broil on oiled broiler pan 1-1/2 min. per side,  or barbecue on oiled grill, turning once. Don’t overcook! Also excellent as main course, baked at 350 deg. F. for 15-to-20 min.

Note: If you have a large, wide jar tall enough to hold the raw, skewered chicken, it’s very convenient to marinate the chicken directly in the lidded jar. The chicken strips can also be frozen in the marinade, to be thawed and skewered later. 

Further Note: This marinade is so good that I sometimes double the recipe, labeling and freezing it in batches for later use.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Creamy Goat Cheese Truffles

Goat cheese: Nothing to see, folks! Move along! Move along!
Let me say that these Creamy Goat Cheese Truffles are - were - quite exquisite, and that the best way to serve them to guests is often, because they disappear fast. I like to photograph what I prepare, especially when it’s something I don’t make everyday. For these Truffles, I managed to snap one picture - a basic lump of goat cheese - before working fastfastfast to simultaneously prepare a further 10 appys for a small gathering. Most of the Truffles were eaten, prompting me to think: “Great! I’ll photograph these last few, later!”

There was no later. When three of our guests popped in for a second  visit, out came the Truffles and there went my photograph (see Note)! But, oh, we had a lovely time and oh, this appy was easy to make and a very big hit! Try them yourself! You’ll agree!

Creamy Goat Cheese Truffles:

1-1/2 c. (375 mL) pecan halves 
1 pkg. (250 g) cream cheese, softened
4 oz. (125 g) soft goat cheese, softened
1 tbsp. (15 mL) finely chopped green onion (green part only) 
1 tsp. (5 mL) fresh chives
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) crumbled dried basil or thyme
1 tsp. (5 mL) lemon juice
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) hot pepper sauce
Dash salt
1/8 tsp. (0.5 mL) freshly grated black pepper

Arrange nuts in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast in centre of 350 F. (180 C.) oven until fragrant and golden, about 8 minutes. Chop finely. Transfer to shallow dish such as pie plate; set aside to cool.

In small bowl, combine cream cheese and goat cheese, beating with electric mixer until well mixed. Add green onion, chives, basil or thyme, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Beat on low until herbs and seasonings are well distributed. Cover and refrigerate 60 min., until flavors blend and mixture is firm.

Working in small batches with floured hands, pinch into 1-1/2 tsp. (7 mL) chunks of cheese mixture on parchment-lined baking sheet, rolling each into smooth balls. Press into pecans, coating truffles thoroughly and evenly. Yields about 2-1/2 doz. truffles.

Note: To make ahead, arrange prepared truffles in shallow airtight container, refrigerating 1 or 2 days ahead. May be frozen up to 2 weeks. Thaw in refrigerator. Serve crammed onto a microwave-safe tray with a cocktail toothpicks poked parallel into them for effect. Zap in the microwave for 30 sec. Once your guests taste these, the tray won’t be crammed very long … Heaven!

This recipes so popular that I grabbed a photo the
next time I made it! These freeze beautifully, too!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Smoked Oyster Dip

This make-ahead dip is ultra-convenient for easy late-summer entertaining.

Smoked Oyster Dip:

¾ c. cream cheese, softened 
⅓ c. mayonnaise
One 3-oz. (85 g) can smoked oysters, well drained 
1-½ tbsp. minced green onion
1-½ tbsp. chopped parley
¾ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of freshly ground black pepper

Place ingredients in blender or food processor. Combine well, chilling at least 1 hr. to blend flavors before serving. Yields 1-¼ c. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tomato-and-Herb Tapenade

This is a great Tapenade to make with fresh herbs from the garden.

Tomato-and-Herb Tapenade:

1 c. sun-dried tomatoes, drained and blotted dry on paper towel
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives, drained and blotted dry on paper towel
2 tbsp. (30 mL) capers, drained and blotted dry on paper towel
2-to-4 anchovy filets, drained and blotted dry on paper towel
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. (30 mL) onion, chopped 
2 tsp. (10 mL) Dijon-style mustard
1/4 c. (60 mL) olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. (15 mL) fresh thyme, chopped herbs
1 tbsp. (15 mL) fresh parsley or cilantro
1 tbsp. (15 mL) fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process on pulse setting until mixture is smooth, with some chunks, about 15 sec. Makes about 1 c. (250 mL). Serve on crackers, slices of baguette, or Crostini.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tapenade à la Caren McSherry

Definitely, one of the best Tapenades I’ve tasted! Ive modified Caren’s recipe very slightly. 

Tapenade à la Caren McSherry:

1 head garlic, roasted (see Note)
1 c. kalamata olives, pitted
2 tbsp. (30 mL) capers, drained and blotted on paper towel
2-to-3 anchovy filets
1 tsp. (5 mL) fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp. (30 mL) dark rum
1/4 c. (60 mL) olive oil
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) coarsely ground pepper

Add peeled garlic cloves, olives, capers, anchovies, and thyme in food processor or mini-prep. Pulse 10-to-15 times until slightly chunky. Add rum and olive oil, pulsing just until combined. Add pepper. Serve with crackers, baguette slices, or Crostini. Makes about 2/3 c. (160 mL).

Note: See the Index for How to Roast a Head of Garlic two different ways. My favorite? Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. slice about 1/4-in. (0.6 cm) from the top of clove/s, wrap in foil, and bake until garlic is soft, about 40 min. Cool and peel.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Tapenade with Anchovies and Capers

Although Tapenade can be prepared by chopping the ingredients finely before crushing them into a paste, a food processor is a huge time saver.

Tapenade with Anchovies and Capers:

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. (80 mL) pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp. (30 mL) capers
2 tsp. (10 mL) Dijon-style mustard
2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process on pulse setting until mixture is smooth, with some chunks, about 15 sec. Makes about 1/2 c. (125 mL). Serve on crackers, slices of baguette, or Crostini. Yields about 1/3 c. (80 mL).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Green Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade

I discovered Tapenade several years ago, and quickly latched on to it as an easy, quick, popular, and relatively inexpensive appetizer. There are many different kinds of Tapenade: This recipe is the first of four I’ll be posting over the next few days. Tapenade keeps a week in the fridge - if you have any left! 

Tapenade originated in Provençe, where the sun is warm, the food is fresh, the wine is good, and life just seems to roll along. Imagine you’re in the south of France when you make this wonderful dish! 

I like to serve it on crackers, on small slices of baguette, or (if I have the time) on Crostini, which you’ll find on this blog indexed as Bread: Crostini. You can pipe it into cherry tomatoes, or blend a little of it with cream cheese and very finely chopped mushroom stems for stuffing and baking mushroom caps (350 deg. F., 15 min. in a toaster oven).

In today’s photo, I’ve used a little Tapenade in a small salad made
with goat cheese, arugula, and summer tomatoes dressed with olive oil and a splash of red

wine vinegar. Or ... create a dressing with a little tapenade, a little olive oil, and a little red wine vinegar. Tapenade is delicious any way you want to serve it!

Green Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade:

1-1/2 c. (375 mL) pitted green olives or pimiento-stuffed green olives
1-1/2 c. (375 mL) hydrated chick peas (“garbanzo beans”), rinsed and drained
1/2 c. (125 mL) drained sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. (60 mL) olive oil
1/4 c. (60 mL) chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) freshly grated lemon zest 
2 tbsp. (30 mL) fresh lemon juice

Combine all in food processor, mixing until smooth but still slightly chunky. Cover, refrigerate, and allow flavors to blend at least two hours before serving. Yields about 2-1/2 c. (675 mL)

Tomorrow: Another excellent Tapenade you’ll want to be sure to try!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ron’s Barbecued Pork Ribs

An incredible dry rib recipe - and so simple! This quantity serves 2. 

Rons Barbecued Pork Ribs: 

This recipe requires extra time for marination

2 lb. (1 kg) thick, meaty back ribs, individually cut
1/2 c. (125 mL) dark soy sauce
4 or 5 large garlic cloves, crushed

Marinate ribs 5 hr. in combined soy sauce and garlic, turning regularly. Barbecue over medium-high flame, basting often, about 12 min. per side until dark brown. 

Note: For another great barbecued rib recipe, check the Index under Sauces: Rons BBQ.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Burger Sliders

A picture’s worth a thousand words!


Build your Sliders with three-inch buns (commercial bakers are starting to display mini-buns on supermarket shelves); medium-sized slices of tomato; baby spinach or arugula; a red onion cut to fit; and three-inch, unseasoned slabs of charred ground beef.

Sauté the onion, toast the buns, and char the beef on a spray-greased electric griddle preheated to 350 deg. F. 

Spread one side of the buns with mayo (I used spicy jalapeño mayo) and the other with relish (I used Ron’s Zucchini Relish

but any kind will do). Large, fancy toothpicks will keep the innards from sliding off the buns. 

Three Sliders per-adult is about right. These are too, too good!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ham and Cheese Puffs

This basic recipe for pâte à choux - puff pastry - rises to new levels with the introduction of chopped ham and grated cheese. What I love about this dish is the two-step baking process that makes it a snap to prepare when you want it and want it now.

Prepare this recipe up to a month in advance of need, partially bake it, and store it in the freezer in an airtight container. When your hour of need is at hand, place the frozen puffs on a baking sheet and give them a second shot in the oven to finish them off. This is easy-breezy-peasy! Make these once and theyll soon become your go-to appy.

Ham and Cheese Puffs:

1 c. (250 mL) water
1/3 c. (80 mL) butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) salt
1 c. (250 mL) flour
4 large eggs 
1-1/2 c. grated cheese (see Note)
1 c. (250 mL) finely chopped ham
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) dry mustard

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. In medium saucepan over high heat, combine water, butter or margarine, and salt. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once, stirring fast and hard until pastry dough leaves side of pan to form a ball. Remove from heat. Cool 1 min. 

Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. Dough will be smooth and shiny. Stir in cheese, ham, and mustard.

Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto parchment-lined sheet. Remember: This is a two-step baking process! Bake 15-to-20 min. Cool; wrap; label; freeze. 

To serve, preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Place frozen puffs on parchment-lined sheet. Bake 10 min. Yields 4 or 5 doz.

Note: Choose a cheese with good melting properties and a strong taste. The original recipe suggest edam or gouda, but Ive had good results using a commercially grated mozzarella-cheddar blend. Yes, Dollinks, commercially grated ... I’ve succumbed to the convenience of bagged cheese. If someone else will do the grating and not charge too much for it, bring it on!
Remove from freezer ...

Bake 15 min. from frozen state (I use the toaster oven)

And here they are! Ready to serve, right from the freezer!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Curried Zucchini

This is one of the best vegetarian dishes I’ve ever made - seriously! It’s pretty quick, too. This tasty dish also finishes my brief focus on delicious, nutritious zucchini. 

Curried Zucchini:

To Prepare the Zucchini:

About 4 c. (1 L) cubed zucchini, in 1-to-1-1/4 in. pieces
1 medium onion, sliced into eighths 
2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 c. (125 mL) golden raisins

In medium skillet on medium-high heat, sauté zucchini, onions, and garlic in hot oil 2 min. Lower heat to simmer. Add raisins and 1 tbsp. (15 mL) water. Cover, simmering until zucchini is barely tender, about 10 min. Transfer to heat-proof casserole; cover and keep warm. Do not wash skillet.

To Prepare the Curry Sauce:

3 c. (750 mL) water flavored with vegetable bouillon concentrate as package instructions direct 
1/2 c. (125 mL) butter or margarine
1/2 c. (125 mL) flour
5 tbsp. (75 mL) curry powder, or as desired
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) cumin
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) salt, or as desired
5 or 6 broccoli flowers, tough stems removed
1/3 c. (80 mL) cashews (optional)
2 tbsp. (30 mL) medium-thread unsweetened coconut (optional) 

In kettle, bring water to a boil. Flavor with vegetable bouillon concentrate, stirring in as package instructions direct. Set aside. 
In previously used skillet, melt butter or margarine on medium-high. Combine flour, curry powder, cumin, and salt, slowly whisking into bubbling butter. 

Gradually add water seasoned with bouillon, whisking until thickened and smooth. Starting with small amounts, stir in curry powder. Add zucchini mixture and broccoli. Cover and simmer until broccoli is barely tender and still bright green. Garnish with cashews or coconut or both. Spoon over unsalted rice. Serves 4-to-6.

Note: Depending on curry powders strength, this makes a mild-to-medium curry.

Cube zucchini into large chunks.

Transfer to heat-proof casserole.

Cover and keep warm in low oven until sauce is ready.

Start your curry with melted butter, spiced flour, 
and the gradual addition of vegetable bouillon. 

Return zucchini mixture to skillet. Add broccoli,
simmering until barely tender. Garnish and serve.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Zucchini Pie

This vegetarian meal is an excellent choice for an inexpensive and tasty dinner! 

Zucchini Pie:

1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 small onion, chopped
One 10 fl. oz. (284 mL) can sliced mushrooms
1-1/2 c. cooked rice
2 c. grated zucchini 
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) each basil, oregano, garlic powder
3-to-4 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c. (60 mL) commercial Parmesan cheese powder

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F. In medium skillet on medium heat, melt butter. Sauté butter or margarine with onion until tender. Add combined rice, zucchini, basil, oregano, and garlic powder, mixing well with onion and mushrooms. Press into spray-greased 9-in. (23 cm) pie plate. Cool to room temperature.

Beat 3-to-4 eggs with salt and pepper. Pour over rice mixture pressed into pie plate. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 30-to-35 min. Cool 5 min. before slicing. Serves 6.

Piping hot: Zucchini Pie.