Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Catch Her in the Rye

This sophisticated drink carries a kick - be sure to sip it slowly. I never have more than one! Never, never, never! Unless Im offered a second one, of course.

Catch Her in the Rye: 
Ice - plenty of it
1-½ parts rye
1-½ parts orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 sugar cube per glass
Enough Angostura bitters to saturate cube
Strip of orange peel, as needed
For each cocktail, chill martini glass in freezer. Add ice, rye, and orange liqueur to martini shaker. Shake vigorously. Drop one sugar cube into each chilled glass, soaking cube in bitters. Crush saturated sugar cube. Strain and pour chilled alcohol into glass. Serve with a thin strip of orange peel on top. 

Even the glass looks tipsy! Refreshing and delicious!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Olive Cheese Balls

Melvino the Grape One dropped over the other day. You remember Melvino! He found love on our patio last summer, in the form of the Stuffed Mushroom appetizer I made (see my blog post of Aug. 6, 2011). When Melvino waltzed into our living room this week, he announced that he was in love again - this time, with my Olive Cheese Ball recipe. So here it is! Make it and perhaps someone will fall in love with you. Or certainly with your ...

Olive Cheese Balls:

½ c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. sharp, dry cheddar, grated and heaped loosely in measuring cup
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. paprika
24 medium-sized pimiento-stuffed olives or hickory-smoked almonds or choice of other nuts

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, blend butter and cheese. In a separate bowl, combine flour and paprika. Add to cheese mixture. Beat until mixture clings together and forms a ball. Shape about 2 tsp. of dough around each olive, covering each completely. Place on parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake 15-to-20 min. Makes 2 doz.

Note: Working in small portions, chill the dough before filling with olives and rolling. Chill thoroughly before baking. These cheese balls can also be prepared ahead and frozen unbaked. When ready to use, bake frozen cheese balls for 20 min.

Fast to prepare ...
Fast to eat!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cranberry Cream Muffins

These are so quick to prepare and so easy to fix that I can’t believe I don’t make them more often! With muffins in the freezer, you’ll always have something to serve an unexpected guest! I have many, many muffin recipes … I promise to give you as many as I can over the next couple of months. Ron describes these as the best muffins he’s ever tasted.
Cranberry Cream Muffins:
½ c. butter or margarine, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1-½ c. dairy sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
2-¾ c. all-purpose flour (Give this flour a purpose, Dollinks!)
½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda
1-½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. orange zest (optional)
1 c. fresh or frozen whole cranberries, divided
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  All done? Let’s get started!
Using an electric beater on high speed, cream butter together with sugar 3-to-5 min., adding sugar a little at a time. Scrape sides of bowl with spatula and continue beating until no graininess remains when you rub a little butter together between your fingers. Add egg, sour cream, and milk, continuing to beat on high speed. 
Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beating at low speed, slowly add to creamed mixture, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. Stir in ½ c. cranberries. Spoon fruited batter evenly into 12 ungreased muffin pan liners, leaving some batter in mixing bowl. Press remaining cranberries into muffin compartments, paying special attention to batter that doesn’t have “enough.” Cover exposed cranberries with batter so berries don’t burn. Bake 30-to-35 min. Yields 1 dozen standard-sized muffins.

Mix as directed, and ...
Here come the cranberries!

Don't bruise the berries: Stir them in by hand

... And fill each muffin compartment equally

Add extra cranberries as required ...

... Cover them with batter

Fresh from the oven!

Gobble-gobble! Now you see 'em ...
Now you don't!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crêpes Chez Nicole

Having just completed a couple of large projects, I’m back in the kitchen earlier than expected! I’ve missed you, Dollinks, and I’ve certainly missed cooking. When two of our grand-daughters came to visit this weekend, we invited them to choose what they wanted for breakfast.
Sydney Fisher, crepe lover
“Strawberry crêpes!” they screamed. Hmmm ... a very good idea! 
I bought my crêpe pan for $5 at a garage sale in Arizona. How anyone could sell such a beautiful kitchen tool, I can’t imagine! I don’t make crêpes often enough: Whether sweet or savory, crêpes are always delicious! 
Saturday morning, Ron and I prepared two sweet crêpe fillings: Ron simmered a couple of sliced apples in a small amount of water and in ¼ c. maple syrup for about 15 minutes (If I’d had my druthers, I would have tossed in a flurry of raisins). Ron added a pinch of cinnamon, setting the mixture aside until the crêpes were ready. This filling was deliciously hot. 

Lyndsay Fisher: So many crepes,
so little time!
Meanwhile, I washed, hulled, and sliced some fresh strawberries, sugaring them lightly so the juices would start to flow. To that, I added a handful of blueberries. This filling was deliciously cold. Spooning each filling onto freshly made crêpes, I presented our young guests with two different fillings.
Did you say “Whipping cream bomb?” But of course! That’s half the fun!
Here’s my easy recipe for Crêpes. Not only do crêpes make a great breakfast, but also a delicious dessert. With a savory filling - cooked asparagus and ham in Béchamel Sauce, for example - they make a terrific lunch or light dinner. 
After you’ve mixed the batter in the blender, be sure to refrigerate it for a couple of hours to reduce the number of air pockets in your freshly made crêpes. If you’re pressed for time, cook the crêpes a day in advance, layering waxed paper between each. This thin batter produces delicate crêpes that brown beautifully. Use a heated cast iron or electric crêpe pan to make them; cooked in a regular skillet or on the griddle, they will not be as successful.
Crêpes Chez Nicole:
3 eggs
1-½ c. milk (I used reduced-fat milk)
1 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. all-purpose flour
⅛ tsp. salt
Add all ingredients to blender goblet in the order listed. Process on low setting until all lumps disappear, scraping down sides of blender with a spatula. Chill and set aside several hours or overnight. When needed, pour batter into a shallow 9-inch pie pan.
Lightly oil 7-inch non-stick crêpe pan, wiping away excess oil with a paper towel. Heat pan on medium-high or until light signals optimum heat. Dip heated top of pan into crêpe batter 3-to-5 seconds. Be prepared to waste the first crêpe; this is normal. Repeat process, allowing crepe to cook until signal light turns off. 
Place a square of waxed paper on a wire rack. Loosen crêpe by running a spatula around edge of crêpe pan while pan is upside down. Repeat with layers of waxed paper between crêpes. Fill crêpes immediately or refrigerate and store, as above.
When ready to serve, drop crêpe pale-side up from waxed paper onto serving plate. Ladle with a scant amount of your choice of filling (Less is more, in crêpe-making! Too much filling could tear the delicate crêpes!). Decorate sweet crêpes with whipping cream just before serving. Yields 12 crêpes.
Note: Ron made the apple filling from scratch for Saturday’s breakfast crêpes. Because breakfast is a busy time and everyone’s always hungry, I cheat by opening a can of cooked apples or fruit pie filling. As much as I enjoy cooking, there’s more to life than hanging around a kitchen!

Three eggs, mes chouchous ...
A little milk ...

Flour, salt, butter, oil ...

Mix up the sweet fillings of your choice

Simmer apples in water and maple syrup

After letting batter sit, pour into shallow pie pan

Heat crepe pan before dipping into batter

Dip only a few seconds

Allow crepe to cook on pan surface

The scrumptious result: A pliable but paper-thin crepe 

Add your choice of filling, rolling up crepe  

Garnish with whipped cream, serving at once

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Perfect Loutini

Luciano Del Rio: The ultimate gentleman.
He died this week. 
He once made me what I and everyone else considered the perfect martini. He kissed my hand, as a gentleman would, when he presented it to me. Lou’s martinis were stirred, not shaken. They were famous - so good that his friends called them Loutinis. Ron and I and Lou’s many friends will miss him.
The Perfect Loutini: A Tribute to a Friend
Chill glasses in freezer. For each martini, use:
4 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin
2 tsp. extra-dry Vermouth
Stir together with ice. Strain and serve, garnished with three pimiento-stuffed queen olives on a cocktail pick.

Note: This is a very strong martini! I recommend you sip it slowly, and restrict yourself to one.

Stir together with ice

To your good health, Dollinks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Playing the Field or Playing for Keeps?

Ah … Dollinks? I have a Valentine’s Day P.S. for all you single guys who can’t seem to get to first base. If you keep striking out, remember that it takes more than a big bat and a couple of balls to hit a home run. Perhaps you need a little coaching!

xox   Nicole

Would You Like Fries with That?

I am Missing in Action, this Valentine’s Day. 
Perhaps a recipe blog shouldn’t plump for a fast-food chain (especially without pay, Dollinks!), but love means more to me than money, and these international ads - all by the McDonald’s Corporation - concern love. True to my word that I will post only for special occasions this year, I’ll see you close to St. Patrick’s Day.

Have an exceptional Valentine’s Day, Dollinks! May you always have love in your lives.
xox  Nicole

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love and Kisses Chicken

Cooking a meal for someone you love can be a far more intimate experience than going to a restaurant. Here’s a clip from the wonderful film Like Water For Chocolate, to show the effect good food can have on body and soul!

Today’s dish doesn’t feature quail, as the film clip does, but the recipe did win a prize 30 years ago for the woman who invented it and gave it this highly romantic name! That woman was Anne Bedard, formerly of Vancouver, Canada, and now living in Bedford, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax. I’ll be making her recipe (with only a slight modification by me) for Ron on Valentine’s Day! Anne suggests serving it with wild rice and fresh green beans. I plan to do exactly that! Her lovely recipe serves two.
Love and Kisses Chicken:
To Prepare the Chicken:
2 tbsp. butter
1 large chicken breast, skinless, boneless, halved lengthwise
¼ c. brandy, divided
4 sheets phyllo pastry
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ c. chopped, toasted walnuts
¼ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
Melt butter in medium saucepan. Brown halved chicken breast over medium-high heat about 10 min. Gently warm 2 tbsp. of brandy in a small sauce pan. With stove-top fan off, carefully ignite brandy, pouring over chicken. Remove pan from heat, shaking gently until flames die down. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm. Reserve brandy in pan to prepare sauce; set aside.
Lay two sheets of phyllo pastry on clean work surface. Cover remaining pastry with dry tea towel to prevent phyllo from drying out. Brush with melted butter. Lay remaining two sheets of phyllo on top and brush again with melted butter. Cut phyllo in half, lengthwise. Place halved chicken breast on each halved phyllo, about 2 in. from one end. Combine walnuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle half of walnut mixture over each halved breast. 
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Fold phyllo over chicken, tucking in sides and sealing ends. Bake, seam-side down, 20-to-25 min. 
To Prepare the Sauce:
1-to-2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
⅓ c. chicken bouillon
¼ c. apple juice
½ c. heavy cream
1 medium Granny Smith apple
While chicken bakes, warm reserved brandy mixture in sauce pan. Whisk in mustard, deglazing pan by scraping up the browned bits of chicken. Add chicken bouillon and apple juice, simmering 5 min. Whisk in heavy cream, cooking on medium heat until sauce begins to thicken. Peel and slice apple, adding to sauce 5 min. before serving. Pass sauce separately, serving over chicken.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Marshmallow Hearts

Marshmallow Hearts are soft and delicate. Handle with care! I dedicate this recipe to those who seek love, those who are afraid to love, those who are unlucky in love, those trapped in the pain of unrequited love, and those who are unaware that they are loved. This is for you, Dollinks:
Marshmallow Hearts:
To Prepare the Bottom Layer:
1-½ c. all-purpose flour
⅓ c. brown sugar
¾ c. butter or margarine, softened
Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar with fingers. Add butter, distributing and crumbling well. Press into ungreased 9-in. square pan. Bake 20 min., until pale golden. Set aside to cool on a rack.
To Prepare the Top Layer:
1-½ c. cold water
Two ¼-oz. pkg. powdered gelatin (total of ½ oz. or 2 scant tbsp.)
¾ c. white sugar
¾ c. icing (confectioners) sugar
Dash of salt
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. red food coloring
3 c. mini-marshmallows
½ c. sweetened medium-thread coconut
36 small candy hearts
Pour water into medium saucepan. Sprinkle powdered gelatin evenly over water and allow to stand 5 min. Add granulated sugar and a dash of salt to gelatin mixture, combining well. Turn heat under pot to medium, stirring 4 or 5 min. until gelatin and sugar are fully dissolved. Remove from heat. Add icing sugar, whisking until fully dissolved. Stir in mini-marshmallows until fully melted. Cool to room temperature and transfer to mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients except coconut and candy hearts, beating at high speed until mixture starts to thicken. Pour and spread over bottom layer. Cool slightly before sprinkling with coconut. Cool completely before cutting into 1-½-in. squares. Decorate with one candy heart per square.

Use fingers to crumble ingredients for bottom layer

Press into pan, flattening with knuckles and fingers

Bake bottom layer until pale golden. Cool on a rack 

Use 2 packets of gelatin ... just under 2 tbsp.

Warm gelatin until fully dissolved

Add both sugars, heating to dissolve

Sprinkle with coconut before topping is fully set

 To have and to hold: A Marshmallow Heart

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love Bites

I pinched this recipe from a box of Rice Krispies, converting it to a Valentine’s treat children and grandchildren are sure to love! Kids always want to use the heart-shaped cookie cutter … be sure they cut right through to the bottom of the pan. I’ve modified the original recipe, making these extra tasty!
Prepare this, and you’ll feel like a kid, again! Simply put: Find the joy in your life. Here’s a little something to inspire you, Dollinks!
Love Bites:
¼ c. butter or margarine
5 c. mini-marshmallows
½ tsp. vanilla extract
6 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1 c. white chocolate melting wafers
Valentine’s (or other candy) sprinkles, as required
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, heat margarine and marshmllows on full powder for 3 min., stirring after 2 min. Add vanilla. Stir in Rice Krispies cereal until well coated. Using lightly buttered hands or buttered spatula, press into greased 13 x 9-in. pan. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut and remove from pan, cooling further on a wire rack.
Heat melting wafers by placing a metal bowl over - not in - simmering water, stirring until partially melted. Remove from heat, continuing to stir until fully melted. Quickly paint each heart with a thin coat of melted chocolate, scattering top with sprinkles. Re-warm chocolate as needed, repeating until all heart-shaped Love Bites have been cut out.
- With thanks to the Kellogg Corporation