Friday, February 15, 2019

Bourbon Butterscotch Blondies

Dare I say it? I can live without chocolate. Now, I am not saying that I don’t enjoy a Godiva truffle or a fudgy brownie from time to time, but I do not crave the sweetened product made from the seed of the tropical Theobroma Cacao tree the way some people do. Yet, like the other members of our family, I do have an insatiable sweet tooth. Enter the interminably adaptable blondie.

Of course, this recipe is nothing new. This easy, one-mixing-bowl recipe was one of the first I attempted as a teenager. Denser than chocolate chip cookies and more complex than brownies, these caramel-flavored bars can be customized to suit any taste. Like Congo bars (which typically contain coconut), blondies can be made with a variety of fillings like nuts, dried fruit, toffee, or any other chunky candy for added texture. Seasonal combinations could include cranberry- almond, mint-chocolate chip or cinnamon-raisin. While blondies aren't usually frosted since the brown sugar flavor tends to be sweet enough, we will let your sweet tooth decide if should add a layer of chocolate ganache or buttercream icing.

  • 1 stick margarine, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 7" x 11" baking dish. Mix the melted margarine with brown sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then bourbon. Add in the dry ingredients; baking powder, salt and flour. Once the batter is well combined, stir in nuts and butterscotch chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until set in the middle. A toothpick It is better to err on the side of caution with the baking time. In my experience, folks rarely complain about a gooey cookie.

Allow the pan to cool on a rack before cutting them. I cut them into 2" bars so it seems that there are more of the scrumptious little treats.

January 25, 2014


Thursday, January 3, 2019

National Soup Month Seafood Chowder

Soup is one of the oldest forms of food right up there with bread.  Although it was not until the invention of waterproof containers, about 9,000 years ago, that soup came into existence, the fact that an entire month is devoted to celebrating soup is a testament to its continued universal popularity.

Soup can be dated back to about 6,000 B.C. and was first made of hippopotamus (disgusting, eh?). Soup is made by combining ingredients, such as meat, vegetables or beans in stock or hot water, until the flavor is extracted, forming a liquid meal. There are lots of variations on the basic theme of soup, each offering a wide range of nutritional benefits.

Soup, first known as "sop," was originally a piece of bread served with some type of broth. People used to pour sop over a piece of bread or over broken off chunks of bread in a platter allowing it to soak up all the broth and then they would eat it.  As time went by sop was placed in deeper bowls and the liquid became the focal point instead of the bread. In modern day, the word sop is used to define the act of sopping up food. 

Every country in the world has soup recipes and family traditions from long ago so it comes as no surprise that soup is a favorite in most households. We have all been nursed back to health with chicken noodle soup, warmed on a frigid day by a hot bowl of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and celebrated holidays with green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup.

New England-style chowder is a favorite in our family with the ingredients varying depending on what is fresh at the market and what we have on hand.  This is the basic formula, but don’t be afraid to experiment to create a chowder that will become your own family recipe to be handed down to the next generation.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ lb. country ham or bacon, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 6 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. (30 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 lb. clams (and juice), chopped
  • 1 lb. cod, skin and bones removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

Heat a medium skillet over low heat adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add ham and cook for 5 minutes and then add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until soft.

In a separate stock pot, bring stock and bay leaves to a simmer. Add diced potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until just tender.

Add ham and vegetable mixture to the stock pot and stir to mix well. Then add shrimp, clams, and fish, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Next, add cream and season chowder with cayenne, salt, and white pepper.

Remove the bay leaves and serve hot with parsley and Old Bay seasoning. We put some hot sauce on the table too.

January 21, 2012


Saturday, December 1, 2018

12 Days of Holiday Cookies

There is nothing like the scent of vanilla wafting through the house as
the holiday cookies are baking. We have compiled some of our family favorites for you. 
Simply click on the picture to be taken directly to the recipe!






Monday, September 3, 2018

Save The Pumpkins Hummus

We never seem to notice the humble pumpkin until holiday time, but really, we should. Their beautiful orange exteriors are the perfect complement to the hues of autumnal foliage that signal the harvest season which we honor on Thanksgiving Day. While all are edible, nearly 95 percent of all pumpkins grown in the U.S. are carved into those hallmarks of Halloween: jack-o-lanterns.

In addition to their decorative colors and sizes, pumpkins boast unexpected health benefits as well. Pumpkins are a high-fiber, low-calorie food that's loaded with nutrients including copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. One cup of cooked pumpkin provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, 20 percent of the recommended vitamin C and more potassium than a banana. Pumpkins also have carotenoids which can help keep skin wrinkle-free and their seeds are filled with phytosterols, which are known for reducing LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

With the current campaigns to reduce food waste trending nationally, perhaps it is time to take those remnants from jack-o-lantern carving and toss them in your morning smoothie or roast them with some cauliflower or broccoli. Roasted pumpkin is excellent when added to rice, mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese for an added boost of color and seasonal flavor. If you're looking for a high-fiber snack that's perfect any time of year, just try mixing some roasted pumpkin with some chickpeas to make a super-nutritious dip that's perfect for entertaining.

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cubed
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Process beans in food processor until nearly smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add pumpkin, tahini, cider vinegar, garlic and spices and process until smooth, scraping down sides periodically. Tahini adds a subtle sesame flavor and depth to hummus. Don’t have tahini, no worries, you can substitute the nut butter of your choice, add a few drops of sesame oil or leave it out entirely. Once the hummus is full combined and smooth, taste and adjust your seasonings accordingly.

Serve in a pretty bowl and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and top with some toasted pepitas. A dusting of paprika also makes a gorgeous and colorful garnish.

October 27, 2016


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Labor Day Menu Planner

Stay relaxed while you entertain on this much-anticipated day off with some easy cookout ideas. When it's time to eat, enjoy the fruits of your labor, because that's precisely the point of this lovely summer holiday which won't last much longer! We have put together a list of our favorite Labor Day recipes. We hope they will become your favorites as well!

Just because the summer is winding down, doesn't mean it's time to pack away your grill:

And these chilled sides are excellent accompaniments that can be made ahead:

And what summer party is complete without a frozen dessert?
Lastly, don’t forget something to keep the kids from underfoot and away from the fiery grill. Yard games of bocce, corn hole or horseshoes are always popular and you can NEVER go wrong with bubbles. Try our mixture for the Ultimate Bubble Elixir and get ready for the squeals of delight!

Be safe and enjoy a safe and well deserved three-day weekend! And, don’t forget to designate a driver or enjoy the night air by walking home when possible.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ten Ways with Tomatoes

Each January, we find ourselves looking at the pitiful excuse for tomatoes in the produce section of the supermarket, and pining for the plump, juicy treasures still warm from the mid-day sun sliced and sandwiched between two slices of bread. Since their cultivation by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 A.D. and their introduction to Europe during the 16th century, tomatoes are one of the world’s most popular ingredients.

However, many people are unaware how good they can actually be for us. Tomatoes are low in calories and packed with health-promoting nutrients such as vitamins A and C, potassium and the super anti-oxidant called lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that supports heart health by reducing the tendency of blood to form clots and promotes healthy cholesterol levels. It's also been found to be a potent hedge against many kinds of cancer. Tomatoes are so incredibly versatile making them crazy easy to incorporate into almost any meal. Here are our top ten:

1. Toss them: Simply toss fresh cherry tomatoes in a salad with fresh crisp lettuces and toss with your favorite dressing. Or, set a pot of water on the stove to cook pasta and place a sauté pan over medium heat. Toss cherry tomatoes in the pan and allow them to slowing cook until they “melt.” Add torn basil, a crushed garlic clove, salt and coarsely ground black pepper and simmer until pasta is cooked and drained. Pour this simple sauce over the pasta and toss. Don’t forget the grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Slice them: There are few things better on the entire planet than a fresh caprese salad! Freshly sliced tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella and just-picked basil leaves; nirvana. Lactose intolerant? No worries… try a Japanese chilled tofu dish called hi-yayakko. Alternate slices of tomato and best-quality sliced tofu, firm or soft. Make a dressing of olive oil, soy sauce, seasoned rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic and a touch of sugar to taste then top with slivered green onions.

3. Chop them: Coarsely chop tomatoes into a mixing bowl, salt them well with about one full pinch per cup and let them macerate for 20 minutes. If you don’t care about seeds and skins, you will end up with firmer, more flavorful tomato dice and a lot of delicious juice waiting to saturate any ingredients you mix with the tomatoes. Add a bit of garlic and fresh herbs and, Presto! – Bruschetta!

4. Grate them: This is my favorite tomato trick of all time. Cut the tomato in half through the equator, pluck out the seeds with your fingers and grate the cut side against the large holes in a box grater set over a bowl. You will end up with a bowlful of gorgeous tomato flesh and a naked skin in your palm within seconds. What do you do with it? I like to keep going with other vegetables and grate cucumbers, peppers and a little onion for a quick, coarse-textured gazpacho that you season with oil, vinegar, salt and fresh herbs.

5. Strain them: Blanch four large tomatoes in boiling water to easily remove skins. Once cooled and peeled, coarsely chop tomatoes in a food processor with a couple of teaspoons of salt. Pour into the chopped tomatoes over several thicknesses of folded cheesecloth in a sieve and drain the excess liquid from the pulp (reserving the liquid.) Use the pulp to make a quick tomato sauce for pizza, pasta or meatloaf. If you’re an epicurean, use the reserved tomato water in a refreshing agua fresca or to make an amazing tomato martini.

6. Juice them: Blanch the tomatoes as above and pureed the peeled tomatoes in a food processor along with a rib of celery, several mini peeled carrots and a bit of chopped onion. Heat the juice until just boiling in a sauce pan and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season the juice with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. If you prefer a smoother juice, you can strain the puree through a sieve before using it to make the best Bloody Mary ever!

7. Cream them: Start by sautéing a chopped onion in butter in a pot. Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and four to five big tomatoes that have been chopped. Add a spoonful of tomato paste and three to four cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Add two spoonfuls of raw rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is cooked. Puree in the blender, strain the skins through a sieve and reheat in a saucepan with salt, pepper and a healthy glug of cream or half-and-half. Serve this amazing tomato bisque with garlic bread or a classic grilled cheese sandwich.

8. Freeze them: Remember that tomato pulp from above? Good, now throw four cups of it into the blender with a half cup of cilantro leaves, the juice of a couple of limes and a squirt of your favorite hot sauce. Pour the resulting goop over a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. Every 20 minutes or so, scrape the frozen edges to the center of the pan with a fork. When you have nothing but red flakes of crystallized ice, you have spicy tomato granita. Place in a covered container and freeze until ready to eat. This makes an fancy and unexpected appetizer or dessert.

9. Roast them: Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator and place cut side up in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top with chopped garlic and any herbs you like along with salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 325 degrees F for about two hours, watching to make sure they’re not drying out too quickly. If they’re still very juicy, turn up the heat to 400 and cook for a few more minutes until the juices start to caramelize. Pull the skins off with your fingers and use them as is or mash with a spoon to a nice tomato paste consistency before using.

10. Preserve them: Just like the many other fruits of summer, tomatoes make a wonderful jam. Combine about a pound and a half of good ripe tomatoes (coarsely chopped), one jalapeno or other pepper that has been stemmed, seeded and minced, a cup of sugar, juice of two limes, a tablespoon of grated ginger, a teaspoon of salt and of ground cumin, a big pinch of cinnamon and a small pinch of ground cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes until mixture has consistency of thick jam, Taste and adjust seasoning, and then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week. This jam can be canning and processed in a water bath and preserved for months.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Addictive Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

Unlike the mushy, odorous green lumps we remember from childhood or the cream smothered version served in fancy-schmancy, yuppy-era restaurants, Brussels sprouts have reached the height of their popularity. We certainly consume our fair share in our house. Whether they are roasted, braised, or served raw, Brussels sprouts are fabulously healthy, not to mention downright tasty.

While Brussels sprouts were believed to have been grown in Italy in Roman times, the modern Brussels sprout we eat today were first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium (hence the name "Brussels" sprouts) as early as 1587. They were introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s and by 1900 were being grown in large quantities in California. With the development of the frozen food industry and improved production techniques, there are currently about 3000 acres of the tiny cabbages currently being grown today. This acreage supplies the majority of the U.S. and Canada (where they are more popular than in the U.S.)

Good quality Brussels sprouts are firm, compact, and vivid green. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture. Those that have perforations in their leaves should be avoided as they may have aphids inside. If Brussels sprouts are sold individually, choose those of equal size to ensure that they will cook evenly. Brussels sprouts are available year round, but their peak growing period is from autumn until early spring.

Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days. Before washing Brussels sprouts, remove stems and any yellow or discolored leaves. Wash them well under running water to remove any insects living in the leaves. Brussels sprouts cook quickly and taste best when they have been cut into smaller pieces. If you want to freeze Brussels sprouts, blanch them first for between three to five minutes. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.

Like cabbage, Brussels sprouts make great raw salads similar to coleslaw. Thin shavings of fresh Brussels sprouts tossed with a lemony vinaigrette topped with sieved boiled eggs, crunchy pistachios and salty grated Parmesan makes a marvelous addition to ANY meal.

  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts, shaved
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons truffle oil or olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, finely diced or sieved

Clean and trim sprouts and “shave” by slicing as thinly as possible. We've tried using a food processor to shave the sprouts with little luck, but fell free to try it. We also tried the use of a mandolin, but the risk to fingers and the amount of waste were both too great. Patience and a sharp knife are the best tools for this procedure.

Mix sprouts, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, tasting as you go and adjusting to taste. If you are preparing ahead, set the salad in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

While feta cheese combines with the vinaigrette to make a creamy dressing, cheeses that are dryer, saltier more dense cheese actually work better in this salad. Romano or Parmesan have a nice piquancy that matches well, but we recommend grating it on the largest hole of a box grater.

To serve, lay the sprout “slaw” on a serving platter and top with grated cheese, chopped eggs and pistachios. There is no real need to toss the salad as the ingredients combine as the salad is being served.

One note of caution, this salad can be a bit addictive. There have been arm wrestling matches in our house over who gets to have the leftovers (when there are any). This salad will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days post arm wrestling.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

What Dad Really Wants: Steak

Thanks to the nagging of the greeting-card, flower and candy industries, Mother's Day has become etched in our collective consciousness as a holiday not to be forgotten; the guilt would be too excruciating. But Father's Day, which falls several weeks later, is often commemorated with only a card and perhaps a ubiquitous (and most likely hideous) tie (that he will never wear) to celebrate the occasion. Given all that our fathers have endured over the child-rearing years; endless gamesof catch, Christmas Eves spent sweating over the assembly a variety of gifts (with instructions in German), forced politeness toward dates with odd hairdos, and teaching us how to parallel park, Dad clearly deserves better.

So on his day, let's give him what he really wants: the chance to relax, have fun and, to top it all off, enjoy a great dinner. According to an informal poll conducted by Chef Nancy Waldeck, Dads want a big juicy steak that they cook themselves (to ensure that it is cooked to his exact taste.) So in honor of all Dads on Father’s Day, we are including grilling tips and advice for Dads everywhere to enjoy their meaty treasures:

Grilled steaks require glowing coals. No flame. Let the fire burn down till a gray-ash film covers the charcoal. If fire's too hot, you dry the meat, lose good juices. A well-made fire is the essential first step in outdoor cooking. The right fire makes barbecuing smooth and simple.

The temperature of the fire needed depends on the type of meat you are going to cook. For cuts of meat such as steaks, burgers, and kabobs which you intend to cook rapidly, use a relatively hot fire. A moderate fire is fine for roasts and larger pieces of meat. For slower cooking cuts of meat such as pork chops and spareribs, use a slow fire.

Charcoal comes in two forms: lump charcoal and briquettes. Lump charcoal is in odd-sized pieces just as they come from the charcoal kiln. It is less uniform in burning quality and more difficult to handle. Briquets are ground, lump charcoal pressed into uniform blocks. They are easier to use, burn evenly, and produce a more uniform heat. They are easier to control and burn longer than lump charcoal.

Pile the charcoal in a pyramid on the firebox of the grill. You don't need much charcoal. Beginner chefs are often too ambitious, build too big a fire. After you've built several barbecue fires, you'll be able to gauge the amount easily. Add liquid lighter to charcoal; wait a minute, then light. Do not use gasoline or kerosene. Let charcoal burn for 15 to 20 minutes until the briquets are about two-thirds covered with gray-ash. Spread the briquets evenly throughout the grill. The bed of coals should be shallow (easy to control) and just a little larger than the area of food you are cooking.

The fastest way to get a bed of cooking coals (about 15 minutes) is with an electric fire starter. Most other methods of fire starting take approximately 45 minutes. A chimney is another secret for fast take off. Make your own from a tall juice can or a 2-pound coffee can. Remove ends from can. Using tin snips, cut out triangles or circles around bottom, 1 inch apart, to allow draft. Or punch triangular holes with a church-key bottle opener and bend down for legs. (While the bottle opener is out, be sure to use it to open an icy cold beverage for Dad while he labors over the hot flames.)

Place a wad of newspaper in the base of the chimney, add 6 to 8 charcoal briquets, and then light the paper from the bottom of the chimney. When the briquets are burning, add more to the top. Allow to burn about 15 minutes, and then lift off chimney (with tongs!) and rake coals where you want them.

Don't start to cook until the fire dies down to glowing coals. Coals are ready for cooking when they look ash-gray by day, and have a red glow after dark. No flames! Don't start cooking too soon. When coals are hot, tap off the gray ash with fire tongs; ashes on the briquets insulate and retard the heat.

An easy way to tell the heat of the fire is to hold your hand over the coals at the height the food will be for cooking. Begin counting "one thousand one, one thousand two", and so on. The number of seconds you can comfortably hold your hand over the fire will tell you how hot the fire is. If you can count to "one thousand two," you have a relatively hot fire; "one thousand three" or "one thousand four" is about a moderate fire, and "one thousand five" or "one thousand six" is a slow fire.

If you are cooking a large piece of meat that requires a long cooking time, plan to replenish the coals from time to time. Add a little extra charcoal around the edges after your fire is ready for cooking. Don't top your cooking fire with cold coals; this will lower the temperature more than you think. To increase heat, add warm coals from the reserve around the fire's edge.

To slow down the fire, move hot coals out to make a larger oval; to increase heat, move hot coals in to make narrower oval. This technique helps maintain the even cooking. Fire is ready only when flames die down. In broad daylight, the coals will look ash-gray and after dark, they'll have a red glow (they burn from outside in).

If drippings do flare up during cooking, sprinkle the fire lightly with water to quench the blaze. Keep handy a clothes sprinkler filled with water close by. Use only enough water to do the trick; don't soak the coals. It will take some time for very wet coals to dry out and begin to burn again. It will also reduce the intensity of the heat of the fire.

Orders for "rare" go on the grill last. When you see little bubbles on top surface of the steaks, they are ready to turn (heat forces the juices to the uncooked surface). Flip steaks with tongs and a spatula; piercing with a fork wastes good meat juices. Cook the second side a few minutes less than the first since the second side has a head start on heating. Turn only once. For 1-inch steaks cooked medium-rare, allow 13 to 15 min¬utes total grilling time. It is always a good idea to use a meat thermometer when grilling. Insert thermometer so tip is in center of meat. Tip must not touch bone, fat, or the metal spit.

For charred crusty coat, try this: Sear one side by lowering grill top close to coals for 2 to 3 minutes, then raise grill to finish same side. Turn steak, and sear second side; again raise grill and complete the cooking.

Wait until you turn steak to salt it (same for burgers and chops.) Salt and pepper the browned side and then season the other side as you take it off the grill. If you salt uncooked meat, the juices will be drawn out and you'll lose good flavor.

It is important to know how to carve a big steak, like a porterhouse or a sirloin, so that one person doesn't rate most of the choice portions, and another person get the tag ends. First remove the bone, cutting very close to it. Now cut across the full width of the steak, making 1-inch slices and narrowing them a little on the tenderloin side. Be sure everyone gets a section of the tenderloin. If steak has a tail piece slice it last to serve for second helpings.

When the steaks are grilled to perfection, serve them sputtering hot with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lemon. With the grill already “fired” up, it's a cinch to grill a few ears of fresh corn and some thick slices of red onion that have been brushed with olive oil. With some of Dom's potato salad, peach and mozzarella salad, and delicious grilled watermelon for dessert, you will have well-rounded and must-deserved treat for Dad on his big day!
June 19, 2011

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