Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pumpkin and Sleep

Tryptophan is an amino acid that aids the  production of melatonin and serotonin which control our sleep/wake cycle. Pumpkins are rich in tryptophan which can help people fall asleep easy. Foods, like pumpkin, that have tryptophan must be eaten with high glycemic carbohydrates for better absorption. This is why you feel lethargic after you have had your Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Mashed potatoes are high glycemic carbohydrates while turkey and pumpkin pie are loaded with tryptophan. Tryptophan works during the day to promote serotonin that helps with depression and anxiety, while at night it produces melatonin that causes us to feel sleepy.

How much tryptophan is in pumpkin? Homemade pumpkin pies have .0915g for a slice of pie 1/8th of 9” in diameter. Commercially prepared pumpkin pie has .0556g for a piece that is 1/6th of an 8” pie. Canned pumpkin pie mix contains .0351g per 1 cup. Besides a hearty pumpkin pie try using pumpkin in lighter dishes like a smoothie or soup.

Ever have a pumpkin pie smoothie with tofu? Tofu is an inexpensive source of protein that contains a high percentage of tryptophan. Tofu can lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels while possibly raising HDL cholesterol. The selenium in tofu is an excellent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Make sure your tofu is used from non-gmo soy. Thanks asleepeasy for the information.

Pumpkin Pie Tofu Smoothie - makes 2 servings

- 4 oz. silken tofu (tryptophan)
- 1-1/2 cups pumpkin puree (tryptophan)
- 1 frozen small banana (tryptophan)
- 3/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy) (tryptophan)
- 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice)
- sprinkle of nutmeg
- sprinkle of cinnamon
- 1/2 TBSP honey or 1 teaspoon stevia (high glycemic carb)
- Optional: add vanilla protein powder or peanut butter (tryptophan) for extra protein and flavor

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until well combined. Add extra milk if necessary, and serve with an additional small sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

Curried Pumpkin Soup (Delivery is too cute)

Before you bake this zingy soup in its pumpkin bowl, you must first pick the perfect pumpkin. Select one without blemishes or cracks and with a flat bottom so it won't tip as you serve.

Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Servings: Makes 8 to 10 side-dish servings

- 1 7- to 8-pound pumpkin (tryptophan)
- 3 14-ounce cans chicken broth
- 2 apples, (such as Cortland), peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped (high glycemic carb)
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 6 slices turkey bacon (tryptophan)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons sugar (high glycemic carb)
- 1 cup croutons (high glycemic carb if made from white flour)

Slice off the top fourth of the pumpkin with a large sharp knife; set aside. Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp. Replace top of pumpkin. Place pumpkin on a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until flesh can be scooped out easily. (Pumpkin will not be tender at this point.) Cool slightly for easier handling. Scoop out and reserve pumpkin flesh, leaving about a 3/4-inch thickness of flesh on pumpkin walls. Cut flesh into chunks (you should have about 4 cups). Do not remove any flesh from bottom of shell. Discard pumpkin top.

Combine the 4 cups pumpkin flesh, broth, apples, carrot, ginger, curry powder, and cumin in a large pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Blend or process mixture, a third at a time, in a blender or food processor until smooth. Place pumpkin shell in a 3-quart casserole. Pour soup into shell. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree F. oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Cook onion and sugar in reserved drippings until onion is tender. Finely crumble bacon. Stir bacon and croutons into skillet. Sprinkle bacon mixture over soup in pumpkin. Makes 8 to 10 side-dish servings (about 8 cups).

Make ahead tip: If desired, discard pumpkin shell. Cover and chill precooked pumpkin up to 24 hours. Continue as above except do not bake in shell.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 118, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 7 mg, Sodium 678 mg, Carbohydrate 17 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 7 g. Daily Values: Vitamin A 29%, Vitamin C 11%.

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Pumpkin seeds are a great late night snack or can be used in tossed salads, mixed up with vegetables or ground and added to salad dressings, casseroles, soups and baked goods. Roasted pumpkin seeds (a holiday favorite) are tasty but the roasting destroys the potency of their essential fatty acids, so it is better nutritionally to eat them raw. Both hulled and un-hulled pumpkin seeds are enjoyed. Many products are on the market like; Raw Pumpkin Seeds 1 Pounds

Along with tryptophan pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, as well as, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and potassium. A quarter cup of seeds can provide over 20 percent of the recommended daily intake. According to the USDA, one gram of roasted seeds contains 5.69mg of tryptophan and one gram of unroasted has 17.2mg. One cup of milk has 183mg. Eating some seeds can be used as a preventative measure against anxiety attacks, clinical depression and other mood disorders.

Completely un-hulled seeds can keep well for few months placed in cool dry place. However, hulled pumpkin kernels deteriorate soon if exposed to warm, humid conditions; therefore, should be placed in an air-seal container and stored inside the refrigerator.

Unlike tree nuts allergy, it is rare to find true pumpkin seeds allergy incidences. However, in people sensitive to nuts/seeds a few allergic symptoms may appear due to antigenic cross-reactions with some other nuts, seeds and fruits, especially of anacardiaceae family such as mango, cashew nuts, pistachio etc. Persons with known allergic reactions to these seeds may therefore need to observe caution while eating them.

The content provided in Pumpkin and Sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional

Rigatoni with Roasted Red Peppers Tomatoes and Pancetta

I went to the grocery store yesterday and after 20 minutes of looking for Pancetta in the meat department I went up to the young guy behind the meat counter and asked him “Where’s the Pancetta?”

He didn’t know what I was talking about. I must admit before my last cooking class I didn’t know what Pancetta was either. He asked me, “what’s it like?” I said, “it’s like bacon, from the same part of the pig (stomach), but it’s not smoked.” So he took me to the sliced meat/cheese selection and handed me
Prosciutto.  I said, “no, that’s not Pancetta.”

He said, “it’s the only P word I know that’s like bacon.  Check the Deli section.” Little did he know that prosciutto, yes comes from a pig and is cured, is from the hind quarter or ham section not the stomach. But nice try.

I did find diced Pancetta in the Deli section next to other imported meats. Yeah! Because Pancetta is the reason I’m doing this recipe. And it’s a very easy one, serves 6 with a total time of just 20 minutes.

Ingredients:



  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid reserved
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and divided
  • 2 - 3 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, (optional)

  • Directions:

  • Cook rigatoni according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid, drain rest. 

  • In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat then add the pancetta and allow it to start to brown, rendering some of its fat, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until translucent. 

  • While that’s cooking, dice 1/2 of the roasted red peppers. Place the other 1/2 in a blender with the reserved pasta cooking liquid and blend until a smooth sauce. 

  • In the skillet with the pancetta and onions add the cooked pasta, sliced red peppers and sauce. Toss until pasta is heated through. Add red pepper flakes, if using along with the chopped parsley. Salt and pepper, to taste. 

  • To serve: transfer to large bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Yum Yum! 
  • Saturday, September 29, 2018

    Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

    What is one of the things you do when it’s fall? For me, I run to Starbucks to get a pumpkin spice latte. Well, I don’t exactly run since Starbucks is in my grocery store. It’s really nice to have a Starbucks coffee while I’m shopping. Since pumpkin spice is one of my favorite flavors for fall I thought these Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes would be a special treat between grocery shopping visits.

    I can just picture someone eating one of these cupcakes for dessert with a cup of their favorite coffee. For me, I’d have to sit at the kids table and have mine with a tall glass of cold milk. I stopped drinking coffee at home (only when I’m out shopping for the occasional Starbucks) when I quit smoking.

    Quitting smoking is totally another subject saved for another day. Because if I talk about quitting smoking and replacing it with ice cream and what does ice cream do to a body? It’s not pretty, so don’t even tell me you can make homemade pumpkin spice ice cream. I don’t want to know. I’m just sticking with Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes for now, ok? Makes 2 dozen

    Ingredients:

    2 cups sugar
    1 can 15oz 100% pure pumpkin
    4 large eggs
    1 cup canola oil
    2 cups flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 cup raisins, optional

    Cream cheese frosting:
    1/3 cup butter, softened
    3 oz cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups confectioners sugar
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted or chopped pecans or coarsely chopped heath bars

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350°. Beat sugar, pumpkin, eggs and oil until well blended. In another bowl, whisk next seven ingredients; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture. Stir in raisins, if using.

  • Fill each of 24 paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 28-32 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add confectioners' sugar. Frost cupcakes; sprinkle with walnuts or your choice of topping. Refrigerate. Yum Yum!

  • Note: To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

    Stocks vs Broths

    This post might just be for me, unless you’re like me and don’t know the difference between stocks and broths. All I know when making a recipe I add what’s in the ingredients, if it says stock I add stock. I don’t question why it’s stock vs broth.

    I have to admit that I attempted to make a chicken broth in my pressure cooker, but was it really broth? It might have been stock. I don’t know and this is why I’m writing this post, because Kat needs to know. Do you?

    It’s fall and a few of the things I try to make are soups, stews and chilis as the weather starts to cool down. Stocks or broths are used as a base in making recipes to boost flavor and add nutrients to the meal that you are making.

    Broth:

    Is made from the meat, whether it’s beef, chicken or turkey. You simmer the meat in water for 45 minutes to 2 hours. The purpose of a broth is to add flavor.

    Stock:

    Is made from the bones with some fat and meat still on them. Add vegetables and seasonings then simmer in water for 4+ hours. The longer the simmer time will develop more flavor and pull the collagen out of the bones. The stock become thick and gelatinous because of the collagen.

    Bone Broth:

    Is essentially like stock but it simmers for 12 hours or longer. An acid like apple cider vinegar is added to help extract the minerals. The end result is a thick, gelatinous, flavorful stock with a boost of minerals.

    Bone Broth Recipe

    Directions:

    Add one chicken carcass to your slow cooker/crockpot and enough water to cover the carcass. Pour in 1 tablespoon raw, organic apple cider vinegar. Cover and cook on high until boiling then reduce to low for 12-18 hours. Strain and store in glass jars.

    If you don’t have time to make your own broth or stocks there are many store bought options but there quality can vary. It is important to buy the ones free of MSGs, corn syrup, artificial flavorings and loads of sodium.

    PS: Now I know I made stock, because I used bones.


    Friday, September 28, 2018

    Yum Yum for Spices: Turmeric Does a Body Good...or Does It?

    Turmeric has been touted over the last few years as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, diet aide and even eases arthritis and joint pain. As we all know taking something in moderation might do a body good, but like anything else we find too much of a good thing produces side effects. Turmeric is no exception.

    Turmeric Side effects are:
    #Increased risk of bleeding
    #Stomach issues and GERD
    #Raise gallbladder contractions/gallstones
    #Lower blood pressure
    #Risk of kidney stones
    #Pregnant and breastfeeding concerns
    #Diarrhea and nausea
    #Not to be taken with blood thinners
    #Causes allergic reaction
    #May lead to infertility for men
    #Causes an iron deficiency
    #Risky during surgery

    Most of these side effects occur when someone is taking turmeric daily as a dietary supplement (pill form) and not while using it as a spice in foods. Turmeric most probable origin is from Vietnam, China or Western India and is cultivated in Southeast Asia. The world’s largest producer, consumer and exporter is India. It’s used as a flavoring agent in many Asian dishes, especially for curries. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, black pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma.

    It’s used in many products, such as; canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cake mix, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, cereals, sauces and gelatin. It’s principal ingredient is curry powder. Mostly used dried, but you can also use it fresh, like ginger.

    I have 2 recipes that use turmeric. One is for breakfast, Spicy Potatoes and Scrambled Eggs and the other one is for dinner, One Pan Brazilian Chicken and Rice. Check them out and let me know what you think. 

    Thursday, September 27, 2018

    Savory Ham and Cheese Crepes

    Crepes aren’t just sweet, they are savory too. Thanks to foodienada, I found these delicious Ham and Cheese Crepes that are filled with mushrooms and topped with a fried egg. Breakfast, lunch or a late night snack these crepes are sure to please. Makes 10 crepes, need less cut the crepe recipe in half.

    Ingredients:

    Crepe:
    1 3/4 cups AP Flour
    4 tablespoons organic Butter
    4 large organic Eggs
    2 1/2 cups organic Milk
    1/2 teaspoon Salt
    Organic Vegetable Oil Spray – for cooking the crêpes

    Crêpe Center:
    20 slices Black Forest Ham – 2 slices per crêpe
    20 slices Havarti Cheese* – 2 slices per crêpe
    2 lbs Crimini Mushrooms – sliced
    2 large Shallot – diced
    6 sprigs fresh Thyme
    1 teaspoon Salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
    8 tablespoons organic Butter
    4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Crepe Top:
    10 large organic Eggs
    Salt and Black Pepper to taste
    Fresh Herbs for garnish

    Note:If you get a block of Havarti cheese instead of slices, get about 20 oz.  Leave the Havarti in the freezer for about 5 – 10 minutes, then grate the cheese.  Use about 2 oz for each crêpe.

    Directions:

    Begin making the crêpe batter, as it needs to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.  Melt the butter, and allow it to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, add the flour and the salt.  Add the eggs one by one to the flour, while mixing the batter.  Then slowly add the milk, still mixing as you go.  Finally, add the melted butter, and mix to get a smooth batter.  Place the crêpe batter in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, as it thickens slightly.

    In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter has melted, add the sliced mushrooms to the pan.  Sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, then add the diced shallots, and sauté until the onions and the mushrooms are caramelized.  Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir in the seasoning, cook for another few minutes, then turn the heat off.

    Take the ham, cheese, and eggs out of the refrigerator, and leave them on the counter to get to room temperature, while you make the crêpes.  This step helps the ham heat up faster, the cheese melt faster and smoother, and the eggs to cook more evenly.

    If you have a crêpe pan, that’s great.  If you don’t, don’t worry.  You can use a griddle or a large shallow non-stick pan for your crêpes.  When you take the batter out of the refrigerator, check to see how thick it is.  If it is too thick, as in a little like pancake batter, then thin it out with a little milk, one teaspoon at a time.

    Heat the pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Grease the pan with the vegetable oil spray to keep the crêpes from sticking.  Pour a small ladle-full of batter onto the pan.  If you have a crêpe spreader, use it to spread the batter around the pan evenly, creating a thin layer of batter.  If you do not have a spreader, you can either gently tilt the pan in a circular motion to get the batter distributed evenly all around the pan, or you may use the ladle to spread the batter, as you would pizza sauce.

    Leave the crêpe to cook, until bubbles begin to form on the surface.  With a spatula, gently loosen the crêpe from the edge of the pan, then flip it over to cook on the other side.  Place 2 slices of ham onto one half of the crêpe.  Top the ham with a large spoonful of the mushrooms.  Spread the mushrooms around to cover both ham slices.  Cover the mushrooms with 2 slices or 2 oz of grated Havarti cheese.

    Now that the crêpe is cooked on the bottom, flip the side without toppings over the side with the toppings.  Fold it onto itself, again, to form a triangle.  Place the crêpe on a plate.  Repeat the process.

    In a large non-stick pan on medium high heat, add the rest of the butter and olive oil to the pan.  Once the butter has melted, fry your eggs to the desired doneness.  Salt and pepper your eggs before topping the crêpes with them.

    In an individual size serving plate, place one or two ham, cheese crêpes with mushrooms. Top each crêpe with a seasoned fried egg.  Garnish with fresh herbs, and enjoy. Yum Yum!

    Wednesday, September 26, 2018

    Instant Pot Sweet Potato Casserole

    Is it too early to decide what your having for Thanksgiving this year? Or, if you are hosting, trying to decide who will bring what side dish? Do you ever try new dishes before the big day to make sure how to make them and if they taste great?

    That’s exactly what I’m going to do with this Instant Pot Sweet Potato Casserole. There is only a few of us, like three, that like sweet potatoes and last year I made way too many in my crockpot pot. This recipe serves 4, which should be enough for us with a little extra for seconds.

    Ingredients:

    2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

    1 cup water
    2 eggs, beaten
    4 Tbsp butter
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/3 cup milk
    tsp vanilla

    Topping:

    cup walnuts
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup flour
    2 cups marshmallows
    4 Tbsp butter

    Directions:



    1. Place the sweet potatoes and water in the Instant Pot. Close the lid and lock, be sure the pressure valve is shut. Press "Manual" for 8 minutes. Use quick release for the pressure. 
    2. Drain the sweet potatoes and return to the Instant Pot (make sure it's off). Stir in the eggs, butter, sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. 
    3. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Grease a 8x8 round glass baking dish. Add the sweet potato mixture to the dish and spread evenly. 
    4. In a small glass bowl, add the walnuts, brown sugar, flour and butter. Stir to combine. Crumble over the sweet potatoes. 
    5. Top with marshmallows. Bake for 30 minutes. Yum Yum!

    Monday, September 24, 2018

    Chicken Broccoli Mac n’ Cheese

    I unthawed some chicken yesterday. Thinking I was going to have company tonight and make my Chicken Broccoli Casserole, but plans change as they normally do with my family. So, I’m making this Instant Pot Chicken Broccoli Mac n’ Cheese instead.

    I’m hoping I can refreeze some of the unthawed chicken. Do you ever wonder why we use the word “unthawed”. To thaw means to melt so shouldn’t unthaw mean to freeze? Just a thought.

    Ingredients:

    1-1 1/2 lb chicken, cut into 1” bite size pieces 
    1 tablespoon butter 
    1 tablespoon minced garlic 
    12 oz macaroni 
    2 cups water
    1 cup chicken broth 
    1 teaspoon ground mustard 
    1/2 teaspoon salt 
    8 oz broccoli florets 
    3/4 cup heavy cream
    8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded 

    Directions:


    1. Turn your Instant Pot to the saute setting. While it is heating up cut up your chicken into bite-size pieces. When the Instant Pot display says HOT add in the butter. When it is melted add in the chicken and saute lightly for 1-2 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Turn off the saute function.
    2. Add in the pasta into a flat, even layer. Pour the water over the top to cover the pasta as much as possible. Sprinkle in the ground mustard and the salt.
    3. Create a foil packet by placing broccoli florets in the center of a piece of foil large enough to enclose the food one and a half times. Pull over one side, folding the edges to seal. Then fold the remaining two edges. Don’t seal the packet too tightly: you want to leave some room for the steam to expand. Place the foil packet on top of the pasta.
    4. Cover the Instant Pot and secure the lid. Make sure valve is set to “sealing.” Set the manual/pressure cook button to 3 minutes. When the time is up let the pot sit there for an additional 5 minutes and then move the valve to “venting.” Remove the lid, when you can.
    5. Use hot pads to open up the foil packet. Stir the broccoli into the pot. Stir in the milk and the cheese until it is melted.
    6. If the mixture is too liquidy then you can prepare a cornstarch slurry by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1-2 tablespoons of cold water until smooth. Stir the mixture into the pot and turn the pot to the saute function. Stir constantly until thick. The mac and cheese will thicken up in a minute or two.
    7. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy! Yum Yum!

    Sunday, September 23, 2018

    Chocolate Cake Hack

    This is a post from Quora: “I going to save you a lot of headache and the grownups you feed this to will think you’re a kitchen hero :) I’ve fooled a lot of chefs at my table with this one.

    Start with two, yes, two boxes of store bought, store brand dark chocolate cake mix. You know, the kind that say just add oil water and an egg. Don’t spend a ton on them. The ingredients are essentially the same. You’re paying for the name on the box. 


    Now, here’s my hack.

    Empty the boxes into a big bowl. Add two heaping Tbsp of unsweetened baking cocoa powder. Stir it into the dry cake mix. 

    Measure the amount of water it calls for on ONE box. Heat this water in the microwave about 2 minutes. Now add two heaping Tbsp instant coffee or instant espresso. Stir until dissolved. Don’t worry, you’re not going to drink this…LOL. Add the same amount of plain cold water to your coffee mixture and put this in the fridge until it cools down to just below room temp. Hot liquid makes lumps. You don’t want those. Next, stir your cooled coffee mixture into the dry cake mix. 


    Next hack, instead of vegetable oil, use coconut oil. Heat some coconut oil gently by placing your coconut oil container in a pan of hot water. When it becomes liquid (and it will at 76 degrees F) measure out the amount the boxes call for. Stir this into the mix. Crack eggs into a small ramekin to prevent any stray bits of shell. Scramble loosely with a fork and stir into the batter. Stir in a small dash of good vanilla. 


    I always butter my pans and cut a round out of parchment and butter then place it in the bottom of the pan to ensure good release. Divide batter into two round pans and bake as directed on the box. Cool completely before frosting. Once cooled, frost with whatever tickles your fancy. One of my favorite tricks is to use seedless mixed berry jam between the layers and frost with a white buttercream frosting. The sky is the limit as far as creative directions you can go. 


    A couple of notes : If you’re feeding this to children and you have to be around them afterwards, birthday for example, either use plain water or decaf instead of regular coffee. Booze bakes out. Caffeine doesn’t. 


    To mix it up a little for grown ups, stir a healthy dash of powdered cayenne pepper to the dry mix along with the baking cocoa. You can also mix a bit of your favorite liquor to the frosting. Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Bourbon….you get the idea. Woohoo!

    Make it yours and own it :)” Yum Yum!

    If anyone is willing to try this let me know how it turns out. Personally, I’ve never made a chocolate cake, but if I do I’m going to follow this recipe with the coffee and maybe a bit of kahlua in the frosting. What do you think? Too much coffee?

    Roasted Pepper Caprese with Chicken

    I must admit I got this Roasted Pepper Caprese with Chicken recipe idea from Bon Appetit. Their ingredients are:

    4 large bell peppers, quartered, remove ribs and seeds
    1 large shallot, thinly sliced
    1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced crosswise
    5 sprigs of thyme
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    1/4 + 1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 1/2-4 lbs of chicken (I’m using chicken breasts)
    1 lemon, halved

    To make this dish my own, I’m going to make it like a deconstructed Chicken stuffed peppers recipe and add:

    1 cup of cooked rice (any type you prefer, I’m going to use jasmine)
    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

    You could also add some mozzarella cheese. (A true caprese is tomatoes, basil and mozzarella....you got to add some mozzarella)


    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425F. I’m going to brown my chicken (Salt and pepper both sides) first in an oven-proof skillet with the tablespoon of oil, 6-8 minutes on each side. Remove and let cool. When cooled slice as pictured.

    In the same oven-proof skillet on medium/high heat cook your peppers. Turn them every few minutes until they blister in several spots, about 5 minutes. Add shallots, chili and 3 sprigs of thyme, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the 1/4 cup of oil. Place sliced chicken on top of peppers and add the remaining thyme and squeeze 1/2 of a lemon on top. Bake in the oven 30 minutes and check the chicken for doneness (no pink). Return to the oven if necessary. You could also check the thickest pieces with a thermometer, which should read at least 160F. Remove and let rest for 15 minutes. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over top and the chopped basil. 

    While that’s resting prepare your rice per package instructions. Mix rice into the skillet or serve rice first onto a plate, add the chicken and peppers on top, Season if needed. Yum Yum!

    PS: if you want to smother your peppers and chicken with mozzarella. After the chicken is cooked, remove and top with mozzarella cheese. Broil for 5 minutes, until melted. 

    Let me know how you would change this recipe.

    Friday, September 21, 2018

    Poached White Fish with Tomatoes and Onions

    I would say about 7-8 years ago I would throw some fish in a skillet add a cup of water with some diced celery and onions. Simple but kind of blah. So I discovered you can poach fish in any liquid, I’m using white wine. How does that sound?

    Ingredients:

    1 1/2 lbs fresh white fish; cod, sole or halibut 
    1 bay leaf
    4 thyme sprigs
    4 slices of lemon
    1/2 cup white wine 

    Tomato and onion sauce:

    1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered 
    Salt and pepper, to taste 
    1/4 cup red onion, finely minced 
    3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped 
    Juice from a freshly squeezed lemon 
    4 tablespoons olive oil 

    Directions:

    In a bowl, add the quartered cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and stir well to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes.

    In another bowl, add the red onions, basil, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk until blended. Pour on the tomatoes and toss well. In a saucepan add the herbs and wine then the fish. Top each fillet with a slice of lemon. Add enough water to barely cover the fish. Bring to a boil over high heat then cover and reduce to a simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. 

    To serve top with the tomato and onion sauce. Yum Yum!

    Thursday, September 20, 2018

    Ossobuco with Beef Shanks

    Beauty of the braise. Low and slow. The long braise at low heat melts tough meat into tasty tender body warming deliciousness. This is taking something less than special and making it extra special. It teaches the benefits of concentrating flavors. You can use beef or pork. (My recipe is with beef) 

    If you are having company use the more traditional lamb shanks. Cook it in an enamel cast iron pot. Simmer slowly on a low burner. Leave the lid cracked just a bit. See you in a few hours. Make some rice. Season a can of black beans and heat. Sound good?

    Serves 4 Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes

     Ingredients:

    2 lbs cross-cut beef shanks
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    2 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 cup diced carrot
    1 cup diced fennel
    1 cup diced onion
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 cup dry red wine
    2 cups beef stock
    1 bay leaf

    Gremolata:

    1/4 cup finely, chopped parsley
    1 clove garlic, finely minced
    Zest from 1 lemon
    1/4 teaspoon salt


    Directions:

     Pat the beef shanks dry with paper towel. Season the shanks with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Tie kitchen twine around each of the shanks to ensure they hold together during cooking. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or braiser, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shanks and sear on both sides until well browned. Remove from pot and set aside.

    Add carrot, fennel, onion and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and soft. Stir in tomato paste, and continue cooking for 1 minute. Stir in wine, gently scraping the pot to release any browned bits clinging to the bottom.

     Nestle the reserved shanks and bay leaf into the vegetables, and pour beef stock overtop.Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the shanks are tender and falling off the bone. Check periodically to make sure the shanks are covered ¾ of the way up with braising liquid, topping up with water if the liquid level gets too low.

    Meanwhile, prepare the gremolata by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Once shanks are ready, remove and transfer to a serving platter, leaving the braising liquid in the pot. Snip off kitchen twine from the shanks, and discard.

    Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the braising liquid to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until reduced to a thick, glossy sauce. Discard the bay leaves. Taste to check the seasoning, and adjust as needed with salt and pepper. Serve shanks with the reduced braising liquid and a sprinkling of gremolata. Yum Yum!
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    Easy Quick Hollandaise Sauce

    Have you ever wondered if there is a better way to make Hollandaise sauce than the one where you involve a wire whisk and a lot of elbow grease?  You do need a good blender, like a Vitamix.  Here is what you have to do....

    1.  Crack 8 large eggs into a bowl and set them aside. You don't have to beat them or break the yolks.

    2.  Take one pound of butter and put it in a saucepan.  Heat until boiling.  This is a very important part the butter must be boiling in order for it the next step to work.

    3.  When the butter is just about to temperature, drop the eggs into your blender and spin them on high. As the blender is spinning slowly pour in the hot boiling butter. Please be careful with this step as boiling butter is very hot and doesn't come off easily. It will cause a serious burn if it comes in contact with exposed skin.  This process with cook the eggs and make the sauce simultaneously. Timing is important, if you wait too long and the butter cools the sauce won't turn out properly. If you hesitate, reheat the butter back up to temperature.

    4.  Add salt, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste.

    5.  Store in a thermos-type container until ready to use.

    6.  This make a rather large batch. If you don't need as much reduce the eggs and butter in half. Yum Yum.

    Monday, September 17, 2018

    Banana Brownies

    I've never heard of banana brownies before, have you?  They sound good.  Let me know if you try them. Servings: 12 Total Time: 35 minutes

    Ingredients:

    1/4 cup unsalted butter
    4 oz white chocolate
    2 mashed bananas
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup flour

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350F. In a large microwave bowl, melt the butter and white chocolate in 30 second bursts, stirring each time until melted.

    Stir in the sugar and mashed bananas, then add the eggs, salt, vanilla and mix well.  Add in the flour until completely incorporated.

    Spread batter into a 8" square pan and bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely and store covered. Yum Yum!




    Sunday, September 16, 2018

    Cheese Covered Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions

    I’m using my new Staub Cast-Iron Braiser to make this recipe. You can use any skillet that is oven-proof up to 500F. If your skillet is only recommended for up to 400F, then I would skip broiling at the end of the directions. You are only broiling to melt the cheese. The cheese will still melt at 350F, it just might take longer than 5 minutes.

    I’ve been watching MasterChef and noticed that some of their pork dishes are a little pink inside. You’ve probably been warned about undercooked pork, but the USDA has changed porks cooking temperature in recent years that 145F is safe to eat from the original 165F. My recommendation on this recipe is to check the internal temperature before broiling (if you are boiling) as the pork will remain juicy if finished at a lower temperature.

    Serves 8 Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes




    Ingredients:


    • 8 6 ounce center cut boneless pork chop (1 1/4" thick each) trim away excess fat
    • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 pounds onions peeled and sliced to 1/2" thick
    • 1 teaspoon thyme
    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 3 cloves garlic minced
    • 1/3 cup white wine
    • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
    • 1 1/2 cups gouda cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste


    Directions:


    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat large pan or dutch oven to high.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the pork chops generously with salt and pepper then brown the each side of the pork for 3 mins per side. Don't overcrowd the pan. Its better to do it in batches and give the pork room to brown. Remove all pork from the pan and place on a side plate and proceed to cook the onions in this pan

    2. Place 2 tablespoons olive oil in pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add onions and cook until the onions are a deep rich brown color. About 35-45 minutes total. DO NOT TURN THE HEAT TO HIGH to cook it faster, they will burn quickly.  At about 15 minutes of cooking the onions you will add the wine to the pan and continue to cook the onions.  The onions will reduce down a lot. Don't worry. Its what is supposed to happen.

    3. Once the onions are nice and browned, add garlic, thyme and flour to onions and stir vigorously to combine. Continue to cook for 3 minutes. Then add half of the broth and stir and cook for 5 minutes. Then scoop out 1/3 of the onions and place on a plate. Add the rest of the broth,  mustard and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil.The sauce should start to thicken in a few minutes.

    4. Place the pork chops back into the pan with thickened onions/broth and then divide the onions you have set aside and place them atop of each pork chop. Place into a 350° oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Then remove from the oven and turn the oven to broil. Sprinkle the grated cheese over each of pork chop topped with onions. Place pan back in the oven and broil until cheese is melted and golden brown. (about 5 minutes depending on your oven) Serve..Yum Yum