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Chicken & Rice Patties with Almond Milk and Porcini Mushroom Country Gravy

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Apple Spice Cake Cobbler on the Grill

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3 small apples, peeled cored and sliced thinly.

¼ to ½ cup brown sugar-or to taste

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ boxed spice cake (I used Duncan Hines, but any brand will do.)

¼ cup melted butter

½ cup (approximately) almond milk, milk, half and half or butter milk

¼ cup of sour cream

½ cup of pecans (optional)

Cook the sliced apples with the first 4 ingredients in a small amount of butter (1 tbl should do), until the apples are fork tender-place them in a bread loaf pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

In a separate bowl, place the ½ box of spice cake mix (NOTE: save the other half for cookies, a streusel topping or another cobbler!!- place it in the freezer in a plastic bag to keep fresh longer).

Add to the cake mix, the melted butter, almond milk (or whatever liquid you choose to use), sour cream.

Mix just until incorporated. Pour over the cooked apples in the bread loaf pan, sprinkle with pecans cover with foil, put on your grill while your meat is finishing up- it took approximately 15-20 minutes to cook ours, but the time will vary, so please don’t “leave it and forget it”. It will be done when the cobbler is firm. I served with a bit of heavy cream, but it would be good with lightly whipped cream or ice cream too!

Here are some variations:

A can of pie filling to replace the fresh apples, no need to cook or heat them first.

Yellow or white cake with a can of fruit pie filling such as: cherries, blueberries, fresh strawberries or fresh mango

Lemon cake mix with blueberries or strawberries.

Chocolate cake with a can of cherry pie filling, or fresh strawberries

Orange cake with strawberries or mangoes.

You could even add chocolate chips to the Cherry pie filling cobbler or fresh strawberries!

A drizzle of chocolate ganache on top of the cherry or strawberry cobbler would be awesome too!

A NOTE: about your grill, you make need to put a cookie cooling rack UNDER the baking pan to keep the bottom from scorching or burning. My hubster turned off several of the burners on our grill when the meat was done to keep the temperature a little lower, he also moved the pan off direct heat.

Pasta with Cajun Blush Sauce, Grilled Pesto Chicken Strips and Chicken Andouille Sausage.

It was yummy, used Basil from my back yard for fresh pesto.

Fresh Pesto:

I guess about 5 cups loosely packed basil leaves

2 oz of triple cream Feta cheese /or grated pecorino

4 oz of grated manchego cheese

Couple squeezes of lemon juice

1 Tbls spoon of balsamic vinegar

Enough olive oil to make a nice loose paste

¼ cup Pepita’s & almonds

Onion powder to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste.

I also added a touch of honey to mine.

Put all of this in a food processor and make a paste add olive as needed. I used a greek olive oil that had a really grassy flavor. Use your favorite olive oil.

Pesto can also be made out of cilantro or a mixture of basil, oregano, spinach, parsley, just let your imagination go wild and experiment with herb and greens. You can also experiment with different olive oils from different countries which will give the pesto a different flavor.

Every terroir give the olives a different bouquet and flavor. So experiment, have fun!!!

For the Cajun Blush Sauce:

1 cup pre-made spaghetti sauce, you a good quality one-I like Bertolli, but you can use your brand. NO RAGU though.

2 cups of light whipping cream

Cajun spice to taste.

Cook for about 15 minutes on low to reduce just a bit.

Cut 4- 4-6 oz chicken breasts into stripes and marinate them in about ½ cup pesto for 30 minutes. Sauté marinated chicken strips in a hot skillet until cooked through but don’t overcook. Remove from skillet and add chicken andouille (4 sausages), that you have sliced on the bias , sauté just until heated through.

Use your favorite pasta cooked according to the package, add the cooked meats, sauce with Cajun Blush Sauce and serve!

Strawberry Birthday Triffle

Strawberry Triffle

This Triffle was made for my hubsters birthday.  He wanted Strawberry Birthday cake, I told him this was my version of Strawberry Birthday Cake.  Below I have given you some quick tips to make this dessert easy peasy!

1 pound cake (store bakery brand or frozen pound cake-sliced into ½” slices.
1-3 oz. pkg. instant vanilla pudding-(I use Jello brand, use your favorite brand and you can use virtually any flavor to make this “pastry cream”)
1 pint of whipping cream
1/3 cup of half & half
2 pints of fresh strawberries or combination of your favorite berries
¾ cups sugar or to taste.

You’ll need a clear glass bowl to assemble the Triffle in.
For Pastry Cream:
In a deep bowl, dump the package of 3 oz. vanilla instant pudding, add the pint of whipping cream and the 1/3 cup of half & half.
Whip on high until thick and stiff peaks form.
Refrigerate until you need it to assemble the triffle.

In a medium sauce pan with a lid on low heat put 1 pint of cleaned & hulled fresh strawberries. Add the ¾ cups of sugar. Put the lid on the pan and let the berries become mushy about 10 minutes. With a hand held blender, pull the berries off the heat and use the hand held blender to puree them. Then push them through a fine sieve with the back of a large spoon, this will get all the seeds out and make the strawberry puree silky and delicious. Put the puree back on the heat without the lid on for another few minutes until thick. Keep an eye on the puree because it may stick.

At this point you are ready to assemble; in a triffle bowl or medium glass bowl start to layer the different components. Begin with the slices of pound cake, then spread a layer of pastry cream, a layer of fresh sliced strawberries, a drizzle of strawberry puree, then the pound cake, alternating ingredients in that order ending with a layer of pastry cream, fresh strawberries and the strawberry puree.

Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Serve with sweetened whip cream if desired.

Using Avocado’s in different ways

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I am an avocado fan, so much so that I spent $300.00 (much to my hubster’s dismay) to buy two patio avocado trees from Cali (they died the first winter in South Carolina, who knew?)

I buy Haas avocados whenever they go on sale. Haas are the only avocados I buy because quite honestly they are the best.

I was planning on making ground chicken and turkey meatballs for dinner and to freeze some today.  My one complaint about ground chicken or ground turkey breast is the dry factor.  The meatballs tend to be dry, it makes them far from appetizing.  Well, this morning while thinking through my options to make them more moist (add cream, add tomato paste, add grated zucchini, add mushroom duxelle-all favorite tricks of mine  to make more juicy tender meatballs), I thought, why not run some avocado through the food process and add it to the ground chicken & turkey mixture to give it some fat & moisture. So I did!  I think the result was fabulous.

Here’s another trick-freeze your avocados, yep that’s right, freeze em.  Cut them in half, take out the pit, spritz them with lemon juice and vacuum pack the avocado halves.  Once thawed you can proceed with your recipe AND that is the end of wasting avocados because you just weren’t in the mood for guac one night.

Also, avocados are great in muffins replacing bananas or applesauce.  Chocolate ones are my favorite.

For the ground chicken and turkey breast meatballs, I used on avocado (previously frozen), 2 eggs, 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs and 2 lbs of a combination of ground turkey breast and ground chicken breast.  Add 10-oz of chopped spinach, season to taste and away ya go!

Visit http://www.avocadocentral.com for some delicious recipes!

Easy Pork Scallopini

Easy Pork Scaloppini

1 pound  thin boneless pork chops or thinly pounded Pork Tenderloin ( I prefer Pork Tenderloin) salted & peppered to taste.
1/4 cup  flour
2 tbls olive oil

8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup  chicken broth
2  tablespoons  garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup  whipping cream
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard or to taste

Dredge pork chops in flour. Preheat the skillet over high heat, then add olive (remember hot pan cold oil will keep things from sticking), reduce heat to medium high, fry pork for about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye that it doesn’t get burned.

Remove pork from the skillet, put on a plate, and repeat with the remaining pork until you have cooked them all.  ( You might need to add more oil during the cooking process).  Remove the last pieces of pork from the skillet. Then  add the sliced mushrooms to the hot skillet and cook until lightly browned.

Lower the heat under the skillet to low; add, broth, Dijon mustard, garlic, lemon juice, and whipping cream. Add the pork back into the skillet and cook for another 3 minutes.

Serve immediately. Can be held in the oven at 200 degrees until ready to serve. The sauce will separate a little, so remove pork and stir again before serving.
Adapted from the Saucy Gourmet

Serving suggestion:

Garlic Orzo with fresh Tomatoes and Spinach.

Orzo cooked according to the package for 4 people.

3 Roma tomatoes diced

10 oz fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

¼ cup grated parmigiana

¼ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

2-3 tbl minced garlic

Reserve some pasta water

Salt & pepper to taste.

Cook Orzo according to the directions on the package for 4 servings. Reserve some of the pasta water.

After draining orzo, & reserving some of the pasta water-put orzo back into the pan

Coarsely chop the baby spinach & the basil leaves add to the orzo.

Dice 3 Roma tomatoes and add to the orzo.

Add the minced garlic and parmigiana cheese, give everything a good stir to combine. At this point taste and salt & pepper to taste.

Also, if the mixture looks dry, add a little reserved pasta water to give it creamy texture, but not too wet.

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp Tacos

Recipe adapted from Land O Lakes

SPICE MIXTURE:

1/3 cup sugar

3 tbls firmly packed brown sugar

2 tbls all-purpose flour (AP Flour)

2 Tbls bread crumbs (panko would work well here)

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp coarse ground black pepper

½ tsp ground red pepper flakes

½ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp ground ginger

SHRIMP

¼ cup butter- melted

16 oz fresh shelled & deveined shrimp U 25 (medium) (that means there are approximately 25 shrimp in a pound) 16 oz of uncooked frozen medium shrimp-thawed.

SAUCE:

½ cup sour cream

1 Tbl lime juice

2 tsp fresh cilantro-chopped

½ tsp chili powder

16 (6”) corn tortillas-warmed

2 cups coleslaw mix

NOTE: can use diced cooked chicken breast to replace shrimp.

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 500⁰. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

Combine all the spice mixture ingredients in a small bowl. Dip the shrimp in melted butter then into the spice mix. Place spiced shrimp onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake the spiced shrimp for 5-6 minutes or until shrimp are pink and coating is bubbly.

In another bowl combine all the sauce ingredients.

To assemble tacos, stack the warmed tortillas onto individual serving plates. Top with 1/8 baked shrimp and ¼ cup coleslaw mix. Drizzle with sauce. Have chopped chives, diced tomatoes and extra sauce to drizzle on tacos.

Freezer Meal Cooking

I had the BEST time today, we cooked for a month for my son and his wife. It really works! More next month as we hone our system. we made five sauces, including Cheese, Alfredo, Mushroom and Marsala. Several kinds of meatballs and quinoa among other things.

One tip: we used leftover pancakes from breakfast for meatballs in place of breadcrumbs. It worked beautifully!

The Chef

Almost perfect Cinnamon Rolls has me sayin OMG-in-SC

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I had to take a little “bunny-trail” trip this afternoon after work.  I am a notorious sucker for bakeries…any kind of bakery, the more ethnic the better I like it…but that is another post for another day.

Well, on my bunny-trail-trip this afternoon I had to go to pick up a prescription at “Old Town” Mount Pleasant SC.  I had never been there before, in fact, didn’t even know a place called “old town” existed in Mt Pleasant, SC.

It was adorable, quaint with narrow streets, funky parking though and the narrow streets are such that only one vehicle at a time can get through and the parking is not parallel, but horizontal, facing the opposite way from where I was coming. So I made my own parking place, swept out of my car and walked with confidence and purpose down the street to my appointed destination; hoping against hope that I didn’t have a “quaint” parking ticket waiting for me when I returned.  I wish I had had a little more time to explore this short but intriguing street. It looked like it had been plucked out of a 40’s era picture show, in fact I was sure I was gonna see Sheriff Andy and Opie walking down the street with their fishin poles!

However, one had to look past the modern cars parked vertically on the street…well by now you’re reading this going, um…where do the cinnamon rolls come in…please be patient whilst I “set the stage” for their illustrious appearance!

So I walked into this pharmacy named Pitt Pharmacy, and I was literally transformed back in time to an old soda fountain lunch counter, with old wooden floor, old fashion shelves, the whole works and it was fabulous!  I walked up to the counter, the owner/pharmacists must have seen my impatience playing across my face and my body language SCREAMED I’M IN S HURRY…side bar: This is in retrospect, but I wish I had just gone with the moment, lived that minute in time to its fullest…end side bar…

The Pharmacist came out from the counter and brought me my cream concoction & patiently and kindly with a smile explained what it was, how to use it and said, “you have a wonderful evening.” I paid for my purchase and hurried out the doo afraid of what I would find when I returned to my wonky-parked car…however, a BAKERY had caught my eye on the way to the pharmacy, and so  I stopped…it was again, old fashion looking with very high counters and a case full of yummies…I chose the cinnamon rolls…two of them piled high with creamy dreamy frosting.  The person who waited on me at “The Village Bakery” was pleasant and very helpful. I told him that the rolls looked so good that they might not make it to breakfast the next morning.

When I got home, I took them out of their box and placed them on a plate to take a picture of them, see above.  I took a taste of the frosting, it tastes like cream cheese French butter cream…it is divine w/o being too sweet.

The cost for two huge cinnamon rolls at The Village Bakery? $4.42. I have paid that much for one at other bakeries. Please if you are in the neighborhood stop in at the Village Bakery

Cupcakes Ideas for the winter!

Winter Cupcakes

Winter Cupcakes

Here is another GREAT secret for cupcakes…forget buttercream made with confectioners sugar & butter…use ganache. It’s easy peasy and super delicious. Use great chocolate (the best you can afford of course) I use Ghirardelli or Kirkland brand (Costco) chocolate chips. One caution, I love dark chocolate, however, do not use a chocolate that has more than about 55% cocoa fat, it will not make a good ganache.

Ganache uses 3 ingredients, butter, chocolate and cream, you can use half and half in a pinch but it will not yield the creamy melt-in-your-mouth unctuous deliciousness.

I use about 8 oz of chocolate to 4 oz of cream and 2 tbsp of butter. Put it in a microwave safe dish and heat it up on level 3 for about 3 minutes, you just want the cream to gently melt the chocolate. If you are using block chocolate, shave or grate it into the microwave safe pan, the smaller the pieces of chocolate the better…it is SO easy to burn, do not overheat it or use too high of a power level.

Take the mixture carefully out of the microwave so as not to slosh it on yourself (yes I have), and mix it until all the cream is incorporated. Let it cool to room temp and at this point it can be a filling for your cupcakes, or you can whip it and use it for frosting OR you can just pipe it onto your cupcakes.

An additional secret is that you can freeze cake batter. defrost it just until you can scoop it into your cupcake papers and bake at 350 degrees until they spring back to the touch.

For an even better touch when you are filling the cupcakes papers with batter, take some of the Philadelphia chocolate cream cheese and put a dollop (about a teaspoon) of the Philly chocolate cream cheese on the top of each cupcake, it will end up in the center and give you a delicious creamy filling.

Want to spice it up? Use roasted cinnamon to taste in the batter (remember too much cinnamon is NEVER a good thing) Another great idea is to get some chocolate with chili peppers or chipotle and grate that on top of the cupcakes before you bake them, mix some into the batter OR grate it on top of your ganache topped cupcakes.

Want to make a statement with your flavor combinations? Try Pumpkin and chocolate.

Try different flavor combos like chocolate and bacon, bacon and pumpkin…use your imagination and get bakin!