Month: February 2010

Mini Calzones

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2 10-ounce cans of refrigerated pizza dough (such as Pilsbury), or the same amount of other kind of pizza dough

1 package frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry)

1 whole medium white onion, chopped

2+ cloves garlic, minced

1 cup canned artichoke hearts, chopped

1 cup canned sliced mushrooms

1 cup cottage cheese

½ cup (or 4 ounces) cream cheese

¼ cup sour cream

1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup tomato sauce of choice

Cooking spray

            Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat oil in skillet, add garlic and onions and sauté until onions are softened (not browned), and then remove from heat.  In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream until smooth.  Then add spinach, 1 cup or mozzarella, garlic salt and pepper, and mix well.  Unroll pizza dough and spread out on flat surface.  Split each large rectangle of dough into quarters (for a total of 8 smaller rectangles).  Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray and place pieces of dough on sheets.  On each piece of dough, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce (on one half), and then spoon spinach and cheese mixture, some artichokes, mushroom slices, and sprinkle with mozzarella.  Fold the other half over and pinch the ends closed (to seal edges).  Bake according to canned dough directions, until dough is lightly browned (about 15 minutes).  Top each calzone with sauce and serve.  (Makes 8 servings).


5 Favorite Flavorful Ingredients

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The following is a list of 5 of my favorite ingredients that add extra flavor to a variety of foods.

1)       Garlic – Classic, timeless, pungent, aromatic, delicious.  It works with almost anything.  For every non-sweet recipe, garlic makes it better, chopped, minced, or roasted and spread on bread:

2)       Capers – I love these little rolly polly bursts of salty savory goodness.  It’s amazing how much pizzazz they can add to a dish.  They’re great in pasta or salads, on fish or chicken (e.g., chicken piccata), or added to all kinds of vegetables, like these:

3)       Bacon – not the healthiest, but a little in moderation here and there adds the right amount of decadence.  It’s great crispy and crumbled on salad or sprinkled on baked potatoes.  Or, it can be wrapped around scallops, shrimp, or filet mignon.  In this recipe, bacon adds just the blending of tastes:

4)       Pine Nuts – These are great plain or pan roasted, and tossed on salads, in vegetable or pasta dishes, or added to meatballs (they are also used to make pesto).  Try:

5)       Feta Cheese – It’s great on salads (such as in a Greek-style salad with olives, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.) or stuffed into phyllo dough triangles.  Here’s a simple dish using feta:

Honorable Mentions: other nuts and seeds; peppers; avocados; olives; red chile flakes; chipotle; paprika; honey; Dijon mustard; ginger; lemons/limes; wine; sesame oil

Mini Frittatas

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8 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper

6 stalks of asparagus, cut in appx. ¼-inch pieces

1 cup of broccoli pieces

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.  Steam asparagus and broccoli until just tender, and then cool off in cold water.  Add asparagus, broccoli, and cheese to eggs and mix.  Pour egg mixture into muffin pan.  Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes (or until cooked through).  Allow to cool, and remove mini frittatas from muffin pan.  Makes 12.

Venetian Carnival Food and Drinks

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Carnival is going on right now in Venice, Italy and ends tomorrow.  That means that tons of people are getting all decked out in masks and costumes and having fun.  Festivities include pageantry, concerts and balls, and entertainment by street performers – jugglers, musicians, dancers, etc.  Carnivals means “farewell to meat” and comes from the Catholic tradition of giving up meat during Lent.  Carnival ends on Shrove Tuesday (which is tomorrow), the day before Ash Wednesday, which kicks off Lent.  The finale includes a firework show over Piazza San Marco.

In honor of Carnival, here are some Venetian food and drink ideas.

Drinks: The sparkling white wine Prosecco is “the wine of Venice.”  It’s great on its own or mixed with peach juice to make a Bellini.  Venetian red wines include Bardolino and Valpollicella.  The following are some recipes for specialty cocktails:

Venetian Sunset

1 shot each: gin, Campari, Grand Marnier, Vermouth, orange juice

Mix and pour into large chilled glass and garnish with an orange slice and a mint sprig.

Venetian Lagoon

1 shot each: vodka, blue Curacao, grapefruit juice, lemonade

Mix and serve in large glass.  Garnish with lemon or orange slice and cocktail cherry.

Foods: risotto, seafood (shrimp, scallops, squid, crab, clams, oysters, mussels, sea bass, cod, sardines, anchovies, etc.), vegetables (peas, zucchini, asparagus), polenta

Start the meal with an appetizer like prosciutto and melon ( ), a meat and cheese platter, a seafood platter, or Venetian Canapes (recipe: ).  Then serve soup (such as pasta e fagioli ) and/or Venetian salad (recipe follows).  For the main course, serve shrimp scampi ( ), Venetian scallops (recipe follows), or another seafood dish. 

Sides dishes include risi e bisi (risotto with peas, cooked with ham or bacon, onions and herbs in a chicken stock), polenta, Venetian asparagus (recipe follows), and any fresh vegetables.  For dessert, it doesn’t get more Venetian than Tiramisu ( ).  Serve it with Venetian coffee ( )

Venetian Salad

2-4 cups mixture of the following: chopped radicchio, arugula, endive, fennel

2 carrots, shredded

1 cup black olives

4 medium tomatoes, chopped

½ cup chopped mushrooms

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

¼ each or salt and pepper

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Optional – chopped sardines or anchovies

            Mix the first 6 ingredients in bowl.  Make dressing by mixing olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss onto salad.  Top with Parmesan cheese and (optional) sardines or anchovies.

Venetian Scallops

2 pounds sea scallops

4 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon marjoram

½ teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup white wine

            Mix flour, marjoram, basil, salt, and pepper.  Coat scallops with flour mixture.  Heat oil in pan, add wine and bring to sizzle.  Add scallops and garlic and cook about 4 minutes each side.  Scallops should be opaque and slightly seared.

Venetian Asparagus

2 pounds asparagus

½ cup (or 1 cube) butter, melted

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

2-4 cloves garlic (depending on how garlicky you like stuff), minced

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (optional).

            Preheat oven to 350.  Wash and trim asparagus.  Steam asparagus until just barely tender, and then cool in cold water.  Put asparagus in baking dish, pour melted butter on top, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, garlic, and Parmesan.  Bake about 8 to 10 minutes (or until golden and crisp).  Then, top with mozzarella, and bake another 5 minutes (until cheese melts).

Another option for an asparagus dish: steam it and then drizzle it with a mixture of 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chinese Inspired Chicken Wonton Appetizer

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The following recipe is an easy-to-make take on wontons, using premade crescent roll dough.  These are great for Chinese New Year, which is on Sunday.

To make 8 wontons:

2 cans of 8 oz. Pillsbury crescent roll dough (each can has 8 triangles of dough)

1 cup of chicken, cooked, diced

½ cup of asparagus, steamed to just tender, chopped

½ cup of broccoli, steamed to just tender, chopped

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray cooking oil on cookie sheet.  Mix chicken, asparagus, broccoli, soy sauce, ginger, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.  Unroll dough triangles and place half of them on cookie sheet.  Spoon chicken mixture onto dough triangles.  Cover mixture-covered dough triangles with remaining dough, and pinch seams together, forming stuffed, sealed triangle pockets.  You can also form them into hearts (to tie in Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year themes).  Cook for 25 minutes or until nicely browned.

Valentine’s Day Appetizer: Mini Heart-Shaped Chicken Quesadillas

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Ingredients (for making 7 minis):

2 large/burrito-size flour tortillas

1 heart cookie cutter                                  

½ cup diced (really tiny) cooked chicken

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Using heart cookie cutter, cut out 14 (more or less depending on the size of your cookie cutter) hearts from tortillas.  Mix chicken and cheese together in bowl.  Top seven tortilla hearts with spoonfuls of chicken/cheese mixture, and top with remaining tortilla hearts.  Broil in oven or toaster oven about 5 minutes, turn over and broil another minute.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.  You can add more spice to these by using Pepper Jack cheese instead of regular Jack, or by adding chopped green chiles (from can) to chicken/cheese mixture.

Top Table with Red Roses on Valentine’s Day

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KISS — Keep It Simple and Stunning with rich, red, classic roses, petals and candles.