Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fresh Zucchini Relish and the Taste of Spring

This is not your ordinary Zucchini Relish. It is fresh, fantastic and fragrant! With flavors this fascinating, you know you are in for a culinary delight. You can find fresh zucchini in this area year round. I am not sure how, but all winter long we have enjoyed really good zucchini. This winter has seemed particularly long and cold. I AM READY FOR SPRING AND THE WARMER WEATHER IT WILL BRING! I was sitting and thinking of how nice a grilled Turkey Hot Dog topped with garden fresh homemade Zucchini Relish would taste. Warmer weather hit, so I fired up the charcoal grill and made a batch of Zucchini Relish.

Zucchini Relish

2 cups finely chopped zucchini

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 cup green pepper, finely chopped

1 cup red pepper, finely chopped

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons celery seed

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup beer, your choice

(1) Combine zucchini, onion, green pepper, red pepper, and sprinkle with salt. Mix well, cover with cold water and let stand three hours. (2) Drain and rinse several times. (3) Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables and simmer 20 minutes. (4) Drain and reserve a small amount of liquid. Cool vegetables and liquid. Combine vegetables and liquid. (5) ENJOY!!

This is definitely one of those versatile relishes. You can use it on top of hot dogs, hamburgers, shredded smoked pork, bratts, metts, veggie burgers, cold cuts and more. You can add it to pasta salad for an unique taste second to none. You can add it to salsa, or serve it as a sweet and sour salsa. You can eat it by the spoonfuls, which I do, because it is just that good!

Zucchini Relish definitely has the irresistible appeal of long warm summer days. It is colorful and fresh with a sweet and sour tang. It is a quick and easy relish that will grace your table spring, summer, winter and fall. BRING ON SPRING!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cookie for Miss Mary's Birthday

It's Miss Mary's birthday and my culinary creativeness is flowing. I have been baking and cooking all day long in honor of my good friend's special day. Ever since I made The Vanilla Toffee Crinkle Cookies I have been obsessed with what kind of cookie creations I can make with a box of cake mix. Miss Mary loves chocolate covered strawberries. So, in honor of her birthday and her fondness of chocolate covered strawberries, I made The Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cookie!

The Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cookie
1 box of strawberry cake mix
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ozs. dried strawberries
1 tablespoon strawberry extract
powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 350°
Stir dry cake mix, oil, extract and eggs in a large bowl until dough forms.
Gently fold in dried strawberries.
Dust hands with confectioners' sugar and shape dough into 1" balls.
Roll balls in confectioners' sugar and place 2 inches apart on non stick cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until center is set.
Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
Combine chocolate chips and shortening in small baggie.
Microwave until melted.
Cut a small hole in bag and drizzle over cookies.

There is no better time to indulge than on your birthday. These cookies are unique, super easy, and remarkably satisfying for a birthday sweet tooth. They have a deep sweet flavor with a slight tang coming from the added dried strawberries. The chocolate drizzle enhances the flavor of the cookie to put it in the category of gourmet.
Miss Mary this is your moment, your very special day!! We all know that I can't sing, so may I offer you a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Birthday Cookie? HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Saying "I Love You" with a Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte

Tomorrow is the big day of LOVE! Of course, everyday with honey pie is a day of love and that is all I can say about that! Are you going out to dinner with your sweetheart? Are you cooking gourmet fare or firing up the grill for a juicy burger? Are you celebrating it with friends or alone with candlelight and soft music? Whatever your plans are, there is a place for a Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte. Let me tell you why. It is a rhapsody in delicious flavor, highly tasteful and amazingly stunning in it's presentation. A Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte is creamy, silky, and full of airy texture. This Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte works well with fresh bread, crackers, or baked pita pieces. This is a great way to start the evening of your Valentine's Day festivities. Don't limit your self to one day of love, serve Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte year round.

Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte

4 to 5 ozs. soft goat cheese

4 ozs. cream cheese

4 tablespoons butter, softened

pesto, store bought or handmade

sun dried tomato pesto

(1) Mix goat cheese, cream cheese and butter. (2) Line a small round plastic container in plastic wrap. (3) Put half of the goat cheese mixture in the container. Gently spread the pesto on top of the goat cheese mixture. Top with the remaining goat cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or more. (4) Unwrap the torte and place upon a serving plate. Top with the sun dried tomato pesto. (5) Serve with crackers, bread, or pita.

You can double this recipes and freeze one torte for later serving. You will be freezing the torte without the sun dried tomato pesto topping. The torte takes a couple of hours to thaw at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Once the torte is thawed, top with the tomato pesto.

Nothing says "I love you" more than a special appetizer, and this Goat Cheese and Pesto Torte is up for the job. Most likely after one bite of this Torte, you will be getting an extra show of love. Maybe you will get some jewelry, or in my case some new kitchen gadgets (that is a hint to my honey pie!) Happy Valentine's Day everybody! Let's try to feel the love all year round.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Case of the Humbled Homemade Hummus

I love all kinds of hummus. I love red pepper hummus, black olive hummus, lemon and oregano hummus, garlic and black pepper hummus and so on....... Hummus is like a blank palette, ready for your creative culinary combination of spices and ingredients. It is simple to make, delicious to eat, and very much a budget worthy recipe to grace your table. You can make your own flavored hummus to pair perfectly with some of your favorite family dinners. You can replace bread and butter with hummus and pita, and I almost guarantee your grocery budget will significantly decrease. I say "almost" because you have to like hummus!! Who doesn't like hummus? Even honey pie (which is picky pie) likes hummus, so that should tell you something. Hummus is chock full of protein, iron, and even calcium. In the arena of satisfying, hummus/pita has bread/butter beat.

Not all hummus is created equal. I have probably tried over one hundred different hummus recipes, between store bought and homemade. Being a "foodie" I am much more in to the homemade hummus. Why? Like I said, it is a blank palette ready for my creative culinary combination of spices and ingredients. I have used canned garbanzo beans and dried garbanzo beans. In my opinion only, the dry beans win hands down. Obviously, you have to soak the beans overnight. There is a quick soak method, but I have never used this method with any dry beans I cook with. I always start with my basic hummus recipe. I am much more likely to add topping to my hummus than I am to incorporate them into the recipe. This is just personal preference. My hummus recipe is not an exact science. Things change a little depending how much water is left in my cooked beans.

Gin's Humbled Homemade Hummus

1 package 16 0z. dry Garbanzos Beans

1 head garlic, roasted

2 lemons, juiced and grated

1/8 cup peanut butter

1/8 cup Tahini

8 1/2 ozs. olive oil

Beef Broth

2 tablespoons garlic pepper

1 tablespoon seasoned salt

(1) Soak beans overnight. Rinse and put beans, 8 cups cool water into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans approximately one hour. Remove hot beans with slotted spoon to a food processor. (2) Add to beans, roasted garlic, peanut butter, Tahini, juice of two lemons, grated peel of two lemons and pulse processor until bean are mixed. (3) While processor is running, slowly pour olive oil and saved liquid from cooked beans. (4) In almost all cases you will need beef broth. You are looking for a smooth, spreadable consistency. Add beef broth until you get the desired consistency. (5) While processor is running add garlic pepper and seasoned salt. (6) Done!

The hummus above is topped with smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, and a spicy stir fry seasoning. It is garnished with additional olive oil and fresh lemon slices. It is served with flavored pita chips. I have to tell you that the smoked paprika is out of this world as a topping for hummus. I can't explain how good it is, so you should be on your way out the door, to the store right now! This recipe makes a generous amount of hummus. When I first put hummus on the dinner table, I got a lot of blank stares. What I did was to cut the meat portion in half. Nobody in my family missed the meat. They ate dinner and enjoyed some hummus. That is how hummus can save you money on your grocery bill. Less meat, more hummus! It is filling and extraordinarily tasty. It is very cheap to make. It saves for quite some time in the fridge and I have had great success in freezing hummus.

I am going to leave you with this thought. You can top your homemade hummus with roasted red peppers, olives, pine nuts, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted vegetables, sauteed onions, mushrooms, etc..... You can use your hummus in a sandwich, as vegetable dip, as chip and cracker dip, on top of toast, or baked potato, etc..... Need I say more? Enjoy your weekend with some good homemade hummus!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Best Ever LOW FAT Crispy Crunchy Boneless Chicken Wings

I was so lucky at the Super Bowl party that I went to on Sunday! First, I won just a "little" bit of money, and second my friend Danielle made these healthy boneless chicken wings that were lip-smacking yummy. I stood and intently watched Danielle make these. I studied her brilliant technique and watched her gloriously pull them out of the oven. I watched the guests devour these boneless chicken wings, one-by-one, until there were none left. Then, I went home and whipped up a batch of my own. I did deviate from Danielle's recipe just a bit, but I can never leave a recipe well enough alone. Mine are just a little bit more spicy, with a little flavor kick from buttermilk dressing mix and McCormick's Worcestershire Pepper. These low fat boneless chicken wings are a sure fire way to outsmart their high fat counterparts in the arena of taste.

Crusty Crunchy Boneless Chicken Wings

1 package boneless chicken tenderloins
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs, mixed
2 packages buttermilk dressing mix
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups corn flakes, smashed
generous sprinkling of McCormick's Worcestershire pepper
cooking spray
preheated oven, 400 degrees

(1) Mix flour with buttermilk dressing mix. (2) Mix eggs and cayenne pepper. (3) Smash corn flakes and put on plate. (4) Dredge chicken in flour, dip in egg, and roll in corn flakes. (5) Place chicken on a non-stick pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (6) Spray tops of chicken and pepper generously and turn and repeat. ( 7) Cook 15 minutes and flip and cook until golden brown.

These wings are crispy and crunchy. You can serve them as an appetizer. You can make a meal out of them while serving them with a big bowl of chili. You can stack them on a french bread roll with melted cheese, for a sandwich that is out of this world. You can pack them in school lunches, or eat them for a late night snack. I am always thinking ahead to warmer days, they would make great picnic food! My honey pie (who could be nick-named picky pie) loved these boneless chicken wings. They really can be eaten guilt free, which appeals to a guy that is watching his cholesterol. I end this post with a question for you to ponder: Which came first, the chicken wing or the boneless chicken wing?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Story of Candied Carrots and the Birthday Girl

"Gin, what are you doing for your birthday?" said my sister.

"I am making candied carrots!" I replied happily.

"Why in the heck would you make candied carrots? Who in their right mind would eat those things?" said my sister.

"The people that want to expand their palettes. The people that aren't afraid to try new things. Oh yeah, and the people who love carrot cake!" I told her.

Candied Carrots

4 cups finely grated carrots

2 cups cold water

4 cups sugar

Rainbow Sparkling Sugar

(1) Bring 2 cups water and 4 cups sugar to a gentle boil. (2) Add carrots and simmer for approximately one hour. (3) Drain carrots and put on pan lined with non-stick foil. (4) Sprinke with Rainbow Sparkling Sugar. Let dry for 2 hours. (5) Store in refrigerator for up to three days.

I want to encourage you to give candied carrots a try, I mean why not? Be bold! Candied carrots are sweet with a crunch. They are an extraordinary topping to a spicy spinach salad. They can be used as toppings for many flavored muffins. How about a sweet potato muffin with crunchy carrot topping, drizzled with a vanilla glaze? Need I say more? Well actually I do because there is an obvious use for candied carrots, carrot cake! Let me just tell you, the way that candied carrots interact with carrot cake surpasses the word delicious. They will take your carrot cake recipe up a notch that seriously could win the "Bake Off." I am not looking for a cut when that happens, so don't worry about that.

Valentine Day is on it's way. How about making your honey pie a carrot cake with candied carrots? You will feel the love, I guarantee it. Oh yeah, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!