Friday, January 30, 2009

The Chicken and Dumpling Sundae

Is it a sundae? "No." Is it Chicken and Dumplings? "N0." IT'S A CHICKEN AND DUMPLING SUNDAE! Eat this and prepare to be spoiled rotten by the ultimate comfort food. During the winter months, I'm all in to the one-pot wonder meals. This Chicken and Dumpling recipe is rich, warm, creamy, chunky, savory and simple. Hold the applause for the fantastic plating and presentation. (Actually, this came out of necessity due to picky eaters.)

The Chicken and Dumpling Sundae

4 boneless chicken breast
32 oz less sodium chicken broth
5 garlic cloves
4 carrots, cut in to chunks
1/2 onion, grated
1 tablespoon McCormick's Worcestershire pepper
1 tablespoon butter
juice of 1 lemon
4 cups hot water with 1 tablespoon chicken soup base
3 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup half-n-half
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt to taste
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar

(1) Bring chicken broth, water and chicken soup base to a rolling simmer. (2) Add Chicken and garlic, poach until cooked thoroughly. Cool chicken and slice. Remove garlic and smash and return to broth (3) Add chicken, carrots, grated onion and simmer until carrots are cooked. (4) Add pepper, grated onion, butter and lemon juice. (5) Mix the flour and half-n-half and add the broth to thicken. (6) Gently mix all dumpling ingredients and form small dumplings. Drop in simmering broth and cover. (7) Cook dumpling for 15 to 20 minutes. No Peeking!!

Some recipes are worth repeating and I guarantee this is one of those. This will be on your menu time and time again. Of course, you don't have to serve this Chicken and Dumplings in a sundae cup. I did this for my nieces and nephews. For your ladies luncheon, ladle it in to soup bowls and sprinkle with fresh parsley. I have served this with a white wine fruit Sangria, a loaf of fresh baked bread and homemade butter to rave reviews.
It's okay. Admit it, you want your Chicken and Dumplings served in a sundae cup!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Cookie Fairy and The Vanilla Toffee Crinkle Cookies

Is there such a thing as a Cookie Fairy? Just bear with me! It's been a long day with snow and ice. I've spent the entire day, in the house, with my teenage son!! (The other part of the day was spent texting my other son who is in College with MONO!!) More ice is coming, with the dire prediction that it could be the WORSE ice storm EVER for this area. I've had teenagers in and out of my house, ALL DAY LONG!! Some how, they avoid the law and order of no cars on the road. All I know is that I said "No" to my son driving. I ordered pizza for them. Don't ask me how the pizza guy made it here, but he did. He left with a really GOOD tip. I mean, he did help me feed a bunch of greasy teenage boys. What can I say but:

Vanilla Toffee Crinkle Cookies

1 (18 1/4 ounce) box white cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 bag toffee bits

confectioners' sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350°
Stir dry cake mix, oil and eggs in a large bowl until dough forms. Gently fold in Toffee Bits. 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 sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until center is set.
Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

I could sit here and tell you what deep sweet flavor these cookies have. I could tell you that they have a crunchy outside with a creamy, gooey inside. I could tell you that they would be perfect for your Super Bowl party. I could tell you that they are in the easy to make category. OR.... I could tell you just to believe in the Cookie Fairy. Here's wishing for SPRING!!

PS. That really isn't a Cookie Fairy but a Dotee Doll!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The One and Only Super Bowl Treat. . . Chocolate Fantasy Kissed Cookies

Drum roll please . . . . . I present to you, the one and only cookie that is worthy of your Super Bowl party. . . . . Chocolate Fantasy Kissed Cookies!! They are sweet and chocolaty beyond your culinary imagination. They are silky, chunky, and so very easy to prepare. They are destined to become a regular upon your cookie platter for years to come. This is your moment to WOW the crowd. WAIT!!! Nobody is watching the big game!! Your guests are too busy admiring and eating your cookies!! Better make a double batch.

Chocolate Fantasy Kissed Cookies
1 roll refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie dough
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup chocolate chunk chips
chocolate sprinkles
1 cup white chocolate chips
chocolate candy kisses
2 teaspoons shortening
Preheated oven to 350 degrees

(1) Bring Chocolate Chip cookie dough to room temperature. (2) Add cocoa to cookie dough and mix well. I do this with my hand mixer. (3) Add Chocolate chunk chips and stir by hand until well blended. (4) Use your melon ball scoop to measure cookies. Shape cookies in to a ball and roll in chocolate sprinkles. (5) Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (6) Place cookies on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. (7) While cookies are still on sheet place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. (8) Place white chocolate chips and shortening in a food baggie and microwave until just melted. Cut a very, very small hole in the edge of the bag and drizzle over cookies!!!!! (9) Don't eat ALL the cookies. Save some for your Super Bowl guests!!

These cookies are small, but pack a double punch of chocolate and sweetness. The drizzle of white chocolate icing really sends them over the top for richness. They are elegant and sophisticated, yet such a simple concoction. Just one cookie is remarkably satisfying. They are excellent to make ahead and freeze. Now, go and have one of the best Super Bowl parties on the block.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The WINNER of Super Bowl 43 . . . . Gin's Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

Are you ready for the Super Bowl? I know that I am. This year I am invited to a Super Bowl party and for once can’t wait. I have never much been in to the Super Bowl, but for some reason this year is different. Could it be my birthday is the next day, and I get to go out for my birthday dinner? Could it be that my husband is taking my shopping for some new kitchen gadgets? Or, could it be my Sweet and Spicy Meatballs?

Kick off your Super Bowl party with an enticing crock of Sweet and Spicy Meatballs! The deep sweet flavor of Pepper Jelly combines forces with chili sauce to make a remarkably amazing base for these homemade meatballs. The deliciously versatile thing about these little gems is that they can be made a head, and frozen until the big football day. Make a batch today and your well on your way to serving some pretty amazing appetizers.

Gin’s Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 Italian sausage links, casing removed
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 head garlic, roasted
½ Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon dried minced onion
2 teaspoons garlic pepper
2 teaspoon Chardonnay smoked sea salt
1 bottle chili sauce
1 cup Pepper Jelly

(1) Roast garlic head and cool. Make paste with roasted garlic. (2) Soak dried onion in ¼ cup warm water. (3) Mix all ingredients and shape in to 1 inch meatballs. (4) Brown in a non-stick pan with a small amount of olive oil. Drain and set aside. (5) Combine 1 cup Pepper Jelly and 1 bottle in chili sauce in a pan and simmer until warm. (6) Add meatballs and warmed sauce to a crock pot. Set crock pot to warm which will gently permeate the meatballs with the mouth-watering sauce.

These meatballs are spicy while being sweet. They are tangy while being mellow. They are bold and diverse. You can serve them with toothpicks or propped on top of French bread slices. What more can ask for? You will be the star. These meatballs are easy with terrific flavors AND they can be made a head of time. May I make a suggestion? Make a double batch or triple batch. You can never have too many of Gin's Sweet and Spicy meatballs on hand.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Ultimate Pasta E Fagioli Soup Served with Petite Grilled Goat Cheese and Pesto Sandwiches

Soup and winter go hand in hand and believe me, it is WINTER in Loveland, Ohio! You might not always have the time or the inclination to simmer a pot of soup all afternoon. Why don't you give Pasta E Fagioli soup a try? Pasta E Fagioli combined with petite grilled goat cheese and pesto sandwiches is simple, fast, and straight out delectable. It is a steaming bowl of comfort for your deep winter chills.

Pasta E Fagioli Soup
4 oz. prosciutto
2 1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine
3 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 cans white beans of your choice, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked small pasta shells
salt and pepper to taste

(1) Cook pasta in boiling water and drain. (2) Saute prosciutto in a small amount of olive oil until crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel and blot grease. (3) Add onion to the drippings and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add in garlic, rosemary, parsley, anchovy paste and pepper flakes. Cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. (4) Add wine to pan and stir. Cook until wine is evaporated. (5) Add the remaining ingredients (including cooked prosciutto) and bring soup to a boil. Reduced heat and simmer for 15 minutes. (6) ENJOY!

This quick and easy soup taste like you were in the kitchen all day long. It will beckon has one of your most requested soups. Now all that is left is to get yourself a loaf of french bread, goat cheese and some pesto. Assemble the mini sandwiches and grill in a cast iron skillet. To serve, ladle soup in a bowl and gently lay the sandwiches on top. The salty tang of the goat cheese and the mellowness of the pesto, make a great companion to Pasta E Fagioli.
This soup gives you plenty of time to think about dessert. What do you have in mind? Let me know!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Explosively Colorful Couscous in a Edible Pepper Bowl

I got a call yesterday from a friend of my Mother's. Would I help her with a luncheon that she would be having at her home? Of course, I was ecstatic about this event, because it is my undying dream to own a small cafe and cater small affairs like this one. She wanted the menu to be light and healthy, but unique in it's presentation. I immediately went to my kitchen and got busy.

This was my moment and I stared eagerly at my pantry. My eyes scanned and my mind started developing the menu. I came across a box of Couscous and knew that I wanted to include this in the luncheon menu.

Couscous is one of those deliciously versatile ingredients that can be served as a side dish, a salad, a main course and EVEN a dessert. Depending on your recipe, it can be sweet, savory, spicy, or (heck) all of the above. One big problem with Couscous is the presentation! It can be colorful, robust and dense in flavor, but served in a bowl it really isn't a "sight to behold." That brings me to the "Edible Pepper Bowl."

Explosively Colorful Couscous in a Edible Pepper Bowl
1 box Couscous, flavor of your choice
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 cup mushrooms
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 small cucumber, diced
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
juice of 1/2 lime
fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
4 fresh yellow peppers
Prepare couscous according to directions. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and add carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower and cook until crisp tender. Remove to a bowl of ice water, cool and drain. Saute mushrooms until they are golden brown. Add couscous, all veggies, beans, and cucumber and gently mix. Add feta cheese, juice of the lime, cilantro to your taste (I use a lot because this is my favorite herb), salt and pepper. Cut each pepper in half and remove seeds. Mound the couscous in the small edible pepper bowls and garnish with additional cilantro. To serve, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.
I am definitely going to serve these with a side of soup. To make the soup presentation unique, I am bringing out my collection of small coffee cups ( I have about one hundred.) Considering that my recipe collection does includes about a million soup recipes, I better get busy figuring out what soup would be perfect with this couscous!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jalapeno Infused Chicken Noodle Soup is now served with White Wine Homemade Crackers

Beware, this isn't your Grandmother's Chicken Noodle soup. This original recipe has hearty written all over it with medicinal value second to no other chicken noodle soup (that is my opinion only!!)

This soup is an unique one-pot marvel with a deep rich broth that will undoubtedly bring them back for another bowl. You will have a elegant and sophisticated meal when served with homemade White Wine Crackers. I have never heard of a meal being too good for company, but this could be it? This combination is a glowing testimonial to your cooking abilities and in the end, it is, oh so simple.

For my homemade crackers and pie crusts, I always keep shortening and a stick of butter in the freezer. This little trick makes for the flakiest most flavored crust and crackers you will ever make. So, if you need to, head to your freezer and stock it with a tub of shortening and a stick or two of butter.

Jalapeno Infused Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

2 32 OZ cartons of Less Sodium chicken broth

4 boneless chicken breast

4 carrots, cut in to thick coins

5 cloves of garlic

2 jalapeno peppers halved and seeded

noodles of your choice (I use 1/2 package of Amish noodles)

1 tablespoon of garlic pepper

8 teaspoons chicken soup base

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Combine chicken broth, chicken, garlic and jalapeno peppers in a large pan. Gently simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, garlic, and jalapeno. Shred chicken and smash garlic in to a paste, through away the jalapeno peppers. Add chicken, garlic, carrots and noodles back to broth. Simmer until noodles and carrots are cooked through. Season with garlic pepper, soup base and celery salt.

White Wine Homemade Crackers

4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup shortening

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup ice cold white Wine

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda together in a bowl and cut in the shortening and butter. I use my food processor and pulse for a minute or so. Mix the ice cold wine and heavy cream together and slowly pour into the dry ingredients. When the dough comes together, stop mixing. Your dough will be wet and sticky. Working with small balls of the dough, dust your counter with flour, take the dough and gently knead until it becomes pliable. Now dust your rolling pin and roll this piece out as thin as you can get it. Sprinkle this dough with the Chardonnay Smoked Sea Salt and gently press in to dough. Cut the dough using a biscuit cutter of your choice. You can prick the crackers with a fork or you can leave as is. If you don't prick the cracker you will have a puffed cracker instead of a flat one. Each is really good. Place crackers on a baking sheet in the oven for about 10 minutes. When the edges reach a golden brown, and they are crispy to the touch, they are done.

These crackers are savory and sweet and are the perfect accompaniment to the Chicken Noodle Soup. The soup is silky, spicy, chunky, and chocked full of complex flavor. The peppers add a deminsion that will perk up your taste buds, and chase away any cold or flu that might plague you.

Now, get your spoon and enjoy!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One Decked out Snickerdoodle Cookie

Like a Snickerdoodle Cookie could get any better than it already is? Yes it can!!!!

It is coffee hour at Gin's house and snickerdoodle cookies are being served. There is something so alluring about a crispy snickerdoodle cookie and a cup of piping hot coffee. I have always made my Snickerdoodles crispy so that they can withstand the many times they will be dunked in to my cup of coffee. I have perked my Snickerdoodles up with a few secret ingredients and added a vanilla glaze topped with additional cinnamon and sugar. Can you say YUM? These cookies are full of sweet silky flavor. They are elegant and sophisticated, yet such a simple concoction. So, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, bring two sticks of butter and two eggs to room temperature.

Gin's Sinister Snickerdoodles
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
Here is how you make it:
Beat butter and both sugars until light, airy and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Add vanilla and almond extract. Add flour, sugars, baking soda, cream of tarter, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix well. Mix the ground cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Use melon ball scoop and mold cookies into a circle. Roll each cookie in the sugar cinnamon mixture. Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Gently flatten the cookies with a small cup. Roll AGAIN the sugar cinnamon mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool cookies. In a small sandwich bag place white chocolate chips and shortening and microwave until melted. Cut a very, very, very small hole in the bag and glaze away. Lightly dust the top of the cookies with more of the cinnamon and sugar mixture. ENJOY!!!
There are a few things that you might like to know about Gin's Sinister Snickerdoodles. First, they are out of this world Muy Bueno!! Their flavor is terrific and the icing notches the cookies up several levels of delectable. They freeze wonderfully for your future serving pleasure. They are bake sale winners and the highlight of picnics. They pack well for road trips and love to take a boat ride.
Need I say more? Gin's coffee hour is over, may I show you to the door?

Friday, January 9, 2009

That is the Way the Spicy Black Bean Burger Fries

You know what my husband just said to me? Of course you don’t, but I am getting ready to tell you!

“What is the deal with the beans? We have had black-eyed pea salad and Navy Bean soup in the last couple of days. Can we lay off the beans for a while?” said my honey pie husband.

This all came about when he wandered in the kitchen noticing that I was whipping up a batch of my Spicy Black Bean Burgers. I have to tell you that he would rather eat cold sautéed spinach without salt that has been sitting around for days, than indulge in one of these meatless burgers. It is his loss, and that is all I can say about that!

These Spicy Black Bean Burgers are big and bold with fresh tasting ingredients that are guaranteed to tickle your tummy and leave you satisfied for hours to come after consumption. They are hearty, with an earthy dimension that only black beans can bring to a burger. Their flavor is pumped up with roasted garlic and jalapeno peppers. They are in the easy to make category and chock full of nutrition.

Stay tuned for a warning before you bite in to one of these scrumptious satisfying textured meatless masterpieces!

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

3 cans rinsed and drained black beans
1 1/2 cup Japanese-style panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
6 scallions, both white and green parts, minced
A handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1 whole head of garlic, roasted
1 jalapeno, roasted
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon McCormicks Worcestershire pepper
2 teaspoons honey
Juice of one lime


Place 2 cups of the black beans, roasted garlic and jalanpeno pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chunky. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining whole black beans, plus panko, eggs, scallions, cilantro, cumin, red pepper flakes, onion powder, honey, lime juice, salt and pepper and mix until well combined. Form burgers into patties which should be approximately ½ cup each. Roll each burger in panko break crumbs. Place burger patties into refrigerator to chill and set up. This is a very essential step to avoid having a pile of shapeless black bean mush! When ready to cook, remove patties from refrigerator and place a cast-iron skillet over high heat with a small amount of the cooking oil of your choice. Cook for about four minutes on first side or until well seared and with a flipping spatula, turn onto second side and allow to cook for an additional five minutes, over medium heat. This recipe makes four to six burgers. If freezing, cook burgers first and freeze, heat in the microwave and enjoy at a later date.

These burgers lend themselves to countless condiment combinations; cheeses, lettuce, fresh tomato slice, onion, salsa, sour cream, avocado, pepper jelly, homemade mayo, mustard, relish, and on and on and on. The sky is the limit!

Now, for the above mentioned warning. Warning, warning, and one more warning. Don’t try a bite, if you are not primed to eat the entire veggie burger. And, that is the way the Spicy Black Bean Burger fries. The end.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Boldly Flavored, Budget Friendly Navy Bean Soup

Of the many reasons to simmer a pot of homemade Navy Bean Soup, (yes, I did say many) one of the most compelling is the price. I will get to the others shortly.

For pennies per heaping mouth-watering bowl you can serve one of the most satisfying simmering soups that you and your family will ever enjoy. For that matter, the intriguing mix of flavors lends it to dinner party fare! (Ok, Ok, Ok, maybe I am pushing the soup a little far with dinner party fare, but what can I say) It is a soup with such sustenance and nutrition, all while it warms the winter chill away. Now I ask you, can you put a value on such a recipe? Yes, priceless!

Gin's Navy Bean Soup

1 pound dried navy beans
three quarts water
3 pounds smoked ham hocks
14 ounces Smoked Turkey Sausage
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons McCormick smokehouse pepper
4 teaspoons Ham flavored soup base
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 cups chicken broth (optional)
salt to taste

Wash the navy beans and soak in 5 quarts cool water overnight. Drain beans and rinse. Place beans into pot with three quarts water. Add ham hocks, chopped onions, ham flavored soup base, and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup (optional.) Bring to a boil and season with 2 tablespoons McCormick smokehouse pepper, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke and salt to taste. Once boiling bring soup back to a simmer. At this point, the soup will be thick, you can serve as is or thin with 2 cups chicken broth (which is what I do.) In the meantime, slice smoked turkey sausage into thin coins and brown in a non stick pan. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, and stack sausage coins on top. Serve with crackers and hot sauce if so desired. The last thing you have to do is to ENJOY!

I did promise that I would get to the other reasons to simmer a pot of Gin’s Navy Bean Soup. We all know that beans pack a wallop of nutrition. They are full of protein and fiber, all of which could help you lose those extra holiday pounds. They are hearty and healthy. They are full of flavor with an ease to prepare. What more could you ask for?

If you are looking for something magnificent, your search is over. Gin’s Navy Bean Soup is comfort food at it’s finest. Now, get a simmering!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Holy Cow! It is 2009!

For years, I have been enamored with the fact that the New Year brings all those food traditions for luck. If there is one, there are hundreds of food items that you should eat to bring you luck, health and happiness in the New Year. The foods for the tradition are unique to families and cultures. Every single time that I hear of a different food that brings you luck, I want to add it to our family New Year celebration. Needless to say, we spend our entire New Year family celebration believing every thing we eat is going to bring us blessings and untold fortunes.

This tradition can be a little tricky for picky and finicky eaters. In our family the meal is sauerkraut and pork, with a healthy dose of black-eyed pea salad. We top the meal off with each person eating twelve grapes. Each sweet grape represents a wonderful month of the year. Each sour grape might mean you could be in for a rough month. Of course, we all claim that every grape that we eat is the sweetest ever.

As my sister’s children and mine grow older, they are more and more involved in this tradition. Let’s face it, not many eight year olds are going to eat sauerkraut, but between the six kids everybody tried a bite of everything.

This brings me to the black-eyed pea salad. The beauty of this salad is the beauty of it. It is so colorful and so insanely fresh with taste. It is the perfect way to start the New Year. The different peppers make the salad robust and dense in flavor. It can be used as a salad, relish, and salsa or in so many other ways. Feel free to add, delete or substitute the peppers of your choice. Remember, this creation doesn’t just have to sit there and look pretty and bring you luck for the New Year, eat it all year round!!

Peppered Black-eyed Pea Salad

2 16-oz cans black-eyed peas drained and rinsed of all juice
¼ cup juice from peas
2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 fresh jalapeño chilies, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 other peppers of your choice
1 can Rotel tomatoes with peppers and lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice from three limes
4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced.

Mix all together, chill, serve and enjoy!

Excuse me! If you are still reading you must now go to the kitchen and start making your luck for the New Year!