Monday, December 27, 2010

How This Avocado BLT Stacks Up

Avocado is my butter, and I absolutely adore it!  Probably because I eat very little butter, I find avocado a special treat.  I remember my mother, a dietitian, always said avocado had a lot of fat, but the good kind - well, bring it on!

Following is my simple version of an Avocado BLT which I've been making for many years (way before the current wave of recipes for it).  But how you stack this sandwich is critical to its fabulous taste.  You want the bacon to impart its salty flavor between the avocado and tomato!

I typically enjoy this sandwich for brunch.  Whether you have it for brunch, lunch, dinner or in between, you'll find it delicious anytime! 

Oh, if you wondered what happened to those tomatoes from my last blog, well....

How to Stack This Avocado BLT*

1.  Toast two slices of a hearty, whole-grain bread (I like a 9 or 12-grain).

2.  Spread mayo on each slice of the toasted bread (I use a reduced fat).

3.  Place a large green salad leaf on one slice of the bread.

4.  Place a couple of slices of tomato on top of the salad leaf.  Add salt and fresh ground black pepper.

5.  Add a couple of slices of cooked bacon (I use an extra-lean turkey bacon; if you like, there is a low-fat pork bacon.)

6.  Add one-half of a ripe avocado,** sliced lengthwise.  Sprinkle with salt.

7.  Top with the other slice of toasted bread.

8.  Cut the sandwich in half with a sharp serrated knife. Enjoy!

*Use premium ingredients.
**An avocado is ripe when slightly soft to the touch.

           And here's a great way to use the other half of that avocado:


I used mozzarella cheese with the avocado in this omelette, but I always use whatever is on hand:  Swiss, Colby, Cheddar, etc.

If you're not quite ready to use the other half of your avocado, I recently discovered this neat gadget which helps retard browning.  You strap the avocado in it like a baby in a car seat and place in the refrigerator. Be sure to cut the avocado evenly, since the idea is to keep the avocado from being exposed to air, and place it in its little seat with the seed intact (there's an indentation for the seed);  a similar gadget is also made for apples:

                                               My "Butter Dish"
                    
Before I place the avocado in the gadget, I sprinkle it with lemon juice and/or "Fresh Fruit" produce protector (a powder typically used for canning and made by Ball) to also help retard browning.  If you keep the sliced avocado more than six hours in the avocado holder, it's still going to brown a little; but the lemon juice and/or powder will help prevent more intense browning.  I generally use the avocado within a couple of days and just scrape off any browning.  Have Fun! 

Printable Recipe 

Avocado on FoodistaAvocado

Monday, December 20, 2010

Steak Night

Are you ready for a big, thick juicy steak in between all the holiday fare?

When my son came over for T-Bones recently, I decided I'd use the oven broiler; I couldn't even remember the last time I had used it.  (My favored old electric grill burned a socket recently.  I knew I should not have been using it because of the condition of the plug, which was so old it wasn't even up to current standards.)

I did a couple of dumb things:  First, I thought I'd use a cooking spray on the broiler pan. Then I put the steaks on the pan in the oven with the broiler preheated; without thinking, I closed the oven door (instead of leaving it cracked open)...the worst mistake!!!  Before I knew it, my home was filled with smoke; and I had to open the sliding glass doors for the place to vent.  It was very cold outside!!  You would have thought I was a novice cook!

Before downsizing, and having the restrictions on grilling in our current community, we had a gas grill which we used until it literally fell apart.  My husband was often spotted grilling outside in the rain or snow.  Nothing beats steaks cooked on an outdoor grill!!

Either way, the following seasoning is terrific on T-Bones, and also in hamburgers.  (The better the cut of a steak, the less seasoning you need:  maybe just garlic powder, salt and fresh ground black pepper.)



Rub for T-Bone Steak

1.   Dry each side of the steak with a paper towel.

2.   With the back of a spoon, rub in about 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce on each side.

3.   Sprinkle each side with and rub in about:
  •    1/8th tsp. garlic powder 
  •    1/8th tsp. seasoned salt 
  •   1/8th tsp. fresh ground black pepper

      4.  Then divide about 1/8th tsp. dried thyme leaves between each side and rub in. (This makes it!!)

      Use your favorite method of grilling or cooking and throw in a baked potato and salad with a crusty bread. Enjoy!


      What's That Got to do with This? 

      I'm rebelling! Want to join me?  I'm fed up with the American illogical placing of commas and periods inside quotation marks, regardless of the situation (other than a letter or number).  I'm a very logical person; therefore, I have great difficulty accepting the American practice. The British place commas and periods logically when quotation marks are involved.  My teachers must have all been British!  I'll try to be consistent, since apparently that's the most important thing.  What do you think?

      Interesting - As a result of historical accident: When type was handset, a period or comma outside of quotation marks at the end of a sentence tended to get knocked out of position; so American printers, preferring convenience, placed the periods and commas inside the quotation marks.  Logical British printers continued to risk the misalignment of their periods and commas. 
      "Quotation Marks:  Where Do the Commas and Periods Go--and Why?"
        
      Tomatoes are accustomed to controversy (since not everyone agrees on the pronunciation of their name).
       

                                                 You should come "inside."



                                                 No, I want to go "outside".




       

      Thursday, December 16, 2010

      They Cleaned The Store Out!

      Can you believe it? Someone picked up 50 jars of the Crosse and Blackwell Rum and Brandy Mincemeat at the Publix I frequent since my last blog (and tweet) about the Holiday Mincemeat Salad! Coincidence?

      Were they actually taking my advice? But with extreme hoarding? Or for a Really Big Party? Save a jar or two for the rest of us! What do you think? Will the mystery shopper please come forward?

      Monday, December 13, 2010

      Holiday Mincemeat Salad

      This is another recipe I got from catering school, and the story is that the school secretary created it. If that's true, she should have been teaching the course!  It's one of the best and most unique recipes that was presented during school, and I've been making it every Thanksgiving since.  As a friend suggested, because of it's crimson red color, it would be great for Christmas I'm providing you with more in-depth directions and hints from my experience after having made it for so long; and also, I know a lot of today's cooks have not had that much experience in working with gelatin.

      Many people do not understand what mincemeat is. Today's product does not contain meat at all. The name, as explained @crosseandblackwell.com, goes back to medieval England, where meat pies were stretched to feed more by including raisins and currants.  By the 1800's, meat was no longer an ingredient, and the minced fruit filling was used in pies and desserts.




      Serves 12

      Ingredients

      • 2 ea. 3 oz. pkgs. (or one 6 oz. pkg.) cherry gelatin
      • one 8 oz. can crushed pineapple - drain and save juice (mix saved pineapple juice with water to equal 3 1/2 cups liquid)
      • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin plus 1/4 cup cold water
      • 20.5 oz jar Crosse and Blackwell Mincemeat with Rum and Brandy*
      • 1 small, unpeeled red delicious apple, cored and cubed (to retard browning of the apple, combine with the drained, crushed pineapple)
      • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
      • 1 cup of sour cream (served as an optional side for topping)  

      *Tip:  Only use Crosse and Blackwell Mincemeat with Rum and Brandy - Don't compromise on quality in this recipe - This is the best brand, and you want the Rum and Brandy flavor!  Sometimes all the stores may have available is the 29 oz. jar - In this case, just measure out 2 cups and save the rest to use as a condiment or side dish.

      Also, consider yourself forewarned - This is a seasonal item - I encourage you to play it safe and stock up now for the following year Thanksgiving and/or Christmas!  It has a very long shelf life.  I typically can find it at Publix during season, but it may not be on the shelves until after Thanksgiving.


      Directions

      1.  Heat the 3 1/2  cups liquid (pineapple juice mixed with water) to boiling and pour into an approximate 9" x 13" glass dish (using a shallow dish like this will help the gelatin to set more quickly).  With a wire whisk, stir and thoroughly dissolve the cherry gelatin into the hot liquid. Set aside.


      2.  In a small custard or similar cup, stir the unflavored gelatin into the 1/4 c. cold water.  After soaking for about five minutes, the gelatin should be thick and well absorbed into the water.  In a small saucepan, bring about one inch of water to a simmer, remove from the stove and set the cup of thick gelatin in the water (the water should come no higher than about half way up the cup).  Stir the gelatin in the cup over the hot water in the pan until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved.


      3.  Whisk the dissolved unflavored gelatin into the liquid cherry gelatin.  Put in the refrigerator and let set until egg-white consistency.  This could take maybe an hour or so.  It's important the gelatin mixture be set to egg-white consistency so the other ingredients will not settle to the bottom and will be well incorporated into the salad, yet you don't want it to set so firmly you can't mix the other ingredients in easily.


      4.  Remove the gelatin mixture from the refrigerator, add all the other ingredients and pour into an approximate 8 cup (2 qt.) mold** which has been sprayed with a butter-flavored cooking spray. (This is another recipe where my daughter and I traditionally steal maybe a 1/4 cup for ourselves - soooo good!)  Return the mixture to the refrigerator and set until firm - I generally make the day before and let set overnight. (You could make and set two nights ahead if it helps you).

      **I found the fluted plastic mold, which I use exclusively for this recipe, at a dime store (which would now be a dollar store?) years ago - I guess that means I have another vintage piece! Also, this recipe fills about 14 one-half cup individual molds or 21 one-third-cup molds (don't use over one-half cup size individual molds).


      5.  To unmold:  Let the mold sit briefly in the sink in a little warm water (about a couple of inches up from the bottom of the mold). Watch carefully - You don't want it to sit in the warm water too long, or it will start to melt.  After removing from the water and drying the mold, I then (and this is one of my biggest tips!) use a plastic collar stay, because it's so thin, to gently run around the edges of the mold to release the salad.  If you can't get your hands on a plastic collar stay (they're like gold to me!), just carefully use a very thin bladed knife. 

      Centering over your serving platter, carefully invert the mold and give it a little tap.  Holding the mold to the platter with both hands, shake a little if necessary to release the congealed salad.  As everyone applauds your successful release of the salad, have a sip of wine and pat yourself on the back!

      Surround the salad with pretty greens or parsley. You can serve sour cream as an optional side for topping. Congratulations upon creating a great centerpiece!

      Now honestly, if you know how to make it, this is a very easy recipe; and my intentions were to hopefully make it just that for you!   Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

      Printable Recipe


                                                   Thanksgiving 2010        


      A Little Anecdote:  I have to tell you I can be very tenacious at times, and I was just that recently when I tried to pick up a jar of my mincemeat at the grocery store which I frequent.  The Rum and Brandy Flavor was not on the shelf, and I was told "they only put out what they were sent."  I explained how important it was to my recipe which I made every year for Thanksgiving! 

      There was a lot of back and forth with the stock clerk and the assistant manager (I had asked for the manager!) for longer than I want to admit.  Then I "pulled one" for which my husband was famous:  the dreaded "I would like to have the district manager's name and phone number!"

      The assistant manager told me I could go to customer service and fill out a special request for this item.  I explained that I just wanted the D.M.'s contact information to lobby for my product and I would fill out the request after I finished my shopping. Well, not two minutes later, the assistant manager appeared with a jar of my precious Crosse and Blackwell Rum and Brandy Mincemeat in each of his hands!  Wow! How magical!  He said he dug a little deeper "in the back" and discovered it.  Well, how about that - I learned from the pro - my husband!

      Disclosure:  I have not been compensated in any respect by Crosse and Blackwell or Publix, or communicated with either regarding endorsement.  I just feel that strongly about the product brand and know Publix is one store that generally stocks it - in season, of course.  (Naturally, I'd be happy if I did hear from them!) 


      Monday, November 29, 2010

      Fried Tortillas with Cinnamon and Sugar Coating

      This is my version of Fried Tortillas which are a great, easy treat for a special gathering; but most important, it's a fried treat which makes it perfect for Chanukah.

      Serves 10

      Ingredients
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 5 tsp. cinnamon
      • 1 pkg. of 10 each 6" quality flour tortillas
      • About 6 cups of vegetable or peanut oil

      Directions
      1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Cut the tortillas into quarters.
      2. Line a cookie pan or sheet with paper towels.
      3. If you don't have a deep fryer:  In an approximate 3 qt. heavy pan, using a frying or steaming basket and a deep-frying or candy thermometer, heat the oil to a temperature of 365º.*
      4. Drop two or three tortilla quarters very carefully and one at a time into the hot oil.  If the oil is the right temperature, the tortillas will cook in about one minute to a golden brown.  With a slotted spoon or spider, flip them very carefully half way through cooking.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider as they brown and place one layer deep on the paper-towel lined pan to drain.  Add a new layer of paper towels each time the pan is full.
      5. While still warm, with a spoon carefully and thoroughly coat the tortillas, one at a time, in the cinnamon/sugar mixture.  You can strain through a sieve and save any leftover cinnamon/sugar mixture for later use, such as on cinnamon toast.
       *Tip 
      Be prepared to devote your full attention to this task. You'll need to be ready to work quickly and uninterrupted.  Also, be very careful as you are working with hot oil - no small children under feet!

      The tortillas are best served warm.  I have found that my vintage, electric bread-warming basket, lined with paper doilies, is perfect for this - see photo above.  (Okay, I bought the basket new and now it's old, very old.)  You could put them on a pretty plate which would be usable on a warming tray, or just keep warm until ready to serve in a 200º oven.  I doubt you'll have any leftovers; but if you do, they would keep well in a tin can for about a week.

      The tortillas are great by themselves or served with a good vanilla ice cream, maybe topped with a fantastic caramel spread like the Brazilian doce de leite used on the ice cream in the below photo.  I found this amazing spread at a local Brazilian market to which my friend Cassi introduced me.  The spread is so rich, a little goes a long way! 



      At our Chanukah party this year, I think I'll also serve the sweet guava paste, which I got at the Brazilian market, with cream cheese on some nice crackers.  Oh, we're going to have some fun this year!  Happy Holidays!

      Printable Recipe


      Sunday, November 14, 2010

      Bonnie's Spaghetti Sauce

      Do you want to throw something together at the last minute?  It couldn't get much easier than this, and it's one of my most often-requested recipes!



      Serves 4-5

      In a heavy skillet on the stove, over medium-low heat, brown together:

      1/2 lb. ground beef chuck (break up with a fork as you brown)
      1/2 c. chopped onion (frozen is fine)

      Mix well in a blender (all but the bay leaf** and Parmesan cheese**)

      one 14 1/2 oz. can whole tomatoes*
      one 8 oz. can tomato sauce*
      one 6 oz. can tomato paste*
      1 TB Worcestershire sauce 
      2 tsp. chopped garlic (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
      1 1/2 tsp. dried whole rosemary leaves
      1 tsp. dried basil leaves
      1 tsp. dried oregano
      1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper*
      1/4 tsp. mild chili powder*
      1 tsp. salt
      1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
      2 tsp. sugar

      1 bay leaf**
      1/8 c. shredded Parmesan cheese**


      *Tip:  It is especially important to use a quality canned tomato product and to measure the crushed red pepper and chili powder!

      Pour Sauce over the ground beef mixture, add the bay leaf**, cover and simmer over low heat for about one-half hourStir often.

      Add a little water, if necessary, while cooking.  Right before serving, remove the bay leaf** and stir in the shredded Parmesan cheese**. 

      Serve over your favorite spaghetti with a nice salad and crusty garlic bread.  Enjoy!

      Printable Recipe


      Saturday, November 6, 2010

      Bon Bon's Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

      Friends have requested that I post this recipe today because it's so cold outside.  Chicken soup not only contains a number of beneficial medicinal substances, it is the ultimate comfort food in cold, wet weather.  The aroma, which permeates the home, wraps around you like a blanket and makes you feel warm and cozy.
                                                 
                                           Bon Bon, I Think I Need Some...

                                           Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls!


      Friday, October 29, 2010

      Yellow Summer Squash Casserole

      My brother asked me for a yellow squash recipe, so I said I'd just blog my favorite.  There are many varieties of summer squash, and they are harvested from early summer through fall.


      The following recipe is my version of a recipe shared with me by my baby nurse.  Yes, I had a baby nurse for a couple of weeks after my first was born! I quoted Prissy from Gone with the Wind:  "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies" (nor taking care of them). All right, I also had her after my second was born; apparently "givin' birth" affected my memory for taking care of a newborn.



      Serves 6-8

      Ingredients

      • about 2 1/2 lbs (6 or 8 ea.) yellow summer squash
      • 1/2 c. chopped onion (frozen is fine)
      • 1/4 c. butter
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
      • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
      • 2 eggs, beaten
      • 1/2 c. shredded Cheddar (or mixed Cheddar/Colby) cheese 
      • 1 1/2 c. crushed butter or whole wheat crackers (divided*)

      Directions

      1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the squash, slice into about 1/2" slices and boil in water until tender (or until a fork is easily inserted). Drain the squash very well in a colander. Using a heavy-duty mixer with a large bowl, mix the squash and onion with the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Add the eggs, cheese and 1/2 c. crackers*.

      2.  Spray a shallow, approximate 9 x 1 1/2 (nine by one and one-half) inches round oven-to-table cookware dish with a butter-flavored cooking spray. Pour the squash mixture into the cookware.  Top with the remaining 1 c. crushed crackers* and bake approximately 35-40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.  Enjoy!

      What's That Got to do with This?

      My Storage Cabinet:  It happens every time, never fails - After dinner with my daughter recently, I started to reach for the perfect container and lid to store a leftover in the fridge; and I found myself pulling everything out.  "As usual," some pieces just fell on me.  Well, "as usual," this was the last time this was going to happen to me!  I proceeded to reorganize the whole cabinet, "as usual."  This project took me at least 45 minutes! You see, I'm a confessed (somewhat neat) pack rat.

      My daughter and her (neat) husband bought me a whole new set of containers hoping I would toss my cream cheese containers, jars, etc. However, you see,  I really do need all this to send things home with people. My rule is that if it doesn't fit in the cabinet, I don't keep it.  That cabinet sure is getting tight though.  Guess who shows up at Thanksgiving with all the containers for taking home leftovers?


      Printable Recipe









      Tuesday, October 26, 2010

      Lazy Apple Pie


                                     Some Would Call It A Tart or Galette...


                                       I Call It just Plain Lazy Pie!

      If you're feeling really lazy, you can make a smaller pie for 3 to 4 people. Just use one crust and not roll it.  Divide all the other ingredients. Oh, come on, I know it's hard to divide an egg! Just toss  what you don't need!  Bake maybe 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

      Serves 6-8

      Ingredients

      • 2 refrigerated pie crusts (from a 15-oz box of 2)
      • 1/4 cup plus 2 TB apricot preserves*
      • about 3 lbs your favorite apples (about 6 large) - I like gala or golden delicious
      • 2 TB all purpose flour
      • 2 TB lemon juice
      • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
      • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (divided*)
      • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
      • 3 TB plus 2 tsp sugar*
      • 1 TB butter, cut into pieces
      • 1 egg, beaten

      Directions

      1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  On parchment paper,  place one pie crust on top of the other and roll out the stack to form one 15" circle (it doesn't have to be perfect). Carefully pick up the parchment paper with the crust and transfer to a baking sheet.  Spread 1/4 cup of the preserves* on the crust, leaving about a 2" border.

      2.  Peel and core the apples and cut into about 1/4" slices.  In a large bowl, toss the apples, flour, lemon juice, ginger, 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon,* nutmeg, and 3 TB of the sugar.*  Spread the mixture on top of the preserves on the crust and dot with butter, still leaving about a 2" clear border of the crust.  Fold the edges of the crust over the fruit mixture, roughly crimping the dough to fit.

      3.  Brush the egg on the crust.  Mix the remaining 1/4 tsp. cinnamon* with the remaining 2 tsp. sugar* and sprinkle on the crust. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

      4.  In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 TB preserves* with 1 TB water over medium heat until liquid, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Brush melted preserves onto the fruit.  Enjoy warm, room temperature or cold, with or without a good vanilla ice cream.

      What's That Got to do with This?

      A Day at the Fall Festival:  Marshmallow Shooters and Male collars - no they're not drinks, nor male bondage.  Apparently the marshmallow shooters are toy guns that actually shoot marshmallows. (I expressed my disappointment they were not drinks:  "Well, we're out of here!" to the cackles of the vendor.) At another booth: the male collars are actually bibs for commuting or dining. (Though this vendor insisted they be referred to as "collars," I told her "they're bibs.")  You never know what you'll find at these festivals!
       





      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      The Pompous Pomegranate

      Well, I had to cut into it - it was perfectly ripe.  Now I feel pompous because I, upon my very first try, have successfully opened and extracted the seeds of a pomegranate.

      It was ripe because it was a crimson color; the round shape changed to slightly square sides, and the petals on the crown turned inside. It also felt slightly heavy.

      In order to get to these precious seeds, I cut off the flowery end of the pomegranate, scored the fruit into sections and soaked the fruit in a bowl of water for five minutes.  Then I broke the sections open in the bowl of water and gently pulled the seeds out with my fingers, letting the seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl.  I threw the rind and membrane away, and I drained the water from the seeds.

      Aren't these beautiful seeds!  I would recommend sprinkling them over a bowl of vanilla ice cream or sliced pear. They're delicious in a bowl of cereal and also on a salad.  The possibilities are endless.  Or, you can just plain eat them as is - nothing wrong with that! The pomegranate isn't so intimidating after all!

      This is just to keep you busy until I post the first recipe - it's coming soon, I promise!

      Saturday, October 9, 2010

      Exotic Photo

      Here's a photo of the exotic dragon fruit I mentioned in my last blog:




      It would be a conversation piece at a special gathering such as a shower...I would just cut in half and stand up in a small custard cup with a spoon inserted.  It's very refreshing, similar to sorbet or sherbet; and the seeds look like poppy seeds...you just eat all of the flesh.

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      New Beginnings

      My goal is to offer interesting tidbits about food and recipes that are unpretentious but delicious - for family or friends!

      I don't get "fusion" cooking.  Also, I don't know about you; but when I order a nice fish dish in a nice restaurant, I'm disappointed when it comes out on top of my mashed potatoes!  If  I want to mix my food, I'll do it myself!  Besides, my mother taught me that mixing your food on your plate is bad manners.

      I don't pretend to know all about cooking; but I love it, and I like to prepare tasty dishes.  If you want to identify my favorite cuisine, it would be continental or French.  However, I'm a southern belle; so I enjoy an occasional down-home meal (not too much fried stuff though...I try to be a little healthy).

      But I do like experimenting just for fun, and I fortunately have an international market across the street.  Have you ever tried a dragon fruit?  Apparently this fruit isn't only beautiful and exotic, it's exceptionally good for you too!  It can help one lose weight, and it is also good for blood pressure. Maybe have one handy when your fish is served on top of your mashed potatoes!

      Stay tuned!