Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hibiscus Flowers!

Just today discovered the magical excitement of dried hibiscus flowers (available from Wegman's loose tea department). Made a syrup of 2 cups hibiscus, 4 cups water, bring to boil and steep as long as you have time; strain well and combine with 2 cups sugar; return to stove top and heat until all the sugar is dissolved. It tastes sweet and tart and wonderful!

Now you can make:

hibiscus margaritas
hibiscus spritzers (with ginger ale and club soda)
hibiscus sorbet
hibiscus salad dressing
hibiscus jelly
hibiscus hard candy

and I have a feeling the list will go on...

I'll post recipes as I try them!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Deep-Fried Mac-n-Cheese Bites

After you try my awesome stove top mac and cheese
, making sure to fix enough for there to be left-overs, you've got to try deep fried mac-n-cheese balls. TO DIE FOR! I dare say even the most elegant finger food you ever thought you could make with left-over anything, let alone mac-n-cheese!

Let the mac and cheese cool until you can shape it into meatball-size off-rounds. Let these chill in the fridge overnight. Next day, take them out and dredge them in flour, dip them in egg, roll them in panko or ordinary bread crumbs and deep-fry at 350* until golden.

You can also spread the left-over mac-n-cheese in a dish, chill and cut into cubes--I just like to make things complicated and I've got a thing for chicken croquets, salmon balls, cream puffs and other spherical food.

Try it! You'll never mind having left-over mac-n-cheese again!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Perfect Baked Chicken Breasts

I accidentally discovered the perfect way to bake or roast chicken breasts when we lost power a half hour after I'd put about 8 pounds of marinated chicken breasts in the oven.  As soon as the power went out I solemnly declared to all and sundry, "Don't open the oven door!"  An hour later, after John got home from work and we sat down to eat, the chicken breasts were cooked to perfection:  still nice and hot, tender, juicy, just the slightest hint of pink in the center, juices running clear as crystal--in short, perfect!

I've been making them this way once a week ever since, and I've come up with a mix and match list of ingredients to vary the theme each time.  You can mix and match your own marinades and let me know what your family likes best.

I just start pouring stuff in the blender (except for the flavorful texture items) until I get an aroma I like. I'm not afraid to just start mixing (following some mysterious instinct I guess). It always seems to come out pretty good.

Fats:  For a large family size pack of breasts I use anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup fat.

olive oil
sesame oil
tahini (sesame paste)
peanut butter

Acid: Also about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of acid.

citrus juice
tomato juice
pineapple juice
buttermilk (the enzymes in the buttermilk tenderize the meat like any of the other acids)


maple syrup
pomegranate syrup
sugar (brown or white)


soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
anchovy paste


hot peppers
tomato paste
green onion
liquid smoke

Colorful flavor

crushed red pepper
specialty seasoning


pepper (red, black, green or white)
chili powder

Flavorful texture: to be added to the roasting pan after the marinade has been blended and poured over the breasts

sun dried tomatoes
diced tomatoes
pineapple (rings, chunks or crushed)
mandarin oranges
feta cheese
blue cheese

Mix the marinade ingredients in the blender and pour over chicken, turning pieces to coat. When you're ready, place breasts and marinade in baking pan with any other ingredients you like, cover, and bake at 350* for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, leaving the door shut for another hour. Should be perfect!

Some of the combinations we've enjoyed are orange, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and green onion; balsamic, olive oil, pomegranate syrup, garlic and rosemary; and soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper. This week I'm going to try lemon, butter, and tarragon with capers. Give it a try and let me know what you come up with!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Bomb Homemade Spaghetti Ohs!

Finally sharing this one after a few tweaks...

32 oz Chicken Broth (I use Progresso b/c it doesn't have loads of crap like some of the other store bought chicken broths)
1 c. water
6 oz Tomato Paste
1 T. dried minced onion
1 T. garlic salt
1 T. sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
8 oz. (2 cups) Anelleti (spaghetti circles)

Bring the chicken broth to boil.

Drop tomato paste, onion, garlic salt, sugar, butter and parm in the blender pitcher (I know they're outrageously expensive, but I think ever kitchen should have a Vitamix blender. After killing 4 or 5 blenders, some mine, some not, making Pina Coladas and other various and sundry concoctions, John finally bought me a Vitamix BarBoss and it's the greatest! We use it for smoothies, milk shakes, mixed frozen drinks and Spaghetti Ohs just to begin with.)

After the broth comes to a boil add 2 cups to the blender and puree.

Add one cup water to the remaining 2 cups broth and return to a boil.

Add 2 cups Anelleti to boiling broth mixture and cook until pasta is tender and broth is mostly absorbed.

Add tomato sauce mixture to pasta and return to warm burner, mixing to thicken slightly.

Serve immediately with an additional dusting of Parm is you like.

So delicious, and so much better for little growing bodies than the canned garbage.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Salisbury Steak ala Schamelot

Made this one up myself after I couldn't find a recipe on line that already sounded like what I had in mind. I do that a lot...

4 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1-2 Tbs soy sauct
1-2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Mix this up and let the flavors marinate a bit while you make the gravy in a cast iron skillet:

2 Tbs bacon grease, chicken fat from stock, or some other fat
1 large chopped onion
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 large finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup corn starch
4 cups chicken stock/broth
2 Tbs Maggi seasoning, or soy or Worchestershire or salt and pepper to taste

Saute the veggies in the fat. Mix the corn starch, Maggi or other seasoning and cold chicken stock. Add to skillet after veggies are soft and have finished yielding their juices. Allow to thicken, adding more corn starch in water if too thin and more stock if too thick. Lower temp just to a bubble.

Meanwhile, form ground beef mixture into oval, hand-sized patties and cook on a griddle, pressing down the patties with a spatula so that the edges of the patties "fray." Brown each side of the patties and then slip them into the skillet of gravy. You can keep them moist and warm in the gravy over a low temp for some time until you're ready to eat. Serve over mashed, skin-on red potatoes and be very generous with the gravy!

My family loved this way more than any meatloaf I've ever made, and said it was a great gluten-free alternative to our usual Wednesday night favorite--hamburgers.